Islands of Greece (0845 675 2600; islands-of-greece.co.uk)
specialises in island-hopping in the Cyclades and Sporades. Ios is a new
addition this year.
Sunvil Holidays (020 8758 4758; sunvil.co.uk)
offers small hotels and apartments in more than 30 islands plus mainland
destinations. New for 2012 is the Aegean island of Thassos.
Ionian Aegean Island Holidays (020 8459 0777; ionianislandholidays.com)
offers small hotels and self-catering in around 10 islands plus mainland
Greek Sun Holidays (01732 740317; greeksun.co.uk)
is a long-standing island specialist focusing mainly on the Cyclades,
Dodecanese and the north-east Aegean.
Hidden Greece (020 8758 4707; hidden-greece.co.uk)
offers a variety of smaller, lesser-known islands. The Dodecanese islands of
Astypalea and Pserimos are new for this year.
CV Travel (020 7401 1026; cvtravel.co.uk)
offers a high standard of villas in Corfu, Paxos, Kefalonia and other
islands. Smaller groups of people booking larger properties sometimes
qualify for cheaper rates.
Pure Crete (0845 070 1571; purecrete.com)
offers an interesting collection of restored houses in western Crete.
GIC – The Villa Collection (020 8232 9780; gicthevilla
collection.com) has a stylish portfolio of more than 200 properties in
the Aegean and Ionian Islands.
Vintage Travel (01954 261431; vintagetravel.co.uk)
has villas with private pools in Corfu, Crete, Kefalonia, the Peloponnese,
Rhodes and Skopelos. Eighteen new properties this year.
Direct bookings with owners can work out cheaper than going through an agency,
although offer less protection if things go wrong. HomeAway Holiday
handles more than 3,360 properties in Greece; holidaylettings.co.uk
has more than 1,100; ownersdirect.co.uk
lists apartments, villas and b bs; and Villarenters
(villarenters.com) handles around 630 villas in Greece with the largest
choice on Crete.
Benefits of top-of-the-range escorted cultural tours include small groups and
high standards of expertise among lecturers, but this comes at a price.
Peter Sommer Travels (01600 888220; petersommer.com)
offers two tours including a 15-day cruise in the Cyclades in May for £3,675
The 10-day Classical Greece tours offered by Martin Randall Travel (020
8742 3355; martin
randall.com) start at £3,320.
More competitive options are available through Andante Travels (01722
which has a cheaper “Bare Bones” programme. A seven-day tour of
Athens costs £995 per person, including flights.
Of the budget, large-group touring-coach holidays, the most extensive
programme is offered by Page Moy (0870 833 4012; pageandmoy.com)
and its sister company Travelsphere (0870 240 2426; travelsphere.co.uk).
Holidays on the water
Sailing Holidays (020 8459 8787; sailingholidays.com)
is one of the longest-established independent flotilla holiday companies,
operating in the Ionian and Saronic Islands, plus newly launched Sporades
Island route. Prices for a peak week start at £865 per person including
flights, transfers and diesel. Couples can cut costs by opting for its “Pot
Luck” arrangement, where you share a four-berth yacht with another pair.
Sailing specialist Sunsail (0844 463 6578; sunsail.co.uk)
offers yacht charter, flotilla or beach club in Vounaki in the southern
Ionian. Gulet holidays offered by Daydreams (01884 849200; daydreams-travel.com)
around the northern and southern Dodecanese islands (14 nights £1,669 full
board, plus flights and port charges).
Neilson (0845 070 3460; neilson.co.uk)
has clubs in Halkidiki, Lemnos, Lesvos, Sivota and Vassiliki.
Ramblers Holidays (01707 331133; ramblersholidays.co.uk)
offers some of the lowest-priced walking holidays, as well as the largest
range of destinations, including islands in the Cyclades, Sporades,
Dodecanese and Aegean, starting at £789 per person, including flights. Some
itineraries are combined with bird watching.
HF Holidays (0845 470 7558, hfholidays.co.uk)
has a new guided walking and sightseeing holiday on the island of Rhodes. £
Walking specialist Headwater (01606 720199; headwater.com)
offers a week-long independent “Coastal Crete” walk in May,
September and October, starting from £1,149 half board, including flights.
Authentic Adventures (01453 823328; authenticadventures.co.uk)
specialises in painting, photography and walking holidays on Santorini and,
new for 2012, Ithaca. £ You can fly direct to many of Greece’s best-known
holiday islands from many regional UK airports. Use Skyscanner (skyscanner.net)
or Jumblefly (jumblefly.com)
to work out the best-value route departing from your nearest airport, saving
travel costs to London.
Mainland destinations with British Airways (ba.com)
are Gatwick to Thessaloniki (from £176.20) and Heathrow to Athens (from
£155.45). Aegean Airlines (0871 200 0040; aegeanair.com)
operates from Heathrow to Athens.
offers competitive fares to Athens, Crete, Corfu, Mykonos, Thessaloniki,
Rhodes and Santorini, plus a new service to Kefalonia from various UK
airports including Gatwick, Edinburgh, Manchester, Luton, Bristol and
Cheapest fares are to Corfu, starting at £47.88 return. If you’re based in the
Midlands or North of the UK, consider Jet2.com (jet2.com)
which flies to Corfu, Rhodes, Kos and Crete, operating from five UK airports.
The best strategy is to book early to get cheapest fares. Even now, prices are
beginning to rise for peak season. Ryanair (ryanair.com),
which operates flights to Corfu, Crete, Kos and Rhodes, is currently
charging £184 per person Stansted to Crete for Saturday to Saturday
departures after schools break up in late July. This compares to £121 in
June and £95.98 in May. Note you have to add checked-in bag costs of £15-£50
per leg to Ryanair’s fares.
The biggest choice of both airports and destinations is offered by the charter
flights companies, which start operating in April and May. Nearly two dozen
departure points are offered by Thomson Airways (thomson.co.uk).
Also consider Swedish airline Torair (flytorair.com),
which offers a wide range of island destinations from Birmingham, Gatwick
The Charter Flight Centre (0844 050 0100; charterflights.co.uk)
can help find best deals.
Olympic Air (olympicair.com)
and Aegean Airlines (see above) offer the largest network of domestic
flights. Based in Heraklion in Crete, Sky Express (skyexpress.gr) flies
small planes to a wide range of other island destinations. Higher fuel
prices are pushing ferry fares up, but travelling by sea is usually a cheaper option than internal flights. See schedules on the Greek Travel
Pages (gtp.gr) or the Greek
National Tourism Organisation (visitgreece.gr).
Car hire costs vary depending on where in Greece you are planning to holiday.
The cheapest car available from Rhodes airport or from Chania (Crete) costs
£163 for a week’s hire in the last week of July according to Holiday Autos,
compared to £201 from Corfu, Zakynthos, Mykonos or Santorini airport and
£207 for a week’s hire from Karpathos or Skiathos airport. £ For the
lowest-price hotel-based package holidays, pick a larger island with plenty
of accommodation such as Crete. Specialist operator Islands of Greece says
that here you can expect to pay around £519 b b per person per
week for mid-range hotel package in peak season, including flights and
transfers. This compares to high-season rates of around £769 for Santorini
and £880 in Mykonos. For the best value, travel outside the summer peak –
May to early July, September and early October – when package prices reduce
to around £530 b b per person per week.
For good-value self-catering accommodation, look for lesser-known regions.
Villa specialist GIC says Villa Electra on Kefalonia, which has a pool,
costs from £1,008 per person based on four sharing in July, with flights. By
contrast, a week’s stay at a similar-size property, the Senses Villa, also
with pool, in the resort of Sivota, on the lesser-known north-west mainland
coast of Epirus, starts at £710 per person.
Avoid fashionable coastal destinations. A villa sleeping four with a pool in
Nissaki, on the north-eastern coast of Corfu, costs £1,995 per week in
August through Vintage Travel. This compares to the peak price of £1,395 per
week for the same size and type of property in the south-western resort of
Halikouna – a less sought after part of the island. A small two-person
studio in the resort of Mochios on the north-eastern coast of Crete booked
through Hidden Greece will cost £796 per person for a fortnight’s stay
(including flights), compared to £995 each for a studio sleeping two near
better-known Chania, in the west of the island.
Greece specialist Sunvil recommends taking advantage of no-frills or charter
flights to Kos or Rhodes as a springboard to the smaller and better-value
Dodecanese islands of Halki, Lipsi, Leros, Tilos, Nisyros or Kalymnos, which
are linked to the more commercial islands by fast ferry services. You can
also hop to Paros or Antiparos from Mykonos – both as beautiful, but far
quieter and better value than its pricey neighbour.
From Athens you can get to the Cycladic islands of Kea (an hour by ferry) or
Serifos and Sifnos (around three hours by ferry from Piraeus).
Other islands to consider include Skiathos in the north-western Aegean, where
the quantity of self-catering options makes it good value for families, and
the eastern Aegean island of Samos, which has direct flights from the UK,
remote villages and uncrowded beaches.
If you don’t want to travel too far from Athens, avoid Nafplion, Hydra, Tolon
and Spetsai, where prices are pushed up by Greek weekenders. Try the island
of Agistri, which is better value, easy to get to from Athens and a good
base for visiting Epidauros. A week’s self-catering and flights at Rosy’s
Little Village through Hidden Greece peaks at £616 per person in Agistri
(based on two sharing in August), compared to £717 in Tolon.