Greek Islands Cruises: Best Cruise Port Destinations in Greece

When considering traveling by cruise to Greece, there are so many destinations to visit that you need to make sure you choose a cruise stopping at ports with your top attractions. There are certain areas in Greece that you don’t want to miss out on! Its beautiful architecture, delicious foods, and sight-seeing wonders like the Parthenon, Olympia, the Minoan Palace of Knossos, and many religious attractions. When going all out, you’ve got to make sure your cruise is tailored to your personal liking, the best way to start is to check which ports you will be arriving to and what things you can see over there!

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Cruise Port Destinations in Greece

Port of Heraklion (Crete)

Port of Heraklion.

The Port of Heraklion, on the island of Crete, is definitely a good tourist destination that should make it on your list while visiting Greece. The area has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years, therefore, there are lots of things you don’t want to miss on the island. The port itself is large and can accommodate several cruise ships at a time.

If you happen to dock far away from the terminal building, there are shuttle buses that can transport you. The port is located outside of the Ancient City Walls, next to the Venetian Harbor and Marina. From here it’s fairly easy to reach the Central Bus Station and catch a bus to explore the West coast of Crete.

If you’re spending a few days in town, check What to Do In Heraklion.

One of the most popular attractions in this port is the Minoan Palace of Knossos. This palace is the fabled location of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth and is over 3,700 years old. Though to reach the actual location, you will need to take a taxi or catch a public bus, because it’s just under four miles away from the port. If you need more information about how to reach the archaeological site, check this complete guide to visiting the palace.

The Palace of Knossos was first excavated about a century ago and it’s the most impressive of the four Minoan palaces that have been unearthed on the island.

Knossos Palace, Heraklion.

From the harbor, you will be able to connect to 25th August Street, the main pedestrian street in Heraklion, lined with neoclassical buildings such as the Loggia. It will lead you to Lion Square, adorned with the beautiful Morosini Fountain featuring, you got it, lion statues.

The water fountain dates back to the 17th century and it’s Heraklion’s main meeting point both for locals and visitors. Lion Square is a good place to grab some Bougatsa, a typical Greek breakfast pastry. Another popular attraction in town is the Venetian Fortress, or Koules, which was built in the 15th century to protect the harbor from invaders.

Port of Katakolon (West Peloponnese)

Unlike Heraklion, Katakolon is a small port. In fact, larger cruise ships cannot dock here but will anchor nearby and bring passengers ashore by way of tender boats. The main reason to stop at Katakolon is to visit Olympia. Departing from this port can visit some of the most popular Greek islands: Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Itaka, and Lefkada.

Otherwise, once ashore, you can take a bus to Olympia. The Olympia Old Stadium is where the original Olympic Games took place in 776 BC. The stadium itself could hold 20,000 spectators in its day.

Archaeological site of Olympia
Olympia.

In the 6th century, earthquakes and floods damaged Olympia, but the archaeological site gives you a peek into what this historical location once looked like. The Olympia Archaeological Museum is one of the largest in Greece and includes artifacts and bronze statues from the prehistoric, Archaic, and Classical periods.  

Port of Kerkyra (Corfu)

The Port of Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek) is a small, but modern port, as well as the main ferry connection between Italy and Greece. It can handle large and small cruise ships but can get very busy. It is less than a two-mile walk to get to the center of the city and its attractions.

Read more:   One Day in Hydra, Day trip from Athens

Attractions & things to do in Corfu

Near the entrance to the city, you will see Neo Frourio, or the New Fort, towering over the landscape. Construction on the fort started in 1572 and it was built in stages until its completion in 1645. Within the fort is the modern headquarters of the Naval Station of Corfu.

On your way out of the city, you can stop for a stroll around Spianada Square, the largest and busiest square on the island. There, you can admire the lovely Venetian architecture, monuments, and a fountain. Close by is Palaio Frourio or the Old Fort, another important Venetian fortress.

Port of Corfu.

The Antivouniotissa Museum and Church are a popular tourist destination while stopping in Corfu. The museum contains religious artifacts and works of art from the Cretan and early Heptanese schools.

The Byzantine church is the oldest in Kerkyra dating back to the 15th century. Another religious location is the St. Spyridon Cathedral, wit a bell tower that is the highest in the Ionian Islands and houses relics of the saint himself. The cathedral if from the 1580s and is one of the most famous churches in Corfu.

Lastly, don’t forget to stop by the Archaeological Museum of Corfu. The museum was inaugurated in 1967. Here, you can learn about the island itself and the inhabitants from the Prehistoric Era to the late antiquity.

Once in Corfu, it’ll be easy to cruise around the smaller islands of the Ionian sea, such as Paxos & Antipaxos.

Port of Mykonos

When cruising Greece, Mykonos is a place you don’t want to miss. Depending on weather and season, your ship may dock at the port, or anchor in the bay and bring you in by tender boat to the old harbor, which is closer to the city center than the new port.

Cruise ship, Mykonos coast.

Nearby is Míkra Venetía, the “Little Venice” of Mykonos. With a row of homes built directly on the sea’s edge. These have been transformed into bars and art galleries, with superb views of the windmills at sunset. It is a charming and quaint place to tour and take in the artistic architecture.

Mykonos is home to Panagia Paraportiani, the most famous church in the area. The name literally means “Our Lady of the Side Gate” in Greek. Construction was started in 1425 and finished up in the 17th century.

The church is stunningly smooth and whitewashed. It actually consists of five individual churches that are joined together, four at the base and the fifth on top.    

Port of Patmos

Patmos is another small cruise port. Smaller ships can dock, and larger ones will anchor in the bay area. The island is part of the Dodecanese cluster, and most of the attractions are located in the Chora (main town) of Patmos.

It’s a bit of a walk up the hill, but you can also take a bus. The island itself is about 22 square miles and has a tranquil lifestyle and beautiful beaches.

Skala, port of Patmos.

The chora has lovely, quaint white buildings adorned with flowers and light blue doorways. It’s a great place to enjoy the views of Scala, the town by port

Patmos is an island where religious tourism flourishes. In 95 AD, the Roman emperor Domitian exiled St. John the Evangelist as a result of anti-Christian persecution. St. John came to live on this Greek island within the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse.

It is said that he saw visions and heard God’s voice dictate the Apocalypse through a cleft in the rock. This is where he wrote the Book of Revelations. You can actually visit the cave and see the mystic location. Make a point to also visit the Monastery of St. John, an impressive fortified religious complex built in the 11th century to honor the saint.

Port of Athens (Piraeus)

If Greek architecture is your thing, then stopping at this port is a must-do. This is a large, busy port with two cruise terminals and lots of docking space for ferries. There are a few museums you could actually visit in Piraeus (such as the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus). However, reaching the center of Athens (about seven miles away) is well worth it. A few meters from the port you can catch the metro and be in Athens in about 20 minutes.

The Caryatids
The Caryatids.

What’s in Athens?

You may recall the Parthenon from your art or history classes. This is the most famous monument in Athens. It sits atop a high table mountain, the Acropolis, towering over 500 ft above the surrounding area.

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The Parthenon is a Greek temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena. Construction on the temple started in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at its peak of power.

In the Acropolis, it’s possible to check temples that are the epitome of fine Greek architecture. The Parthenon is one of the finest structures of all. The fact that it is still standing today is a testament to the workmanship of the craftsmen who built it.

Within the Acropolis, don’t forget to check the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechteion, the Theater of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Also check the Agora, the main buildings for the administration and the justice system of Athenian democracy. It’s home to an impressive Stoa and one of Greece’s best-preserved temples.

Right in front of the Acropolis, you can also visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It’s dedicated to the Greek god Zeus and the largest temple in Greece. Stop at the National Archaeological Museum to see a collection of ancient Greek art.

To have a better idea of the things you can see in the Acropolis, check both this mythological tour and this one-day tour. If you’re staying overnight, here’s a list of places you might want to check at night in town. You can book these tours through the Get Your Guide platform:

Port of Rhodes

At the port of Rhodes, you dock fairly close to the city center and the local attractions. As you come into port, you can view the entrance to the old harbor where the Colossus once stood.

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus was a huge statue of the Greek sun-god Helios. It was erected in 280 BC and was said to have towered 108 ft high, about the same height as the Statue of Liberty. An earthquake brought it down in 226 BC.

Lindos, Rhodes (Source: Jebulon Own work, CC0 Wikimedia)

Rhodes attractions

Less famous destinations in Rhodes include the medieval fortress walls (from the 14th century), the Mosque of Suleiman dedicated to the Turkish Sultan in 1522, and the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.

The original palace was constructed in the 14th century but was destroyed in 1856. The Italians then rebuilt it in medieval style as a vacation home for King Vittorio Emmanuele.

Are you looking for more things to do in Rhodes, check this convenient 5-hour tour of the old town.

Port of Santorini

cruise ship in santorini
Ships on the Caldera, Santorini.

This is a tiny port where cruise ships can’t dock. They will anchor near the cliffs of Fira, giving passengers a spectacular view of the Caldera of Santorini.

Once ashore, you can explore the town of Fira or make an excursion to Oia. In Fira, you can visit the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, which is a modern construction from the 19th century. The Cathedral was rebuilt after Santorini’s famous earthquake in 1956.

You can also check the Museum of Prehistoric Fira. It features a large collection of prehistoric art, cultural items, vases from the 7th and 6th centuries BC, and other archaeological finds. 

Which are the best times of the year to Cruise to Greece

Cruise ship, Santorini.

Optimal weather in Greece varies from the mainland to the islands, but in general, the best times of the year to visit are April through mid-June, and September to mid-October. This goes without saying, but the further south you go, the milder climate you will find.

Winters in Greece get cold, rainy, and sometimes snowy, mostly on the mainland. Summers can reach blistering hot temperatures that most people will not enjoy.

Read more:   Crete Travel Blog: Cretan Raki (Tsikoudia)

Besides, the central months of August and July are jam-packed with tourists. If you can only travel during those months, make peace with the fact that you’ll find crowds. Add some patience to your packing list, and you’ll be fine.

No matter when you go, be prepared for warm weather, a few chilly nights (if not in the peak season), and some rain if you travel in winter. Whenever traveling by sea, be ready to protect your electronics from the moist and the salty sea air.

Regular vs Luxury Cruises

Ship in Corfu.

Perhaps you are on a budget, or maybe this trip has been in the making as all-out bucket list extravaganza. Deciding what luxuries you want and how much you want to spend will affect the quality of your trip.

  • Do you want a plain cabin, or do you want a suite?
  • Are you up for a white glove service or can you navigate your own trip plans?
  • Would you like all of your drinks, shore excursions, and gratuities to be included?

While regular cruises can cost half the price of luxury cruises or less, if you plan to enjoy a full bar every day, eat lobsters till you burst, and provide adequate tips to service people, you may end up paying closer to the luxury cruise price range anyway. 

If you are an inexperienced cruiser, opting for the help of a cruise line travel agent can take a lot of the headache of planning your trip out of the equation. After all, taking a cruise shouldn’t be stressful, it should be the most relaxing and fun vacation yet!

This post was written by contributor Katie Tejada, however, as a long-time ex-pat in Greece, I can help you with questions regarding organizing a cruise to the islands, best places to dock and all the info you might need. Use the comments section below to get in touch, or send me a private message through the contact page.

Have you ever cruised the Greek islands?

Useful resources to plan a trip to Greece

Disclaimer: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Keep in mind that I link to products & companies that I personally use and recommend for their quality.

CAR RENTAL
When in Greece, I always recommend choosing a local rental company over an international one. With Rental Center Crete fees are more convenient, there’s a zero-excess insurance policy (as well as no hidden costs, free mileage, and extra driver). Check this car rental website and use my promo code to get a 5% discount.

ACCOMMODATION
Whenever I need to book accommodation in Crete I personally use Booking.com. Their Genius Loyalty Programme allows me to find better fees. As they say, the more you stay with them, the more rewards you get.

TOURS & DAY TRIPS
For organized activities, I usually book my tours through Viator and GetYourGuide. From transfer to cooking lessons, including archaeological site visits, skip the line attractions, and boat trips, both platforms help you save time and money.

FERRY TICKETS
Getting to Crete can be really comfortable with an airplane, but nothing beats the romantic experience of traveling by sea. Choose Let’s Ferry to visit several Greek islands or to travel directly to Crete.

TRAVEL INSURANCE
Greece, and especially Crete, is a fairly safe destination, however, you should never travel abroad without an insurance policy for complete peace of mind. My favorite? World Nomads, click here for a quote.

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About the Author

Hola! I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round.
I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.
I’m a beach freak and on this island, I’ve found heaven on earth!

Gabi Ancarola
The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog

Contribution post

Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She enjoys writing about events, travel, decorating trends, and innovations for the home, but also covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, finance, law, and investing.

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