Review: Greek Islands Tour with Intrepid Travel

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If you're anything like me, chances are the Greek Islands lie somewhere on your travel bucket list. After all, those postcard-perfect pictures that crop up all over the Internet start to have a subconscious effect on you if you look at them often enough.

For me, the Greek Islands have always been a dream destination. Even after I failed to connect with cities on the Greek mainland last year, I still found myself dreaming of the islands frequently. But I was unsure about actually going. Those islands… those touristy, expensive, party-happy islands… were they really a destination for someone like me?

Well, as it turns out, yes. Yes they are.

Church in Oia, Santorini

Ano Syros

Mylopotas Beach, Ios

I decided to visit the Greek Islands with a tour company, Intrepid Travel, in hopes of experiencing a little more of the culture and a little less of the backpacker scene on the islands. I also decided to go in early September, when the temperatures were still high, but the crowds were beginning to thin out. This ended up being an ideal combination.

If you, too, are interested in a trip similar to this, check out my video of the Greek Islands tour offered by Intrepid Travel, followed by a review.

Where will you go?

The 15-day tour I took is actually 2 separate tours linked together. The first tour is from Athens to Santorini (with stops on Syros and Mykonos), while the second tour is from Santorini back to Athens (with stops on Ios and Naxos). I chose to book the full 15-day tour in order to visit all 5 islands, but a few people in my group were only doing one half.

The islands visited on the full 15-day tour are:

  • Syros
  • Mykonos
  • Santorini
  • Ios
  • Naxos

This is a great mix of popular, touristy islands (like Mykonos and Santorini) and quieter, less-touristy islands (like Syros and Naxos).

Syros beach

Who will you travel with?

The travelers in my group hailed from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, with ages ranging from 25 to 60+. Some were experienced travelers, while others had only left home a couple of times. This is a pretty typical mix for Intrepid groups, though, from my experience. And, as always when traveling with Intrepid, there were only 12 people in our group.

Intrepid group at the Ios Amphitheater

Athens dinner

Who is the guide?

Actually, Intrepid employs tour leaders, not guides — trip facilitators, not baby-sitters. Your leader won't necessarily give you a history lesson at each stop or coordinate social events; rather, he/she is mostly just in charge of logistics, making sure everyone gets from Point A to Point B with as little stress as possible. Our tour leader was a young, bubbly Austrian woman named Sonja, who did a great job of making sure all the details were taken care of each day. She also always had good restaurant suggestions, and helped organize some extra activities that our group wanted to do.

Sonja
Sonja rocking some volcanic mud

Skandinavia Bar, Mykonos

How will you travel?

On this particular trip, travel is mostly done via ferry. Various ferry services operate throughout the Greek Islands — some are large and slow, while others are small and speedy. We took a variety of ferries on this tour. On the larger, slower boats we did not have reserved seats and so often wound up sitting out on deck to soak up the sun. On the smaller, high-speed ferries (where deck seating isn't always available), we had reserved airplane-style seats to call our own.

The longest ferry ride we took was from Santorini to Athens — it lasted nearly 6 hours. All the others were quite a bit shorter and altogether quite enjoyable! Yes, the boats were often late arriving to pick us up from port, but once on board things ran smoothly.

Greek ferry

Where will you stay?

This trip is an Intrepid Original style of trip, which means 2/3-star tourist class accommodation — no camping in the bush, but also nothing super fancy. If you are traveling solo, you’ll be sharing a room with at least one other person unless you pay the single supplement fee. I have never had an issue with this — and also had no issues with the accommodations used on this tour. Intrepid has a pledge towards responsible tourism, which usually means using locally-owned services whenever possible. We therefore stayed at small, family-run hotels in Greece.

Hotel Madalena, Mykonos
Hotel Madalena on Mykonos
Homer's Inn Hotel, Ios
Homer's Inn Hotel on Ios

Some were fancier with free breakfasts and swimming pools, while others were much more basic. All were clean and centrally-located, though, so I can't complain at all!

Hotel Archontissa, Syros
Hotel Archontissa on Syros

What will you eat?

Greece is known for its food — and this is definitely true on the islands, as well. On this 15-day tour, most breakfasts were included, as were 2 group dinners. We were free to do whatever we wanted for the other meals, though on most nights the whole group ended up going out to dinner together anyway. We usually deferred to our tour leader's suggestions, opting for traditional Greek tavernas as often as possible. Along with Greek salads and saganaki (fried cheese), we also ate TONS of fresh seafood.

Octopus in Oia, Santorini

Greek salad

What will you do?

Since Intrepid’s target market is the adventurous, somewhat independent traveler, their tours are usually a nice mix of pre-planned activities and flexible free time — and it was no different on this trip. The included activities were usually things like orientation walks on each island with Sonja, as well as some optional hikes. A visit to the historical island of Delos was included during our time on Mykonos, and our group also opted to charter a boat for an afternoon outing on Santorini. Other than that, though, our time was mostly our own. Most of us spent afternoons at the beach, or exploring island villages.

Oia harbor, Santorini

Halki village, Naxos

Moreso than any other Intrepid trip I've been on, this Greek Islands tour is all about relaxing. Relaxing, and soaking up the “slow-slow” Greek way of life.

Ruins on Delos

Any downsides?

As with any organized tour, you end up giving up some of your independence and sacrifice flexibility when traveling like this. If you're traveling solo, you'll also need to be prepared to share your space with someone else, unless you want to pay extra to have a room to yourself. On this trip in particular, it was also a little strange to have it be 2 separate tours. I felt a bit bad for the people who joined the tour during the second week, since they were coming in to a group that had already spent a week bonding and getting to know one another.

That being said, however, it was a great tour. Relaxing and yet interesting at the same time.

Perissa Beach, Santorini

Would I recommend it?

YES! If you've always wanted to see the Greek Islands but don't necessarily want to do it on your own, backpacker-style, then this is the tour for you. It was the perfect mix of iconic, touristy islands and quieter, less-crowded ones. There was also a nice mix of included things to do a free time to while away at the beach.

I took this tour after traveling around Europe like a maniac for a month, and it was JUST what I needed. Laid-back, sunny, and really fun.

Ios

If you want to read more about this tour, check out these posts:

Is this a tour YOU might want to take someday?

 

*Note: I received a complimentary Greek Islands tour from Intrepid Travel through my partnership with them. As always, though, opinions are entirely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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18 Comments on “Review: Greek Islands Tour with Intrepid Travel

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  1. Definitely! Who wouldn’t want a tour like this? Again, a great set of pictures and I loved reading about your experiences. Even the tour guide thing is good, not too interfering.

      Haha, well I’m sure there are plenty of travelers who would never dream of booking any sort of guided tour, Renuka! Personally, I like them every now and then. It’s great to not have to worry about all the details once in a while!

    I really enjoyed being part of a tour group in Australia and in SE Asia it was a comfort blanket in a place that baffled me. But in Greece, a country I have visited a lot since 1979 I am not sure I need being organised – we organised our own little mini tour in a VW camper and as a group were only allowed 3 collective decisions a day. Never knew until we got to the harbour where we would be the next day. When the banks were on strike we collected bottles off the beach to get cash back on them to afford to eat and drink. Lovely country and plan to go back next spring.

      That sounds like a really fun way to travel, Coral! As someone who had never been to the islands before (and who was also worn out from more than a month of solo travel), a tour like this was just what I needed!

        I can relate to that, I was travelling with my husband and had had a month plus of driving in California and camper van in NZ then 6 weeks housesitting in Melbourne, so travelling in a group to Adelaide via Great Ocean Road enabled us to meet more people as we are naturally sociable. Most of our travelling post house sit was in groups and we loved it, and it definately enhanced our travelling experience. I guess Greece is more in my comfort zone but will consider a group experience for next spring there.

          I tend to travel solo, so a group experience every now and then is always nice – it saves me doing the hard work of meeting people! 😉

    It sounds like a pretty good balance of planned things and free time. It would be nice to not have to worry about planning out all the ferry times and transportation. 15 days on the Greek Islands sounds like bliss right about now!

      Definitely. You could do the islands on your own without too much trouble. But it was VERY nice to have someone else worrying about things like ferry schedules and hotel addresses.

    This seems like a great way to explore the islands, and meet some other travelers. I agree that organized tours can be nice every now and again.

    Also, great job on the video, you should keep making more!

      I wouldn’t want to ALWAYS travel in a group like this, but I do enjoy a tour every now and then.

      And thanks! I do want to start doing more video stuff – it just takes so much time!!

    I work as Tour Leader for Intrepid in Europe (but in Spain/Western Europe). You had Sonja for your tour, nice! It’s true you would have had a great time, she is super cool 🙂

    I have always been curious about the Greek Islands and I have been meaning to go for ages but never quite mad it. Your photos are tempting me once more. And that Octopus…yum!

      Yes, Sonja was fantastic! 🙂

      I would definitely suggest going to the Greek Islands. I really loved it there and will certainly be back!

    Hey Amanda,
    Have been following your blog for a while and I like what you are up to..! If you come back to Greece, please visit us in the Sporades islands, (Aegean sea), and see beautiful Skopelos island, (as well as the other 2, main Sporades islands, Skiathos and Alonnisos). You will surely love them, I can show you around my hometown of Skopelos, fix you up with accommodation etc.

      Thanks for the offer! I’ll keep that in mind for if/when I head back to Greece!

    Hi Amanda,
    I really enjoyed read about your experience in Greece and traveling with Intrepid. I am booked for the Athens to Santorini Intrepid trip in July, so I was very excited to find your blog. Thanks!
    Megan

      I’m sure you’ll love it, Megan! (Just be prepared for hot weather!)

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