So have made a deposit for our Greece tour at the end May (RS tour of course) our 3rd.! Would like to add an extension of 3 days to visit an island and just relax prior to flying back home. What suggestions for island , why and best way to get to island? Santorini, Naxos etc. Just started our research but appreciate some input from which to start my research. I understand that hotels on the islands can fill up quickly so just getting a head start. Thanks in advance.
Well Judy, I took the RS Greece tour at the very beginning of June in 2017, and also followed with islands. I actually took a short flight to spend 3 nights on Santorini, then took a 2.5 hour ferry to spend 3 nights on Naxos, then another short flight back to Athens for a final night before flying back to the US. Comparing Santorini and Naxos, Santorini is more famous, iconic, scenic, and touristy, full of cruise ship passengers during the day and at sunset in a Oia. Naxos is more a real Greek town and island, lots of sites but much less touristy, in part because there is no port for cruise ships. On both islands you can visit various nice small towns and ancient sites around the islands, either by tour, public bus or rental car. Plenty of lodging, good and diverse restaurants, and shopping on either island. If I had to pick just one, I would choose Naxos, but that’s just my taste. You might find it impossible or risky to avoid spending your last night in Athens due to the flight schedules and the possibility of delayed or canceled flights from an island back to Athens, Enjoy the wonderful tour, and maybe you can extend your extension to include both islands!
Crete. Great variety of things to see & do.
I certainly wouldn’t head to Santorini, which is over-hyped. Where does the tour end! I would opt for Crete or Corfu if you want things to do or Lefkada or Skopelos if you just want to chill. The Pelion is stunning too, but is the mainland, not an island.
I recently came back from 2 weeks on Crete, Santorini and Naxos, and will second what Larry wrote. I loved Chania, Crete and Naxos was also very enjoyable, more laid back. Either would be good. If you want beaches, Naxos is better. If you want a little more history, choose Chania. You can fly to either from Athens.
We went to both Santorini and Naxos. I think my 24 year old son put it best when he said, "I loved Santorini, but Naxos is even better!"
Why? Santorini is more striking but has a disneysque quality to it. It is more crowded and expensive. Naxos has lots of variety (beaches, mountains, small towns) in a very manageable distance. It is far less expensive than Santorini. Depending where you go, you can feel like you stepped back in time. The people were wonderfully helpful and warm. We stayed four nights on Naxos and would have loved at least one more.
You can ferry or take a flight from Athens. We ferried from Santorini and then flew back to Athens.
I haven't been to Crete. So I can't compare it to Naxos. It is where we plan to go on our next trip.
Hi Beth for a second I thought I was reading one of my posts. Both of our teenage kids said almost exactly the same thing as your son. We loved Santorini but Naxos is our favourite.
Naxos is everything already described. You will get a true Greek experience there.
I just finished a trip report which you may find of interest.
Naxos is often called a mini Crete. It has mountain villages, good beaches, some antiquities and people who are truly happy to have you on their island. It is much smaller than Crete so its a lot easier to see the sites on a short vacation. Be sure to book your fights early as there are no seat sales to Naxos so the price will not get better. The aircraft are 50 seat turboprops so they sell out quickly.
Here is what Naxos is like,
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos
THanks for the information. I do believe also that Naxos is a better fit for us. We have spent plenty of time in crowded places while on tour and mainly, I would just like some Greek island down time, after the busy RS tour of Greece. Time being a bit of an issue, we have about 3 days to do this, post tour. To Larry/Beth/Stanr - a few questions. Our tour ends early morning in Athens - ferry or plane to Naxos? Time required and ease of travel for either? I havnt yet looked at what ferry travel woul be like, but the idea of going back to a large airport for such a short flight as apposed to a ferry ride, for how long?? Also, where did everyone stay on Naxos? Any recommendations or other input most welcome.
Chani- not enough time, but thanks for the info.
Ok, did some quick searching and it appears no direct ferry route to Naxos from Athens? Maybe flying is the way....
Yes of course there is ferry service to Naxos daily year-round, but with your stingy (couldn't you make it 4 days?) allotment for an island, you cannot waste a single moment. the conventional ferry, Blue Star. leaving 5:30 pm doesn't get to Naxos until 10 45 if on time. Blue Star returning to Athens 9:45 AM - 3 pm eats up the middle of an entire day, the 6pm sailing gets there 11:30pm or 12. The so-called "fast ferry" Championjet (all seats reserved/indoors) is faster 13:35 - 17:00 (1:35 - 5pm), but costs 2x as much -- maybe €70 so u wouldnt save that much money vs. flying... and flying is 45 minutes vs. 5.5 hrs or 3.5 hrs ferries (plus the wait on the dock & the time disembarking).
So you see... you need to bite the bullet & fly both ways. Story would be the same for almost all islands for such a short stay...except for Aegina or Hydra in the Saronic bay. Its the old old story, if u don't have time, u must spend money.
I would fly. The airport is an experience in itself. So small that only people on the next scheduled flight can go through security and wait. Very close to town and our hotel took us there. A taxi wouldn’t be very expensive either.
We ferried there from Santorini and flew back to Athens. We happened to hit rough seas and have of our group got sick. A ferry didn’t turn out to be enjoyable at all! We would have paid anything to avoid getting on a ferry again. Flights are only a bit more and worth it on several fronts.
And I agree with Janet, if you can possibly squeeze an extra day to stay to spend on Naxos, you won’t regret it.
It truly is a special place.
We stayed in Kymata Hotel. It is a couple blocks from the beach but no real view from most of the rooms. We stayed part of the time in a room with roof top deck which had a fabulous view. (It was only available for 3/4 nights). There were couches on the deck and a table and we did carry out two nights and ate looking at the water.
It isn’t a fancy hotel and has no elevator but a wonderful breakfast. The people were wonderful.
At one point, my other son told me that if he ever came back he would stay there. How could anything be better?
You might not be surprised to learn that after we took our three young adult children to Greece two years ago, all of them went back to Europe last summer on their own (Portugal, Spain, and the middle one went to several different countries-wherever Ryan air went)
Very good info on the ferry situation. Soon, I will need more on different towns etc in Greece. Such great info on this forum. Bring it all on if you want to add something. I’m sure soon, I will have many more questions . Thanks all!
We took the RS Greece tour in 2017. Following the tour we took the Blue Star Ferry from Athens to Naxos for 6 nights. We stayed at the Alkyoni Resort on St. George Beach. It checked all our boxes. Comfortable, quiet location, delicious breakfast, lovely pool and 10 min. walk to town and wonderful restaurants along the way. Our favorite restaurant in town was Nostiman Hellas. I would echo Janet's suggestion to add another night to Naxos! A great way to decompress after an active tour. I would also suggest flying to Naxos.
We then took a Ferry to Santorini for 4 nights. It was lovely, and like others mentioned it didn't compare to the Greek experience we were looking for. We liked Santorini, but LOVED Naxos. Following our stay we flew back to Athens for our last night and stayed at the Sofitel Hotel at the Airport.
Janis, thank you. Very helpful info from everyone. Something to start with for sure.