We are going back to Greece next month. We visited Crete in during Christmas vacation this last year (Perils and Pleasures of Off-season Travel-Crete) and enjoyed it so much that we vowed to return to the Greek Islands very soon. When American Airlines briefly increased award availability to Europe in First Class, we snapped up two seats in Envoy Class on US Airways from Atlanta to Athens ( First Class Award on AA).
We planned to visit the Northern Aegean Islands which apparently are not as touristy as the southern Greek Islands, like Mykonos and Santorini. Often the first place I go when I begin trip planning is the website Rome2Rio. The most southerly isle we’ll visit is Chios, and we are starting from Athens. On the Rome2Rio home page I entered Athens, Greece as my starting point, and Chios, Greece as my destination.
After clicking SEARCH, a map of the route appears, and on the left-hand side of the page we see several options for getting there:
Here we see that we will have to make our way to the port of Piraeus, which is easy by bus or Metro. Since we want to take the ferry, we focus on the segment that includes the boat icon.
The starting point is a metro station in Athens called Omonia, and the ferry leaves from Piraeus. Clicking on the Boat icon gives you more details about this segment.
Here we see that Blue Star Ferries operates this schedule four days a week. When I went to their website I saw that they didn’t sail this itinerary on the day we wanted to go! At this point we were talking about whether or not we should cancel our first night stay in Athens, and take the ferry the same day as our arrival, or change our incoming flight. We had read that Greek ferry schedules are hard to rely on, especially during early trip planning. So we relaxed and looked around some more.
We found a few posts on TripAdvisor that provided some links to information about Greek ferries. The most complete information we found was Matt Barrett’s Athens Survival Guide: Greek Ferries .
He gives a helpful link to a booking engine for the ferries as well as details about planning an island-hopping itinerary. We found a third booking site that showed a ferry going from Athens to Piraeus on our chosen date.
The point is that you have to be flexible and quick on your feet to plan a trip on Greek ferries. Before the financial crisis, when Greece was flush with borrowed Euros, many ferries ran from island to island, and it was easy to island hop. Many guidebooks still show these routes, so it is imperative that you check and double check itineraries before making plans.
We are “pretty sure” that we will be able to travel from Chios to Lesbos to Lemnos in a direct line. But look what happens when we search the way to get from Lemnos to the next northerly island of Samothrace!
We will have to take a ferry to Kavala, then take a bus to Alexandroupoli, then another ferry to Samothrace! This will eat up at least one day of vacation, if not more.
We are going into this knowing that we may have to change plans as ferries change their schedules. We will just have to drink more Greek wine to cope with the uncertainties!