Lonely Planet Writer

Planning to island hop in Greece this summer? Seaplanes are set to make it a lot easier

It may soon become easier than ever to plan your perfect Greek island-hopping adventure, especially if you’re short on time, not keen on working out the country’s vast ferry system or simply love the idea of descending onto a small airstrip in the middle of the azure sea.

Seaplanes are making their return to the Greek Islands. Photo by: Hellenic Seaplanes

The first commercial seaplane flights in Greece date back to 1926, when Athens became a stopover in an exciting 10-hour journey from Brindisi, Italy, to Istanbul (and later Rhodes island). The sea-to-air flights never resumed after WWII, with the brief exception of an ill-fated effort between 2004 and 2008. The operation was discontinued again  – after about 15,000 flights and 180,000 passengers – due to inadequate infrastructure, investment and planning, combined with the impending economic crisis of the time.

The local communities and the tourism industry, however, did not let the vision of a new, practical, far-reaching and relatively economic form of transportation die, and after much effort and deliberation, the time has finally come for seaplanes to return to the Greek skies and waters.

The winning architectural design for the new seaplane base at Elfesina Harbour. Image by: Hellenic Seaplanes

Last autumn, the relevant bill of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport became law and flights are expected to commence as soon as the legendary Greek bureaucracy and strict environmental regulations are dealt with. Everyone hopes this will happen within the coming tourist season.

‘The operation of the seaplanes will not only boost travel and tourism but will also provide vital transportation services as well as medical and logistics support to many isolated Greek communities’, says Anastasios Govas, the CEO of Greek Water Airports, one of the two companies involved in the project.

Seaplane taxiing. Photo by: Greek Water Airports

Backed by foreign investors, their plans include the construction and operation of at least 100 waterdromes around the country’s islands, mainland ports and even lakes, connecting many popular and busy as well as remote and inaccessible destinations.

Hellenic Seaplanes, the other prospective operator, recently presented the winning architectural design for a 25-million-euros ‘metropolitan’ base  – the largest in the Mediterranean – which will be constructed at the harbour of Elefsina, 20km from the centre of Athens.

By Vangelis Koronakis