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.
Hi Dave, going to Greece in September from the 3rd to 18th. Paros and Milos are pretty much decided but we are not sure about adding a 3rd island. We arrive in Athens early in the day from an overnight flight so will be jetlagged. My husband is staying on for an additional week near Thessaloniki. We have already visited Athens, Aegina, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, and Rhodes. My husband isn’t really a beach person and I love the beach so we do need a mix of things to do. We are pretty fit and enjoy being Active. Great restaurants are a must. Any suggestions?
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.
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.
We are planning to come back at the start of September for 2 weeks to visit different islands for some beach and sun. To give you some background, we loved Santorini, Milos and the quieter / smaller places in Crete (Loutro, Falassarna, Samaria Gorge). We enjoy beach time, some hiking, site seeing, good wine / food and good / buzzy atmosphere at night for dinner / tavernas.
Java, with a population of 140 million, makes its first appearance on this list. Celebrated for its ancient culture, breathtaking vistas, and UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Borobudur Temple Compounds, the island also offers the opportunity to indulge in modernity (five-star hotels abound). Waterfalls, volcanoes, protected parks, and white-sand beaches also allow visitors to get away from the thrum.

Considering your interests (great food, hiking, beaches, nightlife unimportant) then Naxos should definitely be your other island. (And Naxos has many daily ferry connections with both Santorini and Athens.) Also, Athens needs at least one full day to explore so you should drop any thoughts about Delphi or Nafplio. Also, I would look into flights from Athens to Santorini on your night of arrival. If you could get to Santorini that night (and move your day in Athens to the end of your trip) you’d almost gain an entire day and could spend two nights on Naxos.
Finally, and this is perhaps the best tip of all – as it’s the old-style romantic one – book transport to and accommodation on one starter island (Paros is a good choice). Sail/fly there, sit down relax, pour cold drinks and eat healthy Greek foods for 4-5 days while working out where to go to next with your tablet under an umbrella on the beach. Book your next stop online and go there. Repeat the exercise. No hassles about being locked into a fixed itinerary and if you like a place, you stay longer. If not, you move on. You will generally find transport tickets for a day or three ahead and hotel owners often know someone on the next island who can fit you in. In Paros, Petres Hotel is a good starting point. Good luck and happy sailing!
We would love your help, we are a party of four 50 plus adults from Australia and never have been too the Greek Island. We’re not sure whether we should be going to naxos or paros , we are there for 4 days and not sure whether just to stay on one island and ferry to the other and if you think possible even a day trip to santorini. Our priorities are culture and history, swimming in beautiful beaches, beautiful views, nice towns, and food and drink. We’re not interested in clubbing at all, but more laid-back late night bars definitely appeal. This will be our one big holiday this year as we will be celebrating my 50th birthday while there so want it too be special.
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