Don’t let a fear of flying hold you back: These destinations can be reached from Europe by ferry

Avoid flying by travelling by ferry instead.
Avoid flying by travelling by ferry instead. Copyright Unsplash
Copyright Unsplash
By Euronews Travel
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Taking the ferry also means you can take your car or pets on holiday with you.


A fear of flying can leave you feeling you are limited to just domestic destinations - especially if going abroad requires crossing a sea or ocean.

But as ferries rise in popularity, even the most aviation-adverse travellers can easily get where they want to go. As a bonus, they could also allow you to take your car or your pets when you go on holiday.

Demand for this alternative method of transport is soaring, according to travel booking website Omio. It says there have been 2.6 million searches for ‘ferry’ in the last month and ‘ferries from UK’ searches increased by 46 per cent in the last three months. 

Here are some of the most exciting and unusual ferry routes you can find in Europe.

From Italy’s east coast to Croatia’s picture-perfect beaches: Ancona to Split

Departing and arriving in the middle of town, this ferry trip avoids the nightmare of an airport transfer. Travelling from Ancona, 280km northeast of Rome on the Adriatic Sea, to Split on the southwestern coast of Croatia isn’t a short journey, however, taking anywhere from eight to 12 hours.

Most journeys are overnight meaning you’ll arrive at a reasonable time - just make sure to book a cabin so you have somewhere to lay your head. Several different companies serve this route with multiple sailings a week year-round. It can cost anywhere from €24 to €552 depending on if you plan to travel on foot or by car and how many passengers you are booking for.

Split is a great destination for travelling on by ferry.
Split is a great destination for travelling on by ferry.Unsplash

Stay in Split for the scenic seafront promenade, charming local restaurants, beautiful beaches and historic sites in the old town located within a 1,700-year-old Diocletian Palace.

This port is also the main embarkation point for dozens of ferries to the Dalmatian islands, whisking passengers away to Hvar, Brac, Vis and Korcula.

Go island hopping in Greece from Athens

Starting in Athens, you won’t be limited in choice when it comes to ferry routes around the Greek islands. The Aegean Sea has been explored by boat for centuries meaning it is probably the most traditional way to get around.

Travel to Mykonos in less than three hours for some incredible views along the way. From there take another ferry on to other famous parts of the Cyclades including Santorini or Naxos.

If you are looking to avoid the crowds, try travelling to Rhodes and then on to some of the less well-known islands like Chalki or Tilos. Both are known for slower tourism, smaller crowds and their sustainability efforts.

Tickets from Athens can range anywhere from €30 to €60. Each hop after that is likely to cost you €20 to €40 or less depending on the popularity of the island and the length of the journey.

From the UK’s south coast to northern Spain: Portsmouth to Bilbao

This ferry journey is the longest on the list taking more than 24 hours but if you want to drive around Spain it could be the option for you. Both Portsmouth and Bilbao have excellent road links, with the latter just four hours from Madrid and six hours from Barcelona.

Even if you plan to just stay in Bilbao, there’s plenty to see and do. Soak up some culture or visit its museums - including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, home of some world-famous modern art. You could also take a day trip to San Sebastian, touring Game of Thrones locations just 40 minutes from Bilbao.

For a car, it will cost you around €1,200 on average with prices for foot passengers slightly lower at €880. There are usually two sailings between Portsmouth and Bilbao each week.

Experience a ferry crossing unlike any other: Milan or Rome to Sicily by train

Italian rail company Trenitalia offers what might be one of the most unusual ferry crossings in Europe. Travelling from several hub city stations, your train will be loaded onto a ferry at Villa San Giovanni station in Calabria, southern Italy. You’ll then set sail for the port of Messina before the train is offloaded, continuing the journey along to Palermo and Siracusa.

There are services throughout the day and, if you want to arrive at a reasonable time, several sleeper trains that run through the night. Main departure points for this unique Sicily route include Milan, Rome and Naples so it's easy to link up with other European train routes if you are planning a more extensive rail adventure.

Travelling to Sicily via ferry can be a unique experience.
Travelling to Sicily via ferry can be a unique experience.Unsplash

From Rome or Naples, it will cost around €100 but can be as low as €19.90 depending on when you book. For the sleeper train from Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome or Naples, prices start at €39.90 for a bed in a four-person cabin.


Go further afield by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar: Gibraltar to Morocco

If you’re set on travelling outside of Europe, you can still avoid flying by taking a ferry. Travel from Gibraltar to Tangier in Morocco in an hour and a half or less for just €25 if you book in advance.

You can also leave from nearby Algeciras or Tarifa in Spain with seven different routes to cross the Strait of Gibraltar - the gateway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There are multiple crossings a day from numerous different operators but if you want to take your car, check that the ferry you book can accommodate it.

Arriving in Morocco, you’ll either land at the ferry terminals in Tangier Ville, at the heart of the city, or Tangier Med, about an hour's drive outside.

Tangier is packed with history to explore from the Cave of Hercules where the mythical hero is said to have rested or the 160-year-old lighthouse on Cap Spartel. Stroll through the souks (markets) to find arts and crafts including jewellery, carpets and ceramics.

And if you want to see more of Morocco without a car, there are trains onwards to Fez and the popular tourist hub of Marrakesh.

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