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Greek Islands...Naxos, Mykonos, and Santorini... Never Enough Time

Updated: Sep 25, 2021


The beautiful island of Naxos

Three Islands in eight days...I could have stayed longer and still not have seen all I wanted to see. Blue tile roofs, white stucco buildings, clear turquoise water...just as promised in magazines and photos. As you read this post, I wanted to provide a candid persective of seeing Greece in eight days and make recommendations for you and for me as I plan my next trip to this lovely country.


“Greece is this far away place I dreamed of visiting. I researched and read until I thought I had discovered enough to decide the best places to visit for a first trip to Greece. However, to my surprise, the three islands we visited, were not green and lush but were dry and arid."

THE ISLAND OF NAXOS


Naxos is a Greek island in the South Aegean, the largest of the Cyclades island group. The island has beautiful landscapes, mountain villages and ancient ruins. Sand beaches for sunbathing and relaxing are all around the island. The capitol city, Hora or Chora, is a port town filled with whitewashed houses and medieval Venetian mansions. Kastro, a hilltop castle dating to the 13th century, houses an archaeological museum. Naxos is famous for its hilltop artifact, is Portara, the remaining gate of an ancient temple dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. We stayed on Naxos and used it as our base when we traveled to Mykonsis. Naxos is a short ferry ride away from Mykonosis and also from Santorini.


I recommend renting a car on Naxos. We flew from Athens to Naxos on Sky Express. The airport is very small on Naxos but we had a car reserved from Avis. They met us at the airport with a vehicle and we took off from there. It all went as planned. No delays and Avis made it very simple! We stayed at the Plaza Beach Hotel on the east side of Naxos and south of Hora. The hotel was reasonably priced and across the street from a lovely beach. The beach had sun beds and colorful umbrellas. It was rather windy so we did not stay on the beach long. I am always excited to get out and see the sights of the island anyway and figured I could lay on a beach in the U.S. so go see the sights!


The first day we did a self-drive tour and headed to Old Town Naxos. You have to park outside of the down town area so I recommend going early to get free parking. We parked in the same location every time at the Grotta Beach area and walked downtown and had no issues. The parking lot was free and you had a wonderful view from the parking lot and beach. of the Portara. In the evening you can take a gorgeous photo of the lighted Portara as the sun goes down. We walked through Old Town and past the Venetian Castle and also visited the old Market and the Temple of Apollo. We also drove to Eggares Village and stopped to taste samples of olive products.


Take the time to drive the island. It is amazing. We drove to Liones Beach on Naxos and along the way there is so much to see. Mountains, small white churches, windmills and tiny villages. It is also a vey beautiful beach! We also drove to Filoti Village in the central mountains and hillsides of Naxos. The town is a "must-see" with white washed buildings and tiny cafes. The temple of Demeter or Demitras is near the village of Sangri and dates back to 6th century B.C. and made of marble. While Naxos is not the touristy island of Greece, it is well worth taking the time to see and experience!


THE ISLAND OF MYKONOS

Our second day in the Greek Islands we took the Goldstar Ferries with our rental car to Mykonos but using the island of Naxos as our home base. After arriving, we drove toward Mykonos town and parked along the main road and walked into town. Mykonos Town is lined with white washed buildings and the iconic windmills. We walked along the sea and up steps and hills into the village to the windmills. The windmills were gorgeous. We also walked to Little Venice and to the town hall. Mykonos is known for their nightlife and we are not night people so I cannot give my opinion on the activities past 5:00 but it appeared there were plenty of restaurants and bars to keep you busy! My favorite part of Mykonos was the view of the windmills!

The windmills of Mykonos

After doing our foot tour, we took the car and found our way to the Agios and Sostis beaches on the northern shores of the island. The drive was beautiful and the beaches were amazing! You need a car to get to the Agios and Sostis and Paradise beaches but there are taxis if you do not have a car on the island. The beaches have course sand, turquoise water, and many colorful beach umbrellas and chairs.


Mykonos is a busy island with many "beautiful" tourists that are dressed in white sun dresses or wearing skimpy bikinis or tiny swim trunks. It is not as relaxed and laid back as Naxos and more touristy. I was happy we saw Mykonos but I wouldn't spend more than a day or two on the island. I prefer a more relaxed and laid back environment.


ISLAND OF SANTORINI


Santorini did not disappoint! The island was more magical than I had ever expected! The white buildings, the brown and blue tiled roofs, the narrow streets and the amazing sunsets! I would return in a heartbeat!

Just as I imagined...Santorini sunset

We used the Sea Jets Ferry from Naxos to Santorini. It is about an hour and fifteen minute boat ride between islands. We returned our car in Naxos and had them drop us at the ferry terminal and when we arrived in Santorini, we rented a car from Enterprise. We took a taxi from the ferry terminal to the airport to pick up the car since we were departing home from Santori and had to return the car to the airport. The ferry terminal is crazy busy in Santorini with many people, car rental companies and people looking for transportation. We were happy to get away from the ferry terminal!


We stayed at Kokkinos Villas in Akrotiri Village in Santorini. The hotel was in a wonderful location and was simply beautiful! It was a small locally owned hotel with a panoramic view of the Caldera or Volcano! We were on the southern end of the island about an hour from Fira and 90 minutes from Oia. Both Fira and Oia are the picturesque cities you see in photo advertisements for Greece. They are larger cities with many attractions but also much more expensive to stay and a lot busier. We prefer the more laid back setting and driving the island to see as much of it as we can while visiting.


We did our own driving tour of the Prophet Elias Monastary with amazing views of the island. We visited Pyrgos Village and the Akrotiri Excavations...a buried city from a volcano. Red Beach was another amazing site and worth the walk out to the beach. Red Beach was close to our hotel and was just that...had red sand and amazing turquoise water! Akrotiri Excavations was worth the visit! A city that is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. The first habitation at the site dates from the 4th millenium B.C. The City was a rather elaborate settlement for the time period with large buildings and imported objects. The town's life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century B.C. when the inhabitants abandoned it as a result of severe earthquakes. The volcano eruption followed. The volcanic materials covered the entire island and the town itself. These materials, however, have protected up to date the buildings and their contents, just like in Pompei. If I ever get the opportunity to return to Greece, I will definitely take the time to tour Athens and Pompei. I found the Akrotiri Excavations fascinating and I am sure Pompei and Athens would be even more magnificent.


We also found our way to Perissa, the black sand beach of Santorini. It was a beautiful wide beach with lots of umbrellas and lounge chairs. I wouldn't miss it!


Of course you cannot miss the sunset at Oia Village! Oia Village was my favorite location on Santorini. We visited the village twice to watch the sunset. It is best to go earlier in the day to get parking and to sightsee and shop. There is so much to see in Oia. It is truly breathtaking! Parking is not the best. You have to park outside the village and walk quite a ways to get into the village. But once you are in...there are shops and restaurants and people everywhere! People begin lining up almost two hours before sunset to get the perfect location to watch the sun go down over the Aegean Sea. The most popular spot to watch the sunset is by Oia Castle to get the stunning sunset view with the windmills and white buildings perched on the edge of the caldera.




I have been asked if I would return to Greece for another vacation. I would definitely love to see Greece again and to go visit the island of Crete and would return to Santorini and Naxos. But, I have so many other trips on my bucket list, that I am uncertain if I will ever make it back again.


TIPS TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY

I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!

The itinerary for the islands of Naxos, Mykonos, and Santorini is below.

Greece Itinerary
.docx
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