Lifestyle Travel Secrets of Island Hopping
Secrets of Island Hopping
Written by Dr Bruce Bridges
Monday, 01 December 2014



“I’ve just got back from touring the Greek islands” is a great conversational starter. How it finishes though depends on whether the style of tour matched your preferences and was long enough.

IMG 0026210Ermoupolis (on Syros)

Some people fly into, say, Crete or Rhodes (17 islands have airstrips), stay in the five-star hotel overlooking the beach, wander the ancient walled city markets, and fly home again.

Some wheel light suitcases or carry backpacks, island hop the main ports using the busy ferries (catamarans are fast but more weather sensitive), stay in a range of accommodation and spend extra days at select destinations that take their fancy.

Others sign on a cruise boat (from big luxury ship to bareboat 50 footer) and experience the islands from the sea – you spend more time at sea, either enjoying the on-board entertainment or wind in the sails and water over the gunnels.

Let’s face it, there are too many islands to see in one trip.

Tour organisers are good at picking those clustered together which offer accessibility (whether by sea or air) and interesting sights. Tours on small sailing craft take account of the prevailing north-westerly during August-September and the most productive tours follow the wind south-east from Athens (the Cyclades islands) or tour the Greek islands just north of Evia island (the Sporades).

The Greek islands, and Greece itself, rely on tourism. You won’t be ripped off, few people will hassle you, and out of Athens (where most of the population lives) the pace is relaxed. Destinations where ferries call in are, by necessity, touristy so if you want uncrowded venues, women in black dresses herding goats, or donkeys rather than beach buggies, you will need to arrange a stopover elsewhere on the island.

IMG 0051.250One of the ‘typical’ Greek Island villagesSmaller yachts call at secondary ports, often earlier in the day (to ensure a mooring, especially in-season) – this translates into shorter hops and less time at sea.

However, a good slice of the day is spent cruising, so somewhere on-board for non-sailors to enjoy (bigger catamarans are best and they lean less), toilets that store (so toilet paper can go down the ‘heads’), breakfast and lunch provided, and snorkelling gear for all, can be important.

With about 6-10 passengers, it’s a lucky dip on whether you all match up.

Speaking of sanitary needs, most sewerage systems in Greece do not handle toilet paper, so it is disposed of in bins in the cubicles.

For hygiene conscious health professionals this can be a real challenge, especially as you head out for your fantastic Greek meal.

When booking accommodation, make sure you ask for permanent non-smoking rooms, a toilet system you want and, if you book as a couple but under different names (as doctors are prone to do), they understand you may want a double bed and not twin share.

Ask your travel agent to arrange pick-up from the airport so once you clear customs you only have to worry about finding your name held up by the driver.

                                 IMG 0019520Smaller harbours offer the intimacy of meals by the water’s edge