Just when we thought we couldn’t love Eurail any more, it decided to add a new ferry program to its roster. Travelers who land in Greece (perhaps by way of Italy) will now have a much easier time getting off the coast to the surrounding islands, thanks to the new Attica Pass.
The pass is valid for six ferry crossings — four domestically to the Greek islands and two internationally between Italy and Greece — within a month’s time. A second class pass will cost you $200 and a first class $278. There are more than 10 islands to choose from. Where you go is up to you, but in case you need some ideas, here’s a look at just some of what’s on offer:
For Scenery — and Sports: Mykonos
The island’s capital town of Hóra is a terrific introduction to the landscapes that most people envision when they think of the Greek islands: whitewashed buildings against bright blue skies. Narrow marble streets meander from the waterfront into the town, taking visitors through restaurants, boutiques, and hidden churches. Along the way, expect lots of pelicans, the official mascot of Mykonos. Alefkántra, or “Little Venice,” is just beyond Hóra; a bit further, you’ll find the island’s iconic windmills.
For a bit more action, the “Island of the Winds” is a terrific place for water sports, most of all windsurfing. On and in the water, snorkeling and SCUBA diving are popular — especially in September, when the water’s warmest and clearest. By then, the summer crowds will have dispersed, too.
For Something Different: Tinos
Of the Greek islands, one of the lesser-known is Tinos, or Tynos. Just north of Mykonos, this is a pilgrimage destination for Greeks who visit the church of the Panagia Megalochari (the Blessed Virgin Mary) twice a year, on March 25 and August 15. But there’s plenty to see and do on the island year-round for culture hounds, considering its 40 traditional villages and incredible architecture. Add to that the island’s stunning beaches and gastronomic delicacies, and it’s a wonder anyone ever wants to leave.
For Romance: Santorini
Everyone falls in love with Santorini — and it’s easy, even from photos alone, to see why. But it’s an all together different experience to see in person the town of Oia, sitting atop the cliffs with blue-domed buildings set dramatically against the Mediterranean Sea. Glasses of wine are meant to be sipped here, for days on end. Of course, there’s no lack of opportunities to explore, too. Don’t the miss archeological sites in Akrotíri and Méssa Vounó, nor the volcanic beaches complete with white, red, or black sands and volcanic pebbles. Santorini is the youngest of the Eastern Med’s volcanic lands, after all. (And, to come full circle, it’s these types of volcanic soil that produces some amazing grapes for that delicious wine!)
For History — and Sand: Kos
Where better than the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, to step back in time? Among the many sites built B.C. in Kos, you can in fact sit under Hippocrates’ Plane tree — more than 2,500 years old — where the doctor once taught his students millennia ago. Elsewhere in the walkable city, history buffs will delight in a medieval castle, Roman spas, Lotzia Mosque, and the Ancient City Walls in the town center.
Kos’ beaches are worth visiting, too. Each has its own flavor. Tigkaki, Marmari, “Tam-tam,” Kardamena, and Kefalos all boast soft sands and calm waters — and are decked out in chairs and umbrellas for lounging. For a black sand beach, try Aghios Fokas.
Tip: Check out the free Rail Planner app, available for iOS and Android smartphones, to help you chart your travels. It works offline, too.