Ferry Boats in Greece

Greek Ferries are the primary means of transport to and from the islands, and the trip is an experience to be savored. Islands like Lesvos, and Crete are best reached by ferry because the trip is overnight and it's like being in a big moving hotel. A really nice cabin for two should cost under $100. Santorini should be appoached by ferry for the view which is breathtaking and worth the 8-10 hour trip, especially if you can get there in the late afternoon. Flying Dolphins are more like planes then ferries. You sit in airplane seats and unless you stand by the door and watch the islands go by it's like being on a turbulant jet flight. There are windows but they are always covered with salt and spray and you can't see anything. The giant high-speed Catamarans are nicer I suppose, and fall somewhere in between the ferries and Flying Dolphins in terms of speed and comfort.They are also more expensive but you can be in Mykonos harbor in about 3 hours.

The cheapest way to go is deck or economy which means the same thing. There are air-conditioned lounges to hang out in and airplane seats so you don't have to literally be on deck. But if you have a sleeping bag and it's a night ferry, there is no better place to be then under the stars with a bottle of wine and some fellow travelers.

Schedules may be obtained from the tourist information center on Amalias street near Syntagma square. The schedules are subject to change which is a bit of an understatement, but chances are if it is between the months of May and October, there is at least one boat leaving for your island. A good strategy is to get whoever is booking your hotels to also book your ferries so that if there is no boat and you end up not staying in the hotel that has been reserved for you, then you are not responsible. There is nothing worse then having to pay for two hotels because you did your own booking and the schedule was changed or you read it wrong. I have weekly schedules at www.athensguide.com/greek-island-ferry-schedules

Getting to the boats: Any taxi should know exactly where your boat is and should take you right up to the gang-plank. If you are taking a train from Athens get off at the last stop which is Pireaus. Cross the street outside the train station and if you survive, look for your boat. There is a sign that tells you which boats are in which area. If you are going to the Cyclades you should be able to walk to your ferry easily.
Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Sifnos and the Western Cyclades should be directly in front of you.
Mykonos, Syros and Tinos boats are on your left. The high-speed catamaran is there too.
Beyond are the boats to Aegina, Hydra, Poros and Spetsi.
The last boats on your left are to the Dodekanese islands of Patmos, Rhodes, Kalymnos and Kos.
To the right of the Cyclades ferries are the boats to Crete, followed by the boats to Lesvos, Chios, and Lemnos on the very end.

The Flying Dolphins used to leave from Zea Harbour but now leave from the main harbor in Pireaus between the Dodecanesos and the Saronic Gulf boats.

Other boats leave from
Rafina where the ferry trip is two hours shorter (though it takes at least an hour to get to Rafina).

There is a shuttle bus that you can ride to the more distant boats. In most cases you can buy your tickets at the boats or at the ticket agencies in the train station and along the main street. Keep in mind that in the summer you may want to get your tickets in advance from a Travel Agent so you don't get to the port and discover the boat is full, especially if you want a cabin or have a car. If you are traveling to the islands on the days preceding Easter and the 15th of August or any Friday in July and August you should buy your tickets in advance. The same goes with returning after those dates and on Sundays.For supplies there are shops in the area and a few working class restaurants and fast food places. There is also a cafe to hang out at on the dock near the Eastern Cyclades boats.

Many of the ferries that go to the islands are very modern with carpets, air-conditioned cabins, lounges, bars, restaurants, video-game parlors and so on. My favorite boat is the NEL Lines MYTILINI which has won several awards from Greek ferry boat fans and enthusiasts as the best ship in the Aegean. Not only does it have the same qualities of the nicer ferries that go to Crete or the Patras-Italy routes, but the staff are extra friendly and really go out of their way to be helpful. Probably because most of the crew comes from the island of Lesvos where the company is based and people are just generally friendly. My advice if you are taking this boat is ask for a cabin with a window and a television. It's an overnight trip, leaving around 7pm and arriving in Lesvos at 8am.

The New Express Aiolis, shown in the photo at the very top of this page is the fastest ferry in the Aegean and does the 12 hour trip to Lesvos in six hours. It also goes to the Cyclades islands of Syros, Tinos and Mykonos. It is like a giant speedboat.

Questions about Greece? You can e-mail me at matt@greecetravel.com

For Ferry Tales, an excerpt from my book SPEARFISHING IN SKATAHORI click here

Page 1:
Intro Agents and Tours

Page 2:
Hotels in Athens

Page 3: General Greece Info

Page 4: Islands and Mainland

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Misc Info & Preparation