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Naxos, Santorini and Mykonos

This will be our first time in Greece. We will be flying in Athens from Madrid on July 3, 2017 (I know the busiest time) :). After spending three nights in Athens we plan to visit Naxos, Santorini and Mykonos. Any help would be greatly appreciated. My questions are as follows:

  1. What is the best sequence to do these Islands?
  2. What kind of transportation is the best? We don't want to rush. Over night ferries with sleeping accommodations would be fine too.
  3. What are the best places to stay form the point of view of location, views and pricing? We can't do a lot of hiking or steep walking.
  4. Places to eat on these islands 5.Should we buy tickets like for ferries in advance? I have Rick's guide book on Greece but sometimes I see different recommendations here. Please add any information that you want to. Thank you!
Posted by
2898 posts

How many days??? It matters. If it's 2 weeks or less, the most Time-efficient itinerary is to FLY, immediately upon arrival, to your farthest destination, and save Athens for LAST. After all, you have to be in Athens area before your home-bound plane, and it wastes precious hours to travel all the way into central Ahens and check in/out of a hotel TWICE. If your flight from Madrid does not reach ATH until late (i.e. 6 pm or later) you may have to stay in a little B & B near the airport and take the earliest AM flight to your first destination. Since the most frequent departures are to Santorini, you should fly from ATH to that Isle. BTW, right now, thru Wednesday Jan 18, Aegean/Olympic Air is offering "Sale" prices on domestic tickets --go to their website and click on "special offers" .... you may get lucky and snag a couple of tickets for €30 or so vs. €70-150. I suggest you go on that website NOW, and see if you can score 2 santorini tickets for July 3.

After your stay in Santorini, take a ferry to Island #2, then to island #3, then back to mainland. Allow at least 2 (well-organized) days to see the famous Athens Landmarks & amazing museums with treasures of a great civilization ... after all, Athens has been waiting for you for 3000 years, so give it a couple of days.

Out of curiosity, why have you chosen Mykonos? Santorini of course is a first-timer "Must" for its famous Caldera View (altho that's the main thing about it, so get a room with a great view, and then move on). But Mykonos? Famous for being Famous. In HIgh season, lots of beach drinking-partieis and late-night clubbing. But If you say you have trouble walking, I'm just guessing that maybe your nightclubbing days are behind you. Do you want to stay in a super-costly island, invaded daily by 6-9,000 passengers from MEga-cruise ships? Naxos of course is MUCH more relaxed even in high season (its airport accommodates only 2 50-seat airplanes daily, and its harbor can't take monster cruise ships -- HURRAH). But for island #3, there are many others that don't focus on parties and cruise crowds.

It does seem as if you need more backgrounding that the Steves guide or website provides; he does not really cover the islands, focusses chiefly on the mainland. I'd suggest going quickly to your library and looking for ROUGH GUIDE to Greece, the most thorough all-in-one general guide... it also has the advantage of being very candid about the downsides as well as the highlights of a given place.

In addition, you might consider going online and querying several of the fine Greece-based travel agencies that specialize in helping people from N. America. Dolphin-Hellas, Fantasy Travel, and Aegean THesaurus all have great reputations for taking care of all these details. It's simple: write all 3 at once, give your dates, length of trip, the islands you hope to see (and as noted, you might pick a 3rd island instead of Mykonos, or ask them to suggest). In addition, tell them your preferred budget range for hotels, and explain your physical limitations. If you get those Santorini tickets before emailing, say that. IT will also be helpful if you share your general age category, and your interests (i.e., beach & shopping mostly, or museums and ruins as well). Then see which one responds most quickly, with the most helpful information and quotes. Good luck, and have a wonderful visit!

Posted by
2898 posts

BTW, almost no overnight ferries from the Cyclades Island ... I think there used to be one, once per week, that left Santorini about midnight arrived Athens @ 6, but haven't seen it in awhile. Not something to count on.

Posted by
47 posts

Janet thank you for your quick and thoughtful response. I will be travelling with my wife (both in early sixties) and two children both 23. We are arriving on 7/3 and leaving on 7/18 for US. My brother and his wife (mid forties) will be joining us in Athens. They have less time (8 days in total in Greece). We most likely will take your advice and fly from Athens to Santorini and then ferry to Naxos. I will contact the travel agencies that you recommended but somehow I feel they end up being more expensive. I started out with two travel agencies here, one of them AAA, and found out they are more expensive.

Posted by
1016 posts

Good stuff from Janet. There are a few flights to Santorini in the evening as well so even with a 6 PM arrival there are later flights that you can still connect on.
As for sequence you can also fly to Mykonos ferry to Naxos then ferry to Santoirni. Both sequences work. I too agree with Janet that Mykonos is pretty but demands obscene prices for pretty much the what Naxos provides. Oh except lovely mountain villages, some antiquities and no cruise ship crowds.

Ferry connections are daily between Santorini and Naxos. I think the earliest boat is the Championjet 1 although I may stand to be corrected on that. It is a large fast cat car ferry and it has a bonus surprise it has an outside deck so you can be outside to witness the caldera view from the ocean. It is about a 2 hour trip to Naxos and get you in around 1 PM as I recall. Buy your ferry ticket once you arrive on Santorini. Any local travel agent will sell tickets.

Given your walking situation I think your best bet would be to stay at St George beach in Naxos. It is part of Naxos town so you get a nice beach vacation with a 10 minute stroll around the headland into Naxos town waterfront promenade. The town is built on a hill for defensive purposes and its back alleys are narrow and full of neat places to investigate so you take it so slowly you barley notice you are walking uphill.

I would suggest you consider flying back to Athens from Naxos. a 45 minute flight is preferable to a 5.5 hour ferry ride back. On a short trip like this time is way more precious than money.

Santorini is built an the side of a cliff so most hotels have lots of steps. Hopefully Lee sees this question he can probably give you some idea of hotels with a view that don't have too many steps.

All of this is easily doable on a DIY basis. Aegean airlines web site is easy to use so book your flights.
For hotels go to Booking dot com put in your island and dates for Naxos its actually Agios Georgios for st George. The site will list at least 50 hotels their location price availability and most importantly reviews. Anything 8 or above is going to be an excellent choice. Anything lower suggests there is some kind of problem. You can book right on the web site it takes about two minutes or you can contact the hotel directly.
Better yet choose a few hotels that interest you and come back here. Chances are we will know some of them and can make a recommendation.
For fun this is what you can expect and in the order that has been suggested.
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/
St George Beach Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632113170279/
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
Athens http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632121475515/

Posted by
2898 posts

STanbr and I are a "Tag Team" -- between us we cover the usual Cyclades Island itineraries (that's the group you are looking for). I agree that booking.com is your best way to go, because you can see availability instantly ... and please, do not dither on choices because ALL islands are filling up fast fast fast for your period. Here are 2 further thoughts:

• Do NOT attempt to get an accommodation that holds all 6 of you --- MUCH harder to find, in the locations you will want. Much better to get rooms adjoining/nearby. (and besides, every pair gets their own bathroom, and peace & quiet if they want to nap!). If you are a sizable guy & at home use a queen/king bed, you'll have much more choice of lodgings if you are OK with twin-bedded rooms; fewer Greek lodgings have queen/king except modern & luxe places, and you've already indicated budget concerns. BTW, when u ask advice re lodgings, it helps advisers if you state your preferred budget range per room per night, in Euros (http://www.xe.com/ucc/ = instant conversion site). Santorini will be most expensive, then Athens, then Naxos.

• When viewing properties, use Google Map on page! It shows where hotel REALLY is, not what text claims - So often they say "near acropolis" or "on Beach" or "near Caldera" when they're not.

SANTORINI - if you want a Caldera view, make sure this is stated; when a site says "sea view" it usually means to the East, not the sunset side. Do NOT choose hotel on East side of the isle, since the Famous View is the main reason to go to Santorini. It will be costly, but compensate by a shorter stay (3 days?). And if you can't find, or can't afford, rooms with a view, sometimes there's a roof terrace where all can gather. On west main choices are Oia,Fira town, Imervogli, Firostephani. Oia is super-costly, Fira is super-crowded, Imervogli is quiet, but usually requires car rental (and only 5 can legally fit in a car in Greece). Firostephani, IMHO is the "goldilocks choice" -- many many hotels w. caldera views with the Plus of being an easy walk into Fira Town & back, for shopping, museums, nightlife. A pool hotel? (and it's HOT in July) alas, prepare to pay $$$. In Oia, there's a Hotel Anemomilos?? where nonresidents can use pool for a fee or buying lunch there.

• AGENCIES vs DIY - Agencies are more expensive, that's right. After all, they have to make a living, and they'll recommend hotels that pay commissions. Also, their job is doing the work FOR you. It's the old story; either spend money, or time. A wonderful trip D-I-Y is very possible, it just means putting in some hours, and making some decisions ASAP, due to your timing for High Season. Good luck! Get transport figured first and as stanbr says, this forum can comment on your hotel list.
• HAPPY PS -- re Mykonos - you actually can have your cake & eat it too, if you stay on Naxos. There's an excursion company there that runs 2 day-trips per week; you spend 3 hours on Delos, a few hours in Mykonos town or at the beach, and you're back in Naxos by dinnertime.

Posted by
47 posts

Janet and stanbr I can't thank you enough. You are so specific with details which is really helpful. This is what I was/am looking for. My daughter was sitting besides me and she read the responses and exclaimed accordingly using expression like OMG and how cute. :). Her age!!

I will again follow the advice and suggestions. Janet you are right about about DIY or a Travel agency. I read somewhere that ferry schedule are unpredictable in Greece, transfers could be a problem etc. so right now I am leaning towards a travel agency. I will make a decision on Monay. And you are right rooms are going fast as I checked last night on booking.com.

But thank you both so much again!

Posted by
2898 posts

Glad we could be helpful! If you do decide on using an agency, remember -- Specifics, Specifics, Specifics. People who are not pleased with an agency are people who don't make it clear what they really want. And one thing that will for sure save you a few bucks in an agency package -- tell them that you don't need "transfers" from hotel to ferry, ferry to hotel. A transfer really means a car or taxi with a guy holding a sign with yur name on it. If you have enough leg strength to get to the curb, and enough arm strength to wave at the first taxi in the line... you can transfer yourselves, at a savings. And remember: mail to 2-3 agencies same time, then compare quickness of response, hotel choices and quotes.

Beware of "I read somewhere" ... The area where you are going the Central Cyclades islands ... is well served by dependable ferries, so do not fret. And don't buy tickets online ... Stanbr said, when you arrive at one place (i.e., Santorini) get your tickets to the next stop. There is one precaution -- do not fly or ferry back to mainland on same day as your homeboound flight ... but you'll be doing Athens last anyway.

Posted by
2898 posts

Thanks, N-S-T; it's because I care about people enjoying Greece as much as I have. I fell in love with Greece when I was a teenager ... and then Life Got in the Way. Decades later, after raising 2 kids, and a career, I finally was able to go, and a new chapter in my life opened. I've been to Greece 12 times (on 9 budgeteering trips taking along 3-4 "travel-pals" who helped defray my airfare). No 2017 trip alas; will miss my annual Naxian reunion w Stanbr & spouse, and other forum regulars who have become friends over the years. Fingers-crossed about managing one final trip. But can't help browsing the travel forums, and helping newcomers to realize some of the experiences that have given me joy.