This page gives an overview of ferry services in the Mediterranean, including associated seas such as the Adriatic, Black Sea and Sea of Marmara. It provides only basic details, with more detail on the "Get in" pages of the relevant ports. Ferry frequencies referred to are for "shoulder season" of late spring / early autumn; obviously there are fewer in winter and more in the summer holiday season. See also the Aferry and Direct Ferry websites, which give operators, times and fares for all but the most local routes.
Lots of people nowadays fly, but ferries remain an important part of Mediterranean life, especially for small islands that can't support an airport. Trucks use them, to shift stuff that is too bulky to fly yet too small for a freighter consignment, and islanders depend upon them. The fastest ferries are hydrofoils for foot-passengers only, but these are prone to cancellation in bad weather, and may not sail in winter. Conventional ships are slower but carry vehicles and sail year-round. Those that sail overnight have restaurants, bars and cabin accommodation, cramped but clean. They're a great way to travel and a link to classical times: Theseus and Ulysses would have disliked the throb and stink of diesel ships, but they would share that feeling of going up on deck in the morning to see a port appearing out of the mist, with its palm trees, towers and public buildings slowly coming into focus, and a new land opening its portals to the wayfarer.
The Strait of Gibraltar, which divides Europe from North Africa and connects the Med with the Atlantic, is only 14 km across at its narrowest point. Fast catamaran and hydrofoil ferries cross in 40 min, larger conventional vessels take barely 90 min. On the European side the main port is 1 Algeciras in Spain: this has sailings every couple of hours to 2 Ceuta the Spanish North African exclave, and to 3 Tanger MED in Morocco, the ferry port for the city of Tangier 40 km west. Ferries also sail from Tarifa (10 km SW of Algeciras) to Tangier city, shown as "Tanger Ville" on timetables.
Gibraltar no longer has ferries to Morocco: better relations with Spain mean it's simpler to cross the land border and sail via Algeciras.
The Med east of the Strait is called the "Alboran Sea", and the Spanish ports are Malaga, 4 Motril and 5 Almeria. Ferries sail daily from Malaga and Almeria to the Spanish North African exclave of 6 Melilla (6 hr), and also from Almeria to Nador in Morocco 20 km south of Melilla. From Motril they sail to 7 El Hoceima in Morocco (once a week, 6 hr), and to Tanger MED (daily, 8 hr).
There are ferries once a week from Sète near Montpellier in France to Tanger MED (42 hr) and Nador (39 hr).
For Algeria, ferries sail from Almeria to Oran (twice a week, 6 hr), and once a month to Ghazaouet near the Moroccan border (8 hr).
The Balearic Islands are a Spanish archipelago 100-300 km east of Valencia. Ibiza (Eivissa) lies closest to the mainland, then Mallorca is the largest with its ports at Palma and Alcudia. Furthest east is Menorca with its ports at Mahon and Ciutadella. See the individual island pages for inter-island ferries. The Spanish mainland ferry ports are Dénia, Valencia and Barcelona.
Dénia has daily ferries to Ibiza taking two hours; in summer these continue to the nearby island of Formentera, otherwise travel via Ibiza. Another ferry sails daily from Dénia to Mallorca, 5 hours. Valencia has daily ferries to Ibiza (5-6 hr) which continue to Mallorca (9 hr). In summer there is a weekly ferry from Toulon in France to Menorca (12 hr) and Mallorca (15 hr).
Valencia also has a ferry to Mostaganem in Algeria, 100 km east of Oran (three a week, 15 hr).
Barcelona is a major mainland port, with daily ferries taking 6 hours to Mallorca, 9 hours to Ibiza and 9 hours to Menorca. Other destinations are:
- - Civitavecchia 40 km north of Rome (daily, 20 hr).
- - Genoa (twice a week, 20 hr) and occasionally to Savona 30 km west.
- - Porto Torres on Sardinia (twice a week, 12 hr).
- - Tanger MED 40 km east of Tangier (three times a week, 29 hr).
- - Nador in Morocco (once a week, 28 hr).
- - Oran in Algeria (once a month, 16 hr).
Algiers is the capital city of Algeria. It has ferries to Marseille two or three times a week (21 hr).
Algeria can also be reached via Barcelona-Oran, Valencia-Mostaganem, Almeria-Oran and Almeria-Ghazaouet as above.
North Med and Ligurian Sea
The mainland ports are Sète, Marseille, Toulon and Nice in France, and Savona, Genoa, Livorno and Piombino in Italy.
Sète (near Montpellier) has ferries once a week to Tanger MED (42 hr) and Nador (39 hr) in Morocco.
Marseille is the biggest port on the French Med coast, with ferries to Corsica, Algeria and Tunisia. See that city's page for the little ferries and boat trips that ply to the nearby islands, imaginatively called Les Îles, such as Chateau d'If. The long-distance routes are:
- - For Corsica, to Ajaccio and Bastia (both daily, 11 hr).
- - For Algeria, to Algiers (2 or 3 a week, 21 hr) and Oran (once a week, 25 hr), and occasionally to Skikda and Béjaïa.
- - For Tunisia, to Tunis (twice a week, 23 hr).
Toulon is better known as a naval base, but it also has ferries to Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics.
- - For Corsica, to Ajaccio and Bastia (both daily, 11 hr) and L'Île-Rousse (once a week, 8 hr).
- - For Sardinia, to Porto Torres (once a week, 15 hr)
- - For Mallorca, to Alcudia (twice a week, 15 hr); and for Menorca to Mahon (twice a week, 11 hr).
Nice has ferries to Bastia on Corsica (weekends, 6 hr) and occasionally to Ajaccio or L'Île-Rousse. The advantage of the Nice-Bastia route is that budget flights to Corsica have a short summer season, whereas budget flights to Nice are year-round and then it's a simple daytime crossing to reach Corsica.
Genoa has ferries to Barcelona (twice a week, 21 hr), Olbia and Porto Torres in Sardinia (summer only, 11 hr), Palermo (daily, 19 hr), Tanger MED (twice a week, 49 hr), Tunis (23 hr) and occasionally to Skikda in Algeria.
Livorno has daily ferries to Bastia on Corsica (4 hr) and to Olbia and Golfo Aranci on Sardinia (7-8 hr); and to Palermo (3 a week, 19 hr).
Piombino 70 km south of Livorno has ferries to Elba.
The Tyrrhenian Sea is bounded to the east by mainland Italy, to the west by Corsica and Sardinia, to the north by the Tuscan Isles, and to the south by Sicily.
- - To Barcelona daily, 20 hr.
- - For Sardinia to Olbia (daily June-Sept, 8 hr), Cagliari (daily, 13 hr) and Porto Torres (twice a week, 7 hr).
- - For Sicily to Palermo or to Termini Imerese, 40 km further east (both once a week, 19 hr).
- - To Tunis twice a week, 19 hr.
- - Via the island of Procida to Ischia (frequent, 1 hr), also to Sorrento (40 min) and in summer to Positano.
- - To Capri several daily (45 min), but it's usually reached by the more frequent 20-min ferry from Sorrento.
- - To Cagliari on Sardinia twice a week (13 hr).
- - In summer daily to the Aeolian Islands of Stromboli (5 hr) and Lipari (7 hr). These may also call at Panarea, Salina and Vulcano, but no longer continue to Milazzo on Sicily.
- - To Palermo (daily, 12 hr), also to Termini Imerese once a week.
- - For Sicily daily to Messina (9 hr) and Catania (13 hr), and twice a week to Palermo (10 hr).
- - To Valletta on Malta (once a week, 26 hr).
- - To Tunis twice a week (26 hr).
11 Messina on Sicily has frequent ferries round the clock across the Strait to the toe of Italy, taking under 30 min to Villa San Giovanni and Reggio DC. There's also a daily ferry to Salerno taking 9 hr.
Milazzo 30 km west of Messina is the main port for reaching the Aeolian Islands. Ferries run first to Vulcano and Lipari, then either west to Salina, Filicudi and Alicudi, or north to Panarea and Stromboli; they no longer continue to Naples. At Stromboli make sure to get off in the right place: there's no road between its two ports but a very active volcano.
- - To the island of Ustica twice a day (90 min).
- - In summer a daily circuit of the Aeolian Islands, eg 4 hr to Lipari.
- - To Cagliari on Sardinia (once a week, 15 hr).
- - For mainland Italy, to Salerno (twice a week, 10 hr), Naples (daily, 12 hr), Civitavecchia (once a week, 19 hr), Livorno (three a week, 19 hr) and Genoa (daily, 19 hr).
- - There are also sailings from Termini Imerese 40 km east of Palermo to Civitavecchia and Naples.
- - To Tunis twice a week (11 hr).
Round the corner: a few ports are convenient to mention here although they're not on the Tyrrhenian Sea, namely Catania and Pozzallo in Sicily, the islands of Linosa, Lampedusa and Malta, and Tunisia. Likewise Sardinia and Corsica have only their east coast on that sea but their other ports' routes are described below.
Catania on Sicily's east coast beneath Mount Etna has ferries to Salerno as above. There's a weekly ferry to Malta taking 7 hr, but it's better to take the daily 90-min ferry from Pozzallo near the south tip of Sicily. This sometimes has a connecting bus to Catania.
13 Valletta, the chief city of Malta, has ferries to Pozzallo, Catania and Salerno as above. At Cirkewwa at the north tip of Malta, a frequent ferry sails to the smaller island of Gozo, 45 min. There are no ferries from Malta to North Africa.
14 Tunis is the capital of Tunisia and nowadays its only ferry port. Tunis doesn't lie on the Tyrrhenian Sea but the routes cross those waters: to Marseille (twice a week, 23 hr), Livorno (once a week, 23 hr), Civitavecchia (twice a week, 19 hr), Salerno (twice a week, 26 hr) and Palermo (twice a week, 11 hr).
Sfax 240 km south of Tunis no longer has ferries to Europe, just the 90-min ferry to Mellita, linked by causeway to Sharqi and Kraten islands.
Olbia on the northeast coast of Sardinia has ferries to Civitavecchia (daily June-Sept, 8 hr), Genoa (daily, 12 hr) and Livorno (daily, 11 hr).
Porto Torres near Sassari on the northwest coast has ferries to Toulon (once a week, 15 hr) and Genoa (daily, 12 hr), which don't ply the Tyrrhenian Sea. It also has a weekly ferry to Ajaccio on Corsica, and this is the only way you can take a vehicle across. In summer a foot-passenger ferry also crosses the Strait daily between Santa Teresa Gallura on Sardinia and Bonifacio on Corsica, taking an hour.
16 Ajaccio is the chief city of Corsica. It has ferries to Porto Torrres as above, and daily to Marseille (12 hr), Nice (7 hr) and Toulon (9 hr). There are also sailings to Marseille and Porto Torres from Propriano 20 km south of Ajaccio. Porto Vecchio on the southeast coast of Corsica no longer has ferries.
Bastia on the northeast coast of Corsica has ferries to Marseille (daily, 13 hr), Nice (weekends, 6 hr), Genoa (three a week, 10 hr) and Livorno (daily, 4 hr).
L'Île-Rousse 45 km west of Bastia has ferries to Marseille (three a week, 13 hr) and Toulon (weekends, 7 hr). Nearby Calvi no longer has ferries.
The Adriatic Sea is bounded to the west by Italy, with the ports of Venice, Cesenatico, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi; Pescara and Trieste no longer have ferry services. It's bounded to the east by Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia (which has a short coastline but no ports) and Albania.
- - for Slovenia, to Piran (once a week, 2 hr 30 min).
- - for Croatia, to Rovinj (daily 3 hr), Porec (daily 4 hr), Pula (May-Sept, 3 hr 30 min), and Umag (weekends Jun-Aug, 3 hr 30 min).
- - for Greece, to Igoumenitsa (three a week, 26 hr) which continue to Patras (33 hr).
Cesenatico has occasional summer ferries to Croatia, all taking about 3 hr, to Mali Losinj, Novalja, Rab and Rovinj.
- - for Croatia, to Zadar (Jun-Sept two or more a week, 9 hr) and Split (three a week, 11 hr).
- - for Albania, to Durrës (three a week, 15 hr).
- - for Greece, to Corfu (three a week, 15 hr), Igoumenitsa (daily, 17 hr) and Patras (daily, 24 hr).
- - for Croatia, to Dubrovnik (twice a week, 11 hr).
- - for Montenegro, to Bar (once or twice a week, 11 hr).
- - for Albania, to Durrës (daily, 10 hr).
- - for Greece, to Igoumenitsa (daily, 9 hr), Corfu (Jun-Aug daily, 8 hr) and Patras (daily, 17 hr).
Croatia's mainland ports are Rovinj, Porec, Pula, Rijeka, Umag, Zadar, Spilt and Dubrovnik. There also occasional summer ferries to Cesenatico in Italy from Mali Losinj, Novalja, Rab and Rovinj.
There are ferries to Venice from Rovinj, (daily, 3 hr), Porec (daily, 4 hr), Pula (May-Sept, 3 hr 30 min) and Umag (weekends Jun-Aug, 3 hr 30 min). Rijeka has ferries to the Croatian islands but no international routes.
Greece and its islands
Greece has the most extensive ferry system in the Med, to connect its scattered islands. These extend from Corfu on the Ionian Sea to the west, south to Crete, and across the Aegean Sea to the east right up to the coast of Turkey. Several islands (such as Chios and Samos) have ferries to the Turkish mainland, so you could travel for instance between İzmir and Athens by two ferries.
Corfu has the same long-distance routes, plus the frequent 90-min ferry to Igoumenitsa, and two or three times a day the 40-min ferry to Saranda in Albania.
28 Patras has ferries to Ancona (daily, 24 hr), Bari (daily, 17 hr), Brindisi (three per week, 16 hr) and Venice (two or three a week, 32 hr). Some Ancona and Brindisi ferries also call at Sami on Kefalonia, and frequent ferries between Sami and Patras take 3 hours.
29 Pireaus the main port of Athens has a huge range of island destinations, mostly daily, but doesn't have international connections. See individual island pages for inter-island ferries. Finding your ferry at Pireaus is no small task: it helps to know the name of the ship, as this is displayed on boards at the harbour gates.
- - The Peloponnese is the large peninsula linked to the rest of Greece at Corinth. Historically it was easier to reach Athens by boat than by road, and some of these routes remain, to Ermioni, Porto Heli and Methana.
- - The Saronic Gulf Islands are in the gulf just south of Pireaus, with daily ferries taking little over an hour to Aegina, Agistri, Hydra, Poros and Spetses.
- - Crete has daily sailings taking 9 hours to Chania, Heraklion and Sitia.
- - The Cyclades are the first island group southeast of the mainland. Ferries sail to Amorgos, Aegiali, Anafi, Donoussa, Folegandros, Ios, Iraklia, Kimolos, Koufonisia, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos (daily, 3 hr 30 min), Paros, Santorini (daily, 4 hr 30 min), Schinoussa, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos and Syros.
- - The Dodecanese are the southeastern islands close to the Marmaris and Bodrum peninsulas of Turkey. Ferries sail to Astypalea, Chalki, Diafani, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Kastelorizo, Kos (daily, 12 hr), Leros, Lipsi, Nisyros, Patmos (three a week, 8 hr), Rhodes (daily, 15 hr), Symi and Tilos.
- - The North Aegean Islands are the group north of the Dodecanese. Ferries sail to Chios, Fourni, Ikaria, Limnos, Lesbos, Oinousses, Psara and Samos (twice a week, 10 hr).
- Kavala on the mainland east of Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki peninsula has a ferry from Pireaus twice a week (23 hr) plus a short ferry to Thasos.
Thessaloniki lost its importance as a port once the railway reached Athens, and doesn't have ferry services.
Turkey, Cyprus and Black Sea
The Sea of Marmara lies south of Istanbul. It's connected north to the Black Sea by the Bosphorus, and south to the Med by the Dardanelles, so it's an important shipping route. Within it are several islands, and around it are mainland ports where it may be more agreeable to take a ferry from Istanbul than to wind around the coast on congested roads.
Istanbul has ferries to Princes' Islands close to the city, to Yalova (and also from Istanbul's eastern suburb of Pendik), to Guzelyali and Mudanya near Bursa, to the Marmara Islands, and to Bandirma.
Across the Dardanelles, ferries run frequently between Gelibolu (European side) and Lapseki (Asia side), and between Eceabat (Europe) and Çanakkale (Asia). The latter crossing is signposted on highways as the main route.
On the Aegean side of the Gelibolu peninsula, Gökçeada island is reached by ferries from Kabatepe 6 km west of Eceabat, and from Çanakkale. South of Çanakkale, a ferry plies from the little village of Geyikli to Bozcaada island.
Cyprus: the only ferry port is Kyrenia (Girne) in the Turkish region of Northern Cyprus. This has ferries from the Turkish mainland: in summer for foot-passengers from Alanya (twice a week, 2 hr 30 min), Mersin (three a week, 80 min), and Taşucu (once a week, two hours). The only car ferry and year-round sailing is from Taşucu taking six hours.
Black Sea ferry routes are much curtailed nowadays. Chornomorsk, the port for Odessa, has ferries to Batumi in Georgia (two or three a week, 50 hr), and Karasu on the Black Sea coast east of Istanbul (once a week, 30 hr). They no longer sail to Istanbul itself, and the many other ports ringing the Black Sea have likewise lost their services.
Sorry, no. Ferries are very much in business further west but have withered in the east. As of Feb 2020 there are no ferries scheduled for Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt (though its Red Sea ferries still sail) or Libya.
Cruise ships visit some of those places, for instance in summer 2019 Salamis cruised from Cyprus to Beirut and to Haifa. (Louis Line no longer operates.) it may be possible to book a point-to-point ride, but you'd probably have to pay the full cruise fare, and think hard about how you'd get back if the cruise only visits once or twice a year.