ATHENS – With Greece becoming more of a playground for the rich, tourists who can afford it will soon have the option of taking seaplanes to Greek islands instead of ferries or commercial airlines, and if they don’t have their own jets or yachts.
After several years of delays, further hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic that has entered a third year, seaplane service is coming with some operators saying it will Greece “The Maldives of Europe,” referring to that island country in the Indian Ocean, south of Sri Lanka.
In a feature, the British magazine The Spectator said the potential is big for Greece despite the usual bureaucratic logjams that have slowed bringing the service despite the country’s vaunted promise to make it easier for tourists.
An archipelago of about 3,000 islands with approximately 9,000 miles of coastline, Greece is an ideal candidate for a seaplane service, the report said, noting that in The Maldives, arriving by flying boat at your hotel or restaurant is routine.
The seaplanes will also put smaller and more remote islands in reach more easily for those who don’t want to wait on ferries or take their own yachts, and open more spots for visiting and discovery.
“Greece has hundreds of small islands that cannot be accessed easily. For that reason, a lot of travelers choose the more accessible islands that have either an airport or are a short boat trip from the mainland,” Vasilis Pandis, owner of The Greek Villas, a holiday home rental agency told the site.
‘There are lots of small islands that are still isolated and unspoiled by mass tourism,” he said, offering ideal spots for celebrities too who don’t want to mobbed by fans.
Seaplanes were used almost 100 years ago in Greece but stopped after World War II and an attempt to get them going again more recently was ended by the country’s near decade-long economic and austerity crisis before international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($354.43 billion) ended in August, 2018.
Behind the revival are Grecian Air and Hellenic Seaplanes, said the report. “Officially, thee service should launch imminently, with a first sea airport on Corfu,” said Pandis.
THE ANSWER IS THERE
Around 30 islands have already applied to build a sea airport, including Halki, Symi, Tilos, Karpathos in the South Aegean and Kefalonia, Ithaca, Lefkada, Meganisi among the Ionian Islands.
Some of the best undiscovered gems, Pandis says, are Tinos, Sifnos and Amorgos that are close to the more popular islands of Mykonos and Paros – which have airports – but a long ferry ride away.
Victoria Hooberman, founder of villa specialist Scott Williams, said Paxos, Ithaca and Meganisi will soar in popularity once the seaplanes become available – but it wasn’t said if that will take away their special lure.
Island hopping “hasn’t been all that feasible in Greece before – unless you’ve booked a long trip – because it takes such a long time by ferry,” said Hooberman, adding that it “will be really appealing.”
She said it won’t be all that expensive either. “Back in the 2000s the cost was quite reasonable. And the views are incredible – it’s definitely the most romantic way to travel.”
“Paxos is one of my personal favorites: we’ve been going there as a family for 40 years. But getting there involves flying to Corfu, transiting to the port, then getting a ferry or private sea taxi to Paxos,” Hooberman said.
“And the ferries don’t run all that regularly, so you have to be careful not to get stuck. But once you’re in Paxos it’s incredible – the island is essentially one enormous olive grove with wild flowers and crystal waters to swim in,” she said.
Meganisi – with its white-washed villages and intriguing sea caves – is similarly unexplored. “Currently to get there you have to fly to Athens, then fly to Preveza, then drive and get a boat from Lefkas,” said Pandis.
Greece’s large lakes, whose shores are filled with what the magazine said were stunning yet hard-to-reach towns and villages, are also included within plans for the new hydroplanes.
“There are some beautiful lakeside destinations and mainland coastal ones that are very hard to get to and will really benefit from the new network,’ said Hooberman, pointing to Kardamili on the Mani peninsula as a favorite spot.