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10 days in Athens-Mykynos-Santorini in September

Hi everyone
First time I've posted here...I used to be an avid traveler and posted a lot on Thorntree...then marriage, and kids happened, I suppose.
So my spouse and I are traveling to Greece...we have ten days, likely in mid September.
Some general questions:
1. We are thinking Athens-Mykynos-Santorini. I know, not groundbreaking. But a good itinerary for ten nights, right?
2. On logistics, I'm thinking ferry from Athens to mykynos, ferry to santorini, plane from Santorini back to Athens the morning we fly home from Athens. Does that sound right?
3. Is two days enough to do the major attractions in Athens, or should we do 3? Looking at Airbnb's in the acropolis area, does that sound good?
4. We are not partiers...looking for beauty, some history and long respectively should we stay in Mykynos and Santorini?
5. Any particular suggestions for where to stay (either hotels or Airbnb's or general areas/ districts) in Mykynos and Santorini?
6. Any "do not miss" things in Mykynos or Santorini? Any off beaten track restaurants in Athens?

Thanks sincerely for any advice. I used to rough trips like this (I stayed at random pensions in Greece in 02 when I visited Kos and Rhodes after backpacking Turkey) but need to be a little more upscale this time, though not luxury.
Thank you!

Posted by
2932 posts

It is NEVER a good idea to leave your return to Athens from an island for the same day as your flight home. Too many unexpected circumstances could cause you to miss that flight. Save all your time on the mainland for the last leg of your vacation so you can relax and enjoy yourselves without the stress of worrying about mechanical breakdowns, rough weather or a strike cancelling that flight back to Athens.

How long you spend in Athens really depends on what your expectations are of what the city has to offer. You can cover a lot in 2 days but it might feel a bit rushed. I think 3 days is better.

There's not a lot to see and do on Mykonos. I think 2 days is enough.

On Mykonos be sure to take the excursion boat out to Delos Island.

On Santorini visit the museum of Prehistoric Thera, hike up to Ancient Thera, visit the amazing archaeological site of Akrotiri. Have some wine and snacks at sunset at the Venetsanos Winery, which overlooks the caldera. Stroll through the most beautiful village of Oia and walk down the steps to Amoudi Bay for lunch on the wharf at Katina's Fish Taverna. Enjoy the open air cinema on Kamari Beach or in Firostefani at Volkan on the Rocks. Take a cooking class at the Petra Kouzina Cooking Experience. Cruise inside the caldera on one of many boats offering daytrips as well as Sunset and Champagne cruises.

Posted by
2852 posts

to answer QUestions in order:
(1) ITINERARY - No, NOT so good, picking the 2 places most ballyhooed by Cruise Lines and Travel Agents, to trap gullible people. The Cliche Twins of USA greek travel, THE most crowded/costly even in Sept, & why most other people consider Americans uninformed. However, ONE of isles is worth a short stop, and for island #2, we can give you something more authentic, more fun, more memorable. We've answered this inquiry so many times, that we Old Island fans have come up with a do-able alternative for 10 nights (that really means 9 1/2 days) Our Suggestion = SANTORINI - NAXOS or PAROS - ATHENS.

(2) GETTING AROUND - No your logistic don't work, for such a short time, and sequence is backward. With such a cruelly short time, you can't waste a minute, and going in to Athens at beginning AND end wastes many precious hours. Here's the Strategy:
DAY 1 - Try for a Flight nonstop from N America to Athens, because they arrive in mid-morning. Allow 2-hr layover & catch domestic flight to SANTORINI - you'll get there in time on day ONE to explore Fira Town enjoy sunset dinner - a half-day saved!
DAY 2 - Early am, bus/taxi to OIA to enjoy & take pix before tour crowds jampack the village - then scram to explore elsewhere
DAY 3 - either take 10:30 ChampionJet or 3:15pm BLUE STAR open-deck ferries to next Island (naxos is just 2 hrs)
DAY 4-5-6-7 - Enjoy NAXOS (my choice)or PAROS.. Naxos has vineyards & Fall wine festivals .. 15 miles of golden sand beaches, wonderful rooms w seaview balconies @a fraction of Santorini rates, fascinating port-town lively in Sept. Late on Day 7, either fly back to ATH (40 minutes) or take Blue Star ferry (6pm - 11:45). your choice.
DAY 8-9-10 - Intense Athens Exploring; we have info about D-I-Y Sightseeing &what tours are worth €€.
-- ANCIENT MOTTO for such short trips: If you can't spend the time, you must spend the money... i.e. flights.

OTHER QUESTIONS -- you've asked for too much info in one heap... it would take HOURS to provide thoughtful answers, and that would make us Travel Agents, which we are not. As quick incomplete answers, to follow up, IF you take the advice above:
ATHENS -- 2.5 days is barely enoug but you can do it if up early and have A Plan
MYKONOS - This place is Famous for Being Famous... and I'm not speaking from prejudice, its' just from modern experience (I have been there 3 time, 2x as a lilnk to elsehere). Incredibly expensive, lots of Eurotrash,nightlife mainly in late summer, after 12 or 1 am. Only history involves Delos island, and I'm not sensing you are an Ancient Civ Scholar.
PLACES to STAY - I have specific areas to Recommend, in Santorini, Naxos, Athens. As for AirBnb, have heard some bad stuff lately about people unable to change/get refunds due to disruptions. At least for Athens, now has pvt apts/room offered, as well as hotels, for very good rates.. and they have the security of refunds/rules. In these uncertain times, COVID-19 still a concern in Europe, I'd play it safer.'s "see on map" feature can show you availabllity/rates AND exact location of MANY good small hotels & pensions in Santorini & Naxos, Paros, Anti-paros.
DONT-MISS LIST - With all the other "asks" this is one I'd suggest you & spouse defer to another posting


NAXOS Sept 19 -
SANTORINI (various) -
Why NOT to try Santorini Sunset in Village of OIA -

You can put together a good trip if you get busy -- Good luck!

Posted by
1719 posts

I just wanted to say that I have done what Janet recommends and it works really well.

  1. We arrived at Athens airport mid morning and took an unconnected flight several hours later to santorini. We then took prearranged transportation to Oia where we stayed for 3 nights.

  2. We took a morning ferry to Naxos where we stayed in St george beach area. We stayed 4 nights. Naxos has varied landscape with beautiful beaches, mountains, towns, and archeological sites.

  3. We then flew back to Athens. At the end of our trip we spent 3 nights in Athens. We saw major sites in the 2.5 days we had. We stayed just south of Acropolis which we enjoyed.

Posted by
3335 posts

Like BethFL we took Janet’s advice for Naxos & Santorini in 2017. The only difference for us was that we were on the RS Greece Tour that started and ended in Athens. We went to Naxos for 6 nights and Santorini for 4 nights following our tour. We flew back to Athens the day before our flight home. By the way, we were there in the month of September & it was great.

Posted by
984 posts

Not much for me to add here. Athens Mykonos Santorini is not a good itinerary if you want to have something resembling a true Greek experience.
You have received good advice from other posters..
Get to your first island on your day of arrival. Leave Athens to the end of your trip.. You need to be on the mainland the day before your return flight. Three nights is sufficient to see most of the primary sites in Athens.

While Santorini is a Disney like experience I do consider it to be a must do thing. The view is amazing. For me three nights is enough. Certainly all my budget can stand.

For an authentic Greek experience do go to Naxos for as many days as you can spare. Visit the mountain villages. You will experience what Greece used to be like. Naxos beaches and Naxos town are as good as you can find in Greece.

Posted by
1201 posts

Agree with the advice of going to the islands first and then ending the trip in Athens. We got caught in an air traffic controllers strike on Santorini and it messed up our plans. Also, fly because the ferry takes too long. Three nights on Santorini was good for us - we stayed in Oia and drove around the island to visit Akrotiri, Red Beach, and the black beach at Perissa. Haven't been to Mykonos. Three-four nights is good in Athens - visit the National Archeological and the Acropolis Museums in addition to the ancient sites.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone this is REALLY good advice, and I plan to use all of it. Really insightful, won from real world experience. Thank you everyone.

Posted by
169 posts

I might be the "odd man out"... but we enjoyed Mykonos on our visits. Maybe because we did not go to any of the major beaches (well - May & October can windy and some were closed) and did stay on the edge of the main "chora". Easy access to lots of restaurants and Delos (which was a must see for me). Tours were gone by 4-ish and the town calmed down. We did/saw/heard none of the infamous bar scene. Just enjoyed walking the back streets and being amazed at the photo ops.

Our 2 nights on Naxos were in late Oct - chilly and very windy ('18).. so I can't speak much about the sights. But - enjoyed it enough that we do have plans to return (with family) for several days next year. Others can inform you on the sights and great day trips around the island.

If you want a more peaceful and bit less expensive stay on Santorini - you might try Kamari. It is away from the caldera nearer the airport- so not the heavy tourist jam - but right along the water. You can rent a car, take a bus or cab for travel around the island. If you do want the experience of the caldera with a bit fewer crowds- try Imerovigli or Thera.

Some say give Athens only a night or 2... But if you are museum and monument lovers there is a huge amount to see, take in and discover. We stayed at Acropolis View Hotel several times and love the family run feel. Easy walk to the major sites and good access to metro. And then there is the "Acropolis View". There are rooms with a small balcony or just sit on the roof top and watch the sun set/rise and smile.

I do agree that flying "directly" on to your first island makes sense. Add an extra night there for travel recovery. Then ferry to your other island and fly back to Athens. Ferrys take as much "prep" time and are much slower transport. But one will be fun to experience (talk about a cattle call). Olympic Air flights are cheap and frequent and quick.

Remember you loose a "night/day" for your flight over - so be careful with your planning for "10 days"
Idea might be:

flt = to Athens, transfer to Santorini, 3 nights (arrival evening + 2 full days)
ferry to: Naxos or Mykonos (depends on your interests) -
if Naxos - 3 nights (afternoon + 2 days)
- if Mykonos 2 nights (afternoon + one day)
morning flt = to Athens remainder of time.

No matter your choices - this will be a grand trip! Have fun.

Posted by
3 posts

You all have been great.

One thing I am now wondering...years ago I wanted to go and spend 7-10 days on Crete. Not sure if it's appropriate for this trip and a 3 day visit.

Would anyone recommend Crete - santorini - athens as a 10 day itinerary?

Thank you.

Posted by
2852 posts

I wouldn't recommend Crete for anything less than 4 full days, and even that's cutting it short ... 5 or 6 is better.

Posted by
2932 posts

You really need at least a full week with a rental car just to barely scratch the surface of Crete. It's huge and has a lot to offer if you have the time. You'd be better off including an island closer to Santorini from which you can either fly or ferry back to Athens, such as Paros or Naxos.

Posted by
984 posts

I have to agree with the last two posters. You need a minimum of a week in Crete. Two weeks is better. One year we spent 3 weeks in the east and still did not see it all. Keep Crete in miond for a longer visit when you plan your next trip to Greece.