The Greek islands are among Europe’s most revered destinations. With its deep blue seas, whitewashed buildings, fresh seafood, late night parties, remote beaches, and seemingly endless sunshine, there’s a LOT to love. Just because you’re planning an epic rail adventure, it doesn’t mean you have to skip the islands! Here’s how you can get a taste of the Greek islands with Eurail.
Seeing the Greek islands with Eurail
Order the Eurail Greek Islands Pass
The Eurail Greek Islands Pass is your ticket to paradise. Previously called the Attica Pass, it allows you to discover the Greek islands with ease. There are two diferent ways to explore the islands of the Aegean with a Eurail, You can choose either a 6 trip Pass that includes ferry transfers to and from Italy or a 5 trip Pass that is strictly for domestic travel between Greek Islands. Which ever Pass you take there are 28 islands waiting for you to explore, including popular islands like Mykonos, Santorini and Crete.
Plan your starting point
If your trip is all about seeing the Greek islands with Eurail, then chances are you’ll fly directly to the capital Athens. From there you can easily make your way towards the coast and islands.
Another often overlooked start or end point is Italy – Greece’s neighbor just across the water. The Eurail 6 Trip Greek Islands Pass makes this a great starting point for your Island hopping adventure. There are regular ferries between the two countries. If you’re making the crossing between Ancona, Bari, or Venice (Italy) and Patras (Greece) with your Eurail 6 trip Greek Islands Pass, the TRAINOSE rail/bus transfer between Patras and Piraeus is free.
Plan your trip
The best part about the pre-trip admin is the planning stage. The first step is to find out which of the 28 Greek islands you would like to visit. With so many on offer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Some are touristy and very popular, particularly during the peak summer months. Others are still unspoiled and full of authentic charm. The only way to know for sure which island is for you is to do your research and come up with a rough idea of where you want to head.
Once you have an idea of where you’re heading, you should check the ferry timetables. Do this online at either the Superfast Ferries or Blue Star Ferries websites. Make sure the ferries operate in the directions you’re heading and bear in mind that not all ferries operate daily.
After you’ve decided whether to include international legs, and which domestic routes you want to take, it’s time to figure out whether you want to travel first or second class. This is only an option on the international ferries between Greece and Italy. All domestic routes in the Greek Islands are second class. First Class Pass holders get access to a bed in a cabin. Second Class Pass holders have access to aircraft-like seats on the main deck.
Good to know: If you change your mind at the last minute, it’s sometimes possible to upgrade from economy to first class on board for an additional fee.
You’ll need to reserve your seats on both the international and domestic ferry routes. If you are starting in Italy you can make reservations for your international leg by visiting www.superfast.com. You can book domestic trips directly through the Attica Group call center (+30 210 8919700 for Heraklion and +30 210 8919130 for all other Greek islands with Eurail).
When you make your reservation, you’ll get a booking reference number. You’ll need this to collect your boarding pass at the port before you leave.
Not all domestic ferries require advance reservations, but if you’re traveling in peak summer months it’s important to do this as soon as possible.
Combine it with rail travel
If you plan to take a longer Eurail trip through Europe, it’s a good idea to consider additional Eurail Passes for before and after your island hopping adventures.
If you’re focusing primarily on Greece and Italy, then you can order a Eurail Greece-Italy Pass for rail travel in both destinations. Alternatively, you can purchase a One Country Pass for either country. Another option is to purchase a Eurail Global Pass, which gives you access to trains throughout Europe.
Both Italy and Greece have several rail connections to major towns. My preference would probably be to start in Greece, explore the islands, and then continue the rail journey from Italy. The rail network in central Europe is more comprehensive than that in Greece and its neighbors.
Insider tip: If you plan to combine your trip with continental rail travel, do your Greek islands trip at either the beginning or end of your journey. That way you can get full value from your rail pass and not lose any travel days.
Itineraries for the Greek islands
The Greek islands are brimming with scenic beauty, fascinating history, and charming authenticity. If you’re struggling to make up your mind, here are three possible itineraries worth considering. Each are doable as a round trip from the port of Piraeus.
Santorini – Kos – Rhodes
If you’re looking for unspoiled beaches, stunning scenery, intriguing ancient history, and a few glasses of incredible wine, then this is the itinerary for you. These three islands offer the perfect combination of romance and adventure.
Patmos – Lipsi – Leros
If you’re more a fan of escaping the crowds, it’s worth considering some of the quieter Greek islands. A trip to Patmos, Lipsi, and Leros may just hold the answer. These islands may be small, but they’re beautiful and largely untouched. It will give you a more relaxing journey.
Syros – Paros – Naxos
These are three popular islands in Greece. Aside from remarkable neoclassical architecture and unique culture, you’ll also have plenty of time to relax on beautiful sandy beaches. Active adventure seekers will also revel in the mountains and valleys. Sunsets seem extra special in this part of the world, particularly when paired with local delicacies.
When it comes to planning a trip to the Greek islands with Eurail, you may be tempted to focus primarily on getting off the mainland. But with a bit of planning, combined with a Greek Islands Pass and a more traditional Eurail Pass, it’s easy to spend a week or two hopping between island paradises before continuing your ultimate rail journey elsewhere on the continent.
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