GREAT TIPS FOR ISLAND HOPPING IN GREECE
Greece is probably my favourite holiday destination of all the places that I’ve visited so far in my life. More specifically the Cyclades, an island group southeast of mainland Greece.
So why do I love it so much? First of all, it is a very beautiful country. Their traditional white square houses with their blue painted doors and windows look amazing in front of the many breath-taking sea views. Walking around places like the narrow streets of Mykonos or the streets of Naxos Old town feels almost like you are on a movie set, not to mention when starling around Oia (the northern part of Santorini) - it’s almost too pretty to be real.
Other than that, I absolutely love the hot Mediterranean weather, the turquoise seas and the smell of the many beautiful flowers which are growing all over the place there. The people are very friendly, and the Greek cuisine is very tasty. It helps that I love their traditional food of course. Homegrown vegetables and local feta cheese making the perfect Greek salad, or a homemade moussaka filled with eggplant. Most of their food is also fairly healthy, and mostly local and therefor short travelled. They use a lot of fresh seafood that the many fishing boats capture the same day, and most of their fruit and vegetable are grown in the same town or village or on a close by island.
I do really love travelling to places like South East Asia, but I’m not a big fan of the long-haul flights and jet lag. So, the fact that you can get from London to Greece in just over three hours is a major plus for me.
Have I convinced you to visit the Cyclades yet? If so, then make sure to check out the rest of this post for some useful travel tips!
A great way to explore Greece is of course by visiting several of their islands during the same trip, rather than settling for just one. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to keep packing up your bags and be on the move, but I think it’s a way of getting way more out of your holiday. During my last trip I only stayed for 6 nights and 7 days, but as each day there was unique it felt like I was there for much longer. I was never bored, and I never did the same thing twice.
To get around from island to island you take ferries. There are several ferries going between the islands daily during their high season, and there is usually a choice between speed ones or slightly slower ones depending on how much you are willing to pay. I would recommend sticking to one island group though and in this blog post, I am only focusing on the Cyclades.
Be aware that the ferries can be quite pricey! I would, therefore, recommend looking at the different ferry options before booking your flight. Ideally, try to plan your trip around where and when the ferries are the cheapest. You just need to, of course, make sure to start and end your trip on islands with an airport (Santorini or Mykonos. Naxos also has an airport but with very few flights to and from the UK).
So how do you book your ferries?
There are several comparison pages that will give you an overlook of all the different time options and prices. This is a good way to find out what’s available on the days you want to travel. However, I did find that most of these pages took a fairly high admin fee just for booking through them (some over £10). So, what I did was to use these pages to find the most suitable ferries, and then go to the ferry company’s own website and book the tickets directly from them. I have found a pretty good comparison site through that only takes £3.15 in admin fee: https://www.directferries.co.uk
The main ferry companies:
To give you an idea of the price range, our tickets from Mykonos to Naxos was a speed ferry (Seajets) and only took 40 minutes, it cost £45 per person for the cheapest seats. I thought that this was quite expensive, but it was the only one available on the day we were travelling as it was offseason. Our trip with Blue Star from Naxos to Santorini (Thira) was a large but slow ferry and took 2 hours, but only cost £23 per person. When checking the pages now for June though, some of the tickets are already over £100, so I guess it’s good to book as early as possible. Ferry tickets need to be printed out 45 minutes prior to departure, and the travel agency offices aren’t always right by the departure bay. When travelling with my friend Linn last autumn, I ended up sprinting to the travel agency which was about 1km away from the ferry… we just made it. So, this time around, I made sure to always go straight to the travel agency offices when arriving at a port and print our tickets for our upcoming trip two days later. Because you don’t really need to show up at your ferry until about 20 min before your departure. However, I do recommend leaving a bit more time than that. When we left Mykonos, there was a strike going on which meant that a lot of the ferries were cancelled. Luckily for us, our ferry was still going, but it was suddenly overbooked as all the people from the cancelled ferries were moved over to ours. This meant that not all passengers got on the boat… and their system seemed pretty organises, so I don’t think it mattered if you had an original ticket for this journey or not. So, make sure to leave time for unexpected events like these to happen. The port in Naxos, for instance, is pretty cute, and it’s a nice place to have lunch. It is also connected to their old town so it’s a nice place to stroll around whilst also keeping an eye on your ferry. They have a luggage storage place on the port too (right next to the blue star ferry office) and it only cost €7 to leave your luggage there all day.
The port in Santorini, on the other hand, is very uneventful and almost a bit industrial, so this is not a place you want to spend a few hours before your departure! Neither is the port in Mykonos really…. Also, something to keep in mind when travelling from Mykonos.
To finish of this post, I thought I’d give you some tips on where to visit, where to stay, what to do and where to eat.
I haven’t visited all of them, but have recently been to Mykonos, Naxos and Santorini (twice!) so I’m quite familiar with these islands by now. I also used to visit Ani Paros a lot with my family as a child, but that’s starting to become a long time ago now.
MYKONOS AND SANTORINI
These are probably the islands that you are most likely to visit and therefore most interested in reading about, but you have to be a little bit patient as my next two posts will be on these islands. I decided to split them up, otherwise, this post would just have ended up being incredibly long. I just have so much I want to share with you. So please check back in here in a weeks time when I will be sharing some tips and thoughts about Mykonos, and then again a week after there I'm going to share a really detail guide for Santorini :) In the meantime, scroll down and read about some other stunning Greek islands worth visiting!
Some say that Naxos has the most beautiful sandy beaches in Europe. I have only ever stayed at a beach called Agia Anna, and taken a stroll down to the neighbouring beach, Plaka. And I can vouch for the fact that these are indeed some very beautiful beaches. They stretch for as far as your eye can see, have soft fine sand, and clean turquoise water perfect for snorkelling or for just floating around on something inflatable and comfy. However, I have not visited every beach in Europe and can therefore not say if it’s THE nicest ones or not... :p I think the Agia Anna aria is a great place to stay. It’s a lovely stretch of beach only a 10-minute drive from the Old Town and Port, got lots of nice restaurants and the aria feels nice and peaceful.
In contrast to Mykonos, this place is not for those who wish to Party. Yes, you can have some cocktails at one of the beach bars after your dinner, but don’t expect to stay out to 3am on this island. Or maybe I’ve just gone to the wrong places...(or the right places, depends on how you look at it)?
I would say that Naxos is a bit of a hidden gem and the greedy, egotistic part of me kind of want to keep it a secret. But I’m not going to – no, I’m going to spread the love and give you my very best travel tips for visiting this wonderful island.
Naxos is located right next to Paros, you can actually look over to Parks from some of the Naxos beaches and it’s also fairly close to Mykonos (only a 40 min ferry ride on a fast ferry).
Naxos prices are at least half of what you will pay for hotels, food and drinks in Mykonos and Santorini. The place feels a lot more local and low key, rather than the main stream feel of the more famous islands. I really like that though, but I’m a small-town girl who appreciate the simple things in life :)
One negative thing I would say about Naxos is that there are a lot of mosquitos there. Especially when you live on the actual beach. When I visited the island last September my friend and I stayed at Ktima Lino, quite a basic but super cute and lovely hotel about a 5-minute walk from the beach. Whilst staying there, I can’t seem to remember it being many mosquitos, but when my boyfriend and I just went to Naxos 2 weeks ago we stayed at a super nice hotel right on the beach called Santana Beach and there we were quite bothered by mossies at night time. We stupidly slept with the doors open though, thinking it would be amazing to fall asleep to the sound of the waves. I think you can manage the misquote situation well by keeping the doors closed at night, and by wearing some repellent spray. Other than the mosquitos the Santana Beach hotel was very nice btw. The staff was super friendly, the rooms were clean and modern, and you got nice beach beds from their beach-club/restaurant included in the price when being a guest there. For a slightly cheaper option, the Ktima Lino where I stayed in September was also great. Again, really sweet staff - all family owned and also clean and modern.
So, the one place I would totally recommend is a restaurant called Paradiso Tavern. They have tables and fairy lights out in the sand, and the actual restaurant is on the other side of the road. The food was great too, and very affordable with a yummy home-made taste. I recommend trying the moussaka there! But maybe stay away from their house wine that I think they make there… :P The Paradiso Tavern is, as you can imagine, a fantastic place to eat whilst watching the sunset. It is located right between Agia Anna and Plaka beach.
They also served great food at Santa Beach hotels beach club, and they also offer a wide selection of cocktails.
I think I’m going to end the part about Naxos here, otherwise this post will be endless. But pleased do go ahead and comment on this post if you have any other questions (or recommendations that I have missed out here!!), and I will try my best to answer them :)
PAROS AND ANTIPAROS
I thought I’d quickly also mention Paros and Antiparos. As mentioned before, these islands are located very close to Naxos. Paros is the larger island of the two, and Antiparos is a fairly small island only a short boat ride away (only 1.9km away to be precise). I visited Antiparos with my family many times as a child and have lots of great memories from there. It might feel even more local than Naxos and very low key with only just over 1200 people living there. It is a charming, quiet with not many cars, and also has beautiful beaches. You can easily get from the other islands to Paros with the ferries, but to go to Antiparos you need to get a smaller boat that only takes 10 minutes. I would love to go back to Antiparos, but sadly we didn’t have time on our current trip to The Cyclades. According to my dad, Antiparos is much nicer than Paros… so might be worth doing that extra 10-minute boat ride. I did, however, find it tricky to find a good hotel there, as we did indeed look into going there but chose Naxos instead. If we had stayed for longer, then we definitely would have gone!