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Cyclades Island Hoping

Hi Rick,
Desperately looking for some advice - my husband and I are planning a trip in August this year to Greece and we just want to make sure we are making the correct decision when it comes to island hoping. Our itinerary is below:
- Arrive in Athens
Head off to Mykonos (for two nights)
Head off to Naxos (For three nights)
Head off to Paros (For three nights)
Head off to Antiparos (For three nights)
Head off to Santorini (For two nights)
Head off to Athens(For two nights)
Depart

Posted by
7633 posts

Just figure that any travel day can be mostly lost. Even though the Islands are close, it seems like the travel chews up most of the day.

Also take a look at ferry schedules, some of the lines for example go Mykonos/Paros/Naxos (AntiParos is a local run from Paros) You just need to figure out the route and work with that.

As for your time allocation, that is a bunch of moving around and not much relaxation. August will be very busy with most people staying put for a week or two. Start looking for lodging, hopefully you do not run into places that want the longer term stay.

Posted by
3333 posts

Hi candthomo ---

I agree that it's too much hopping ... I would eliminate at least one island. The easiest would be the Paros-Antiparos combo. It's super-easy to STAY on Antiparos (lower-key, easy walks to beaches) and take the quickie ferry to Paros. You could go over to explore the port town of Parikia, and do the Paros nightlife if that's your thing... then zip back to Antiparos. Then you could do 4 nights on Naxos (the largest island, with most activities), and 4 for Paros-Antiparos ... and the "extra day" will be taken up by the aforementioned "transfer time" ... really it takes fully half a day to switch islands even when you can SEE the next island on horizon.

It would help if you'd share your reasons, for each island, and if you're on a strict budget or not. Here's why:
• IF nightllife is a huge part of why you're going, certainly Mykonos & Santorini have the most clubs. But those 2 islands are also the 2 costliest ones in all of Greece, and can really dent a budget! And already many of the moderate-cost hotels are booked up.
• IF the main motive for staying on Santorini is to experience the famous Caldera View, and you don't necessarily yearn for the club scene or shopping for luxury goods -- you could get the scenery in a €55 daytrip, which runs from either Naxos or Paros.

Finally, because of all that hopping-time, here are some strategies:
• If you haven't yet booked your transatlantic fllight, consider booking one that goes nonstop from N. America- Delta (NYC), American (PHL) or Canada Air (Montreal or Toronto). They'll cost more than airlines that connect in Europe, BUT they are the only ones that arrive between 9 - 10 AM ... the others don't reach ATH until 2 pm onward, and you've lost Day one, immediately. An AM arrival provides many more options. such as --
• Go ASAP to Mykonos. There are many domestic flights (costly but your ambitions require $$). Also you can take a bus, or a $25 taxi to the nearby port of Rafina and perhaps catch an afternoon ferry to Mykonos.

• IF you do Santorini as a day-trip, it makes a return to the mainland simpler, faster, cheaper. Why? A ferry to Piraeus can take 8-9 hours, costs over $70; a flight is $$$ in August. If you're on Paros-Naxos, you can have an entire final afternoon at the beach, then take th Blue Star ferry (€35-38) at 6 or 7 pm arrive Piraeus midnight, and be in your hotel before 1 am.

• BEFORE you book hotels, get your logistics straight. This website - http://www.gtp.gr/RoutesForm.asp - rewards a bit of time, and shows ALL ferries available (just click "8" as month and "Any" for date). This website shows domestic flights for Aegean/Olympic and Ryan air & Air express. http://reservations.airtickets.com/airtickets/com/search.do;jsessionid=A3C7D99EA96EEBE00C1A0A7E57E31253.app6?sid=1&xid=1489414499065

• Finally, when booking hotels, don't try to save a few bucks by the lowest room rate (requires advance NONrefundable deposit) - with the "regular" rate, you pay only duing your stay, and can cancel/change without penalty until 1-2 weeks beforehand.

Posted by
3333 posts

Forgot to add one Major Warning -- the BIGGEST holiday of the summer, in fact The #2 holiday of year in Greece is August 15 ... something about the Virgin. It's like Memorial Day - 4th of July - Labor Day rolled together. ALL Greeks take some part of that week off ... and usually heading for beaches. If that's part of your schedule, book those accommodations first, and be aware that the Friday BEFORE, outbound from Mainland, and the Sunday AFTER , returning, will be Packed solid on ferries & planes.

Posted by
2 posts

Hi Janet,

Wow - thank you so much for your feedback, this is such a big help. I think the main reason we had for island hoping was due to the fact that this would be our first time visiting Greece. We wanted to make the most of the trip but a big part of the trip is taking some time out. We are not big club people, so in your opinion would you suggest after our stay in Mykonos, should we rather do Naxos or Paros - or ideally do we do both? I have removed Antiparos from the schedule, as I do feel it was way too much travelling. The trip is actually for our honeymoon - so I think your advice of reducing the travel suits us best. I like the idea that we can also ferry to Santorini for the day is great, the only reason why we looked at this was due to articles we had read, as they indicated this was a must.

We are currently in the process of finalizing the trip and wanted to make sure we were making the right decision before booking anything. I have looked at Ferry schedules and flights, so far this good.

Thanks again for the help, really appreciate the advice.

Posted by
1376 posts

I am glad that you are willing to compromise on some island hops. Going slower is the best way to experience Greece. I know it is hard to believe but even that one hour ferry trip from Paros to Naxos took up a whole morning. Check out, wait for the ferry, take the ferry and check in to your next hotel got us on the beach 5 hours after check out..

Since it is your honeymoon I would suggest that you fly directly to Santorini on arrival. Santorini is the quintessential honeymoon destination. The caldera view is spectacular. Its worth every euro. And you will be spending lots of Euros on Santorini not only for hotel but also on dining. I would suggest three maybe 4 nights there or as long as your budget holds out.
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/

Next hop the ferry to Naxos. It is a perfect companion island to Santorini. Same white and blue buildings, same sea, better beaches, mountain villages, some antiquities and at less than half the price.
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
Naxos 2016 https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157671589993576

Naxos takes a week to really explore.

If you want to do Paros it is possible to do it as a day trip on conventional ferries but I doubt you will run out of things to do on Naxos.

Mykonos is a high end island. Everything is as expensive as Santorini but while it is lovely it offer you nothing more than you will find on Naxos. However there is a day trip from Naxos twice a week to Delos and Mykonos. You get three hours on both. Delos is an amazing antiquity and Mykonos gives you the bonus of being able to experience Mykonos without having to pay the price. One year when we took that excursion two drinks and a snack on Mykonos waterfront cost the same as dinner with a liter of wine on Naxos.
Day trip Delos and Mykonos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157637922138466/

That leaves you your three days in Athens at the end.

Posted by
1170 posts

I also agree you are trying to do to much with the time you have. Quality is more important than quantity and don't forget travel from one island to another is time consuming which means you lose valuable on-island time and more stress, especially August, High Season!

Since Santorini & Mykonos are two of the most popular, heavily touristed and most expensive Greek Islands I would eliminate one, probably Mykonos and spend the extra time on Naxos one of Greece's best island with an excellent combination of Old & New World Greece.

The Paros/Antiparos schedule could be reduce by several nights by basing yourself on Paros and during a day trip to Antiparos, saving you more time and money.

I can understand trying to see and do as much as possible on your trip, but you still need to relax, enjoy your time on a Greek Island and let the experience since in.

The last thing you want to do is get stressed out by traveling from one island to another for just a short stay when you can stay longer on fewer islands with a more enjoyable time.

Posted by
2142 posts

I think Stanbr mapped out a perfect itinerary for you. Flying directly to Santorini means you will wake up on a spectacular Greek island on the first morning of your honeymoon, and what could be better than that?

And then after a few days on Santorini, a lovely week on Naxos. You probably want to do a day trip from Naxos ... either the Mykonos/Delos trip or a day sail to the small Cyclades.

Remember that August is a busy month, so you likely want to start booking flights/hotels quickly.