Rafina – Gateway to the Cyclades
In the summer of 2017, we were set on going back to a Greek island. We had been to several islands in Greece before and the lure of the Aegean Sea was pulling us back.
We did extensive research and eventually settled on Andros, the most northern island in the Cyclades. There were several reasons we chose Andros. We wanted to experience one of the lesser-known islands that wasn’t overrun by mass tourism, as well as, finding a place that was relatively easy to get to. Andros fit the bill and was absolutely perfect.
There is only one way to get to Andros and that is through the port and the lovely little city of Rafina on the mainland.
Many travelers either fly directly to one of the more popular islands or fly to Athens and then take a ferry from the port of Piraeus. Flying direct to an island can be more expensive and traveling through Athens and leaving from the port of Piraeus can be time consuming and hectic. Rafina offers a very good alternative.
We took a very cheap easyjet flight from Berlin and touched down at the main Athens International Airport. The airport is relatively far from the center of Athens but only about 20 minutes by car from Rafina.
Rafina isn’t a large place but rather small with just a handful of hotels. Starting your vacation here is almost like already being on an island. We had an early morning ferry the next day so we looked at some hotels directly in the center. It seems the two best options are Hotel Coralli, directly on the main square, and the Avra Hotel, which sits between the city beach and the harbor. Both hotels are in easy walking distance to the ferries.
We chose the Avra Hotel because they offer a free shuttle service between the Athens airport and the hotel. The shuttle must be arranged at least an hour in advance.
The shuttle was waiting for us when we exited the terminal and we quickly departed for Rafina. The Avra Hotel was by no means luxurious but we had very friendly service and a comfortable room to spend the night. Our rate was 70 euros and didn’t include breakfast.
After checking in, we left to explore Rafina. The town is very easy to walk around. First, we went down to the harbor to pick up our ferry tickets. Along the harbor, there is a row of restaurants and tavernas serving fresh seafood and other Greek specialties. We ended up in the main square above the harbor.
As is typical in the Mediterranean, the main square became alive at night. The local residents strolled around the square or sat in the surrounding cafes and bars while children played football. We enjoyed a few cold Alpha beers at an outdoor bar and left to find dinner.
Of course, the first thing we needed to eat in Greece was a gyro. Online reviews pointed us to popular grill restaurant called To Steki. We enjoyed an ice-cold beer in a frosty mug and a very cheap, fresh gyro. The restaurant was popular with locals and we had a fantastic meal to start off our vacation.
We called it a night and headed back to our hotel. The next morning we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise over the Aegean Sea and the ferries waiting to take travelers to their destinations. We walked 5 minutes to our ferry, boarded and set sail.
We really recommend starting your Greek island vacation in Rafina. The ferry options are more limited than the port of Piraeus but you can reach several islands in the northern Cyclades such as Andros, Tinos, Naxos, and Mykonos. There are a few small supermarkets where you can stock up on supplies for the islands, as things are usually cheaper on the mainland. Spending your first night in Rafina can be a lot more relaxed and enjoyable than going through Athens and Piraeus.