Santorini is conceivably the most well known island in Greece . Santorini thought by many scholars to be the site of the sunken city of Atlantis . Settled by the Dorians in the 8th century was called Thira, renamed Santorini in tribute to St. Irene, by the Venetians in the 13th century. Santorini, in spite of mass tourism retains much of its charisma.
Fira is the capital of the island, stands on the rim of the old volcano overlooking the caldera. The town is spectacular with its houses and churches, destroyed by an earthquake in 1956 the town has been rebuilt into the cliffs of the volcano. Many of the town’s restaurants and hotels built on the rim of the volcano offer magnificent views over the caldera and the small islands in the bay. To reach Fira you can take the cable car from the port of Skala Fira , which is 270m below Fira, or you can ride up on the backs of donkeys, up the 580 steps that connect the towns, if you feel sorry for the donkeys you can also walk up. Fira is a maze of streets with shops selling everything from souvenirs to jewellery.
The Museum of Prehistoric of Thira houses many of the magnificent finds from the excavation site at Akrotiri. The star exhibit is the gold ibex figurine dating from the 17th century BC. Also on display are breathtaking wall paintings from the site. Entrance tickets bough at tis museum allow you entry into the Archaeological museum and the sites of Akrotiri and Thira .
The Archaeological Museum also has on displays from Akrotiri and the excavations of ancient Thira . Also on display are artefacts from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The Megaron Gyzi Museum has a display of photographs of the island before the earthquake plus other items from that time.
The church of Agiou Mina is the symbol of Santorini, with its blue dome and white bell tower. The church of Agios Stylianos , on the edge of the cliff is worth a visit, as is the Orthodox Cathedral, with its impressive bell towers.
Akrotiri this ancient site once a Minion settlement, is one of the most important sites in Greece . In 1967, excavations revealed this former city magnificently preserved, despite lying under volcanic ash for 3,500 years. A roof covers the site and elevated walkways enable you to enjoy this amazing site. The site contains many houses still with exquisite frescoes on their walls. Some of the frescoes are in the Archaeological Museum in the town, while some of them are on display in the National Museum in Athens . Superb storage jars that used for storage still lie in the houses and stores when the inhabitants fled. No human or animal remains were found on the site, indicating that the residents had time to escape from the impending eruption of the volcano. A breathtaking site that reflects a civilised society long forgotten in the mists of time must be on the visitor’s agenda.
Ancient Thira situated on the rocky headland on the southeast coast, excavated in the 1860s has remains of temples built in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. In addition, remains from the Hellenistic and Roman periods are to be seen. Vases from the 7th century are on display in the Museum in Fira. A sanctuary from the 3rd century BC features relief’s of a Dolphin, Lion, Eagle and a phallus symbolizing the Gods Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and Priapus. The Temple of Celebrations , is adorned with graffiti from 800 BC praising the competitors and dancers, who danced naked at the festivals here in honour of Apollo.
Oia this small village once devastated in the 1956 earthquake, and later rebuilt, is quieter than Fira, offers the visitors wonderful sunsets, and many visitors come here to relax and eat in one of the many restaurants.
The island has good beaches, Red beach near Akrotiri is breathtaking with a backdrop of high cliffs. The beaches at Perissa, Agios Georgios, and Vlihada among others are very popular. The small island of Thirasia once part of the main island is an attractive alternative for those seeking to escape Fira for a short break.
The jewel in the Aegean crown
There are as many opinions about which islands are best to explore as there are people expressing them. Santorini is not the largest island in the Cyclades group, but it has something for everyone. It’s a barren island as far as forests are concerned, but it makes up for the lack of greenery with its other unique qualities.
Aside from the fantastic views you can enjoy archaeological sites (Akrotiri and Ancient Thera), the volcano hot springs, museums, hiking trails, countless restaurants, a very active nightlife, shopping for every budget from postcards to custom gold jewelry, art galleries, ethnic music venues, organized island tours, sunset cruises, luxury hotels and spas, youth hostels, several wineries, numerous car and scooter rental agencies (wait until you get there, it’s cheaper than booking in advance) and an airport for easy access from Athens by commercial jet.
When I was a teenager living in California I was required to read Edith Hamilton’s enduring work, Mythology : Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, for a high school English Literature class. At first I was bored. I thought those old stories were silly and not worth my time. But soon my imagination was stimulated; the book became one of my favorites. Later, when I was in college, I enrolled in a course titled, “Myths and Legends of All Nations.” As it turned out this same book was one of the required readings. I still remember my first day of class when the professor’s love for these classic myths inspired me and helped transport me through time to Ancient Greece where I was stirred by the heroic deeds and mischievous acts of the Greek gods, causing me to vow to someday make my way to that enchanted country to find for myself what countless others before me had already discovered. Many years later I happened to watch a movie called “Summer Lovers,” a romantic comedy that takes place on a Greek island.
I was strongly drawn to the village and the house where the main characters lived, because they were so appealing and because they somehow seemed familiar to me. I knew that if I ever had the chance I wanted to find that village and have a closer look. At the end of the film I saw that the island’s location was listed as Santorini. I’d never heard of it but I was determined to go there some day.
The opportunity eventually presented itself in 1985. I sold my business, put everything I owned in storage, hopped on a plane and went travelling for the very first time in my life. After two wonderful weeks exploring Athens and the Peloponnese, it was time to go to Santorini. I’ll never forget the approach by sea from the deck of the ferry boat. At first, from a distance, there didn’t seem to be anything unique about the island, but as the ferry moved closer I began to make out its unique shape and geological qualities. I heard others around me talking about the island’s unusual origins.
History of Santorini
The mysterious “Lost City of Atlantis” was mentioned more than once. As we approached from the north it was obvious that this was no “ordinary” island but the remains of a volcano that had erupted many times to create the alternating layers of red and black lava rock that formed its foundation. Apparently this volcanic mass had exploded violently 3500 years ago, creating a giant tidal wave that wiped out the Minoan Civilization on the north shore of Crete 75 miles south.
Subsequent eruptions caused much of the original island to disappear into the sea leaving behind the crescent-shaped island I was seeing for the first time that day. Perched on the cliffs high above me were several villages of whitewashed houses cleverly built into the exposed layer of white ash that over the centuries had settled and compressed since the eruptions had ceased. Known as “cave houses” because they were constructed by digging into the ash instead building on top of it, they were interconnected by zig-zag pathways meandering over and under, through and around each cluster. Eventually these clusters grew into what I was seeing that day, small communities overlooking the volcano’s caldera. I can still hear the ship’s horn blasting out the announcement of our arrival, and the surprise echo as it bounced back at us from the cliff face.
Historical Sites – Attractions – Worth Seeing
The Archeological Site of Akrotiri is a very important archaeological site, currently under excavation on the south end of the island. Akrotiri was a major center of commerce in the Mediterranean before the volcano displaced the island’s population. It now sits buried under volcanic ash and has been the subject of much study and speculation since 1967 when the current excavations began.
- Comprehensive list of Santorini’s Museums
- The Archaeological Museum
- Ancient Thera
- The Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Places to go
Oia: Once settled in the island capital of Fira I was more determined than ever to locate my “dream village.” After finding a map of the island I started my search at the south end, taking the bus to Akrotiri where Santorini’s most important archaeological site is located. It became obvious to me right away that I was in the wrong village. I was enjoying this exploration, but as I made my way from village to village over the next two days I began to worry a bit that perhaps I was on the wrong island. Finally there was only one village left on my list, Oia (pronounced ee-yah), at the very northern tip of the island. I made plans to be on an early bus the next day.
My first bus ride to Oia was something I’ll never forget, for a variety of reasons The bus must have been the oldest on the island, pre-World War 2 vintage, and looking like it had barely survived the conflict. It had definitely seen better days. Then there was the road itself. There were stretches along the way where the bus could fall at least 500 feet or more if the worst occurred, with no guardrails to prevent this from happening. In some spots the road was so narrow that no other vehicle except a motor scooter could pass by at the same time as the bus.
Large chunks of asphalt were missing. The bus bounced and rattled on its way north, stopping occasionally to pick up or drop off passengers. On the positive side, the views of the far side of the island visible from the road were spectacular. Beautifully terraced fields separated by walls of lava rocks formed a vast checkerboard over the landscape down to the shore off in the distance. Out in the Aegean are several neighboring Cyclades islands, including Anafi, Amorgos, Koufounisia, Naxos and Ios, to name just a few. While sitting on the bus taking it all in for the first time it occurred to me that what I was seeing had not changed much at all in the many centuries since the island had been repopulated once the volcano fell silent The closer I got to Oia the more I felt like I was traveling back in time, and the more excited I became.There’s a precise spot on this winding mountain road where Oia suddenly comes into view off in the distance. Words cannot describe how I felt when the bus pulled around that last curve and I beheld Oia for the first time.
Even though I was not yet there, I knew in my heart that this was the village I had been searching for I could hardly contain myself as the driver coaxed his old metal turtle the last few kilometers into the village. Strange as it might seem I felt as if I were returning home after a very long journey, and by the time we pulled into the bus square I was convinced that I had found what I was looking for. I stepped off the bus into the brilliant sunshine. The excitement I felt only strengthened my conviction that I was exactly where I needed to be. I inhaled the clean, fresh morning air and started into the heart of the village along a narrow, winding cobbled footpath that led me towards the view of the sea I had come to find. This was not the main walk into the village, but I was drawn to take it nonetheless.
I made my way through some back alleys to the main thoroughfare which I followed to an overlook where I stopped to enjoy the view. I was in the heart of the village surrounded by timeless architectural beauty, dazzled by the bright sunlight reflecting off the walls of all the quaint houses cascading in disorderly array down the face of the cliff. I couldn’t help thinking what a fantastic place for a painter or photographer this must be, with the intense light and shadows and angles and colors. It was truly an artist’s paradise.
As I stood there admiring my surroundings something remarkable happened. I noticed below me, just a short distance away, a familiar group of houses. I suddenly realized that I was looking at the house from the movie! Without ever having been there before, with no idea of where it might be, I had instinctively been drawn right to the very house that had inspired me to go there in the first place. I just stood there speechless, not believing my own eyes. Finding it this way was such a strong validation of my decision to go to Greece that I decided to stay in Oia for a while to see what else might happen. I rented a small house and didn’t leave for 6 months. It was the best summer of my life so far.
People who are looking for the perfect beach are generally advised to avoid Santorini, but I don’t agree. For me the quality of the beach is determined more by the water than by where I put my towel. It’s true that there are no ‘real’ white sand beaches there. Instead you will find mostly black or red rock beaches and black sand beaches The most popular beaches are Kamari (black rock), Perissa (black sand), Monolithos Beach (black sand) and Akrotiri-Red Beach (red rock).
All of these beaches have lovely, calm water perfect for swimming. The black rock and black sand beaches are extremely hot on the feet during the summer months because they hold so much of the sun’s thermal energy. Some of the rock beaches are uncomfortable because of the sharpness of the rocks, but I’ve never let that deter me. Just be sure to bring along flip-flops or reef shoes to protect your feet or suffer the consequences Both Perissa and Kamari Villages offer a wide variety of accommodations and services, and Monolithos and Akrotiri are developing their amenities as well It’s possible to hike between Perissa Beach and Kamari Beach on a trail that will take you near to Ancient Thera. Many people also enjoy the trek between Fira and Oia, a walk of about 7 miles.
My favorite place to swim is below Oia.
Walk down the steps (or drive down the new road) to Amoudi, a small fisherman’s wharf. There is a seawall that follows the shoreline for about 1/4 mile. At the end of that seawall you will find large rocks and a man-made platform for sunbathing (now broken, I’m afraid), and a short swim across the little channel in front of you is a small rock island with another platform built into it that provides an unparalled view of the caldera and swimming in the deepest, bluest water you’ve ever seen.
Places to Eat
Oia now has so many wonderful restaurants, from local taverna-style establishments to Greek-style gourmet dining at its finest, that you will be hard-pressed to make a decision as to where to take your meals. For a typical classic Greek-style eatery where even the Greeks go when they’re on vacation, Neptune is my recommendation. It’s in the heart of Oia alongside the main square next to the big church. The long-established fish taverna, Katina’s, down below Oia on the wharf at Amoudi, is not to be missed.
Now a full-fledged restaurant, some of my fondest memories of Oia include the stops at Katina’s when it was just a small outdoor spot to grab a quick bite when we were swimming nearby. She now has competition from several other establishments sitting side-by-side on the same wharf, but I noticed that they were seldom busy while she was always going strong. The Laokasti Taverna, attached to the lovely Laokasti Villas, has a very skilled staff led by Marinos Kokkalis and his Egyptian chef, Sharif, who really knows his stuff. They’ve created an interesting menu with a mix of traditional Greek and gourmet dishes all prepared with skill and artistic flair. Others worth mentioning are 1800, Ambrosia & Nectar, Skala, Oia Cafe-Restaurant, Lotza, Seagull, Pelekanos, Thomas Grill and Petro’s Fish Taverna.
I didn’t attempt to count them, but there must be at least 25 different restaurants in this small village, perhaps more. The Pelekanos has a great bar for socializing and some quiet nightlife, as well as a small shaded outdoor dining area that overlooks the caldera.
A special thanks to katikies Hotel for generous use of their excellent photos used extensively in this report
Where to Stay
In May, I enjoyed a 4-week vacation on Santorini. I will make an attempt to pass on what I saw, learned and felt about the current state of affairs on this lovely little island. It’s such a unique spot, tranquil setting of timeless, rare beauty, that (yes, I admit it) I tend to overlook the flaws that so many others have seen and reported with more objective eyes than mine.
I can recommend you to start searching for low cost hotels in Oia at this dedicated website for cheap hotels: Low Cost Hotels
That being said, there’s much that’s changed there over the years and here I will make an attempt to keep my personal bias in check and let you know what I’ve found. So many hotels are now available in every price range that everyone should be able to find something in their budget with the amenities they require. I was my intention to visit the ones most people want to know about so I could offer current and accurate information about them, but the truth of the matter is that once I got to Oia I didn’t want to go anyplace else.
I did, however, visit the 3 Katikies properties, Oia Mare, VIP Suites, Amoudi Villas, Perivolas Villas, Laokasti Villas,The Residence (brand new) and the Esperas Hotel, as well as making note of many others such as Canava Oia, Filotera Villas, Delfini Pensions, Chelidonia Villas, Anemomilos Hotel and others too numerous to mention. In general, if one of these fits your budget and travel style I can recommend them all to you without hesitation. They’re all in excellent shape, well-situated in the village.
The “Big Four,” Perivolas, Oia Mare, Katikies and Esperas, all offer fantastic settings and amenities. If it’s exclusivity you want then these are the ones to consider along with one extra-special find I’ll mention further on. The views differ, with the Esperas and the Oia Mare being situated to take advantage of the sunset (for this the Esperas is best), while the Perivolas and Katikies properties overlook the caldera and the rest of the island. Perivolas, Esperas and Katikies all offer on-site boutique restaurant experiences, but at a high premium. If you want to be pampered then these are the hotels for you. If you want the option of never having to leave the premises then they will satisfy your need for anonymity. Katikies even went so far as to not allow me to take photos to protect their guests’ privacy.
Othe cheap hotels in Oia can be found here
As nice as it is to have access to excellent 24/7 services, if you don’t care about pampered exclusivity there are, in my opinion, better bargains for the weak-ish American dollar $$.
Those properties offered by the Ecorama Holidays office in Oia, which include the Amoudi Villas, Oia Mare, VIP Suites, Musses Studios, Casa Francesca and The Residence, all offer excellent accomodations, and all but the Casa Francesca and the Musses Studios offer views of the caldera. Musses and Francesca look out to sea on the other side of the island, over the vineyards across to Amorgos, Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Paros and Naxos. Perhaps not as dramatic as a caldera view, but lovely nonetheless and especially spectacular on a clear, hazeless day.
Another good choice is the Lauda Traditional Rooms and Apartments. Rooms start at 50 Euros and Studios with A/C and kitchenette start at 70 Euros. They don’t have a website but you can make reservations by fax or phone, with NO credit card required. The Lauda has a caldera view. Lauda Traditional Rooms and Apartments: 30-22860-71204 fax: 30-22860-71274
Before I continue I must mention the Perivolas Villas’ top accommodation, the Perivolas Suite “STUNNING” is the word that comes to mind. At 1400 Euros/night during Peak Season it’s obviously not for everyone, but for those of you looking for an extra-special setting where price is no object, this is the one for you. It’s remarkable, and no doubt the largest suite in the village, easily surpassing 1200 sq.ft. in size, with its own private infinity pool. This hotel has been developed with obsessive attention to detail, artistic flair and pride in accomplishment by a very creative family of designers and artists. The results are truly wonderful.
If a caldera view isn’t a priority for you but cost is, the Casa Francesca, Musses Studios and the beautiful Laokasti Villas are all great alternative choices depending on your budget. The Casa Francesca offers basic rooms, the Musses Studios (I stayed there for a reduced weekly rate of 25 Euro/night) are studio apartments with kitchenettes, sleeping lofts and balconies with sea views, and the Laokasti Villas (also with a sea view) is a wonderfully designed complex with a pool in a pleasantly colorful, relaxed setting. A small caution: I don’t think any of the swimming pools are heated except by the sun, but if you’re going in July or August this will be a welcome and refreshing way to beat the heat.
The Anemomilos Hotel in Oia have rooms at a very reasonable price. They offer parking and a caldera view from a rooftop terrace. This website will show you many excellent properties on Santorini separated by village and quality.
And now on to my discovery, the ASPAKI SUITES. If your budget can handle 230-360 Euro/night, and if you don’t care about staying at a hotel, AND if you want to experience the something truly unique, any one of these 4 houses are the perfect choice. The owner/designer, Dimitris Nikolouzos, has combined just the right combination of whimsy, antiques and modern design to create the most memorable accommodations in the village. For example, he used the old well below the “Deep Blue” unit of his complex to create a charming bathroom painted to look like an undersea environment Everything about these 4 wonderful houses shows his personal touch and artistic flair. The Aspaki gets my vote for the best non-hotel accommodations in Oia. Each house has a small kitchen and there is daily maid service. They’re pricey by some standards, but worth it, especially for you honeymooners looking for something memorable and unique. They’re in the center of the village, a short distance from several restaurants and all the shops.
An intense nightlife is something many seek as part of their experience on Santorini. If you do as well, the main village of Fira is for you. The highest concentration of bars, restaurants, tavernas, night clubs and discos can be found there. Enigma and the Koo Club are very popular.
If you prefer someplace less hectic, Oia is best. The nightlife there is confined to restaurants and a few quiet bars. There is no singles scene in Oia, but it is alive and well in Fira. Also, clubs like La Mamounia and Santorini Mou provide live traditional Greek music to their patrons.
At present there are 7 active wineries on Santorini that are open to the public. These include Boutari, Canava Roussos and SantoWines, all three of which have garnered much praise over the years for their success in bringing Santorini’s fine wines to the attention of knowledgeable wine drinkers everywhere.
What You Need To Know About The Island
For those travelers who prefer to “play it by ear” making their way from island to island with no advance preparation, I have a suggestion for your consideration. Do some research on the internet to find hotels you might want to stay in on any given island. Write down the names, island phone codes and hotel phone numbers and keep the list somewhere convenient. When you get to Greece, buy yourself an OTE phone card at any magazine stand, market, or even at the airport. They come in different denominations so you don’t have to spend a lot of money unless you plan to use the phone a lot.
When you’re ready to move on to the next island, you can call ahead from an OTE public telephone to see if there’s “room at the inn”. This will eliminate any worries about finding a room when you arrive, relieving one of the main causes for traveler’s stress. I highly recommend you do this during the Peak Season, July-August, because of the demand for accommodations.
Also, during Peak Tourist Season, July and August, competition for seats on buses from Athinios harbor becomes fierce. If you’re coming in on the car ferry, the best way to beat the crowds to the bus is to get yourself down into the main hold of the ship before the ship is docked. Others will have the same idea, so it’s important to do this as soon as possible. Once the ramp is lowered you can hurry out to find the bus. There will probably be two of them. In 2005 they were teal blue-green or cream-colored with teal trim. The fare into Fira is 1.5 Euro.
Many visitors book their rooms with one of the businesses operating at the port to assist those arriving tourists in need of help. Others make arrangements right on the spot with the locals who show up to meet the ferries with rooms to offer. This is a good time to bargain for a discount, but just be sure you know where the room is located or you might end up in the middle of nowhere! Bring a map of the island with you and ask them to point to where their rooms are located. “Poo eene ta domatia soo?” means, “Where are your rooms?”
Link to a live webcam at the Heliotopos Hotel in Imerovigli. I use it to check the weather and to catch the occasional sunset.
Over the years Santorini has developed into one of the most popular wedding and honeymoon destinations in Europe. If you’re considering such an event here’s a link that will help.
Kamari Tours and other tour companies offer organized tours of the island. There is an excursion on the water, one that will take you to the volcano hot springs, the neighboring island of Therassia and a stop-off at Armeni below Oia. There’s also a sunset cruise into the caldera. Private island tour guides are available as well. Ask at your hotel.
The island next to Santorini on the ferry route, Ios (ee-yos), is considered the ultimate 20-something singles destination in the Aegean. Think Ibiza with ouzo. Mykonos is also considered a party-goer’s Mecca, but it’s more for an older, more upscale crowd and honeymooners. The gay scene is very lively on Mykonos as well.
Off Season Holidays
As is the case on all of the Greek Islands, Santorini’s tourist infrastructure begins to shut down in late September. By the end of October most of the restaurants, bars, hotels and shops are closed for the winter season, not to open again until sometime in April. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but in general this holds true. Some tourists prefer the off-season because of the quiet, and also because those hotels that are still operating offer very attractive rates to their guests. A simple inquiry by email will let you know if a particular hotel offers a winter schedule. The nice thing about staying on Santorini during the off-season is that much of the time the skies will still be clear. The water will be too cold for swimming and if the winds blow they can put a chill in your bones, but much of the time the sun will be shining. Of course no one can predict the weather, but in general this will hold true.
Accessibility (for People with special needs)
Santorini is not as convenient for those tourists with special needs as other holiday destinations. Almost all hotels in the cliffside villages require guests to walk up and down winding stairways to get to and from the room to the pool or from the hotel up into the village.
If you have respiratory problems or problems with legs, knees or ankles, or if you depend on a wheelchair for mobility, you will have a very difficult time maneuvering around the island. I do know that you can drive right up to the Hotel Atlantis in Fira since there’s a road right alongside, but I don’t think there’s an elevator to take guests above the ground floor. The Rose Bay Hotel and the Black Sand Apartments in Kamari have wheelchair access, as does the Hotel Filotera in Imerovigli, the Villa Mathios & Mathios Village in Akrotiri and the Scorpios Beach Hotel & Apartments in Monolithos.
The Bad NewsThere are far too many of everything in Santorini now, hotels, shops, restaurants, guided tours through the villages, ubiquitous “super markets” the size of a postage stamp, ‘art’ galleries. How many shops selling the same cheap plaster of paris souvenir ashtrays and postcards does Santorini need.
I was sorry to see this happen to my favorite island, but I suppose it was inevitable. The irony of it is that there’s so much competition for the tourist dollar that everyone loses money except for a few short weeks in July-August. And the cars!! Virtually half the available parking in Oia is clogged with the overflow of unused rental cars. Now I understand that the police are actually brought in to keep the narrow approach to the village open during Peak Season, since everyone apparently parks wherever they can with no regard for the problems this causes.
The sunset bus tours come into the village by the dozen but fortunately they have their own parking lot, otherwise there really would be a serious problem. Boo-hoo, I miss my old Oia, where everyone knew everyone and the houses were privately owned. Now developers have bought up all the available properties, refurbished them and connected them with fresh paint and color schemes and are offering them as “hotels” or “villas” for as much money as they can offer. It’s as if each village has become one big hotel that changes its name as you walk from one end to the other.
On the positive side, it’s very fortunate that all the redevelopment was done under strict architectural control so everything at least looks good and no one is allowed to build a tall building that would destroy the view and ambience.
I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to all the information available about Santorini, but I hope you’re inspired to visit my favorite island. Santorini has something for everyone. Whether you just want to relax on your balcony over the sea with a glass of local wine and a good book or engage in one or more of the many activities available to you all over the island, you’ll be happy you decided to give it a try. If you only have time for one island in the Aegean, MAKE IT SANTORINI!!!
How to get there
There is an airport on Santorini for flights to and from Athens by commercial jet. All inter-island flights change planes back in Athens. You have a choice between Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines. Aegean is less expensive and has a reputation for being more reliable.
There are two varieties of ferries to the islands, the Passenger/Car ferry and the Express Catamaran Passenger-only ferry.
The websites below will give you the most comprehensive look at what’s available to you and which routes cover which islands. Once you learn to navigate these websites you can plot your own course through the islands to suit your personal timetable. The schedules are only posted a few weeks in advance. For example, if you want the schedules for next June you probably won’t find them until next May. If you’re beginning your sojourn in Athens, you will be departing from either Piraeus or Rafina.
A word about the ferries:
I want to caution you that you should not rely heavily on any posted ferry schedules because they do change without notice sometimes. I know this makes planning somewhat difficult, but it’s good to stay flexible. The ferry companies try to maintain some consistency, but they’re always at the mercy of the high winds and machinery breakdowns. Most of the car ferries on the main routes are new and/or very large and stable, but make sure you check the day before your departure for any changes and, unless it’s impossible, check again the same day for last-minute delays. If you’re planning an overnight voyage booking a sleeping cabin is always a good idea, especially in July-August. Pre-booking ‘Deck’ class isn’t necessary at all but be prepared for crowds in July-August. One mistake that could ruin your whole trip is waiting until the last day before your plane leaves for home to take the ferry back to Athens. What happens if you miss the boat or there’s a cancellation from high winds or a breakdown? I strongly urge you give yourself at least an extra day to get back to Athens so you can make other arrangements in case the worst-case scenario happens. If your ferry is on time, then you’ll have an extra day in Athens to do some last-minute shopping or exploration.