P LAN YO U R T R I P
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Lesvos, Chios and Ikaria all have small airports served by flights from Athens on Astra Airlines, Olympic Air and Sky Express. Flights from London via Athens into Lesvos’ airport, Mytilini, and back from Ikaria start at £210 in total (olympicair.com). Flight times to and from the islands might mean that you need to overnight in Athens to get the cheapest fares.
WHAT’S MY ROUTE?
All the islands in this feature are linked by ferries run by Hellenic Seaways (hellenicseaways.gr). Daily ferries run from Lesvos to Chios in about three hours; one-way fares start at £19pp. Ferries from Chios to Ikaria’s two ports (Evdilos and Agios Kirikos) are less regular, but run at least once a week via Samos,taking around 6½ hours; one-way fares start at £17pp. Public transport is sparse on the islands, so hiring a car or scooter is the only viable way of getting around freely. Rental rates for a small car start at about £35 per day, but there is only a limited supply of vehicles on some islands (such as Ikaria) so booking ahead is essential.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO?
July and August is when most Greek people take their summer holidays, and thanks to direct boat services from Athens Piraeus to all the islands of the northeast Aegean, the islands can be packed (not an ideal time to visit). Outside these months, things are far more tranquil, and you will probably have the beaches largely to yourself. May and September are perfect months, with warm weather and calm seas, and most of the restaurants and hotels will be open. Winter is very quiet; many businesses shut up shop from October to March. August is the big month for Ikaria’s raucous panigyria festivals, but there are celebrations every month from May to November; island-ikaria.com has a useful list.
WHAT SHOULD I BUDGET?
In contrast to busy islands like Santorini, Samos and Kos, the islands of the northeast Aegean are a little further off the beaten track, and so you won’t find many boutique hotels or super-plush pamper pads here. On the plus side, that means prices are way more reasonable: a double room in a pleasant hotel or B&B can easily be found for £50 to £70 per night. Meals and wine are cheap, too, especially if you stick to local specialities: you can eat really well with a couple of courses for £15 to £20 per person.
WHO CAN HELP ME PLAN?
Precious few standard tours include the northeast Aegean islands. Encounter Greece (encountergreece.com) offers a range of tours, plus a customised service where travellers can select their preferred destinations and duration. A sample 10-night trip includes accommodation, activities and transport within Greece for £1,300pp.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Our Greek Islands guide (£14.99) is an indispensable handbook, with sections on Lesvos, Chios and Ikaria. You can also separately download the chapter covering the northeast Aegean (£2.99). The Greek National Tourism Organisation has more details (visitgreece.gr).