The Question: I'm meeting a friend on Crete in April. My friend wants to book an island tour, but the big companies don't begin boat tours until May or only offer trips departing from Athens. We're considering five to seven days, leaving from Crete if possible. And if I go with a Greece-based company, how do I choose a reputable one?
First off, don't be afraid to book the trip yourself as the country caters well to independent travellers, says Korina Miller, the author of Lonely Planet's Greek Islands.
You can navigate links for ferries ( danae.gr) and flights ( www.skyexpress.gr, aegeanair.com or olympicair.com) and find accommodation through sites, such as hotels.lonelyplanet.com. But if you do prefer a local company to do the legwork, look for ones licensed by Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies ( hatta.gr).
However you book, Miller suggests adding a little more time to experience the slower pace of island life. And if you can't: "Soaring between the islands on small inter-island flights is a great experience and I'd use this option to save some time."
The guidebook author roughed out an itinerary for you, combining flights, fast ferries and memorable sights. She suggests getting behind the wheel in Crete, spending a couple of days to explore Hania, the ruins of Knossos and the white-sand beaches of Elafonisi. From there, fly from Iraklio to Rhodes.
"Explore the Old Town, the atmospheric nightlife and Byzantine chapels like Moni Tsambikas perched high above the sea. From Rhodes you can hop on super-fast ferries throughout the Dodecanese. With a bit of extra time, you can climb into Nisyros' caldera, hang out on Kos' beaches, or visit the artistically inclined Patmos."
And to finish it off?
"Return to Rhodes and fly directly to Santorini to experience mesmerizing sunsets and to dig your toes into black-sand beaches before hopping on a boat or a flight back to Crete."
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Karan Smith is a former Globe Travel editor. Special to The Globe and Mail