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Santorini or Naxos for family with teens? July 2016

We are headed to Greece July 4-11 with the plan to start in Athens for 2 days and then stay on an island for a few days. This is a portion of a month-long visit to Europe, starting in Spain before Greece and moving next to Italy (via Munich - picking up a friend) and ending with a couple days in London.

I keep seeing here the recommendation to do Naxos instead of Santorini, especially with 'kids' (16 and 14). We are pretty interested in Akrotiri on Santorini and the side trip to Thirasia, but are still open to Naxos. We have votes for: a town to walk in, beach access, views, hikes, ancient sites, and water activity (snorkel, kayak). We're not into nightlife, but want a little bit of activity to keep us busy.

I really need to nail down some trip details so we don't run out of options, but we're really stuck on this decision. (Also, we were thinking of doing airbnb to get a little more space to spread out in. A month together is a long time and personal space would be nice, especially this is supposed to be the most 'relaxing' portion of the trip.)

Thanks so much!

Posted by
10 posts

Also, we just got interested in Amorgos... but aren't sure how accessible it is or if there are enough little town shops to keep people interested. Looks beautiful, though!

Posted by
2898 posts

Hello Amya! Time to get busy -- island transport AND lodging for fam of 4 in Hi Season already a challenge! But guess what?? I just now spent a few minutes clicking links & I think I may have a perfect answer for you (see last paragraph) -- But u would need to act FAST, to book choice lodging (no-risk, because of free cancellation).

I DO agree strongly that w. kids the age of yours NAXOS is STILL the best choice. IF you can find Lodging. It’s the only island that fills your wish list so well, and is family friendly, tons of teens, they wander at will, safely, & parents can relax.

Of course as others point out, it makes it easier IF you could fly direct from Spain To a Greek Isle — but on other hand that makes the destination that much MORE crowded and believe me, in July the “major-airport islands” will be JAMPACKED Naxos only has a small airport, 2-3 flights a day, and NO cruise ships arriving w. 3000+ passenger (eeek). Thus, while its busy, it's not crammed! And lodging prices will be about half of Santorini.

IF you want to be most time-efficient, you really need to head for island FIRST, immediately on arrival, and do Athens last. And in this regard (remember for the future) it’s important What time you arrive at ATH airport — it greatly affects options. Here’s where you stand w. Flights to Naxos vs. Ferry to Naxos

FLIGHTS - €109 ($125?) p person: small modern plane; on July 4 there still is room for 4 on flights @12:55 and 17:35 (5:35 pm). U need to check in 1 hr ahead. If yr flight from spain arrives late Aft u’d need to stay near airport in PM and take July 5 flight at 6:10 am (not w teens!) or 10:30 am.
FERRY - closest ferry port, RAFINA, about 30 mins by taxi. There are daily fast-ferries (?40€ per?) at 3:45 & 4:45pm (3 hr trip). If your Flight from Spain lands afternoon, you could stay in Rafina for evening (pleasant little town) and get an early AM ferry on July 5. NOTE: if you do decide to use this ferry option, because it's high season, it's a good idea to reserve tickets online thru Amphitrion Agency at airport, and pick up tickets on arrival.

LODGING — Starting this late, for apt in HI Season, it’s going to be almost impossible even w. airbnb, to find an apt for 4 with sep BR, that’s on or walkable to best beaches for you (St George or Ag Prokopios). In Naxos, big places tend to be inland (historical reasons: it started out as v. budget-friendly island, so beachfront filled up w. modest family-run hotels, and when demand rose for villas & apts, they had to be built farther, many not walkable to beach). Thus you'd have to rent a car. Worse than that, kids don't drive. Thus, every time you & husband wanted to relax on patio, kids would be whining to go to beach. Best to have a place that’s WALKABLE to beach. That said, there is a very useful near-beach or on-beach option — side by side “studio units.” This is very nice, esp. for families like yours in a small place w only 8 -12 units. FLASH!! On booking.com just saw there are 2 units left at SUN BEACH HOtel… only a few yards from sand at St. George beach, for July 4 - 9. No advance deposit & FREE cancellation… I strongly urge to book NOW — if you have to “tweak” dates later, no problemo! No-risk situation. (Amazingly, last week I helped another family find Sun Beach for SAME week w 2 kids 11-13!) Even if that's filled up, there are other such units in small lodgings; look at Booking.com St. George beach asking for 2 rooms for 4 adults (yes they count as adults).

PS: Staying on Naxos you STILL could see Santorini's "Famous View" (caldera/cliffside) because Naxos, unlike most islands, has day-excursions to Santorini 2x a week.

PPS: after your island stay, u can take Blue Star Ferry 6 pm to Piraeus (arr 11:30) and taxi to Plaka-area hotel in Athens. U'd have to check out of rooms @noon but hotelier can stash yr bags & it would give u a last afternoon on the beach!

Posted by
1018 posts

Well Janet has said absolutely everything I would normally say.
I can add that when our kids were the same age as yours we took them to Greece. We did Naxos then Santorini. While they loved the views on Santorini they were both of the opinion that they would have preferred to stay on Naxos than to have the time in Santorini.
You can do that Santorini excursion from Naxos. That way you get a Santorini experience without having to pay Santorini hotel prices.
Here is what you will get in Naxos.

Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you, that really helped clarify. We'll definitely choose Naxos with a possible day-trip to Santorini. Now to look at flight/ferry options to see if we can make it to the island first and see about lodging. I was surprised yesterday when my most personal-space-conscious teen said they preferred proximity to town/beach over more room to spread out. So maybe a hotel could work out.
Also, our flight out would be to Munich, not London yet.

Posted by
10 posts

Out of curiosity, why do you recommend the Rafina ferry vs the Piraeus ferry to Naxos?

Posted by
2898 posts

REGARDING FERRY --
I recommended Rafina in the absence of enough information from you ... you didn't say When you'd arrive or from where.

The Blue Star Ferry from Piraeus also leaves at 5:45 pm but takes much longer to reach Piraeus from Airport Also, Blue Star (while a lovely vessel) doesn't arrive until 22:45, fully 3 hours later than the Rafina one.

As I advised before I think you should try to book the Sun Beach place NOW, even before you have the transport sorted. As I pointed out, it is NO-RISK because you can cancel without penalty. So it's a safe fallback, and as we keep trying to remind you, you are seeking Prime beach accommodation in the height of High Season... when most families start much earlier to get the best choice. So please do not dither! I don't want to see u coming back tomorrow and saying, oh, well, that Sun Beach thing was gone, give me another one just as good!

Also I myself (having had teens) am not surprised that being near town/beach is more important to him/her than spacious lodgings to spread out in. That's because teens don't want to be with parents! They want to be with their cohort! Sad news but true, LOL.

Posted by
10 posts

Ok, thank you. That makes sense. In researching flight and ferry times, it ends up better for us to start in Athens after all. (Flights from Madrid were tight and come later in the day.) We can get a flight from Naxos to Munich (with a layover in Athens, of course) with a reasonable departure time, so that was nice. I ended up finding a house on airbnb that was closer in to town than I expected. It was more expensive than many of the hotels, but not all and will provide the room to relax and spread out if needed. Thanks again for all the advice.