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Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Athens Itinerary Feedback

Hi!

Looking to plan a trip to Greece in late May / early June. (I know a little last minute). We are a married couple in our early thirties. We like history, cool towns, good food/drinks, beach time, and “light” hiking. Not so into clubbing/bars. In terms of budget - not looking to break the bank but want to enjoy vacation. We haven’t heard great things from our friends about Athens so wanted to do it at the beginning of our trip and save the best for last...

We are thinking the following for itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Athens
Day 2: Athens (Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Natl Archaeological Museum (if needed?) and Acropolis Museum over Day 1-3)
Day 3: Day in Athens, early evening Flight or Ferry to Paros
Day 4: Paros
Day 5: Paros
Day 6: Day in Paros , Ferry to Naxos
Day 7: Naxos
Day 8: Naxos
Day 9: Day in Naxos, Ferry to Santorini
Day 10: Santorini
Day 11: Santorini
Day 12: Fly Home

Any adjustments in time or order suggested? We definitely want to do Santorini. Are Naxos and Paros too similar and should I pick a different island (Milos or leave this set of islands entirely - Crete?)? Or a mainland town (Nafplio maybe) instead? We are thinking to skip Mykonos so we aren’t doing two big tourist islands although Delos sounded interesting...

Thanks for the feedback!

Laura

PS saw Janet has weighed in on many posts and has a lot of experience, if she wants to chime in!

Posted by
7473 posts

Day 11: Santorini
Day 12: Fly Home

Is your flight home a single booking from Santorini?

Separate flight bookings of Santorini to ATH, and then ATH-USA on the same day could be unwise.

You may want to spend your days in Athens at the end of your trip to assure you get to ATH in time for the flight home.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks Joe. I had read others express concern about Ferry delays, but is it really likely that the flight would get cancelled from Santorini to Athens? We tend to like city then islands on vacations. We were thinking to plan at least 4.5 hours of a layover in Athens...

Posted by
2568 posts

Yes you ARE late in planning, so be prepared to pay more... and the logistics get complicated because of Limited flights except for Santorini (which you may pay thru the nose for). If you want help at this late date you need to give us DATES not just "Day 1" -- it affects transport AND (in case of Santorini) the Crowd factor. So, I'll come back on Friday IF you tell us
• DATE and TIME of DAY you arrive Athens • DATE and TIME of Day your homeboundFlight leaves on Day 12
• Have you checked what flights are available coming back to ATH from Santorini??? This is June-- Bridezilla Month!! Beware!
-- also, just out of curiousity, why would you go BACK to Paros when it's farther from Santorini than Naxos is??

As for your series of questions - my opinion is Yes, choose Naxos, trade off Paros for Milos. You could see Delos on a day-excursion from Naxos. You dont have time to touch crete. Your best Island transit sequence might be Milos - Santorini - Naxos depending on flight availabilities. (See why real dates matter?)

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks for the feedback. I didn’t put exact dates as I haven’t booked the flights yet and wanted timing and location feedback before doing so.

Two flights I have seen are:

May 27 arrive in Athens 4:40
June 6 depart Athens 2:15
June
OR
May 20 arrive in Athens 1:55
May 30 depart Athens 2:15

In your opinion is Memorial Day weekend worse for crowds? We wanted to benefit from the extra day off.

The Paros back was a typing mistake, I now changed it in my post. Why do you suggest Milos over Paros? Is 3 nights still appropriate?

Posted by
7473 posts

The US Memorial Day, is just that, a US holiday. The Memorial Day observed in the US is not observed elsewhere as a National holiday.

You need not worry about its affect on crowds in Greece.

Posted by
79 posts

I happen to love Athens! There is tons to do and some lovely neighborhoods if you get out of the Plaka. Yes, Athens is a big city. Think of it as a combination of D.C. and New York, since it is the center of Greek politics, finance, fashion, entertainment, etc. There are holidays and protests and celebrations and chaos. Modern Greek urban life at its finest!

The Archaeological Museum is a must, in my opinion. They have some stunning sculpture from the Classical period (Poseidon/Zeus in bronze, the Jockey...), as well as all of the Mycenean burial masks and grave goods. They also have some of the Minoan finds and frescoes (my favorites). Having said that, what are your interests? There is a great Cycladic art museum and a Byzantine art museum. If you need a walk, head up Mt. Lycabettos for a nice view.

Crete is great, and big, and beautiful, but you would really want to fly, and how many flights do you want to take during this trip? I have only been to Paros and Naxos for a day or so each, and that was enough for me...but then I am a museum junkie and possibly a reincarnated Minoan, so I have definite preferences! :) Have a fantastic trip!

Posted by
614 posts

We are flying home Santorini-Athens (Aegean) Athens-Montreal (Air Canada) all in one day on separate tickets, and am not stressed about it. We have 4 hours to connect in Athens.

Posted by
829 posts

None of the people doing same day connections were stressed until the airline announced a mechanical problem with the aircraft. 6 couples missed their connections. Chances are good you will make the connections but stuff happens. Expensive lesson.

Posted by
2568 posts

OK, you asked my advice/opinion here it is:

Do NOT start with Athens, as if it is medicine you must swallow in order to get dessert (islands)!! It has amazing landmarks that you will appreciate MUCH MORE at end of your trip. ALso "we haven't heard great things from our friends" -- what were circumstances? Visit in hottest part of summer? A one-day rushed tour from a cruise? A random wander by people who have NO prep, or interest in history? One must always consider the source. Here are the main factors we "vets" cite, for saving Athens at the end:
Athens, like any national capital, is big & bustling; if one is completely new to ANY country it can take awhile to cope. However, after a few days in the isles, you get the hang of how Greece works, you'll be revitalized, savvy, able to make the most of a vibrant city efficiently, enjoyably & quickly and you'll appreciate what you see .. it will be the BEST at the last.
Your friends may have stayed in a big chain hotel (on points?), where they had to taxi to sightsee. If you stay in acropolis area, you walk everywhere, it's all lovely, almost no traffic, very relaxing! Just as eye candy, see Fab area photo album from RS regular Stanbr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632121475515/ Tell me it's not charming!!
You really only have NINE days (plus a few hrs on day 1), not 12 -- and every hour is precious. Much more time-efficient to connect immediately to flight to an island. Even so, You’ll have to limit yourself, realistically, to 2 islands plus Athens. Otherwise, your holiday will be a blur of check-ins/check-outs, waiting at port/airport, getting on/getting off.

The best flight connections — tho most $$ — is Santorini (a 50 minute trip) on May 20 OR May 27 y08 can connect at 15:40 (3:40) or 17:15 (5:15pm) From Santorini there are daily 2-hour ferry rides to either Naxos or Milos … for return to ATH by plane there are late-afternoon flights from both Naxos & Milos on Sunday May 27 or June 3… thus giving you 2 full days at the end (3 nights in Athens. CAUTION - do Not Dither about booking flights, remember this is Bridezilla season, and once these flights are gone, your logistics become impossible.

Some possible Scenarios and Plusse for either Naxos or Milos:

  • SANTORINI (3-4 nights) - NAXOS (-4 nights) - ATHENS (3 nights)
    NAXOS has best hikes on offer – Also, 10 miles of golden sand beaches all in a row reachable via excellent bus network,– one beach directly next to port town, walkable to all sights, cafes, nightlife, a good place to stay Late may, not overcrowded – in a 1-day car rental you can see dramatic landscapes, mountain villages, vineyards etc – Naxos also has day-excursions enabling you to see BOTH Delos and Mykonos & be back for sunset

  • SANTORINI (3-4 nights) - MILOS (3 -4 nights) - ATHENS (3 nights)
    MILOS has TWENTY-TWO different beaches to explore, car needed because bus system is lame – If you want nightlife & big choice of cafes etc, best to stay in/near port town (Adamas), otherwise Pollonia is lovely village on a beach - BIG treat: group day-sails around edge of island, half-day or full day, swims & BBQ in coves, views of remarkable volcanic formations

PAROS? You could substitute it for NAXOS, it has many enthusiasts & I've been there at least 4 times ... I find it harder to get to best beaches via bus, the beach next to port is mediocre IMO, and port town & area not as interesting/attractive as Naxos, again just my opinion. Naoussa (village) very "picturesque" but to me seems like a movie set, again IMO. I"m a great fan of Antiparos, wonderful charm for even short (2-day) stay, completely walkable, the evening scene at harbor and down its Agora (market lane) can be magical.

Posted by
614 posts

If the worst thing that happens to you is you get to spend an extra day in Athens before going back to work, paid for by your trip interruption insurance, then life is good.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks for the feedback!

We are so excited about Naxos after doing additional research we are considering extending the trip so we can do Athens, Santorini, and one more island. I think there is a compelling case for Athens last so we will reconsider there too :). Also to note for ferries and flights - we are not great early birds.

May 27 - land at 4:40pm
June 9 - depart at 11:50am

Which order of islands should we do? Are there any other island besides Milos we should consider for our 3rd island? We will do the 3 nights in Santorini, Naxos, and Athens (get to Athens in the evening), (and Milos if that is our 3rd island). I looked into the boat tours in Milos is there any issue them if the water is too cold to go swimming? If we have a 4th night should we add it to Santorini or Naxos?

Thanks so much!

Posted by
2568 posts

. If you choose Milos as y our 3rd Island -- what is all this about water being too cold in Mid-may? I swam off a boat on May 20 and it was just fine even in deep water ... and off a beach, nicer still. Of course I'm used to swimming off NJ, NJ, and CT, and you may be from FLA & only comfy in bath-water temps.

As regards another option for your 3rd Island -- Antiparos is charming for 2 days and easy to reach from Naxos -- 1 hr ferry to Paros, then a 10-minute bus to a mini-ferry(another 10 minutes) to Antiparos. Completely walkable to sandy uncrowded beaches (with sloops anchored offshore) Get a balcony room at Mikes Place or Sunday Hotel, looking across a little bay at the tiny pier (which lights up at night like a county fair!). Walking the flagstoned mazy agora lane at night, past cafes and shops, is Magic. YOu could spend part of the day exploring Parikia (Paros' port town) then zip back to cute Antiparos.

About Island sequence -- did I not already give you suggested sequence in above posting?? Plus available transport AND times (any more and I'll ask commission as your travel agent, lol) If Milos is #3, its Santorini - Milos - Naxos. IF Antiparos its Santorini - Naxos - Antiparos (then zip to Paros for Flight to ATH). NOTE - You must not DITHER about decisions and flight-bookings ... these flights are nearly full now, and if you lose out, your ambitious plans become impossible.

About what pllace to give the 4th night: Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades ... Santorini is 12 miles long. ... so if u are going to give a 4th night to an island ....

PS: Last year Trip Advisor issued its list of The Ten Top Islands in the World, to visit .... In the combined Mediterranean/Aegean, only one island was named. It was not Ibiza, it was not Capri, it was not Santorini or Mykonos It was Naxos. Go there before the whole world gets there.... and stay as long as you can.

Posted by
1814 posts

There is a really good boat tour on Antiparos, too — Lazy Day with Captain Ben. Rave reviews on Trip Advisor. Consider booking ahead (no deposit needed).

Posted by
28 posts

Ok thanks everybody, this was really helpful! I will have to make the tough decision between Milos or Paros/Antiparos. :)

Last question before I book flights - how much time do I need between landing in Athens and taking off for Santorini? Is 1.5 hours sufficient or should I do 3 hours? I think the flight mentioned in above postings is only 45 minutes after I land, which feels a little close?

Posted by
2568 posts

1.5 hours should be sufficient, because it's late may, not July-August ... be well-organized, do not dither or lag getting off the plane, trot briskly to get in front of line at passport control.... If there's a wait at the baggage carousel, one of you can whisk off to the ATM Machine & get in line for Aegean Check-in, while the other fetches your 2 checked bags.

Posted by
28 posts

Hi again, sorry for the additional questions. I am now on to booking hotels and I think I have a problem with ferries on the proposed intinerary, revised below.

May 27 arrive in Santorini at 4:25pm
May 28 Santorini
May 29 Santorini
May 30 Ferry to Milos 12:30-2:30 (proposed not purchased)
May 31 Milos
June 1 Milos
June 2 - want to go to Naxos but no Ferry option??
June 3 Naxos
June 4 Naxos
June 5 Naxos
June 6 fly to Athens
June 7 Athens
June 8 Athens
June 9 fly back to US

Doesn’t look like timing is good if I switch the Naxos and Milos order here either. Are they not a good combo?

Janet - do you mind pointing on my mistake in following the recommendations here?

Thanks!

Posted by
2568 posts

Laura, your big problem as the last person said, is that you are trying to link islands in 2 different chains... and Santorini is the middle link-connector. The logical thing would be to do Milos FIRST - then SANTo - THen Naxos. But you have made that impossible by choosing a US-Greece flight that does not arrive in ATH until 4:25 ... and at that point, the only island that has later flights is Santorini.

Therefore, you do not have a good connection.... that Milos-Naxos ship on June 2 is a slowpoke that stops at 5 islands and takes 6 hours! no way to waste a day. I am sorry if I misled you that this would be an easier connection... in High Season there are ferries that leave Milos go direct to Santorini, then on to Naxos ... but May-june, aplparently not. There are 2 ways to solve your problem & still include Milos, the Hard Way & the Easy Way:

• The HARD WAY -- Naxos 2nd, Milos 3rd. Fly Santorini May 27, Fery Nax May 30 either 10:30am -or 3:15pm THEN on JUn3 , backtrack to SANTO on 10:40ferry arrive 11:55. Jump off boat onto pier, get in line to board ferry for Milos dep 12:30 ar 14:30(2:30). a 4 hour trip & hope the 2nd ferry is a bit late arriving Santo, to give a tad more breathing room.
• The EASY WAY (if you have not yet Booked your Internatl flight) -- Choose an overseas Flight Itinerary that arrives by 1 pm... then you can connect with a 15:25 (3:25pm) flight to MILOS (€99) that same day. After that, you could easily find daily AM connection to Santorini, and many daily choices onward to Naxos. An earlier-in-day ATH arrival It may cost you more than the flights you have mentioned, but it would save you a lot of hassle

Posted by
28 posts

Thank you all. Will re-evaluate.

I remember reading somewhere here that some ferries are very suspectible to winds and can be uncomfortable rides. For example, on May 30 there is a 10:05-12:20 ferry from Milos to Santorini but it is a SeaJet 2 and I think I read to avoid this. The other times are 1am or 10pm and we would rather not take middle of the night flights. Any advice here?

Posted by
2568 posts

Yes Laura, I see that 10:05 departure. And yes, people have warned against smaller catamarans (400 passenger capacity/no cars)), as being a bumpier ride if sea acts up. However, I'd be inclined to take the chance on this occasion for these reasons
• Windy seas are more common as the summer wears on, and mostly late May/Early June, it can be like glass • Windy waves occur most often on longer stretches in the Open seas... and this itinerary is v short hops, sheltered from open sea - Folegandros - Ios - Santorini.
• This sailing is SO convenient for your schedule. Book a seat by windows, towards the back of the vessel. You'll be just fine.

Posted by
28 posts

Ok thanks Janet that definitely eases my mind about the ferry.

For hotels in Santorini, I’ve read here about staying in Firostefani and utilizing booking.com. I really want to find a hotel with a Caldera view for under $200 a night. I found the booking.com descriptions aren’t always clear if the room actually has the Caldera view. I have gone ahead and emailed some hotels directly, but in the interim any hotel suggestions? May 30 - June 2.