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How much time for Athens, Santorini, Naxos

My husband and I are planning a last-minute trip to Greece this September (we have flight credits and vacation time to use or lose this year).

We'd like to 100% visit Athens and Santorini and would like to include another island in the mix if time allows. I am leaning toward Naxos as I have heard great things - but am open to suggestions. If our time would be best spent only visiting Athens and Santorini, we are fine with that as well.

I've heard that it's best to stay away from Santorini on M-F if possible to avoid the crowds, so as of now I am thinking that we would fly out of Ohare on Thursday, 9/15/22 arriving in Athens on Friday, 9/16/22 then fly straight to Santorini. The thought now is to spend Friday, 9/16 - Monday, 9/19 in Santorini (if that's enough time) and then ferry to Naxos the morning of 9/19 (or another island) for 2-3 nights, then fly from back to Athens and spend the remainder of our time there.

Ideally, we'd like to be heading back to the U.S. that Saturday, 9/24 or Sunday, 9/25 to get back to work on Monday, 9/26 (Crazy, I know). If need be, we could extend the trip slightly and fly back on Monday.

My real question is, with the time that we have, how would you arrange the itinerary?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
10333 posts

Take a day away from Santorini and give it to Naxos or another island like Paros. Honestly, if you have to delete a place I suggest skipping Santorini.

Posted by
2288 posts

We did Santorini 3 nights, Naxos 4, and Athens 3 and were happy with that allocation. Like you are proposing, we flew to Santorini the same day we arrived in a separate ticket. We ferried to Naxos and then flew back to Athens from Naxos.

I counted 10 nights in Greece if you go back in Sunday which is what I would suggest. Most of us can manage going back to work on Monday after coming back Sunday. But depends on person and job of course.

Posted by
1113 posts

I would add much more time to Naxos as it's one of the best all around Greek Islands with something for everyone

Not as much over-the-top as Santorini (from what I've heard as I haven't gone there) and far less expensive.

Depending on what time you arrive in Athens more than likely you'll miss a lot of Friday just getting to Santorini from the US.

So then it's basically Sat., Sun, Mon.

Is Santorini "must see"? Some rave about it, others avoid it.

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades and it deserves many more days than just 2-3 to fully experience.

If you need to see Santorini you can do so from Naxos on a day trip.

Athens deserves a minimum of 2 days with three better. There's more to Athens than just the tourist sites.

I've gone to Greece a number of times and on return I'm played out just from the long flight and any lay over needed before getting home.

I wouldn't want to fly back from Greece and then go back to work the next day.

But in the end do what's best for you.

Posted by
3257 posts

I won't comment here, since I addressed the question at length on another forum. I do maintain that you do NOT want to shorten Naxos one bit... it's the largest Island in the Cyclades and one of the most varied.. in terms of landscape, beaches, historic ruins etc. (I've been there 14 times and still make discoveries) with 2 1/2 days (take the morning ChampionJet, arrive about noon), you could get an enticing sample:
• DAY 1 Afternoon - Beach dip, explore town, out on Arch to Causeway, meal in town, book a tour (see next)
• DAY 2 - fab 1-day (9:20-5:20) highlights tour ( with noonday swim break! )
• DAY 3 - Adventures following up on above discoveries - and celebratory last-night dinner
Some great taverna dinners --
Naxos Town: Reserve for 1st 2) NOSTIMON HELLAS (modern Greek Vibe) • To ELLINIKO (stellar traditional) ! • BOULEMATSIS - balcony overlooking port pier & sunset, old family place amazng Fish & chips
Plaka Beach (bus out, taxi back) - (reserve for both) • PETRINO - Naxian products transformed • NIKOLAS & MARIA"s - A "shirley Valentine moment" with tables in sand, at water's edge

If you MUST cut back, take a day off Athens, because you'll be there anyway on your NEXT trip. (Yes Greece is addictive). And do try to fly back on Monday -- better experience on planes/airports. And sure, you'll be at half-mast on the job, on Tuesday... but it's worth it, believe me.

Posted by
1435 posts

Regarding allocation of nights, this is what we did last May:
Santorini - 3 nights
Naxos - 4 nights
Athens - 4 nights

We also spent 5 nights in Nafplio but you obviously don't have time for that.

I suggest checking to see if you can fly from Chicago to Santorini on the same ticket. We flew Boston/Zurich/Santorini on United/Swissair. We had a 4 hour layover in Zurich. Never saw our luggage until we arrived in Santorini. If you miss your flight to Santorini from Zurich, the airline is responsible for putting you on the next available flight. It was very stress-free.

We loved both Santorini and Naxos even though they are very different islands. I know some people recommend skipping Santorini, but personally, I think you should go if that is what you want to do. The views from the caldera are stunning! We rented a car for a day and drove around the island. Visited the Akrotiri archaelogical site, the light house, and several beaches (red sand and black sand). It was an awesome day.

Naxos is quieter and more laidback than Santorini. I recommend renting a car for at least a day to journey around the island. 4 nights were fine. If we were there during the summer months and wanted to spend more time on the beach, an extra night would have been nice.

Your most logical routing would be Santorini, Naxos, and Athens. We took the Blue Star Ferry from Santorini to Naxos, and flew from Naxos to Athens.

Posted by
1272 posts

You are getting good advice. While Santorini will be crowded and expensive it really is something special and worth a visit. 3 nights is all my wallet can stand in Santorini and you can see it pretty well in three nights. I would take that additional day and add it to Naxos. Naxos is large, with lots of beaches, hikes, mountain villages and a lovely old town capped by a Venetian era Kastro.

Athens can be done nicely with three nights.

Here are some images of Naxos to reinforce your choice.
Around Naxos town 2022
Back to Naxos 2022
Chalki and Vivlos villages