Where else to visit in Greece besides the Cyclades

Hi! I'm in the early stages of planning a 2 week trip to Greece in late May early June. More than likely we will fly into Athens, but I'm open to other suggestions that may be more budget friendly and/or convenient. I've been reading that you can do Greece on about $100/$150 a day and would like to stay close to that, with an occasional worthwhile splurge. I've already decided that Santorini is a must and we will likely spend about 4 days there. We will probably visit Naxos with the remaining 3 days of the first week. I want to do some island hopping, but not spend all our time traveling between islands. I was hoping for suggestions of other islands to visit? Possibly another 2 islands we could split the remaining week or so between? I've considered somewhere in the Ionian Islands, but it doesn't seem like travel is convenient from Santorini over. I'm looking for places that are scenic, vibrant colors of the water, lush. Not interested in the party islands, and although I realize the crowds are drawn to the popular places, I don't mind quieter towns.
Thank you!

Posted by Lee
Oregon
1638 posts

"Lush" isn't a word I normally associate with the Greek Islands. Most of them are quite dry and some seem barren, especially when compared to tropical islands like those found in the Caribbean. Santorini, in fact, has very little vegetation but it's unique, natural beauty more than makes up for it. That said, the closest island to Santorini and Naxos with lots to see and do that does have an abundance of vegetation is Crete, although it takes a minimum of a week with a rental car just to barely scratch the surface because it's so large. If you follow your idea of not spending too much of your precious time moving between islands the logical choices would be Paros and Antiparos. Both are lovely and have their own charm. Antiparos is quiet. Paros has a large permanent population so there's plenty to see and do there. You can do a Google Images search to take a look at them.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Diane, Island hopping in different island groups will increase your transportation times and costs. If you want to visit several islands, there are good choices within the Cyclades. Naxos and Santorini are both good choices. You could (for example) take the Ferry from Athens to Naxos, Ferry from Naxos to Santorini and then a flight with Aegean or Olympic back to Athens. If you want something a bit quieter and different, you might also consider a short visit to Hydra, which is beautiful and easily accessed from Athens. I'd suggest having a look at Matt Barrett's excellent www.greecetravel.com website, as that has a good description of each of the islands. That might help you in choosing islands that best fit your preferences. I also don't find the islands too "lush" although they are incredibly scenic. On Santorini the vineyards appear as if they're growing in the middle of crushed gravel (I believe it's actually volcanic rock). Naxos is also a beautiful island (largest in the Cyclades) and has some interesting sights. I wouldn't categorize it as a "party island", but the restaurants along the harbour are busy in the evenings. If you visit Naxos, try to get to the village of Halki and try some Kitron. It's similar to Limoncello and made from the fruit and leaves of the tree. There are three "strengths" - green, clear and yellow, with yellow being the strongest. While in Greece, you may also want to try Mastika, which is made from the resin of the Mastic tree. It has kind of a "pine" taste and is quite distinctive. I used one of the Greek travel agencies listed on the Greece travel website to make hotel, transportation and transfer arrangements for my island visits, and they were excellent. Happy travels!

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2386 posts

While in Greece, you may also want to try Mastika, which is made from the resin of the Mastic tree. It has kind of a "pine" taste and is quite distinctive. Spellings vary, often it is spelled Mastiha or Masticha. It is made from resin from the mastic tree, but it doesn't have a pine flavor. It is quite sweet, with an almost turpentine aroma. Definitely worth trying; it is one of my favorite liquors and finally available in the US. "Mastika" liquor should not be confused with Mastiha. Mastika is a Balkan regional liquor that has anise flavoring, more like ouzo. Pine resin flavored drinks include retsina wine. Worth trying once and more if you like it. Many people do not like it. Another unusual Greek liquor is Tentura or Tentoura. It is from Patras and has a cinnamon and clove aroma and flavor. Quite wonderful.

Posted by Diane
Lakewood, CO, United States
14 posts

Thank you all so much for your responses! Planning a trip to the islands is a little overwhelming! There are so many possibilities and I don't want to miss out on anything. I'll be doing some research on your suggestions :)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

@Douglas, "It is made from resin from the mastic tree, but it doesn't have a pine flavor." It was my impression after trying some that it had a pine flavour - YMMV. @Diane, You'll probably also want to try Ouzo. Be careful as it kind of "sneaks up" on you!

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

I was just in Corfu and it was pretty lush especially when compared to Santorini and Mykonos. The beaches there are beautiful. It's a small island but there are many different areas with differing landscapes and vibes.

Posted by Lisa
White Plains, NY, USA
491 posts

I was just in Corfu and it was pretty lush especially when compared to Santorini and Mykonos. The beaches there are beautiful. It's a small island but there are many different areas with differing landscapes and vibes.

Posted by Charyl
Winter Springs, FL, USA
8 posts

We loved Mykonos, Rhodes, and Patmos. Would definitely see Mykonos; in fact, we are headed back there this spring.

Posted by Diane
Lakewood, CO, United States
14 posts

Thank you all for the replies! We have decided to add Paros and Antiparos to the trip!

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

If you want "lush" you have to go to Pelion (mainland, between Thessaloniki and Athens). It's stunningly lush and absolutely breathtaking, almost tropical feeling in parts, up on the mountain it was like a cloud forest, with some of the best beaches I've seen in my life. Very quiet on the whole - when it did get noisy, it was locals having a baptism party, not tourists. But you'll want to make sure you have someone who's comfortable driving on twisty narrow roads. As for prices, is your $100-%150 day including hotel? We were there in off season and paid 50 euro for hotel, averaged between 25 and 40 for sit down dinner. That's in euros, though, not dollars. Ferries aren't that cheap - the more you travel around, the more it will cost.