They’re all great choices. Athens (1 to 2 full days) is great for historical sightseeing. Mykonos for beaches and nightlife (2 to 4 days). Crete for historical sightseeing, greek culture and towns, some beaches but spread out (4 to 7 days). Santorini has great sightseeing, tours, and some history (4 to 7 days). If visiting outside of June to September then drop Mykonos and do the other 3 for sure.
The other groups are best tackled individually. For example, the Ionians have no ferry connections to the rest of the Greek islands; the same story with the Sporades and the Argo-Saronics. The NE Aegean islands do have a link to the Dodecanese and the Cyclades but are probably best left for another trip once you have got the feel of the rhythm of the Greek islands.
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.
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?
Ferries are not really cheap any more – certainly not like they used to be – but the vessel fleet is better, safer and faster than in previous years so the cost is justified. You can get exceptionally cheap deals on longer-haul routes if you are prepared to forego a booked seat: €14 v €40 on a run to a mid-distant island, but it’s probably wise to consider taking fast catamarans to get to core islands (Mykonos, Santorini, Paros etc.) and even then, go the extra 10/15% for Business or even VIP class for the extra comfort. On longer hauls it can be cheaper to fly if you seek out flights online and book beforehand.
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