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Sailing around the aqua Aegean Sea, exploring romantic islands, wandering white-washed passageways, swimming under the Greek sun, and dining on fresh fish plucked from the Mediterranean; really, who doesn’t have a cruise around the islands of Greece on their bucket list? Although it may sound like a spendy adventure, you can actually live large in the Greek islands without spending big. Here’s how:

Sail Instead of Cruise:

First things first, you'll want to get around the gorgeous Aegean in style. How about this: the sparkling turquoise sea splashes all around you while the wind lifts the sails of the tall ship whisking you to a secluded beach on a remote Greek island. A pricey fantasy? Not with StarClippers, which offers week-long itineraries sailing around the Cyclades on its tall-masted ships starting at $250 per night, which includes all meals on board. Rooms are on the small side and there’s not much in the way of entertainment, but honestly, when you’re watching the sails soar and the storied scenery glide by, do you really care?

Shoulder Season Instead of Summer:

Yup, July and August are prime time for Greece, but that’s not the only time the weather is nice; it’s just when everyone is taking a vacation, which is why prices soar for those eight weeks. Plan your adventure for June or September and you’ll still have fabulous weather, but with lower prices and fewer crowds.

Remote Islands Instead of Trendy Spots:

There are more than 200 inhabited islands in Greece, so if you skip the handful of ones with hordes of tourists, you’re halfway to bargain paradise. Look for itineraries that spend less time in Mykonos and Santorini and explore more remote spots like Amorgos and Paros where everything from drinks to shopping are cheaper.

Public Beaches Instead of Clubs:

Another perk of smaller, less-discovered islands: exploring beaches where you can simply throw your towel on the edge of the water and dive in without having to dole out for a beach club or pricey beachside table. (Tip: Spend a few bucks on a mat at your first stop and bring it to the beach for a more comfortable experience.)

Exploring Instead of Touring:

Skip the pricey port tours. Greek islands are fairly compact and getting around relatively simple. On Patmos, where St. John the Apostle spent time, you can hop a cab to the top of the island to visit the monastery for about 10€ (or about $11.50) or take a public bus for 1.5€ (or $1.70). On ruggedly beautiful Naxos, MotoNaxos rents mopeds starting at just 9€ (or $10.30) a day and provides free maps with leveled routes so even beginners can rev around the countryside.  

Tavernas instead of Restaurants:

Gyros. Hummus. Tzatziki. Feta and tomatoes. Moussaka. The staples of local Greek cuisine are plentiful, delicious, and affordable at local tavernas. Skip the white tablecloth locales and look for these humble dining spots, where a traditional Greek salad topped with creamy feta runs about 4€ (or $4.60) and decadent and meaty moussaka is around 7€ (or $8). Then say Yamas as you toast with a local Mythos beer (about 3€ or $3.50) to being in paradise without breaking the bank.

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