Beyond crosswords: Greek vacation islands

The Greek islands are not just a popular holiday destination, but also often used in crosswords all over the world. Did you ever wonder what the difference is between the 5 letter words Corfu and Crete? Or if Kos is really as small as the mere 3 letters its name counts?

Here is an overview of the Greek islands used in crossword puzzles. Sorted by the number of letters, so you can easily find your answers. But don’t do just that. Maybe some islands will not fit your puzzle today, they might point you to the destination for your next holiday!

3 letters

  • KOS
    Kos lies in the South East of the Aegean sea, close to Turkey and part of the Dodecanese. It is an average-sized island, around 290 km², more than 70.000 acres. Kos is famous for its beaches but is also full of historic landmarks.
  • IOS
    Ios lies in the middle of the Aegean sea and is part of the Cyclades. It is an average – small island, around 100 km², close to 27.000 acres. Ios is known for its vibrant nightlife but also has clear waters and picturesque cliff-top villages.

4 letters

  • EVIA
    This island might have a small name, it is 3.684 km², or 900.000 acres big. Evia, or Euboea, lies North of Athens, in the Aegean sea but is connected to the mainland by bridges. Evia is not well known by foreign tourists, but instead is the perfect getaway for people who work and live in Athens. Unfortunately, large parts of northern Evia were completely destroyed by the 2021 wildfires.
  • PAXI
    Paxi is a small paradise in the Ionian Sea, located just under the island of Corfu. It is only 30 km² or 7.000 acres. Paxi is known for its old olive trees and clear blue sea, some say the best in Greece.
daylight entering a cave in Greece white stone blue sea

5 letters – The Greek islands most used in crosswords

  • CORFU
    Corfu, or Kerkyra in Greek, as well as Crete, are two islands that are often used in crosswords, but do you know the difference between them? Corfu is a lush green island in the North West of Greece, in the Ionian Sea. The island is 585 km², 145.000 acres. Corfu has a strong Venetian influence and is the only Greek island that has never been occupied by the Ottomans. Corfu is famous for its architecture but has great beaches and hiking trails as well.
  • CRETE
    Crete is the most Southern island of Greece and also the biggest with 8.450 km² (over 2 million acres!). Crete has its own sea, the Creten Sea. Crete is so big that it is not just famous for one thing but instead has everything. There are places to go for nightlife, but also areas with untouched nature. There are great beaches, tasty food, and rich and welcoming culture. Because Crete is the most Southern island, it has the warmest climate of whole Greece, temperatures rarely drop below 15 degrees Celsius, or 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • NAXOS
    Naxos lies in the middle of the Aegean sea and is part of the Cyclades. It is an average-large-sized island, around 430km², close to 100.000 acres. Naxos is known for its white sandy beaches and ideal wind conditions for watersports.

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6 letters

  • RHODES
    Rhodes is close to Kos, in the East of the Aegean. It is the largest island in the Dodecanese with its 1.400 km², 346.000 acres. Rhodes is known for its beach resorts and ancient ruins and is a popular summer holiday destination.
  • LESBOS
    Although this name might make children giggle, the meaning of Lesvos in Greek is forested or woody. Lesbos is famous for its agriculture and cheese. Due to its location close to Turkey, Lesbos was the place where refugees used to enter Greece. This made the island very unpopular for tourists, who started returning over the last few years. Lesbos is a large island with 1.600 km², over 400.000 acres.

7 letters

  • MYKONOS
    Mykonos is famous all over the world. It is an average-sized island of 105 km² (26.000 acres) and is part of the Cyclades in the Aegean sea. Mykonos is an expensive party island known to be gay-friendly. “The Island of the Winds” is a nickname of Mykonos, due to the strong Meltemi winds that usually blow.
  • THASSOS
    Thassos is a pretty large but mostly unknown island in the North of the Aegean sea. The island is 380 km² (94.000 acres) and filled with lush green forests. The beaches here are sand, pebble, and even marble. Thassos is a paradise in the North.
underwater at sea in Greece, blue and clear like a swimming pool

8 letters

  • SKIATHOS
    The Sporades, which also counts 8 letters, is the name of the island group to which Skiathos and Skopelos belong. They are located just North of Evia, above Athens. Skiathos is the biggest of the Sporades, but still only 50 km² (12.000 acres). Skiathos is known for its sandy beaches and beautiful nature. Both Skiathos and Skopelos are famous for being the decor of Mamma Mia, the movie from 2007.
  • SKOPELOS
    Skopelos is slightly bigger than Skiathos, 95 km² (23.000 acres). However, the island is quieter and less visited. Again sandy beaches and the beauty of nature is what attracts tourist to come here. Skopelos is famous for the church Agios Ioannis Kastri. A small white church on top of a rock, overlooking the coast of Skopelos and Alonissos, which takes us to the 9.letter islands.

9 letters

  • SANTORINI
    Santorini is a natural wonder. This special island is the only inhabited caldera in the entire world and the perfect place for a honeymoon in Greece. The island’s land is shaped by a volcano eruption and is just 76 km² (19.000 acres). Santorini is known for its sunset and picturesque white-washed villages. But also its landscape is unique, and is made up of black, red, and white lava.
  • ZAKYNTHOS
    This Ionian party island is large, 405 km², or 100.000 acres). It is mostly known for its famous shipwreck beach but this is just a small part of what Zakynthos has to offer. Like other Ionian islands, the island is green with steep white cliffs and the water of the sea is blue and clear.

10 letters

  • CEPHALONIA
    Cephalonia is a large island west of Greece’s mainland. It is 786 km² big (194.000 acres) and the largest in the Ionian sea, but not the most famous. Unfortunately, not many tourists explore the full beauty of this island. Cephalonia is home to amazing beaches, nymph caves, and endangered sea turtles. The island is known for its wine, sweets, and food amongst the Greeks.
  • SAMOTHRACE
    Samothrace is the place to be for Greeks in their twenties. The island is a giant mountain with lush green forests and clear water streams with ponds and waterfalls. The islands’ landscape is unspoiled and wild. Samothrace is 178 km² big (44.000 acres), but the land is basically a mountain of 1.6 km high (1 mile).

11 letters

  • ELAFONISSOS
    The smallest island on this list of Greek islands, has the highest amount of letters in your crosswords. Elafonissos is just 18 km² or almost 4.400 acres. Making a round along the entire island by car, will not take you more than 20 minutes. Elafonissos lies close to Neapoli, in the South of Peleponnese, at the borders of the Aegean and Ionian seas. It is known for its beautiful waters and white sandy beaches.

Read more about Greek islands:

Travel guide to Lemnos, Greece

Lemnos, or Limnos, is an island in the Aegean Sea, in the northeast of Greece. With just 476 square kilometers of land, it is not very big but enough to make one of the most surprising islands in the North…

Ionian or Aegean islands?

With over 6.000 Greek islands, it can be extremely difficult to figure out where to go for your next holiday. Party in Mykonos, stunning Zakynthos, unspoiled Lefkada, or unique Santorini? There are really just too many good options to choose from. Unfortunately, I can not really help you with your choice. The perfect island for you might not be the same as the one I would choose to return to every year. What I can do, however, is tell you about the differences between each island, or in this case, the difference between the two seas that surround Greece. Because the Ionian Sea on the west, and the Aegean Sea on the south, are quite different from each other.

Geography

Let’s start with geography. For many foreigners, the Mediterranean sea is all there is in the South of Europe. Stretching from Spain to Turkey, it might seem that all the water here is the same. However, this is not true. The Mediterranean sea is divided into multiple seas, and around Greece, there are two main ones.

The Ionian sea lies between Italy and Greece, on the west side of Athens. The Agean sea is on the opposite side between Greece and Turkey. Crete has its own sea, which I will hopefully soon be able to include in this overview of seas in Greece.

Maps of the seas around Greece
image from BCcampus

The sea

Because the two seas are on different sides of Greece, they have separate currents that move the water, creating two individual bodies of water. The water of the Aegean sea is the calmest when it comes to water circulation. As a result, the water here can be a bit less clear than it is in the Ionian sea, where the water rushes toward Croatia.

Besides the clearness, the color of the seas is unalike as well. The water of the Ionian sea is just blue. Light blue when it’s shallow, and darker blue as the water gets deeper. But always really blue. The Aegean sea is more turquoise and might even seem green-ish in some areas. Still super beautiful, but you might not get the ultimate beach picture on every island or beach here, since the watercolor is depending heavily on the nature around.

The temperature of the water of the two seas is quite similar on paper. However, many Aegean islands have a more shallow coastline, whereas the Ionian coast is mainly made up of cliffs. The shallow water heats up more easily by the sun, making the Aegean water, in most places, feel warmer compared to the Ionian water

Vegetation

Although there are a few islands in the Aegean that are full of trees and other vegetation, most of the islands in this sea, especially in the South, are dry and wild. There is not a lot of vegetation around, and the islands are mostly rocks and dirt. I am not sure if this is a result of the difference in wind, climate, or the volcanic history of this area, but there is just not that much vegetation.

The Ionian islands, on the other hand, are green. They have many unexplored forests, that often go straight into the sea, or grow on a white cliff above. Lush greenery and hundreds of years old olive trees are everywhere on the Ionian islands.

Wind

The wind conditions in both seas are completely different from each other. Wind is created between high-pressure areas and low-pressure areas. The bigger the difference between the pressures, the faster the air will move from the high to the low pressure and the stronger the wind will be.

In the Aegean sea, there are the Meltemi winds. These winds are a result of the high-pressure area in the Balkans, and the low pressure in the South. They flow from north to south and can reach strengths up to 7 bft. Especially in the afternoons, prepare to be blown away.

The wind on the Ionian islands works differently. In the Ionian islands, there is no close-by clash between pressure areas. As a result, there is no strong wind on the islands here, more like a cool summer breeze, with a strength of about 4 bft at most.

The thing both seas have in common is the daily pattern of the winds. Usually, the mornings are fine, but then the wind starts to blow and gradually gains strength. In the afternoon, the wind speeds reach the maximum. They then die out at night and start over again the next day. This might be good to know when you’re going on a boat trip, these are much less bumpy in the morning!

Temperature

As a result of the Meltemi winds, the islands in the Aegean sea will feel much less hot in the summer months. The wind makes the temperature drop slightly while the Ionian islands might feel like a sauna. However, this only counts in July and August. Off-season, temperatures on the Aegean islands will be higher than on the Ionian sea. Making these perfect spring and fall destinations.

Culture

Greece has been the subject of many wars. Every island has a history of being concurred over and over. Venetians and Ottomans played a role throughout entire Greece. However, where the Ionian islands are mainly influenced by the Europeans, the Aegean islands got most of their cultural heritage from the Ottomans.

The Ionian islands eat more pasta and the Aegean islands have more mosques. Differences are everywhere, the villages, the local food, and drinks, the traditional music… An additional distinction today is that the Aegean islands have more of a party culture, whereas the Ionian islands do not have this.

Left is the Ionian sea, right is the Aegean sea.

Ionian or Aegean?

This is still a difficult question. If you go sailing and you are looking for an adventure, go Aegean. But if you’re new to sailing, I would recommend to stay on the Ionian sea until you feel comfortable enough to face the strong Meletimi winds.

If you like nature’s beauty more than anything, go to the Ionian islands. However, if you want a good scenery and be closer to nightlife as well, the Aegean islands may be better for you.

If you want uniqueness, like white-washed houses and the temple of Apollo, go to the Aegean islands. If you prefer stunning scenery all around, seeing many beautiful places instead of just a few amazing ones, I would say the Ionian islands would be for you.

In the end, however, both seas are stunning and amazing holiday destinations. The real advice I would like to give you is to visit both the Greek seas and as many of the Greek islands as possible! Explore the differences on your own.

Aegean or Ionian? What is your preferred destination? Leave a comment below.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

Island hopping in Greece

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Travel guide to Paxi. The most beautiful island in Greece

In the Ionian Sea, just south of the famous island of Corfu, you can find Paxos. With just 19 square kilometers of land, it is one of the smallest inhabited islands of Greece. The island is still quite untouched by tourism, but asking the Greeks about Paxi, they say it is the most paradise like island in the country. It is a place where you can completely relax and enjoy the absolutely stunning beauty of nature.

Paxoi, Ionian Sea
Island
1 -3 days
Free
Average
No

General information

Naming explained

There is some confusion about the naming of the island, especially amongst foreigners. Is it Paxos, Paxoi or Paxi? To start with, Paxi is the English version of Paxoi. But what about the other two?

Let me explain you something about the Greek language. Because the difference between Paxoi and Paxos is the ending of these two words. When a Greek words ends at -os, it means this word is singular, and most of the time masculine. An ending with -oi, however, is used in words that are plural.

So when you say Paxoi, the Greeks will understand this as referring to all the islands in the municipality of Paxoi. The island group. Paxos, the singular version of the name, is the main island of this group.

Mythology

Did you ever hear about Poseidon or Neptune? The ancient God of the sea, the earthquakes, and the horses? The one that always holds a trident? Well, according to the Greek mythology, he is the one who created the beautiful islands of Paxoi, as an act of love.

Poseidon had many lovers, but in this story, we will talk about his love for Amphitrite. When Poseidon saw this beautiful spirit of sea water dancing, he fell madly in love with her. Amphitrite, however, did not share his feelings and ran, far away.

But Poseidon, as the strong and poweful God he was, not getting what he wants would not make a good story. So he sent a dolphin out to find the love of his life and convince her to marry him. With succes. Amphitrite came back and married Poseidon, who then wanted to create a romantic get-away just for the two of them.

Poseidon went to the southern tip of Corfu. With his trident, he hit the ground so hard that the land broke off and traveled over the Ionian Sea. The chunks of land bounced to the horizon, and came to a stop about 50 kilometers off shore. Creating the islands of Paxoi.

How to get to Paxi?

The only way to reach the small island of Paxos is by boat. Easiest is to take a ferry from Lefkimmi on Corfu or Igoumenitsa on the main land. The journey takes around 45-90 minutes, making this island pretty easy to access.

Coming from the other Ionian islands however, a trip to Paxi is bit more time consuming. With a travel time of 10 hours from the famous Zakynthos, 7 hours from Kefelonia and ferries going just once every couple of days, this combination is not the best option for island hopping in Greece.

There is one more option for a visit the beautiful islands of Paxi. A day trip from Parga, in Epirus on the main land. In the summer season there is a boat every day that takes you along the beautiful coastline of Paxos and Antipaxos. However, these boats are extremely crowded and have a strict schedule. There is no time to relax while relaxing is the thing to do on Paxos.

Why to visit Paxi?

The answer to this question is simple. Paxoi is an amazingly beautiful island. The island itself is packed with old olive trees. Half a million of them were planted in the sixteenth century by the Venetians. Now, five hundred years later, they are still there, providing a stunning landscape, shade from the sun and amazing olive oil.

On the west of the island, there are huge white limestone cliffs, shaped by the erosion of thousands of years. Underneath them are many caves you can explore, swimming in the most clear and blue water in whole Greece. The island is almost too beautiful to be real.

daylight entering a cave in Greece white stone blue sea
white cliff with a cave in blue sea with little boat
girl steering a boat in Paxi
tall white limestone cliff with blue sea and caves in Paxi
white cliffs during sunset in Paxi
two people in a boat in clear turquoise water in Paxi
eroded rock in blue sea in Paxi
the best beach in Greece with crystal clear blue water in Antipaxos
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What to do in Paxi?

Turn off your phone, forget about time, completely relax and enjoy the extreme beauty of nature. A trip to Paxi is really about disconnecting from the busy life you usually have and the landscape is perfect to help you doing that.

Beaches

On the west of the islands there are quite a few beaches. All with a combination of green trees and white lime stone around the turquoise clear water of the sea. The beaches of the island are sometimes hard to access but they all feel so paradise-like that you can easily spend just one day on one single beach. Good to know before is that all the beaches in Paxi have pebble stones, so when you are planning to visit this island, it might be a good idea to bring to water shoes.

Gaios

Another must-do on the island, is a visit to Gaios. Gaios is the main town of Paxoi and is picturesque village with colorful house, and narrow streets, located around the natural port of the island. This is quite unique. The island of Agios Nikolaos and Panagia, protect the coast of Gaios from rough waters and winds, naturally creating the perfect conditions for a port that is still used today.

From every point in Gaios you will see the islands that protect its shores as well as the many boats that lay in the port and this makes for a stunning view. Stroll along the water or get lost in the many narrow streets surrounded by traditional colored houses. Enjoy food next to the sea or on the main square. You will pay a bit more than the average Greek prices, but in return you get a really good view for your money.

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Rent a boat

The one thing I would absolutely recommend you to do in Paxi, is renting a boat. Although the island of Paxos is amazing by itself, the even more beautiful part of Paxoi is there where you can not reach from land. The white cliffs and their caves in the west, as well as the island of Antipaxos in the south are only accessible from the sea.

There are many organized day trips to explore this part of the islands, however, for almost the same price you are able to rent a small boat yourself. In most of the boat rental places it is enough to have a driver’s license in order to be able to rent a boat, and the rental company will teach you how to handle the boat before you go out on the sea.

I payed around 100 euro’s renting a boat for a day from the company called Panos. This might sound expensive but thinking back on the experience of that day, it would have been worth it to pay even more than double. Plus, this boat holds a maximum of 4 people, making it actually just 25 euro’s per person per day. Panos also offers a boat including a captain for when you don’t own a drivers license or if you are afraid of staring this journey by yourself. For both options, make sure to book before.

When renting a boat on Paxi, it is good to keep in mind that the later it gets in the afternoon, the rougher the sea will be on the south-west side of the island. Starting your trip early in the morning. First visit the caves and cliffs on the west, then go to Antipaxos and keep checking the roughness of the sea to get back safely to the main island to explore the east.

Antipaxos is famous for Voutoumi beach, which is an absolutely stunning one. However, in the summer months, it can be extremely crowded here. I would recommend you to keep following Antipaxos’ coastline till you find a more quiet place and enjoy the sea here before you make your way back to the main island to finish your tour.

How many days to spend in Paxi?

I visited Paxi for three days and this was a pretty good amount to explore the island and it shores. But where I combined this holiday with a roadtrip through Epirus and a month at the family beach house, three days might be a bit short for an entire holiday.

If you truly want to relax, slow down and disconnect from the rest of the world, you can stay longer. Maybe stay a couple of nights at Antipaxos instead of visiting the two islands in one day trip. But if you’re more about seeing things and exploring, I would say three days is enough, combining your trip to Paxi with a stay in Curfu or Parga.

Book in advance!

Paxi is a very small island and therefore accommodation is scarce. If you’re planning on visiting the island during the summer months, it is best to book a couple months in advance. I can recommend Electra Villa & Pool Studios, if you’re looking for a quiet getaway with a stunning view. Check the map below for available accommodations. If you’re booking through here, you are supporting this website.

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Island hopping in Greece

No matter how often you visit Greece, you will never be done exploring. Every single one of the 6.000 islands of Greece is different and extremely beautiful, which makes island hopping in Greece a popular summer holiday. But the Greek ferries can be quite overwhelming. Where to go, how to book, and what happens when traveling? Keep reading to discover how to plan island hopping in Greece as well as what to expect from the Greek ferries.

Don’t try to go everywhere

When planning your trip to Greece, don’t expect to visit 10 islands in 10 days. Don’t even try to visit 5 in this time. It might be tempting to visit as many islands as possible in one trip, but in the end, you will not have time to explore the islands, get to know the culture, or lie on the beautiful beaches.

Take it easy when planning your next trip, island hopping in Greece. Even the smallest islands have so much beauty that they are worth at least a couple of days of your time. So don’t try to rush, siga siga. It is really better to have some quality time on a few islands instead of rushing through many of them.

Book before

Greek ferries are extremely popular in summer, especially when traveling between Mykonos and Santorini. These boats get really crowded, even though there are multiple ferries going each day. Although it is very rare for a ferry to get fully booked, there is a strong possibility of having to pay for first-class tickets when you postpone booking. So I really recommend booking upfront. You will have a trip without worries, knowing that you did not pay too much.

Where to go

With over 6.000 islands, it might be difficult to pick your destination. The good thing is that every island is beautiful and worth exploring. There is no such thing as a bad choice. I would recommend you to just go wherever the airport closest to you can get you and make this the start of your Greek adventure.

From there, you can use this super handy map from ferryhopper.com. For example, if your airplane lands in Athens, you can click on Piraeus, the port of Athens. The map will show you all the destinations from this port, including the price of the journey.

And it doesn’t stop there. You can keep adding destinations or your way back. You can plan a whole trip of ferry hopping on the map and afterward immediately book your tickets. There is one bug though. Once you picked your destinations on the map and go to “book this trip”, the site will automatically select a single trip for you. It will look like your work on the map has been lost. However, click on “island hopping”, and then on “add trip”, till your whole journey pops up.

Besides, if you want to safe some money, it is advisable to use ferry hopper only to plan your route. Ferry hopper is a third party, and like with any other third party, prices will be more expensive. After making a plan, go to the website of the ferry itself, to book tickets at a lower price. Ferry hopper will show you which agency has tickets available.

Save money

When actually booking the tickets, there are two things to keep in mind. The first one is that for a trip up to five hours there is no point to spend money on high-speed ferries or first-class seating. Especially when booking a “blue star ferry”.

Booking the cheapest ticket possible with blue star ferry will give you a spot on the deck, and this is really the nicest experience. For the others, there is often no seating on the deck. However, when your trip is not too long the economy seats are quite comfortable. Better than the ones on a airplane. Besides, the ferry itself often has shops and food stalls, so explore around when you get bored!

Prepare for delays

The second point to keep in mind when creating your island-hopping-itinerary is that ferries are often delayed. Basically, all ferries start in the morning being on time, but during the day they will get late. And you should make sure you will have about 12 hours saved for a possible delay.

Last year, when I was on the island of Lemnos, I learned about the delays the hard way. After spending 4 days on the island, I was supposed to catch a ferry at noon, pick up a car in the afternoon, and reach Ioannina in the evening. Starting a trip around Epirus and the most beautiful Ionian island, Paxoi.

However, when checking the location of this ferry, turned out that it had only just left Athens, the other side of Greece. In the end, a different ferry came to pick me up, but this one was there eight hours late. Starting my next trip in a complete rush. So prepare for the delays and enjoy an extra day on the island!

There are two kinds of tickets. One that comes with a barcode, and one that doesn’t. For the barcode-less tickets, you should always leave to go the port slightly early to pick up the actual ticket. For the one with barcode, however, it will be good to print them.

Modernization did not reach the Greek ferries yet. While in many countries you enter any form of transportation with just your phone, the Greeks can freak out when you don’t have the printed version with you.

The best is to print your tickets before traveling to Greece. At home, at the office, or at a print shop close by. But if you forget, don’t have this option, or decide you don’t want to after reading the next paragraph, ask at the accommodation you are staying in.

Greeks are always super helpful. On my trip last year, I needed a printed form to fill in, due to the COVID restrictions. Staying at a small, traditional Airbnb, without a printer, I was afraid I had to cancel a part of my trip. However, the friendly old hostess gave me the email and address of her daughter’s office. Just a couple of minutes away I could pick up the form and my trip was saved.

The final option for the tickets is waiting till you reach the port. But here they will ask you for a small fee to get your tickets printed. So you pay money while missing out on the experience of Greek helpfulness.

Prepare your luggage

Almost every ferry has luggage storage on the car deck, where you get in. If you travel with a big suitcase, you should leave it here before exploring the rest of the ferry. Prepare for this before entering the ferry. Take your valuable items, maybe put a lock on the suitcase and have a smaller bag with you to take up on the ferry.

Check when the ferry comes

This website has the location of all boats. Enter the name of your ferry, which is on your ticket, and you will see the location of the boat. When you booked a ferry that does not leave early in the morning, it is always good to check the location of the ferry a couple of hours before to see if there is any delay.

The booking agency will also be sending you updates on the departure time of the ferry when there is a delay. However, these updates often come slightly late. So better to check yourself, and spend some extra time on a beach or a long lunch next to the sea.

Be on time, but not too early

All tickets say that you should arrive at least one hour before the departure time of the ferry. They do this because the ferries don’t stop very long at each port. Trust me, you will never see so many people get out and in of a boat as fast as they do on a Greek ferry. And they won’t wait for anyone.

So make sure you are at the dock when the ferry enters the port. However, the hour before is a bit much, especially when you are on a small island and traveling without a car. If you have to pick up your ticket or have a car, come 45-30 minutes before departure. But when you are on foot, 30-20 minutes is more than enough.

Be prepared to be blown away

And I mean literally blown away. When traveling on a ferry with a deck, I recommend you to stay on the deck the entire journey, especially in summer. It is a really nice experience. You can check out the coastline, enjoy the fresh sea air and maybe even spot some dolphins.

This brings me to an extra tip. When you see many people packed in one spot on the ferry, they probably are looking at dolphins. So join them!

So stay on the deck if you can, but be prepared for strong winds, especially in the afternoons. For the women amongst us, don’t wear a short summer dress or skirt and maybe put your hair up. Many hats are lost on ferries and even sunglasses can fly away. So be careful. And also, use a lot of sunscreen because you will not feel the burn of the sun because of the wind, but trust me, you will get a sunburn.

Be downstairs when you arrive

Like I said before, Greek ferries don’t stop very long at each port. And since the Greeks won’t wait for you to get on the boats, they will also not wait for you to get off of them. So when you see the coastline, or when all the Greeks start leaving the deck, go downstairs to where you entered the ferry. Pick up your luggage and wait here till you can go out.

When traveling by car

Taking a car on a ferry is a stressful experience. So try to avoid it. The problem is that the Greeks are very efficient in packing the car deck. Although it is really impressive how many cars they are able to fit in one boat, with extremely little time. For a non-Greek driver, it is overwhelming.

Read here about what you can expect to happen. In short, make sure you are alone in the car, stay calm, and have the luggage you want to take with you close by.

Tips:

  • Every ferry has at least one small kiosk where you can buy food and drinks. However, the prices on the ferries will be at least double from what they are on land. So take water with you and something to eat for a longer journey. This will save you a lot of money.
  • You need a passport or any other valid form of identification to enter the ferry. Have this ready when before you enter, together with your ticket.
  • The toilets on the ferries are actually quite good. Even here you can not flush your toilet paper, but they are cleaned quite often and are normal toilets.
  • When you travel a longer distance, it might be good to check if there is an overnight option. Here you can sleep in a bed on the ferry and wake up in the port of your destination the next morning.
  • When you struggle with sea- or motion sickness, try to stay on the deck, even when there is no seating there. The wind and the scenery around can help a lot to overcome it. Also, the bigger the ferry the less bumpy the ride will be. There is even a high-speed catamaran ferry which you can consider booking if you know you might get sick, but unfortunately, this one is quite expensive. It can also help to pick a ferry that goes in the morning or at night since the Meltemi winds mostly blow during the afternoons.

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Travel guide to Lemnos, Greece

Lemnos, or Limnos, is an island in the Aegean Sea, in the northeast of Greece. With just 476 square kilometers of land, it is not very big but enough to…

Pool or beach? Where to go swimming in Greece?

Greece is full of hotels and apartments for tourists. Even the tiniest village in a good location has many accommodations to offer. In the mountains, on the coast, or in…

Travel guide to Lemnos, Greece

Lemnos, or Limnos, is an island in the Aegean Sea, in the northeast of Greece. With just 476 square kilometers of land, it is not very big but enough to make one of the most surprising islands in the North of Greece. From a small desert to a giant salt lake, from the biggest castle in the Aegean to the famous traditional windmills, and from tasty local cheese to the most beautiful sunsets. This island is worth your visit.

Lemnos, Aegean Sea
Island
5 days
Free
Yes
Average

How much does it cost to stay in Lemnos?

Lemnos is not well-known by foreigners and maybe that is the beauty of it. There are no overcrowded landmarks, no packed beaches, and no overpriced meals or hotels. Staying on the island in the capital Myrina is affordable. In the summer months, you will spend around 50 euros per person per night on a hotel, while in May, June, and September just 20 euros are enough for a very comfortable stay. To make things even better, a good dinner, on average, will cost you no more than 10 euros and most of the amazing places you must visit on this island are completely free.

How to get to Lemnos?

You can reach Lemnos either by ferry, from Kavala or Alexandroupoli, or by airplane from either Athens or Thessaloniki within just 50 minutes. From the airport, there is a bus to take you to Myrina, the capital of the island. When arriving by ferry, you get off the boat in this capital.

How to get around on Lemnos?

When in Lemnos, you will need a car or motorcycle to get the most out of the island. There is public transport, but since many of the must-see areas are very secluded, a bus will not be able to take you there. In different locations on the island there are rental companies, but also taking your car on the ferry is an option.

If you want to rent a car, it is always good to reserve one before arriving, because especially in July and August, the companies may run out of cars. Besides, don’t go for the cheapest option since there will be many dirt roads waiting for you. A small 4×4 would be ideal.

How long to stay in Lemnos?

The island is not super big but since the roads on the island are not great, you will actually spend quite some time getting around the island. I went for four days, and although I saw most of the things on my list, at least one day extra would have been better. If you want to explore the whole island I would go for 5 to 6 days, of which 3 in Myrina, the capital, and 2 to 3 somewhere more to the west of the island.

What to do in Lemos?

Map

The Aliki salt lake

What happens when a shallow lake is exposed to the Greek summer sun? The water evaporates, the lake disappears and a completely different landscape appears instead. In Lemnos, this results in a giant white plane called the Aliki salt lake.

Seasons of the lake

Aliki, in the northeast of the island, is a big salty lake most of the year. It connects with the sea through a small canal in the center of kilometers of sand dunes. Through the canal, the sea water floats into Aliki, creating a wetland home to many species of birds, including even flamingos during springtime. The Aliki lake is an important place for hundreds of different bird species, part of the Natura 2000 network it is a protected part of nature.

But then summer comes. The hot sun evaporates the salty water while the canal is not big enough to lead enough water into the lake to refill it. Water disappears, leaving the white salt behind on the bottom. Entering the lake in summer feels like you’re entering a different season. Like you’re entering a snowy field, only with a temperature well above 30 degrees. It feels surreal.

Living with Aliki

The salt of the Aliki lake used to be an essential part of the locals’ way of living on the island. Under the moonlight on the hot summer nights, the locals used the enter the salt lake with their animals. They needed to collect the salt to be able to preserve their food throughout the rest of the year.

Today you can still see the locals entering the lake with buckets to collect Aliki’s salt. Although they don’t depend on the lake as they used to before, it is nice to see how the people on the island still use what nature offers them.

Tips:

  • The salt lake is actually one of the easiest to visit natural attractions in Lemnos. Following directions to Aliki Salt Lagoon, the lake is just 400 meters away from the main road.
  • However, if you follow the dirt road south for 800 meters more, there is another spot from which you can enter the lake. This seems to be the one that the locals use.
  • The salt of the lake is still used today by the locals and when they go on the lake to collect the salt, they take their shoes off. So don’t be surprised if you see piles of shoes along the lake.
  • Aliki in Greek means salt pit. The Greeks were not very creative in the naming of this lake. In the country there are many Alikes, man-made salt lakes, but a natural one like this one in Lemnos I don’t know from anywhere else in Greece.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses for this one. With the strong summer sun on the white ground, it is really blinding.

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When a monk makes camp. Panagia Kakaniotissa

Just a few kilometers West of Myrina, on the island of Lemnos, is a church that is unlike any other. Panagia Kakaniotissa. A small church without a roof but covered by the tip of the mountain it was built in. This small church is one of the most unique churches in the world.

one of the most unique churches in the world inside a cave on top of a mountain
Panagia Kakaniotissa, image from greekcitytimes.com

History

The church was built in the 13th century, when the Ottomans took over the island of Lemnos. A few monks were able to escape from the Turks. Trying to find a place to hide, they found a secluded and inaccessible cave. Covered by the roughness of the volcanic landscape around, they felt safe enough to make camp.

But what would a monk in a camp be without a church? Nothing. So the monks built the Panagia Kakaniotissa church and were able to survive here throughout time. Not being found by the occupants of the island.

Experience

Today the church is still in use and made accessible to the public. Well, for as far as possible on its very remote location. Just north of the church is a parking lot, accessible by a dirt road. From here a poorly constructed path leads you through the volcanic landscape, up to the cave.

On the way, you will be surprised by the beauty of the landscape around. Although the area seems pretty dry, there are so many different colors around you. The volcanic stones in the area are like sculptures while the sea is visible on the horizon. You’ll visit not only one of the most unique churches in the world, but you will hike through a special landscape as well.

Volcanic rock shows the face of an angry man on the path toward the church.

Tips:

  • When going to this church, make sure to navigate to the parking lot. Navigation might make a mistake when you try to drive directly towards the church.
  • The hike to the church takes about 20 minutes.
  • Bring enough water and sunscreen with you. And when visiting in summer, it is better to go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. But make sure to be back before it’s dark, because the path, as well as the dirt road, can be dangerous in the night.
  • Although the stairs of the path are not very well constructed, it does make this hike safe for children.
  • Don’t try to visit during Easter, or maybe do if you want to explore the Greek culture. To this day, the church is still in use to celebrate this important Greek Orthodox holiday.
  • Halfway the path towards the church is a little seating area from which you can enjoy the view over the mountains and the sea.
  • Combine with a visit to the castle of Myrina or the traditional windmills in Kontias
Volcanic landscape on Lemnos overlooking the sea

Time to walk on water! Agios Nikolaos on Lemnos

Opposite of fanaraki beach, in the middle of the island of Lemnos is a sea so enclosed by land that is characterized more like a lake. In the middle of this shallow calm water lies a little island with on top a small white church. How much Greeker can it get? And even better, you get to walk on water on your way there!

The Agios Nikolaos, Saint Nicholas church, is a must-see when visiting the island. Not so much for the little church itself as for the way that leads you there.

Following a dirt road from the village of Pedino, you pass through a beautiful rural area that even got my Greek parents-in-law surprised. Follow the wetlands as well as the dry ones with the biggest cacti, or cactuses on the island. You will pass some remote farms until you come at a y-section, take a left and drive until the road ends. This is from where you will see the path of the island.

Now it is time for you to walk on water! A narrow concrete path surrounded by sea will take you to the island of the church. Crossing around 200 meters it is really a special experience to walk “on” the sea like this. Beautiful!

The island itself is small and the church even smaller. But the island is so remote that it is the quietest place I found on Lemnos. With water all around it is so peaceful here. Even with a whole Greek family of 12 to join you, you can find your own spot and enjoy the nature and tranquillity around.

Me and a part of the Greek family crossing the path to the island

Tips:

  • The dirt road that leads to the church is pretty long and not the easiest to drive. However, we managed with four adults in a Volkswagen up! So don’t let the dirt scare you and go!
  • Although the way to the church seems pretty accessible, walking over the water by the concrete path. There are some stairs taking you up on the island. Making the island itself difficult to visit for disabled people.
  • The church might have a lot of sea around, it is not really a place to swim. So combine the visit to this church with a beach close by, mikro fanaraki is a good one!

Much more than a beach. Paralia Mikro Fanaraki

In the East of the island of Lemnos, there is a small beach called Mikro Fanaraki. A small lantern. The beach is probably named after the little lighthouse on the rocks closeby. Although Mikro Fanaraki itself is small as well, there is so much to see and do around that it deserves a visit during your stay on the island.

Location Overview

Lemnos
Natural site
3 hours
Free
Yes but be careful
No

Beach & Sea

Because the beach is almost completely enclosed, the sea will be clear, blue, and smooth, almost every day. A sea like oil is what the Real Greeks would say. Besides, the water is shallow making it the ideal beach for families with younger children. And with the whole beach being surrounded by white rocks, it feels like you enter a paradise.

But there is so much more on this beach!

The rocks in mikro Fanaraki – by google’s local host Apostolos Petalotis

Rocks

Swimming a little bit to the left coming from the beach, there are some small rocks in the water that make for a perfect playground. The rocks here are easy to walk on, steady, and go into the water like a ramp. Amazing for older kids to play on but even adults can enjoy themselves here.

Since the beach of Mikro Fanaraki itself is pretty small and busy, these rocks make the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of this area. You can pick your own spot, away from other people. Spend some time enjoying the scenery, cooling off with a swim in the crystal clear water.

little blue clear bay with white cliffs and green
Abandoned estate in the cliff close to mikro Fanaraki in Lemnos.
Almost invisible between the surrounding nature.

Abandoned estate on the cliff

Following the rocks, you will end up at a small bay with its own little sand beach. This beach was once owned by a rich man, who build an estate in the cliff above. After building, the man was forced to leave because of economic reasons. And now the beach, as well as the property, are abandoned and open for a visit.

First I have to say, as an architect, the house is an amazing design. From the sea it is nearly impossible to distinguish the house from the cliff it is built on. The color of the stones matches perfectly with the rocks around and the greenery in front makes it part of nature. Only a big round window in the front of the house reveal’s its presence. It is not often in Greece that villas are so polite to the nature they’re built in.

Coming back to the beach below. From here you can take a path with stairs up to the house that is part of a giant abandoned estate. Walk around but definitely take the paved walkway all along the cliffs. The view is marvelous and it is easy to walk. This path will eventually take you back to the mikro fanaraki beach.

Seal’s cave

Seal’s cave – by google’s local host Lucian Bagia

Coming back to the beach, there is one more thing you should do, swimming to the right side. Or go for a hike, whatever you prefer! Seal’s cave is a place with beautiful stone structures where you can swim through. The stone’s here are volcanic, meaning that many have beautiful colors and textures. Although the water in the caves can get a bit dirty and it smells like sulfide, the cave is a beautiful creation of nature.

Tips:

  • Mikro fanaraki is one of the most popular beaches on Lemnos and in summer it can get very crowded. Come early in the day or late in the afternoons to have a more peaceful experience. Or leave the beach itself and find a spot around on the cliffs in the afternoon.
  • There is quite a big parking near the road. From here you walk down to the beach through the sand, making it difficult for disabled people to get there.
  • The sunbeds on the beach are owned by the beach bar here and using one means buying something to eat or to drink from here. They are slightly overpriced. But we had just two coffees and spend the whole afternoon exploring the area. Meaning it was worth the price.
  • If you visit the beach at the end of the day. Move to paralia fanaraki (the beach on the other side) to watch the sunset. This is super beautiful because you will see the sun go down behind the mountains of the western part of the island.
Did you see the abandoned house in the picture? Or do you know another beach house that truly blends in with its surroundings? Let me know in the comments below.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

Pool or beach? Where to go swimming in Greece?

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Travel guide to Lemnos, Greece

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The largest fortress of the Aegean Sea.

When you reach the island of Lemnos by boat, you’re welcomed by an imposing Castle. Built on a rocky and craggy peninsula at the tip of the island, the castle of Myrina is the largest fortress in the Aegean Sea. Over the past 1000 years it endured many battles.

Location Overview

Myrina, Lemnos
Archeology, Architecture
1.5 hour
Free
Be careful
No

History

The construction of the largest fortress of the Aegean sea was commanded in 1186 AD by the Byzantine emperor Andronicus Komnenos, on the site of an earlier ancient fortification. But even before finishing it, it was taken over by the Venetians, who completed the castle around 1214.

After this, many wars came. First, the castle came back to Byzantium and then it was taken by the Ottamans. From the 15th to the 17th century the island went back and forth between the Venetians and the Turks. And in the 18th century also the Russians showed their interest and ruled the island for a while. In 1912 the Greeks took over the castle of Myrina from the Turkish and since then it has been a part of Greece.

Visiting the castle today

Today the castle of Myrina is a monument for the public with many parts that are still standing. The castle has one entrance to the east side, the only point which connects it to the land. Inside the walls are cisterns, houses’ remains, an underground vaulted room, and even a mosque.

Today, this castle is uninhabited by people, but refuge for about 200 deer. The locals provide them with food and water. And when visiting the castle at sunrise or sunset is very common to spot at least one deer.

Tips:

  • To go to the castle, you walk a path for about 20 minutes from the main square in Myrina.
  • There is a very small parking next to Nefeli All Day Bar & Suites from where the walk to the castle is only 10 minutes.
  • The hike up to the castle is quite easy because it has concrete stairs. However, it is a climb up, making the site inaccessible for people in a wheelchair.
  • Inside the castle there is a lot of information about its history.
  • The castle is the perfect place to watch a beautiful sunset on Lemnos. However, don’t hang around for too long since finding your way back in the dark will be both difficult and dangerous.
Sunset on the Castle in Myrina. At the back is the shadow of Mount Athos.

Curious to learn about more hidden gems in Greece? Leave your email below and explore Greece together with us!

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