I don’t know about you, but I was saving Greece for my honeymoon. Just looking at the pictures I could tell this was a place for me and bae. In a white cave house. With our own private pool. Looking over the cliff. Watching the sunset. Reading books and banging all day.
That’s how I imagined my Greek island hopping adventure to be. So much so that I skipped Greece on my bi-yearly trips to Europe. I was determined to give Greek Islands the love it deserved.
In the end, that’s not how it turned out for me. And I couldn’t have been happier.
7 Reasons Why Greek Island Hopping Is Not Just For Honeymoons
So I ended up in Greece on an REI Under 35 Adventure, which was a trip specifically targeted towards millennials who are into the outdoors. They’re affordable, completely planned around outdoor activities, use local guides and accommodations, and designed for a younger age group (although there were def people over 35 but kids at heart).
If I’m going to be in Greece, might as well be outdoors, amirite? But still, I had planned to be with the love of my life on my first trip to Greece. Hiking with 5 strangers for 6 days wasn’t exactly what I had imagined.
But while the love of my life is playing games and not appearing in my life, (I still love you though, boo, come find me soon) I decided to take the leap.
1.Group Trips Aren’t That Bad And Greek Island Hopping Is Too Beautiful To Enjoy Alone
Well first of all, I’m glad I had some company! Greek island hopping is such a breathtaking experience that if you don’t have someone to turn to and be like, “This is unreal,” then life might get lonely and a bit sad. I know because when the group trip ended and I extended my stay and was by myself for three days, I was sad.
2. Greek Island Hopping With Strangers Means Someone Has Your Back
Or maybe I was sad because the group was SO FUN. Who knew strangers could make your life feel empty and purposeless when a trip ends?
I’m not going to lie. About half of those people, I’d probably never make friends with on my own. We have totally different interests and come from different walks of life that I cannot relate to. But after being with them for six days, they were like a part of my little family. We helped each other out.
Like the time I forgot a pair of tweezers, and someone lent me theirs and saved me from unibrow. Or the time I lost my jacket on Day 1 and it was COLD (yes, it gets cold in Greece) and someone lent me their rain coat. Or the time I was hungry and another person always had all the snacks! Or the time I started my period in the middle of the sea and someone had extra tampons. Or the time I got sea sick and started vomiting over board and someone caught my leg before falling over. And then the guides handed me gum, helped me get my Earth legs, and made sure I got to my room and didn’t dehydrate.
It made me question how I ever survived traveling alone.
3. The Greek Guides Know Everything
Speaking of guides, what is better than being accompanied 24/7 by locals who translate everything for you, introduce you to their culture, and teach you things in the process? Seriously, I learned some things I would have never noticed or known if it wasn’t pointed out to me.
For example: the Greek currency is the Euro. The Greek guides asked us to look down at the coin that had a picture of a woman riding a bull. I personally would never have asked myself, “Now what is this lady doing riding a bull?” They explained that the lady’s name is Europe and that is where the name Europe came from. According to Greek mythology, Zeus fell in love with Europe, turned himself into a bull, Europe hopped on, and got pregnant with three of his kids. Def would not have known that.
Then shortly after that they explained to us all of the ENGLISH words that are actually Greek. When I say I was shook. I knew scientific and medical terminology was based in Greek, but I had NO idea about some other words. Like angel. Who knew? Not me.
This doesn’t even count the Greek cooking lessons (nommmm) and the Greek dance lessons we got with endless amounts of white wine. Lordt. They ordered everything for us and I did not complain once. (Except that I wanted more dolmas. Dolmas forever. More. MOAARRRR.)
Not only that, on our hikes they taught us how to forage in the Greek outdoors. As we did 5-7 mile hikes daily, we would stop for ice cream, drinks, and lots of OPA!’s, but more importantly we stopped at plants. From picking wild asparagus, learning how to spot a poisonous mandrake plant, finding absinthe, leaving water for donkeys, and eating oregano, they taught us everything we needed to know about the shrubs we were passing by. Something I DEFINITELY would NEVER have noticed on my own.
4. Greek Island Hopping Is Perfect For Hiking
Five to seven miles of hikes daily?! What in the Hercules. That’s a lot!
If I would have known they were 5-7 miles I would have probably opted out of the activity. But I didn’t and just followed along with the itinerary, no questions asked. It’s actually really nice not having to plan out anything and being greeted with a surprise daily. I never once looked at what was on the schedule.
But when I say it didn’t even seem like five miles until the next day when my legs told me I was tired but we were getting up to do it all over again, it didn’t seem that long at all. We walked from beaches, through wildflowers, often being the only ones on the path. We stopped at churches, small all-white villages, and 9thcentury monasteries built into cliffs. If I was with bae, I def probably wouldn’t have pushed myself to go outside and hike so much. And I am SO glad I did.
Also, when you think of island hopping, hikes aren’t exactly the first thing that come to mind, you know? Nor would I have done a hike solo by myself without knowing the language or where I was going.
By the way, did you know that the villages on the Greek islands are hidden from sea view and built further up on cliffs because there was a huge pirating problem? Pirating was such a lucrative business that entire islands were structured in a way to prevent pirating attacks. Like building small curving roads that can only be accessed by foot and gives opportunity for lots of hiding spots. Or connecting all the houses together so that if a house was infiltrated, the inhabitants can climb up to their roofs and run away. Or being built hidden from sea view and far up on the mountain so that they’re harder to access.
Also did you know that the houses on the Greek islands were painted white to prevent cholera? Turns out that the white paint is made out of limestone. Hydrated lime is known to be a bacterial disinfectant. So in 1938, Greek dictator, Mextaxas, made a law for all the houses on the islands to be painted white as a public health solution to save the people of Greece. I’m unsure if it was the actual cause for the end of cholera, though. The white paint is also an excellent sun reflector. Since many of the islands are made of dark volcanic rock, the white cools the homes down instead of trapping the heat inside. In 1972, the government implemented a law to keep the white for aesthetic reasons!
Anyway, back to the Greek outdoors. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, those views were the best views and they were the best because I had to work for them. And secondly, I would have never known about that monastery, gotten invited inside for cinnamon shots (yes, with alcohol) and had a monk tell me about his life if it wasn’t for those Greek guides, their connections, and their translation abilities.
5. The Greek Islands Are Full Of History
Thinking back on it, I feel like I learned a lot about Greek history in school. From Greek mythology in History to reading The Odyssey in Literature to Medical Terminology in Science, Greece was always a part of my education. I didn’t realize how influenced my collective learning was by this tiny area of the world until I physically went there and made all the connections.
It makes sense considering it is defined as the “cradle of the Western Hemisphere” and the civilization that Europe has based itself on. (Even though the West is more than just Europe and the Americas developed their own civilizations without European contact.)
What is even more cool is that there is an ancient civilization that was recently uncovered on the island of Santorini that predates what scholars thought the beginning of civilizations initially were to 16thcentury BC. BEFORE CHRIST, PEOPLE.
The archaeological site of Akrotiri is accessible with a 12 Euro entrance fee (or 6 Euro with student ID) where you can observe how this civilization had elaborate plumbing, toilets on the second floor, buildings with government centers, pottery, weaving, and paintings all around the rooms. (There’s a painting of blue monkeys that I’m still trying to figure out where those monkeys came from.)
By the way, did you know that if you buy land and start building a house in Greece, but then find archaeological ruins underneath the ground that the Greek government then takes the land from you and preserves it? So quite often ruins go uncovered or destroyed so that people can live their lives and not get their land removed.
On any given island or location, the remnants of Greek past are all there. From catacombs to Greek amphitheaters and buildings. It is clear Greece has been a place of power for many years. However, what is sad is that many reliefs and statues have been looted from Greece and put in museums like the Louvre in Paris or the British Museum in London. Greece has not been compensated for them nor the pieces returned despite being in an economic depression.
Which brings me to my next point…
6. Greece Needs Tourism!
Greece’s main economy is driven my tourism. So don’t wait til your forever bae decides to show up in your life, just go and support the economy! The rest of Europe can wait.
Although I’m going to unpopularly say that Santorini, specifically the city of Oia, is WAY too crowded. It is beautiful, yes. The blue domes are fab. The cave houses are fab. The infinity pools are fab. The volcanic wine culture is fab. Eating dinner over the cliff and watching the sunset on the islands is fab, fab, and more fab. There are still way too many people and the entire island is extremely overpriced. The entire island. I think I went to 5 different cities on the island and they were all super expensive. Taxi transfers ran 45 Euros just for 20 minute drives. Not for me. I don’t even pay that much in an Uber. Sorry not sorry.
Also renting a car doesn’t seem like a safe option. I saw a car accident every single day I was there. Even the bus from the ferry dock got into a car accident while we were inside and started sliding down the cliff. I would just avoid. (Not when I was with REI of course, those were private transfers in luxury buses. This was the regular bus when I was on my own.)
Santorini is beautiful, but there are SIX THOUSAND islands in Greece! 227 islands that you can visit. Each with its own personality and character. So do yourself a favor and either skip Santorini, or stop in Santorini, get your pic and go.
7. Ok, But Greek Island Hopping Is Also Insane Beaches
While we’re talking about six thousand islands. Let me just shout out my two favorites. Amorgos and Milos were THE BEST ISLANDS of the five we traveled to. Well actually, I went to Milos on my own with a subgroup of the original group after extending my stay and it was the most other worldly landscape beach situation I had ever seen. Not to mention the cliff diving was phenomenal. The beach below is called Sarakiniko
We rented a car for about 35 Euro a day and went beach hopping. This was not part of the original itinerary, but one we did on our own and it was probably my favorite island so far. And much more affordable than Santorini. So I def recommend extending your trip and exploring on your own.
Some things to keep in mind before going Greek Island hopping
- When you factor your cost, just make sure that you’re buffering extra for the Greek Islands as opposed to mainland Greece. Although if you’re just going on the REI trip, almost everything is included so you don’t have to worry about it.
- High season is from June to September where you’ll experience inflated prices and even more crowds. We went in off-season May. Again with REI, it’s not something you worry about.
- It was a bit chilly in May and rained a lot. So bring a rain coat and extra layers. Or buy those cute Greek towels while you’re there. When the sun was out, it was really nice.
- Bring European adaptors to charge your electronics
- Bring CASH! While you can pay with your card at most places. There are still MANY places that you cannot. And even if you can pay with card, they will totally scoff at you for making their lives difficult.
- You cannot drink the water on the Greek Islands. It is salty. In addition, the sewage systems are very old so no toilet paper down the toilet.
- Putting your hands up to illustrate “stop!” or “10” is offensive. Don’t do it. Turn your palms so they face you.
- If you veer from touristy places, know that many people do not speak English. Nor is it their job. Don’t expect everyone to know what you’re saying. But if you’re with Greek guides, you don’t have to worry about this.
This beach required a rope and two ladders down a crack in a cliff to reach. It is called Tsigrado Beach on the island of Milos.
- Some of the beaches are difficult, if not dangerous to get to. There are lots of warning signs. I personally do not recommend doing it alone in case of emergency.
- The ferries do not run year round. In May, most of the ferries were just getting into operation and people were starting to take their boats out for the summer. So just be aware if you’re trying to do Greek island hopping on off season. If you’re with REI, you don’t need to worry about this.
- Some of the ferries are really extravagant with movie theater seating, cafes, rooftop seating, and seven stories. Others were not.
Other than that, what are you waiting for? Páme!
Many of the photos were taken by Dylan H Brown Photography courtesy of REI. This post was paid for by REI, but all information and opinions are my own.
About The Author
Kiona is not Greek nor an expert in anything related to Greece. So take her opinions with a grain of salt and listen to the locals and actual Greek people over anything. Their narratives are more important.