The delicate Great Barrier Reef is the earth’s most extensive coral-reef system, supporting more than 1,600 species of fish, along with whales, rays, octopuses, dolphins and more. Nestled in the heart of this world wonder are the 74 Whitsunday Islands, all but four of which are protected national parklands. Bask in luxury at a high-end resort like Hamilton Island, and book a seaplane or helicopter flight to admire sights like Heart Reef and the swirling silica sands of Whitehaven Beach’s Hill Inlet.
Where to stay in Cephalonia: Overlooking Fiskardo, Emelisse is a resort hotel with a great little Elemis spa. For mind-blowing views and ultra-chic interiors, check into Villa Althea, available through Beyond Spaces. . Blissfully isolated, Fiskardo Cottages are a pair of stone houses brimming with art and antiques. Footpaths through the woods lead to quiet bays. For fancier villas, try Five Star Greece.
Despite Zlarin’s small size and relative obscurity, it is certainly an island with dazzling beauty. It is known locally as the ‘Golden Island,’ because it’s really that eye-wateringly gorgeous! This small island is just off the mainland, separated by the Sibenik Channel and is mostly famous for its history of coral harvesting; there is even a Coral Museum where you can learn more about it.
Naxiots once made considerable fortunes exporting potatoes, cheese, marble and emery. Locals bequeathed undesirable seaside plots - useless for farming - to their laziest offspring. When tourists cottoned on to the island's scores of fabulous beaches, these wastrels found themselves sitting on gold mines. The west coast of Naxos is fringed with mile upon mile of powdery sands. Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna delight toddlers and teenagers alike with their shallow waters and beach bars. As you head south, the beaches get wilder: Plaka, where you can gallop across the dunes on horseback, Mikri Vigla for windsurfing and kitesurfing, and crystal-clear Kastraki.
Other factors, such as surface transport facilities and onward connections, will also affect the relative appeal of different airports and some long distance flights may need to operate from the one with the longest runway. For example, LaGuardia Airport is the preferred airport for most of Manhattan due to its proximity, while long-distance routes must use John F. Kennedy International Airport's longer runways.
I would recommend Naxos over Mykonos and with 12 days you could easily add Paros too. With Santorini, Paros, and Naxos you’ll get a good mix of different delights and some ferry island hopping too which is fun in itself. 1.5 days in Athens is perfect for most – 1 day for the Plaka, Parthenon, Acropolis Museum area; and a half-day to visit the Archaeological Museum which is a short drive or walk from the Plaka but hard to fit in one day along with the other sights.
Where to stay in Crete: Adults-only Casa Cook is a chic little number that breaks all the rules about package holidays (you’d never know it was created by Thomas Cook). The Marco Polo is a 15th-century mansion decorated like a pasha's harem, with an enchanting garden restaurant. Ottoman-style suites at Melenos Lindos have hand-painted ceilings and carved platform beds.
The Greek islands have beautiful weather in the months just before and after peak season. It’s a great time to see the islands, save money, avoid the crowds, and still have great weather (though not as hot as July and August). If you want to see the super-popular islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, and Crete without the tourists then this is a great time to visit.