This Greek Island Hopping Itinerary changed my outlook on vacations, period. As one half of the professional food-travel blogging team running this site, who have visited 93+ countries to date, I don’t use the phrase “best vacation experience ever”, lightly. This is the first time I’ve ever used it in an article, and it may be the only time I ever use it.
The Sun Fun You Mediterranean Voyages experience is all about balance. Incredible food balanced by yoga, swimming, hiking. The opportunity to form lifelong bonds with new people in a soul nourishing environment. From jumping off the side of the boat into the crystal blue water of secret coves to sleeping under a blanket of stars up on the top deck every night. Secluded bays, undiscovered villages, booze, backgammon and even a calamari party await on one of the best Greek island hopping routes.
No matter how much fun you have, and even if you drink a few too many wines and eat a little too much, you somehow walk away feeling healthier and happier than you thought could be possible. Rested. For an active trip, I just didn’t expect to feel more relaxed by the end. But letting go of the world of work to give your body exactly what it needs – balance – and focusing on peace and happiness, rather than stress and deadlines, will change you profoundly.
It’s like re-discovering the innocent freedom of being a child but with the mindfulness of an adult – so you really appreciate it.
I want you to take this trip. Not for me but for you. Trust me, you need this.
So, why take the trip with Sun Fun You, rather than one of many other Greek Island Hopping Itinerary options?
Aside from everything being incredibly well organized and thought through to maximise your experience. The key difference is the focus on balance. Read the full article below to find out why.
Greek Island Hopping Itinerary – Table Of Contents
Greek Island Hopping Itinerary 1 week – Map & Which Islands To Visit – best Greek island hopping route
Book A Place With Sun Fun You – Or join us (Tommo & Megsy) on our own personalised Sun Fun You Voyage in Sept 2019
How To Island Hop In Greece (Different Methods)
Small Boat / Gulet (A Turkish two-masted or three-masted wooden sailing vessel)
Join a small group for a more personalized Greek Island Hopping Itinerary. Visit secluded bays, get looked after by a dedicated crew and relax in comfort. Find out why this is our number one way to visit the Greek Islands:
Read the full article below, or Book A Trip With Sun Fun You
I’ve been both an employee and passenger on many different cruise ships over the years, and there are certainly some occasions where cruise travel would be a wonderful, tasty and convenient way to get around and see a lot of places in a short amount of time. But for Greek Island hopping, it’s not ideal. Most cruises go to the major destinations only. You’ll be getting off the ship with thousands of other people, all at once, flooding the small islands.
Cruising misses the essence of the small Greek islands – which is the remoteness, the tradition, the tranquillity and the authenticity.
The ferry is obviously the cheapest option. Though timing your trip, especially to smaller islands, can be a logistical challenge, with limited sailings on some routes. The ferry option is certainly an experience and if you don’t have much money to spend, it may be your only option, but I can’t describe it as being the best experience.
If you have a large group of people looking to travel together, then you can charter a whole gulet for yourself. Sun Fun You actually organise private charters too.
The Greek Island Hopping Experience With Sun Fun You Voyages – Luxury Gulet
There are many ways to get around the Greek Islands, but they were not born equal… Having travelled by ferry and also by cruise ship in the past, I have to say I’ve been fully converted to the small gulet experience. There are so many reasons I’ll discuss, but the first and most important is this: Just Diving In!
When the ship is anchored in bays and coves, you can jump off the side. You just can’t do that on a ferry or cruise ship. It’s a liberating experience – the freedom to jump in at will, on demand. Multiple times each day, cooling off in perfect Mediterranean water. And, by having a small vessel that goes to lesser known coves, it’s often like having your own endless, private swimming pool.
Yes, the sun, water and the backdrop are the stuff Mediterranean dreams are made of.
Food – Family Style Dining
Food brings people together. With family style dining at every meal on-board, the dining experience really helps you forge bonds with your fellow passengers. The Sun Fun You team make an extra effort to get people talking and sharing, with various dinner time activities – like the mystery bag…
We ate exceptionally well throughout the vacation experience. The real star of our culinary journey though was the ship’s captain – a trained chef.
But, with balance in mind, the focus of the food is on healthy, home cooked meals. Not on overeating and excess.
We’ll talk more in depth about the cuisine of the voyage and of the Dodecanese islands, in the food section below.
The program for your week with Sun Fun You is as packed, or as flexible as you want it to be (And activities are all included in the price). Everything is optional, leaving you free to choose how active and involved you want to be. Take excursions to traditional Greek Island villages and towns.
Get whipped around an open bay: Go tubing. Or, if you are me, fall of the tube and almost lose your swim shorts. Poseidon got an eyeful that day.
Take part in a crew and passenger backgammon tournament.
Dress up like pirates, drink Raki (similar to Ouzo) and play bingo.
Or just go for a swim, or grab a beer and watch the stars.
Sleeping on deck under the stars is a real highlight of the whole experience. As you move away from big towns to remote bays, the light pollution disappears and the full majesty of the skies is revealed.
The most fun part about the voyage though is that all these activities create another way to connect with the small group of passengers and crew on board. Booze + Activities = New Friends For Life
Adventure & Fitness
To counteract the food and fun, exercise is a must. Various hikes across the islands are available as part of the itinerary. Burn off some calories while experiencing some of the best island scenery in Greece.
Or, ride the waves at the front of the Gulet.
Twice daily yoga and onboard fitness sessions help you stretch those muscles ready for a big hike, or to unwind after an active day.
So, how will you feel so rejuvenated after this trip?
Balance for every part of your being.
- Fantastic healthy food – without the focus on overeating.
- Invigorating exercise through scenic landscapes.
- Freedom to just jump off and swim in that crystal water.
- Relaxation with yoga, or just allowing the ship to rock you to sleep
- Connection with new people and with yourself.
- And Re-connection with life and the world – get away from work and stress.
It turns out that feeling at peace is simpler than we all think it is. And more rewarding than we may expect it to be. Let go of stress, nourish your mind, body and soul, and just jump off…
PODCAST: What To Eat Greek Island Hopping – Listen Now
In This Episode…
- What are the essential dishes to try in the Greek Islands
- We discuss highlights from our trip Greek Island hopping in the Aegean. Taking a small gullet (boat) between hidden coves and quaint greek waterfront villages, swimming in crystal blue water straight off the boat and sleeping under the stars.
- Cooking classes and being cooked for on the Sun Fun You boat. Our captain was also a trained chef which made this whole Greek island hopping itinerary even more of a foodie trip.
- Ouzo vs Raki, what’s the difference?
- PLUS Greek seafood tavernas, we find a hidden gem on the Island of Samos.
- Big Shrimps or Mussels Saganaki (fried in tomato and feta cheese sauce)
- Squid stuffed with feta cheese and peppers
- Deep fried cuttlefish
- Red Mullet, grilled on the BBQ or sometimes deep fried
THE BELOW CONTENT IS A DETAILED COMPANION TO THE PODCAST – NOT A TRANSCRIPT.
Greek Island Hopping Itinerary For Food Lovers (What You’ll Eat)
The Greek Island Hopping Itinerary map is further below, in this section we’ll talk about some of the dishes you’ll eat while on board, and some famous dishes from the Dodecanese & Aegean islands.
Before we get onto specific dishes, a brief history of the cuisine of the region.
A Brief History Of Aegean Island Cuisine
Greece has many islands – it’s estimated to be somewhere between 1,200 and 6000 if you include all the tiny islets as well. But only about 230 of the islands are inhabited.
So there are lots of places to go Island hopping, but our 7 day voyage with Sun Fun You focused on the Dodecanese, which includes islands like Rhodes, Kos and Kalimnos – though we didn’t visit Rhodes on this trip. And we also visited Samos, which is just north of the Dodecanese. These islands are all located in the sea just east of the Turkish coastline – in fact, we could see Turkey at many points during the journey.
These islands were mostly Greek throughout antiquity, with various peoples from the region battling over them on occasion. Rhodes signed a treaty with the Romans in 164BC which left them largely autonomous under the wing of Rome. The island of Kos is famous as being the home of Hippocrates – known today because of the term “Hippocratic oath” in medicine.
When The Roman Empire split, the eastern territories became the Byzantine empire, and the Dodecanese were part of that. The Venetians and Genoese both briefly held islands in the region until the early 14th century when The Knights of Saint John took Rhodes and most of the other Dodecanese islands.
Next, the Ottoman empire would take the islands in 1522, but they were still left largely Greek and autonomous, with only Rhodes and Kos becoming Turkish settlements.
In 1912, Italy was at war with Turkey and they took most of the Dodecanese, holding them until after World War II, finally, in 1947 the islands were returned to Greece.
So, the cuisine has been significantly influenced by Greece, Italy and Turkey. But also with trade with Egypt and other parts of the Mediterranean.
Dodecanese cooking is different from other island food since it relies more on spices and often a good Dodecanesian cook will have a ‘spice’ box next to the hob, a box that contains several spices, including ground black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, chili. This adds a slightly more ‘Eastern’ influence reflecting the foreign occupations. The Ottoman empire brought more spices and new cooking styles, though the spice trade during the Byzantine era and during the occupation of the Knights of Saint John have also influenced the important inclusion of so many spices.
Though these influences have arrived to the islands, Greek cuisine is one of the most ancient in the world, and has also spread outwards across the whole region, and now the world. So, ancient Greek cooking will have left its mark in the region at the same time as it evolved on the islands because of trade and occupation.
The sea provided a major livelihood for thousands of years for the people of the Dodecanese until the sudden arrival of tourism. The diet is greatly influenced by the availability of seafood, as well as products that were bought and sold via trade routes locally, and further to Egypt and North Africa.
Kalymnos, Symi, and Halki are particularly geared-up for the fruits of the sea since they were unable to sustain their own crops due to lack of arable land. These islands are also famous for the collection of natural sponge, and it remains a major industry in that area.
With the occupation of the Italians, a further legacy of dishes that seem instantly Italian in look and taste have now been part of the local cuisine for several generations.
Dishes To Try – On The Islands
During the voyage, the onboard meals are strongly Turkish influenced as the ship’s captain (and chef!) is from Turkey. But, when stopping on the Greek islands before, during and after the voyage, you’ll be able to eat the Aegean island cuisine. There is a lot of crossover between the Turkish and Aegean cuisine due to the history of the region.
Posa Cheese (Wine-cheese) – Island of Kos
Posa cheese is prepared by allowing local goat cheese to mature submerged in red wine, granting it its famous capricious flavor.
“Krasi” is the Greek word for wine and the dregs of wine are known locally as “possia”. The cheese is matured in these wine dregs and voila – “posa” wine cheese!
Legend has it that in ancient times when Kos had a shortage of olive oil, which was used to preserve the cheese in those times, residents turned to possia to mature the soft, white sheep’s and/or goat’s milk cheese. The colour of the wine gives the cheese’s outer layer a bronze colouring which is very unique in cheeses.
Served with everything from salad to fruit to Greek coffee, it’s highly recommended paired with watermelon in the summer.
Calamari – Vathis, Kalymnos
Fresh calamari, lightly battered and deep fried. The ambience of sitting by the tiny harbor cove of Vathis is what really makes this calamari stand out, as well as the freshness and expert preparation. We experienced eating here as part of the “Calamari Party” – an activity included with our specific itinerary on the Sun Fun You voyage.
Revithokeftedes (Chickpea patties) – From Samos
Mashed chickpeas are mixed with onions, mint and dill and deep fried. This is a traditional dish that you will find in every restaurant or café in Samos, and that will be offered as a “mezé” at feasts or at home.
As is always the case for a beloved recipe, each restaurant or household has its secrets: you will taste different kinds of revithokeftedes according to their shape and to the kind and amount of herbs and spices.
Chickpea patties or falafels have been around for over 1000 years. Said to have been invented in Egypt as a meat substitute during lent, the dish was exported from Alexandria to many destinations. Therefore, trade between Egypt and the Aegean islands likely brought this dish to the region long ago.
Fresh Seafood – from every island!
Local caught fish and seafood is everywhere. Here are some suggestions…
If you happen to visit the island of Symi, their famous seafood dish is the Small Fried Shrimp with chili flakes.
On Samos, we highly recommend the restaurant Taverna Maritsa – a local taverna hidden away from the main tourist harbour on a backstreet.
Taverna Maritsa in Samos specialize in fresh fish and an atmospheric taverna experience that immerses you in local culture. As you sit in the 2 tiered courtyard under leafy trees, rustling with the cool evening breeze, you can smell red mullet or shrimp sizzling on the BBQ.
Uncle Manolis owns his own fishing boat and heads out daily to bring in the freshest seafood to the restaurant every night. The taverna is just a few minutes walk from the tourist waterfront, but you’ll be escaping both the inflated prices and the tourism as you eat at this authentic Taverna, which opened in 1991 by the family who have been on a mission to maintain the cuisine of their parents and grandparents ever since.
Some locally caught seafood specialities you should try, either at Taverna Maritsa, or any number of seafood restaurants you’ll discover throughout the Greek Islands.
Dishes To Try – On The Gulet
Available dishes onboard depend on season and supply. One day we had fresh octopus salad because the Captain had actually gone spearfishing the night before, right off the side of the gulet, and caught octopus. Yes, the captain is a badass. So, the daily meals will vary, but here are some of our highlights. No matter what you get fed, the Captain is a master of home cooked flavor and your taste buds will be happy!
Captain Ayetekin is an accomplished chef, trained in Vienna, as well as being an expert in his native Turkish food.
The Captains Lamb
Melt in the mouth, slow cooked lamb. Swimming in its own beautiful fat, with roasted potatoes perfectly crisp on the outside and sumptuously soft and lamby infused on the inside.
When we asked the captain how he roasted the lamb so perfectly in a tiny galley on the gulet, he told us “You have to have a relationship with the Sheppard”. The perfect lamb can be cooked only from the perfect lamb supplier. I’m sure there is a little more to it than that, but the method is obviously a secret. With lamb that good, I’m not surprised.
Sakuska (Turkish Style Eggplant and Tomatoes Stew)
Stewing eggplant in tomatoes is typical of Turkish cuisine, and the whole Balkan region. Doing it perfectly so that the flavor sings in your mouth, is another matter. Having had this dish all over the region, the salty and tastebud tingling version on board was one of the best I’ve had.
Fresh Octopus Salad / Whole Grilled Fish
It was about midnight when we heard the splashing sounds of someone boarding the side of the gulet and up the access stairs. Seconds later, 2 whole octopus were dropped on the wooden deck. The Captain stood in his camouflage colored wetsuit, spear in hand. Tomorrow’s lunch was going to be about as fresh as octopus gets!
When you have ingredients this fresh, all you need is some good olive oil and some fresh herbs to make them a true masterpiece.
On another day, the captains midnight spear fishing haul was enough fish to feed the entire crew and all passengers. Lightly floured and shallow fried to perfection.
The word dolma is Turkish for “to fill or stuff”. Some of the most common forms of dolma as a dish are stuffed peppers or stuffed vine leaves. On board the Sun Fun You voyage, we all got to lend a hand making stuffing dolma ourselves. The stuffing we made is with seasoned rice, with mint and dill. Some versions of the dish will include minced meat in the rice filling.
Dill and Feta Pastries
Turkish breakfast each morning consists of things like fried eggs, olives, tomato, cucumber, and some sweet treats to put on your bread. Simple and tasty. On request, the Captain agreed to make some of his famous pastries. Handmade and stuffed with feta cheese and dill. Freshly baked, crispy but also crumbly and soft pastry. A divine choice, well worth requesting.
Greek Island Itinerary 1 week – Map & Destination Info
This Greek Island Hopping Itinerary runs from Kos to Samos (or vice versa). This was the route we followed on our voyage with Sun Fun You, but they do also offer alternative routes and variations each season – so even if you choose a Kos to Samos itinerary, the exact stops may vary.
Below is some information about each destination you’ll visit.
Kos & Pserimos
As well as the modern town with its old harbour, fort, tavernas and bars, you can also explore ancient Roman ruins of Kos town.
The Roman Odeon – like a small amphitheatre – was discovered by archeologists in 1929. The original construction took place in the 2nd century AD. The Odeon used to have a roof and could seat 750 people. Today it is also sometimes used for performances.
The Roman Villa (Casa Romana) was discovered after a great earthquake in 1933, which levelled much of the island, allowing for excavations to occur under buildings that had collapsed. The Roman villa is a huge home with 36 rooms and 3 atriums, built late 2nd or early 3rd century in the Pompei style.
Pserimos, unlike the busy tourist island of Kos, is sparsely populated with less than 100 inhabitants. The itinerary stops here overnight where you can sleep in one of the island’s bays, or have a sunset swim.
Kalymnos & Vathis
Kalymnos town is the principal town of the island of Kalymnos. The island is famed for its natural sponge divers, who take great risk free diving to collect sponge from the sea. Hiking from Kalymnos town, along the Italian road, to the harbor village reveals stunning views across the hills and back to the bay of Kalymnos town.
In Vathis, enjoy the peace and beauty of this tiny natural harbor and learn about the World War II history of the Italian road and how Italy used to occupy the islands.
From a stop in Panteli, on the island of Leros, you’ll see the old windmills on the hill. Though these were traditionally used to mill flour, they are now a hotel. A short distance from Panteli, is Ag. Marina, a small fishing village with waterfront cafes, and small boutiques with hand-crafts.
The town of Lipsi, on the island of the same name, was founded in 1669 by a man from Crete named Elias. But the island has been inhabited for much longer. Archeological evidence shows inhabitation in prehistoric times by a tribe of Cares. On Lipsi, there’s the opportunity for a short hike to a natural winery, and to visit a secluded bay on the south coast (pictured). Well worth the hike!
The island of Fourni used to be called “Corseoi” after the corsairs (pirates) who used the island as their base during the middle ages. The natural topography of the island features hundreds of small bays and fjords, which were ideal for concealing ships. Taking a hike across the top of the island, you’ll see these unique natural bays spread in an incredible panorama.
Samiopoula is a tiny islet just barely off the south coast of the island of Samos. A recent census showed the population of the island is only 5 people. But, during the tourist season, boatloads of tourists arrive during the day to visit the scenic Samiopoula Beach. So, the secret is, to arrive late afternoon, stay overnight, and visit the beach before all the tour boats arrive. Then you’ll have this breathtaking natural landscape to yourself.
Samos was home to some real heavy hitters in the world of science and philosophy during antiquity. Pythagoras, the bane of many a school kid’s mathematical education. Aristarchus, the first to argue the Earth orbits the Sun. And, importantly for foodies, Epicurus, the founder of Epicureanism – the love and enjoyment of good food and drink.
Speaking of drink, the island of Samos is known for wine, with a wine history stretching back to at least 1,200 BC. Their most popular grape is the white Muscat, which makes sweet dessert wines and has gained a PDO (Protected domain of Origin) classification.
Book Your Place With Sun Fun You
We are looking to lead a group of Food Fun Travel lovers on our own personalised version of the Sun Fun You Voyage in September 2019. This means, a similar itinerary but with a few extra food focused stops along the way.
If you’d be interested in joining us for such a voyage, send us an email to [email protected]
If you’d like to attend one of the regular Sun Fun You programs which normally run in May & September every year, check out:
Don’t forget to mention you heard about Sun Fun You through Food Fun Travel.
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