P LAN YO U R T R I P

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Great Escape Northeast Aegean -

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).

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