There’s a lot to be said for a fly-and-flop holiday to Greece, where you’re off the tarmac and on the beach in minutes. But if you’re willing to go just a little further, there are over 1,000 islands to discover by using the larger islands’ airports as jumping-off points; getting around the Greek islands is a piece of cake if you know where to go. Here’s your cheat sheet to the best islands you can reach with a flight from London and a short, scenic ferry ride in the Aegean.
Picture the typical Greek island of postcards – quaint whitewashed buildings, deep blue waters and indescribable multi-coloured sunsets. You’re picturing Santorini. Its volcanic makeup mean it doesn’t have the white-sand beaches of other islands, but famous Santorini makes up for it in romance with truly spectacular views and relaxed charm. You can fly to Santorini from London City Airport – direct flights make it an especially popular choice, but it’s still quiet enough to remain a favourite with couples and it makes a great romantic getaway. The coloured beaches and excellent wineries provide some real draws, but the airport also makes Santorini a perfect starting point for an island-hopping tour of the Cyclades, or just a holiday on one of the many islands connected to it by ferry. Find out more with our guide to Santorini.
Get there: Fly direct from London City Airport
Paros is the major hub of the Cyclades and has ferry links with many other islands. But it’s much more than a transport hub, with a pretty, gently rolling, green landscape and pleasant resorts and towns, including the main port of Parikia and northern town of Naousa (sometimes spelt Nauossa). Paros’ links mean it’s easily accessible from throughout the Greek islands, making it another mainstay of island-hopping itineraries. But it’s also a particularly easy ferry ride from Santorini
You can also hop over to the neighbouring island of Antiparos – it’s less than a nautical mile away, and is worth visiting for its impressive cave, famous for its mass of ancient stalactites and stalagmites.
Get there: Fly from London City Airport to Santorini and take a direct ferry (two to three hours)
Noticeably Greek and comparatively untouched, pretty, tranquil Folegandros makes an ideal pairing with Santorini for a romantic multi-island trip. The beautiful traditional island of Hora is a must-visit and the beaches are quiet. If you’re willing to hike you can often find some completely deserted – more than worth the walk.
Get there: Fly from London City Airport to Santorini and take a direct ferry (just 40 minutes on a high-speed sailing or 1 hour 35 minutes on a slower service)
Most of the more developed Greek islands have some water sports facilities, but they’re often limited to novelty banana boat rides or maybe water-skiing. Naxos is where things get serious. It has the islands’ best-equipped windsurfing and kitesurfing centres, which sprang up due to the combination of shallow lagoons, waves and reliable wind. But Naxos isn’t just popular with windsurfers; the beaches are excellent and it’s the largest of the Cyclades, along with the highest peak – with Mt Zeus standing at just over 1,000m high, making the island popular for hiking.
Get there: As part of an island-hopping holiday, fly to Mykonos and take a ferry (under an hour on a high-speed service)
Choose Amorgos if you want to get active on a holiday in the Greek islands. The easternmost of the Cyclades, it’s a thin strip of land just over a mile across in places. Amorgos’ rocky landscape makes it increasingly popular with rock climbers and demands exploring on foot. It’s also excellent for diving.
Get there: Fly to Santorini from London City Airport and take a direct ferry, or fly to Mykonos from London to visit its beaches and stop off at Paros or Naxos en route
Mykonos made its name as a classy destination for the jet set of the 1960s, and though it has more of a reputation as party central these days, it still has some of the best hotels in Greece and you can’t really beat it for beaches. It’s also one of the islands’ major airport hubs so you can fly to Mykonos directly or stay a couple of nights before travelling on to other islands, such as Andros and the nearby windsurfing Mecca of Naxos.
Get there: Fly direct from London City Airport
You can’t stay on Delos but it’s well worth the short boat ride from Mykonos for a day trip. Practically the whole island is an archaeological site and it’s one of the most important places in Greece for ancient history, with an excellent archaeological museum and countless ruins of temples and houses, statues, mosaics, busts and more.
Get there: Take the boat from Mykonos (about 30 minutes)
Rustic Alonissos is perfect for a quiet getaway enjoying the natural beauty of the islands. It was Greece’s first ever National Marine Park, established to protect the Mediterranean Monk Seals that live around the island. With nearby wrecks, it’s also one of the best spots in the Sporades for diving, and the interior landscape is no less gorgeous, covered in olive groves and pine forest. Alonissos’ beaches are excellent and generally very quiet – head here to really slow down the pace and take it easy.
Get there: Fly to Skiathos from London City Airport and take the ferry (one hour on a high-speed service or 2 hours 15 minutes on a slower sailing)
Rugged Skopelos in the Sporades was famously the filming location for Mamma Mia, so if you’ve seen the film then you know its appeal. Unspoilt towns and gorgeous scenery make Skopelos a favourite complement to busier neighbour Skiathos, which has a direct link with London City Airport. Spend a few days enjoying the beaches of Skiathos then hop over on the ferry to explore.
Get there: Fly to Skiathos from London City Airport and take the ferry (1 hour 15 minutes)