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The Budget Backpackers’ Guide to the Greek Islands

Stunning coves with aquamarine water; charming towns made up of white-washed houses; sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see… It's easy to understand why Greece is a dreamy holiday destination for countless travellers. But for backpackers, exploring the country on a tight budget isn’t always easy. Compared to other European destinations (think Prague or Budapest), a trip to the Greek islands can get expensive – fast. Discover ways to stretch your budget while you hop between the most beautiful islands Greece has to offer.

The first step for backpackers looking to save cash on a trip to Greece is to choose the island you visit very carefully. Tourist-packed Santorini and Mykonos charge extortionate prices for accommodation and restaurants will have you scraping every last bit of change just to buy a starter. Smaller islands filled with locals may seem like a better option but be mindful that they may not have any hostels where you can stay on a budget.

3 Islands to Consider for a Budget Trip

  1. Crete

Let’s start with the largest of Greece’s islands. With 650 miles of coastline along with archeological remains from the Minoans, Europe’s first civilisation, Crete is packed full of things for travellers to explore.

Where to Stay

If spending all day on the beach is your idea of heaven, make Chania your base. This area of the island boasts the most breath-taking beaches, from Stavros (where a scene in cult film Alexis Zorbas was filmed) to Elafonisi with its infamous pink sand. Heraklion, meanwhile, is steeped in rich history, which you can discover at one of the town’s museums or at nearby Knossos palace. Both of these towns have hostels where you’ll snag a good price.

What to Eat

In Crete, you’ll be spoiled for choice when looking for a cheap takeaway souvlaki - try Vego in Heraklion for a vegan option of this cheap eat. Otherwise, check out Bougasta in Chania for an affordable, delicious breakfast of sweet pie.

What to do

In Heraklion, spending 16€ on the combined ticket to Knossos palace and the Archeological Museum is definitely worth it. In Chania, make the most of the local bus system that’ll take you to nearby beaches where you can relax all day without eating into your budget. Wander through the balmy streets at night in either city and you’ll likely come across some live music to enjoy for free, too.

  1. Antiparos

Smaller than neighbouring Paros, Antiparos is a tiny gem of an island in the heart of the Cyclades. This island has incredible beaches that won’t be packed with tourists, particularly if you travel in the shoulder season (May or September).

Where to Stay

Korali is one of the cheapest hotels on the island and offers charming, basic rooms. Share with a fellow traveller and you’ll pay as much as you would for a hostel dorm each. If you want to connect with nature, try camping directly on the beach with Camping Antiparos, where you’ll pay between 8-10€ to rent a tent, waking up with a view of the sea.

What to Eat

Like many tiny islands, Antiparos doesn’t have cheap, well-stocked supermarkets that are a backpacker essential – stock up in neighbouring Paros before taking the boat over. However, when you’re looking to splurge on a hearty, affordable meal, Zorba Taverna will serve you authentic, delicious food that doesn’t break the bank.

What to do

Beaches are the name of the game in Antiparos, with Glifa and Livadia within walking distance of the town - there aren’t any services at Glifa so pack plenty of water and food to see you through a day of lazing on the sand. Antiparos has plenty of boutique shops which are fun to browse through - just make sure to stick to window shopping so you don’t accidentally blow your budget!

  1. Naxos

Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades with historical sites, stunning hikes and countless beaches, too.

Where to Stay

Without any hostels, a cheap hotel or AirBnB is your best bet in Naxos. Take a look at Workaway (where you volunteer in exchange for a place to stay) and Couchsurfing (where you stay with strangers) as you may find a gem of free accommodation.

What to Eat

With a few larger supermarkets, cooking at your accommodation is a great option in Naxos. Otherwise, try Maro’s Taverna for an affordable, tasty meal.

What to do

Whether you’re a keen hiker or just fancy being rewarded with some stunning views, lace up your walking boots and take a bus to Filotio, where you can begin the circular hiking route to the highest point in the Cyclades. You’ll pass the cave where Zeus was born and see the islands for miles around when you get to the top.

Over to You

Greece is definitely worth incorporating into your backpacking route. With a bit of inventive travel-planning, you’ll be able to find accommodation, food and activities that won’t break the bank. While you may have to stretch your transportation budget a little to pay for ferries to go to the islands, they’ll reward you with beautiful beaches, fascinating history and a backpacking trip to remember.


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