Go island hopping – without the hassle: Exploring the Greek isles on a bespoke tour that allows you to choose from 40 places to visit (and the staff will sort all the fiddly details)
- Greece specialist Olympic Holidays offers curated tours of the Greek islands
- Simon Heptinstall’s seven-night itinerary included day trips to Halki and Symi
- Read more: Flight attendants reveal the things passengers do that annoy them
Hop aboard! Grab a seat with a view – the journey is part of the fun as we cross a smooth, sparkling turquoise sea on a colourfully painted ferry to an island on the horizon.
Welcome to the adventure that is Greek island-hopping.
While it used to be tricky to arrange – involving deciphering local ferry timetables or booking hotels that might not have a telephone, let alone a website – thankfully there’s now a more civilised way of jumping between the best places.
Family-owned Greece specialist Olympic Holidays has devised its new ‘pick-and-mix’ system to make island-hopping as stress-free as possible, providing everything from fascinating day trips to long retreats.
Simply choose where you want to go from 40 places, pick accommodation that ranges from boutique hotels to stone cottages with little more than a bedroom and a view to die for, and its staff will sort the fiddly details.
Greece specialist Olympic Holidays offers bespoke tours of the Greek Islands. Simon Heptinstall tried out one of the company’s seven-night itineraries, which included a day on the pretty island of Symi (above)
Simon’s trip began in Rhodes, an isle that offers some glamorous resort hotels. Above is a bird’s eye view of Rhodes city and its Elli beach
Olympic organised my seven-night itinerary, flying to Rhodes followed by day trips to Halki and Symi.
Halki may be small, but like most of Greece it has relics covering a huge history of Byzantine emperors, Venetian merchants and Ottoman Turks.
If you’ve got plenty of energy you can hike to a ruined crusader castle or icon-encrusted monastery in the hills, where you’re rewarded with views over the whole island.
My next hop was a one-hour ferry ride to Symi, where pastel-painted sponge-divers’ houses seem to tumble down steep slopes to the harbour.
It’s only a few miles across but you can jump on buses that take zig-zag roads to spectacular viewpoints.
Some opt for a wildlife cruise which includes spotting a celebrated seal the locals call Mr Alex.
Later I browsed cobbled alleyways lined with craft galleries and vegetable stalls. It’s easy enough to go icon-spotting on this island – there are 400 chapels along the rocky footpaths.
My hunt worked up an appetite, so I grabbed a table at harbourside Nireus seafood restaurant. Try the Symi shrimps – they are so small you eat them whole in their shells.
Simon visits the island of Halki on a day trip. Above is a flower-filled street on the island
Halki (above) may be small, but like most of Greece it has relics covering a huge history of Byzantine emperors, Venetian merchants and Ottoman Turks, Simon reveals
Then I was off hopping again, this time back to Rhodes, which offers some glamorous resort hotels.
Rhodes’s highlight is the stunning medieval Old Town, a labyrinth of alleys and archways lined with shops, bars and cafes. History-lovers weave towards its heart to explore the crusader stronghold impressively named The Palace of the Grand Master.
My favourite bit of history is outside the castle, though. Strolling to the harbour entrance, where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood, I stopped at a seafood taverna, Pizanias. Owner Yannis barbecues the day’s catch under a framed photo of his mother serving film star Anthony Quinn 50 years ago – the Oscar-nominated heart-throb was here while filming The Guns Of Navarone.
Rhodes’ highlight is the stunning medieval Old Town (above), a labyrinth of alleys and archways lined with shops, bars and cafes
Ancient citadel: The main gate into the crusader stronghold of The Palace of the Grand Master on Rhodes
Simon strolled to Rhodes’s harbour entrance (above) where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood
Film star Anthony Quinn bought this remote Rhodes beach, now called Anthony Quinn Bay, after starring in Zorba The Greek
Quinn cemented his link with the islands after starring in Zorba The Greek, and loved one remote beach on Rhodes so much that he bought it.
That rocky cove is still called Anthony Quinn Bay, but the star never settled there and eventually hopped off to Crete.
Perhaps that’s the trouble with us island-hoppers – we’re always hopping off to explore the next island.
Olympic Holidays offers its ‘pick-and-mix’ bespoke itineraries to 40 islands with flights included (olympicholidays.com).
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