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Need help deciding which islands to choose!


Am traveling solo to Greece from July 27 to August 6th. I will have 10 nights or 9 full days. I am mainly interested in the islands. I am currently in Switzerland and haven’t booked my plane tickets yet since I’m not sure which island.

I am interested in seeing the most beautiful beaches (turquoise waters), doing some exploration and hiking in the morning when it’s not too hot. I am not interested in partying despite being in my 20s.

So far I don’t think I want to visit Santorini due to the “instagram” crowds. It seems like Milos has the best beaches? And Naxos has a bit of everything? So does Crete. I hear that Naxos and Paros are good pairings.

Any advice for narrowing down my choices based on my interests of seeing absolutely gorgeous beaches and maybe doing a little hiking?

Posted by
1810 posts

On July 27 if you find a flight that arrives early enough in Athens you have two options:

Option 1:
Book a "Switzerland-Island" flight (via Athens) with Aegean or Swiss
This way you will only have one ticket.

From Zürich
you can go to Paros or Milos or Naxos, from Geneva only Paros and Naxos are possible

Paros, Milos and Naxos are the islands with an Airport (I'm eliminating Santorini and Mykonos which are obviously not for you).

Option 2:

Also if your flight arrives in Athens early enough
is to take a ferry (there are still a few in the afternoon)
It takes about 1h30 to reach the port of Piraeus from the airport
and about 45 minutes to reach the port of Rafina.

Milos, Naxos and Paros all have beautiful beaches.
For hiking Milos is less interesting but has more "lunar" landscapes

In August know that you will see many many many people on these 3 islands.

Other islands are very interesting for turquoise beaches and hiking.

-Amorgos, the island of the film "The Big Blue"

-Sifnos: a splendid island with its blue and white villages, its beaches, dozens of possible hikes to secluded coves with turquoise waters and fortunately less crowded with tourists.

Kimolos a very small island also preserved from mass tourism which is easily accessible from Milos

Some examples of what you will find on these islands:




Serifos and Tinos could also interest you but too much choice kills the choice

It's up to you. Stay 4 nights on one island, another 4 nights on another island then return to Athens to spend at least a night or two there before returning home.

Posted by
1157 posts

Lots of options for islands from over-the-top Big Name ones to lesser known ones.

With 9 full days you could split your time between two islands but they would have to be close to each other and on the same ferry run.

I've combined:

Other islands I've spent my entire trip at:

My top three favorite islands have been:




All my trips have been in October, usually the first half but some mid-to-late October so my experiences have been when there are far less tourists, the weather mild without the heat, sunny, some rain but no washouts and the Aegean still warm from the summer heat.

Unfortunately when you'll be there will be the height of tourist season so they'll be crowds regardless of the islands you choose but if you choose carefully you may find some islands less glitzy/glossy than others and maybe more of a "Greek" experience rather than a tourist one.

Posted by
128 posts

Update: I didn’t know this but apparently you need an international drivers license to rent a car in Greece (didn’t know this was a thing). I’m already abroad so I can’t go to a AAA office and get it. And mailing takes 5-7 weeks.

So are Crete or Milos or Naxos or Paros okay without a car?

Posted by
1157 posts

There has been some confusion regarding the International License.

I've heard you need one and you don't need one.

The last thing you need is to get stopped by the police or worse have an accident and find out too late you do need an international license.

You may want to check with the local police department on what the requirement is before renting.

Posted by
128 posts

I’ve done the research, it seems like a gray area and some companies won’t rent you and some will. I would rather just not take the risk and choose more bus Friendly Islands if possible.

Posted by
1810 posts

I’ve done the research, it seems like a gray area and some companies
won’t rent you and some will. I would rather just not take the risk
and choose more bus Friendly Islands if possible.

It is not a gray area. for many months the international driving license is no longer necessary in Greece for US, Canadian and Australian citizens.

Here is the text from the United States Embassy in Greece:

U.S. citizen tourists/temporary residents with stays less than six months with a valid United States driver’s license can drive in Greece with their U.S. license.

source here:

Posted by
1157 posts

The US Embassy may say that but from some of the Greek car rental agencies I've contacted they still want an International Driver's Permit and haven't heard otherwise.

Posted by
128 posts

some of the Greek car rental agencies I've contacted they still want an International Driver's Permit and haven't heard otherwise.

Was this recently that you contacted them?

Posted by
515 posts

I have gotten the international driver's license twice from AAA. Its not really a license at all. Its a document that essentially translate your US license into several other languages. I think its mainly a translation of the information on your US drivers license. Its only good for a year no matter when your license expires.

Posted by
1810 posts

A car rental company in Greece may sometimes refuse a US national license in Greece but this is not legal.

The international permit is no longer necessary for American citizens, the Consulate General of Greece in New York posted this information on its Facebook account in November 2021.

For details of the law see below ( paragraph g )

Article 94 of Greek Law No. 4850/2021 (November 5, 2021)
specifies that are authorized to drive:

Paragraph b/

Holders of a valid international driving license issued by any state except Greece and not having their habitual residence in Greece.

Paragraph g/

Holders of a valid driver's license for motorcycles and passenger cars during their stay in Greece, and whose driver's license was issued by the United States of America or Canada or the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth of America and Gibraltar.

Holders of a valid driver's license for motorcycles, quadricycles and passenger cars that do not have their habitual residence in Greece and whose license was issued by a state in which no international driving license is issued.

Official source (in Greek):

So if the rental company talks to you about an international permit, tell him about this legal text.

By visiting the internet pages of the rental companies, see the section "Terms & Conditions"
And contact them if it is not clear because sometimes the updates are not made in these sections

Hertz Greece's Terms & Conditions clearly state that only a National driving license is required for US citizens:

Another anecdotal experience: I rented a car 3 months ago in Greece (on an island). The rental company did not even ask me to see my driver license (which is a European license).

So, a personal experience is not to be considered as a general rule

Posted by
1157 posts

I just got three responses from car rental companies I looked into.

All three stated US citizens don't need the International Drivers Permit (IDP) just their US driver's license.

Posted by
1603 posts

We rented a car in 3 different places in Greece this past May. One of the car rental companies, Tony's on Santorini, reminded me several times by email that we needed the International Driver's Permit. My husband and I don't remember if Tony specifically asked to see it but we showed it anyways. It doesn't cost a lot of money so I suggest that to be on the safe side, get one. This way you have it if you need it.

Just realized you are in Greece now. We rented a car on Naxos and I don't think that car rental agency asked for the IDP. So hopefully the posters who say you don't need it are correct.

Posted by
1157 posts

Re: Driver's Permit:

Apparently there is still some confusion regarding whether you need the permit depending on where you are in Greece.

For the low cost of the permit in the US anyway it may be a good idea to get it "just in case"

Posted by
128 posts

Unfortunately I can’t get an IDP since I’m already in Europe (Switzerland). Will be going to Greece soon.

I’m just gonna hope I get lucky. I’ll call ahead and ask. But first gotta decide an island 😂

Posted by
1810 posts

There are many tourists this year in Greece, more than in 2019 in the pre-covid period which was already a record. Greece is expecting more than one million visitors in the first week of August, So once you've made up your mind about the island, find accommodation, If it's a family business that runs a small hotel or rents studios ask their if they know a car rental company with cars available.

Large hotels or resort-type accommodation can also find you a car but they will charge you a supplement added to the rental price
Cars will be in high demand so know that you can also rent a scooter.

Posted by
1157 posts

More on the Driving Permits from a company in Nafplio I'll be renting from even though they say there is a new law allowing US citizens to rent a car just with their regular driver's license:

"we are still suggesting our clients have a international permit"

Posted by
128 posts

Hey folks, I decided I’m most likely gonna do Naxos and Paros. Gonna call the rental car companies and inquire about the IDP.

Also my friend told me I shouldn’t miss Delphi/Meteora, would it be worth taking time out (1-2 nights of the islands to see it?)

Posted by
1810 posts

I think you have no idea of ​​distances and travel times,

It's like I said "from Martha's Vineyard, can I take a day or two off to see Phoenix and the Grand Canyon?"

Posted by
128 posts

Except it’s not the distance from Arizona to Massachusetts. That would take days of driving.

There are tour companies that do day trips to Meteora as well as Delphi from Athens. But I decided I would rather spend my time in the islands anyway and will save the latter for another trip.

Would this be ok for an itinerary?

July 27: Flight from Istanbul to Naxos (via connection in Athens). Stay somewhere in Naxos
July 28-July 31: Naxos
August 1st: Leave early for Paros
August 2-4: Paros
August 5: Leave early for Athens, see Acropolis
August 6: Fly home

Posted by
128 posts

Haven’t booked it yet but I found a Paros to Athens flight 12:50 pm to 1:30 pm.

Another idea is spending the whole time in Naxos instead. Or is 2 islands not overkill on my limited time?

Posted by
2126 posts

I think it sounds fine. And I think you’ll be OK without a car if it turns out you need an IDP.
There are taxis & buses.

A fun thing in Paros: check out “A lazy day with Captain Ben” full day boat trip around Antiparos with stops for lunch, swimming. See if he has a spot available & if he still picks up passengers in Paros.

Posted by
128 posts

Corfu will have to wait for a later trip :/ I already made up my mind on Naxos and Paros! But it is now on my list for a 2nd Greece trip

Posted by
128 posts

“ A fun thing in Paros: check out “A lazy day with Captain Ben” full day boat trip around Antiparos with stops for lunch, swimming. See if he has a spot available & if he still picks up passengers in Paros.”

That sounds awesome! I wanted to do a boat trip really badly. I will look and see if he has spots

Posted by
1810 posts

In Paros to rent a car I usually go to either Inparos Rent a Car ( or Acropolis (
They don't have brand new shiny cars but both are well priced and will be fine with your US license.
In case of unavailability there is also Cyclades Rent A Car (
The three are in Parikia the capital near the ferry port.
Anyway there is a very good bus service in Paros.

Most of the interesting beaches in Paros are on the east coast
The biggest and best known is Golden Beach but all the other beaches north or south of this one are fine (and you'll get a great view of Naxos while swimming)

If it's too windy to stay on the beach and you don't practice Kitesurfing, go for a walk in traditional villages like Lefkes, and from Lekes go to Prodomos and Marmara. There you will be right in the authentic Cycladic Greece.

In Prodomos there is an excellent little tavern in the square at the entrance to the village: O Tsitanis

In Marmara it is the Family Tavern Ververas where you have to go, even if the exterior is not very attractive. It is near the pharmacy.

And obviously, the only place not to be missed is in Drios, at Anna's, known to all the inhabitants of Paros and lovers of authentic meals.

Fans of fancy shops and expensive restaurants go to the village of Naoussa, which tries to emulate the vibe of Mykonos. It's pretty but has become completely artificial in recent years.
You might as well stay in Parikia, which has remained more traditional despite the floods of tourists in summer.

About hikes or walks you can go to the Paros lighthouse which is located in the extreme north west of the island. There are several circuits and possibilities to stop and take a break in very small coves not indicated on paper or Google maps.
Other hikes are possible in the center of the island by following the former Byzantine road (the vegetation has sometimes disappeared due to fires in recent years) or by going to the old marble quarries (the marble of Paros is one of the most beautiful in the world and known for its qualities of transparency)

Next to these old quarries there is a tavern in the tiny village of Marathi. The tavern name is also Marathi, it is frequented mainly by locals who come with their families to eat grilled meats, fries with bread coated in olive oil, Greek atmosphere guaranteed., English spoken not guaranteed :))

I stop because anyway in 2 or 3 days you will not have time to do everything and see everything