My husband and I are planning a trip to Greece in late May/early April. We already plan to spend a few nights on Santorini, and are trying to choose one other island to pair with it (will have 3 nights on other island). We are in our late 20s and are more interested in outdoors (hiking, exploring, beaches, boat trips). I’d like to keep travel time to a minimum, so I have been looking at the closer islands – Milos, Paros, and Naxos. Do you have any recommendations or thoughts on a good island to pair with Santorini?
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Zakynthos is an island of certain extremes: beauty and crass, mass tourism of the worst sort. The islands – like all the Ionian islands is lush and verdant and boasts the now famous ‘shipwreck beach’ (Navagio) that many seek to travel to and swim at. Yes, it’s worth it and numerous excursion boats make the run from ports on the west side of the island. Environmentalists and capitalists clash daggers at Laganas where the mass tourism trade is carried out to the detriment of the Caretta Caretta, or loggerhead turtle that loves the beach as much as British tourists on a binge. Read this page for the background. There is an alternative scene to Laganas at Vasilikos over to the east, but it is much more low-key and less busy.
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Transport between the three islands relies on local ferries and these are unsophisticated ‘landing-craft’ style boats that do little more than ferry passengers and vehicles in Spartan comfort, but they are very functional and vital to the inter-island communication. There is plenty of on the ground support excursions and infrastructure and the islands are well-used to tourism; the only exception is that travellers will need to use a bit of independence in getting between the islands.

Can you see all the major sights in Athens in one day? No. But you can see the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, and the top historical sites of the Plaka in one day. If you had an extra half-day then visit the Archaeological Museum in Exarcheia. That still leaves many great sights but you will have seen all of the iconic Athens attractions. Adding Naxos is always a good idea. You might even enjoy it more than Mykonos (but no nightlife like Mykonos).
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Tinos is only 15 minutes from Mykonos, so it's a wonder it isn't overrun with tourists. The harbour is swarmed on 15 August, however, when Orthodox pilgrims flock here to kiss the icons at Panagia Evangelistria monastery, one of the holiest sites in Greece. Otherwise, the island is miraculously untouched. Solitary chapels and whimsical dovecotes stud thyme-scented hills, dropping to sandy bays whipped by the meltemi wind. There's a nascent surfer scene on Kolibithra bay, where a VW camper van has been converted into a cute beach bar.
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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.
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Where to stay in Zante: Porto Zante, eight villas with five-star facilities, set above a pristine bay of finely raked sand, is kitted out for kids of all ages: there's a playground, mini-golf, and every water-sport under the sun. The sociable Peligoni Club is especially good for toddlers and teens: the crèche is run by qualified nannies and over-13s have their own bar, serving milkshakes and mocktails. Zante Maris Suites, as well as the new Olea All Suite Hotel just next door, are both squarely aimed at adults, with a haute hippie vibe. Kids over 12 are welcome.
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Possibly the location of the storied island of Atlantis, Santorini is the stuff of screensavers and wall calendars. Red-, black- and white-sand beaches rim its caldera lake — one of the largest in the world — while iconic whitewashed buildings stair-step up the hillside overlooking the Aegean Sea. Photo ops abound, from centuries-old windmills and ancient ruins to blue-domed churches and colorful wooden fishing boats. Stay in a boutique cave hotel for the full experience.

Hi Dave. Thank you for your amazing website! We (30’s / 40’s couple – no kids) used your recommendations last year in September and visited Santorini (7days), Milos (3days) and Crete (12days) before spending 3 days in Athens. The trip was amazing and Greece is calling us to go back again this year! We have a conundrum which we are hoping you can assist (well, many of them really!)


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. 

The almighty church has kept nightlife in check. If you must see and be seen, head to quietly glamorous Astivi or Stoa bar, on miniature Agia Lesvias square, in Hora. Beach life is generally languid and low-key; Psili Ammos and Livadi Geranou are our favourite hideouts. Dinner reservations are essential at Benetos, for Med-Asian fusion on an organic farm, and Lambi for grilled fish on a purple pebble beach.
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