Tourists are returning to Greece with a vengeance this summer, and while it’s a great thing for the country’s economy and for the local business owners who are otherwise suffering the impact of the current high inflation, many holidaymakers are now realizing it’s harder than ever to find a hotel.
In fact, at online travel agency Booking.com, at least 80% of hotels at a majority of Greek destinations are completely booked for the end of this month. For August, the options are even more scarce.
And besides the gnarly task of finding a place – any place – to stay, it’s even more difficult to find affordable options. On top of the demand increase, rates are also higher due in part to many rooms having been booked ahead of the price hikes, forcing hoteliers to dramatically raise the prices on their remaining beds to make up for it. As a result, those set on spending time on Mykonos or in Santorini’s Oia in July and August must now expect to pay a minimum of €160 per night.
Greeks, forced to book their summer vacations at locations less popular with foreign tourists, have turned to the lesser-known, small islands normally thought of as cheaper alternatives to their more famed counterparts, pushing the occupancy rates on islands such as Schinoussa, Antiparos, Kea and Kythnos up towards 100% on the weekends.
In order to avoid the escalated ferry ticket prices, they also look to mainland destinations and the islands that are closest. Near Athens, for example, the Argosaronic islands of Aegina, Agistri, Spetses and Hydra are expecting never before seen amounts of (mostly domestic) tourists, with 93-97% of their accommodation options on Booking.com booked solid for dates in August.
Airdna, which tracks the performance data of Airbnb and Vrbo vacation rentals, reports that reservations are up as much as 227% compared to last year, with the most extreme increases documented on the islands of Rhodes, Crete, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Corfu. Comparing these numbers with the accommodation availability on Booking.com, the Ionian islands due in fact appear to be booked solid, while islands in the Cyclades and the Dodecanese show more varied results. Overall, the smallest islands, featuring fewer accommodations to begin with, have very limited rooms available, while at the most famous destinations, prices have soared.
However, a few destinations still have options left to choose from, and even affordable ones. Aiming to find out where it’s easiest to find a hotel right now, we chose a random weekend and checked prices and availability for double rooms on Booking.com and Airbnb.
Within driving distance from Athens: Evia
While most popular summer destinations in proximity to the cities are quickly running out of available rooms, Evia is an exception. The country’s second largest island, located just an hour’s drive from central Athens and easily accessible by car via the Halkis Suspension Bridge, here you’ll find plenty of options at reasonable prices.
There’s something for every taste here: towns, sandy beaches, camping sites, outdoor activities, ancient citadels, forests and waterfalls. Ranked by the New York Times as number nine on their list of places worth visiting in 2022, Evia is an island of many charms, yet it has yet to secure it the fame it deserves abroad. As the article points out, in the wake of the horrible wildfires which plagued this island last summer, it is also a destination you can feel good about supporting.
While 74% of the establishments here listed on Booking.com are fully booked on the weekend we looked at, that still leaves rooms available at over 200 accommodation venues. A large portion of those options – including highly rated 3-star options – cost less than €100 per night, and there are plenty of options on Airbnb too.
Also at driving distance
Meanwhile, at Kammena Vourla, across the delta on the mainland, only 13 hotels still have one or two rooms available at such rates on the same weekend. The same number is true at popular road trip destination Nafplio, on the Peloponnese.
In northern Greece: Pilio
The mountainous Pilio peninsula, in southeastern Thessaly, is another one of our favorite summer destinations with plenty of hotels still boasting vacant rooms.
A destination that’s just as lovely during every season, in the summer, Pilio offers the perfect combination of spectacular beaches and cool evenings in the squares of the mountain villages. If you choose to vacation here this year, don’t miss out on swimming at the beaches of Mylopotamos and Fakistra, or hiking along the trail beginning at Tsagarada and ending at the gorgeous beach of Damouchari.
72% of the accommodation options in Pilio are currently listed as full on the weekend we checked on Booking.com, which leaves nearly 350 options for hotels or home rentals, and 250 of them, some of them 4-star hotels, offer rates below €100 per night for a double room.
Also in northern Greece
While a staggering 92% of accommodations are fully booked in Halkidiki, that leaves 377 places to stay, including 177 options under €100. Most of these hotels, however, are very nearly booked full.
On the Peloponnese: Messinia
While this area of the Peloponnese has long been on the rise as a tourist destination, thanks to its wonderful nature, beaches, and history (as well as the development of the popular Costa Navarino resorts), surprisingly, there are still comparatively many choices for places to stay here.
You can travel to Messinia by car from Athens, or by flying to Kalamata airport, but don’t just stay in Kalamata. We recommend renting a car, and visiting the many and varied beaches along the coast, as well as the archeological site at Ancient Messene and the Palace of Nestor.
On Booking.com, 85% of the listings are fully booked on the dates we checked. 305 accommodation options are still available, 171 of which offer double rooms for less than €100.
We found that it’s still possible to find rooms on the generally popular and family-friendly Cycladic island of Naxos.
While less famous than Mykonos and Santorini, Naxos is actually the largest of the Cycladic islands, and there are many surprises to be had here. Besides its accessible and charming main town with its Venetian castle and the nearby sandy beaches, there’s lots more to explore too, like the coastal areas perfect for watersports, and the villages of the inland.
Only 81% of the Naxos listings on Booking.com appear full, leaving 240 hotels with available rooms, however, prices are notably high, with less than fifty options available for less than €100 per night (newspaper Kathimerini reports that prices on Naxos have gone up 31% compared to last year).
North Aegean: Ikaria
Those drawn to the more serene side of the Cyclades should stay away from those small islands, but may try their luck on Ikaria for a similar vibe.
This island gem has been drawing more and more tourism ever since it became known worldwide for the extraordinary longevity of its inhabitants thanks to Dan Buettner’s book “Blue Zones.” It is still a wonderful place to be, much thanks to its carefree people and gorgeous beaches.
20% of accommodations on Ikaria still have some rooms left on our selected weekend. We found circa 30 properties, and almost all of them still offer rooms for less than €100.
Eastern Aegean: Samos
Lesser-known, the eastern Aegean island of Samos, also has rooms available, and the majority of them at affordable rates.
Beyond Vathi, the island’s capital, wonderful, vast beaches can be found here, as well as several ancient and historical sites – one of them, the Temple of Hera, located at the mythological birthplace of the goddess, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss out on a swim in the paradisical creek in Potame Gorge, and a hike to the Panagia Sarantaskaliotissa chapel at Mount Kerkis.
73% of hotels appear booked full on Samos, but we found 92 hotels with available rooms, and as many as 75 of them are priced below €100 per night.
While Airdna lists Rhodes as one of the Greek islands that is experiencing the largest increase in home rental bookings this year, there are still plenty of options at this famous destination, both for hotels and home rentals.
Here, you’ll find ancient ruins and monuments from every age, as well as lively villages, natural marvels, unique gastronomic experiences, and anything else you might expect from a Greek island. The only difficult part is deciding what to see, and what to save for next time.
While 86% of Booking.com listings on this famed tourist destination are full on our selected weekend, that still leaves nearly 400 options, circa half of which have double rooms available for less than €100. Worth noting is that only a fourth of these options are located in Rhodes town.
Sources: AMNA, Kathimerini, Booking.com