We are planning on taking a 2 week RS tour to Greece in 2014. The RS tour visits Hydra at its end. When we are finished with the tour, we are planning on going to Crete for a few days, and then one or two Greek Islands. Thinking about Santorini and Naxos. This selection is not based on any research - just that Santorini looks beautiful and interesting, and Naxos looks authentic. Thinking a couple of days at each and then a return to Athens. We are not beach people but enjoy hiking and exploring. Looking for a couple of islands that exemplify "Greek Island". We are going to go in the early spring so tourist crowds should be less - hopefully. Any suggestions and ideas would be much appreciated. Tom
Keep in mind that in early Spring before Greek Easter (April 20 in 2014) ferries from Crete to other islands are infrequent at best. It might be necessary for you to fly or ferry from Crete back to Athens to get to Santorini and Naxos as that particular ferry doesn't start up until about a week before Easter. There is one possible exception, however, depending on your travel dates. The Aegon Pelagos ferry company usually runs one ship each week on Sundays between Crete (Heraklion) and Santorini. From Santorini there is at least one ferry every day to Naxos. Understand that there is no possible way to know now what the ferry schedules will be for late-spring, 2014. If Santorini and Naxos are "must-see" islands it might be wiser to forego Crete altogether in favor of another island in the Cyclades group so you don't have to deal with off-season ferry schedules.
Tom 'Authentic' is always a tricky one. One person's authentic can be another person's over-developed and vice versa. Having said that we really like Andros, which is probably off your route, Sifnos and Syros and there is good walking on all of those. For 'authenticity' I would pick Syros over Naxos. Ermopoli, the main town on Syros, is the capital of the Cyclades and therefore has a life which is not dependent on tourism. The best site I know for walking on the Cyclades is this one http://www.cycladen.be/IntroductionEng.htm Early spring is a great time to go. Have a great trip. Alan
Love your choices of Santorini and Naxos. In September 2012 we spent 28 days in Greece, among them 4 nights on Santorini and 5 on Naxos and loved both. Santorini has the most beautiful views from both Fira and Oia and the town of Oia is one of the most beautiful places we have seen. Santorini also has the ruins at Ancient Thera and Akritori. Naxos has the Kastro and old town in the town of Naxos as well as many ancient sights and small traditional villages. If you're interested in history you can take a day trip to Delos which also includes 3 hours on Mykonos, but with only 2 days on the island it's probably not worth the time. We rented a car one day in each island to be able to see the sights on our own time. We hesitated about Santorini because of all the tourists and the hype but were so glad we went. Our mainland itinerary was similar to the RS tour but we drove it ourselves and found that all of Greece was beautiful and interesting and we loved it all! We expect that you'll have a great time regardless of which islands you pick.
Tom, You may find it helpful to have a look at the excellent Greece Travel website. There's an excellent description there of all the islands. Spending a "few days" on Crete won't allow much sightseeing, as it's a LARGE island. Your choice of Naxos and Santorini would be excellent, as that's the exact route I took after finishing the RS Athens & Heart of Greece tour. Leaving Santorini for the end worked well, as it has an airport which allowed me to easily get to my next destination via Aegean Air. I used one of the travel agencies recommended on the above website, and that worked really well. They arranged hotels, transfers, ferry tickets, etc. which made that part of my trip very easy. During the RS Greece tour and on some of the islands, be prepared to buy bottled water as the tap water in some places is dreadful. Also, if you're planning to rent a car at any point on the islands, you WILL need an I.D.P. Happy travels!
Santorini and Naxos are very good ideas. Santorini, because it is one of the most beautiful places on earth and Naxos for the beaches (even if you don't swim, you can eat on them) and the locals and the backroads to explore. We rented a car on each and would do it again. The rental company can usually provide a driver's license/ID for a modest fee. The rentals were arranged by our place of lodging. If needed, plan your travel around the Orthodox Easter. It is a lovely time to be there.
Thanks much for the great input. Tom