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Seeking wise travelers' input on Greece trip: Athens, Crete, Naxos

We're looking at roughly two weeks to Greece in September, making all bookings ourselves. Plan so far is to fly into Athens from Boston, two quick days in Athens, then fly to Chania on Crete for six days at an AirBnB, gorge hopping and making daytrips to Heraklion, Rhythemno, etc. Then ferry or fly to Naxos and bake at a beachfront place for the better part of a week before returning to Athens and home. My first visit to Greece, so all advice and/or thoughts welcome. Specifically:

Would it make more sense to go directly to Crete (by flying from the US to Santorini and taking a ferry)?

Are there areas/neighborhoods of Chania and Naxos that are particularly recommended to stay in? Any we should avoid?

Generally speaking, are the island-hopper flights the best way to get around or do people recommend the ferries (unless there's a time issue, of course)?

I'm assuming that rental cars are easy to come by in Chania and on Naxos. Anything else I need to know on the driving-in-Greece front? Taxis will be enough for our brief Athens stays.

I have plenty of other questions but in general we could use a reality check on our plans. Thank you! TB

Posted by
9632 posts

I would give Athens at least one more day.
Chania is a wonderful base. We spent two weeks there and explored western Crete including two nights on the south coast in Loutro.

Posted by
943 posts

Would it make more sense to go straight to Crete (flying from the US
to Santorini and taking a ferry)?

I don't think so.
What would be more efficient is to fly to Crete as soon as you arrive in Athens (by finding a connection) and keep Athens for the end of your stay.

There is no "island hopper flights" because there are no (or almost no) possibilities to fly between the islands. Island hopping is only done by ferries.

So don't look for a flight from Crete to Naxos. The only possibility is the ferry.

An exception: the new airline "Fly-Cycladic" which connects some islands in 12-seater Cessna planes

You won't need a car in Athens.
On the islands, preferably rent with local rental companies rather than with international car rental companies

Posted by
1227 posts

Experienced travellers to Greece often recommend you do Athens last so you are on the mainland at least a day before your return flight.

I also agree with Jo Loui that you should try to find a flight to Chania the day you arrive in Athens, Getting over jet lag in Chania is way better than doing it in Athens.
I suggest you find a hotel in Chania old town. It is a maze of back alleys within the remains of the city walls. There is also the Venerian era harbour. We found an VRBO just outside the old town but with harbour views so that might work for you as well.

Car rental companies reduced their fleets during Covid and have not been able to replace that lost inventory. The sooner you find a rental the better. There are several locally owned rental companies on Crete. Find one of them for the best service. We use Autorental Crete. Great service but do shop around for some other rental companies.
Since the ferries depart Heraklion to Santorini and onward to Naxos, you should plan to be in Heraklion the night before your ferry hop.

You will love Naxos. Its is sometimes called mini Crete. It has great beaches, a dramatic old town and harbour with a maze of back alleys all leading to the Venetian era Kastro. It has great beaches as well, mountain villages and hiking.

If you are renting a car then you might want to look at one of the south coast beaches of Prokopious, Agia Anna or Plaka. The are about 7km from Naxos town so a car rental would be as good choice.
You might want to look at St George beach. Its part of Naxos town just a 10 minute stroll along the headland into the town. Its a nice sand beach with lots of hotel option.
From the reports I have seen hotels are filling up quickly (post Covid demand) You should be booking cars and hotels now.

Some images
Chania 2022.
Around Naxos town 2022
Back to Naxos 2022

Trip around Naxos
Chalki and Vivlos villages

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks to those who've replied. Further question: Would people recommend a hotel over an AirBnB in Chania town or vice versa? We're thinking it might be nice to have a concierge to help us organize day trips etc. Any specific recommendations for places to stay from those who've been? Thanks much -- Ty

Posted by
1227 posts

We have always stayed at small family owned hotels where you get to know the owner. On our last visit we used a VRBO it had a good location the price was right but we never met the owner. It was less personal.

Posted by
943 posts

Apart from the larger cities, in Greece, and especially on the islands, you will find a lot of accommodation run by local families (even more than hotels).
In these accommodations, the owners will be able to help you as well as a hotel concierge and can sometimes even provide you with services such as picking you up at the port, taking your laundry to wash it, bringing you fruit from their garden, and often for free. But if you want something more official and strictly priced, a hotel will suit you just as well.

Airbnb type accommodation is also very common. Many (not all, thankfully) are now managed by real estate professionals, You have to know how to avoid them.

That being said, in an AirBnb you will be on your own with no one to prepare and bring you your breakfast in the morning, except possibly your husband/wife :))

Choosing one or the other depends mainly on your need for independence. Everyone does as they feel.

Sorry, I wont be useful to you for Crete, my last stay there dates back to the 90s.
stanbr who has already answered you in this forum is a specialist, he can give you lots of useful tips about accommodation in Crete