To sum up: a lot depends on your own stamina because island hopping means packing and unpacking, getting on and off buses and ferries. Limit your choice of islands to perhaps one or two less than you think you can manage. Maximise transport links to avoid backtracking or port-transferring and since you are traveling high season be aware that you will usually need bookings ahead at most places. It is possible to turn up on an island and not find a place to stay or have to make do with a third-rate option.
These groups are generally better connected among themselves than with other groups, so you are probably better advised to target them on this basis. As it’s your first time to Greece, you may want the full-on Greek island experience and you could easily fill your five weeks flitting from one island to the other in the Cyclades. You could start in Kea and work your way down to Milos via Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos then segue to Paros and Naxos. Dip down to Santorini, up to Mykonos and back to Piraeus. The map will also show plenty of other Cyclades islands to pick and choose from such as Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Amorgos, Syros, Tinos and Andros – yes! too many choices, but you will find that sticking to one group it will be easier to get between them. Realistically for a period of five weeks you will not want to be doing more than 6-8 islands.
Glad to see you mentioned the Cook Islands – my husband and I went to Rarotonga for a week in 2008 and fell in love with it – can’t wait to someday bring our kids back there – they would love it, too! Very few people have actually heard of the Cooks, or know where they are, and while I like the “secrecy” of it, I wish more people would visit! Currently there are only 1-2 flights/week from the US – makes planning trips there a bit tougher!We only took a day trip to Aitutaki because of time, but it was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Glad to see you agree!
Lefkada is an island, but is connected to the mainland by a causeway at the northern tip and its access airport is on the mainland at Aktio (Preveza). It is an island popular with Greeks and mainly European visitors. Italians and Brits predominate. It is green, verdant, has good beaches and facilities and is compact enough to get around easily. Tourism is centred on the east coast around the port village of Nydri. It is low-key accommodation with villas and small family-run hotels predominating. Off-shore from Nydri are a couple of islands worth visiting on excursions: the sizeable Meganisi (car ferries run to and fro’) and the private Skorpios Island which belong to the Onassis family. On your own hired motor boat, you can heave-to on just one private beach on the north side of the island and swim and claim boasting rights to having swum on Aristotle Onassis’ private piece of Greece.
Transport between them can be patchy, but a new service linking Zakynthos with Corfu which started this year now brings all the islands (bar Kythira) together. Zakynthos is otherwise linked to Kefallonia with an old-style open deck ‘slipper’ ferry; Kefallonia includes Ithaki on its local small ferry route to Nydri on Lefkada. There is no link (except for the new service) from Lefkada to Paxi/Corfu. Corfu has links to Paxi and its little know satellite islands just to the north. Kythira has an airport with flights to Athens and ferries to Crete (Kissamos) and the Peloponnese (Gythio, Kalamata, and Neapoli).
Hi! I have fallen in love with the cyklades and have visited Santorini, Ios, Naxos and Folegandros in late june. Folegandros was the best, a fantastic island. We are now thinking about going to Paros the last week in September. Naoussa seem to be a great place. What’s the weather like in late September? Is it still quite warm? I also wonder about the sea conditions. May the sea be rough at that time of the year? I don’t like wavy ferry rides 😨 Thank you for a good sight!