Another South Pacific island group (see a pattern here?), the Cook Islands are pretty far off the map. OK, not too far, but they are considerably less visited than some of their neighbors. These tiny islands are named after James Cook, the intrepid man who discovered them. With few amenities, this is the best place to find your inner castaway and escape modern life. The islands see similar weather to the rest of the area, with temperatures hot and humid all year round.
You know those pictures you always see of tropical bungalows in the water? That’s Tahiti. The name has long been synonymous with tropical paradise. One of the biggest honeymoon destinations in the world, Tahiti offers pure paradise and a lot of romance. Here you can relax in the sun, scuba dive, enjoy fine seafood, and take a morning dip right from your bungalow.
It’s best to visit Greek islands within the same group. For example, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Corfu and Santorini on the same trip as they’re on opposite sides of the country. Instead, visit islands in the same island group: the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Dodecanese, the Ionian, the Saronic, and the Northeastern Aegean. For one, they’re close to each other. And two, they have frequent ferry connections with each other. For first time visitors to Greece, the Cyclades make the most natural and convenient introduction.

We’re on a budget (think €50 per person per day) and would like to go someplace warm and sunny where there’s also a combination of culture and nature. So we can explore in the mornings and relax at the beach in the afternoon. Preferably a sandy beach. We don’t need a lot of nightlife but it would be nice if not the whole island is closing down already. Do you have a suggestion?
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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.
These little coral islands are surrounded by excellent diving, snorkeling, and white sand beaches, and are filled with friendly locals. Private resorts litter the islands, and a vacation here is also very pricey. Luckily, Bangkok Airways offers cheap flights to and from Thailand. The best time to go to the Maldives is from November to May, when the weather is cool and dry. June through October sees wetter and hotter weather due to the monsoon season.
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Have just discovered your blog today and love it! I am a student from NZ and want to travel to somewhere fantastic next year for a few weeks to get away from the hussle and bussle of study and work. Originally thought Thailand would be fantastic, and I see you agree with me here so great! But I also did not realise Bali was also so cheap. For a first trip overseas for a poor student (apart from Aus), where would you recommend? Bali or Thailand?
Im here in Vermont and love it here but want more and Im antsy to move in the future. I dont know where to start, but I do know I want a tropical place warm year round. I guess I need a break from this cold weather. I own and operate an herbal shop for I am a Holistic Practitioner , Master Herbalist, Nutritional consultant and much more. Iam looking to relocate my business and myself with my 2 boys!!! Anyone have any locations that I may visit that might be a new future location with a high call for my type of work please oh please let me know. Namaste! Cold here in Vermont!!!!
Hi, Dave! My husband and I will be going to Greece 8/26 – 9/4. We are flying into and out of Athens for cost efficiency. We really want to see Navagio Beach on Zakynthos for a day, and we realize this will likely be an overnight trip, or even 2 nights depending on the travel options. What is the best way to get from Athens to Zykanthos? What is the best way to get from Zakynthos to Santorini? Or is it best to just go from Zakynthos back to Athens and then to Santorini? We are trying to avoid additional flights but realize we may have to fly from Zakynthos to Santorini.
You seem to have your heart set on Zakynthos but I have to say it’s not a good use of time for a sort-of overrated payoff. Your time is much better spent (in my opinion) seeing another Greek island in the cyclades (maybe taking a ferry to Naxos or Paros sitting outside on the deck drinking a bottle of wine) rather than taking a bus and connecting flights. Zakynthos and Santorini/Mykonos are on opposite sides of the country and the only way from one to the other is by flying (or some combination of bus and ferry). So, my recommendation is to consider spending those Zakynthos days in Naxos, Paros, Milos, or some other Cycladic island.
I think Naxos would be the best island for you: incredible beaches, wonderful villages, great restaurants, and some very good hotels (though I don’t think I’d go so far as to call them hip – but nice, for sure). The farther south you go from Naxos Town the quieter the beaches get – so keep going to find the balance you prefer. If you want an island with a little more hip but beaches not quite as perfect then try Paros. If you want to err on the quieter and idyllic side then Antiparos or Ikaria.
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.
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.
Great list Matt! Indeed, there obviously there are some spots on this globe I have to visit. Can confirm the Maldives though. Has changed over time, but then again, the first time they were still “exploring” their “tourist economy” potential. Been there twice now and although definitely more crowded still holds its appeal. Be prepared for culture shock though. If you return to the “civilised world” you will wonder about the rest of the grubby world and catch yourself day dreaming regularly. 😉
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.
The state appears on many travel hot lists for 2017, especially thanks to Georgia’s quirky, craggy coast that threads throughout a chain of barrier islands — the most idyllic of which may be at the private resort community of Sea Island, with its five-mile stretch of coastline. Historic Mediterranean-style hotel The Cloister recently added 63 rooms, making it the perfect home base for spa-going, golf and even seeing the sea turtles nest.
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.
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But Indonesia has more than just Bali. The nearby Gili Islands are another incredible island getaway. Both destinations make for a more active tropical vacation and the weather remains pretty constant all year round (though April to October sees slightly drier weather). Both Bali and the Gili Islands are close enough that you should be able to visit them both on your trip to really get the most out of this idyllic corner of the world.
Question: Is it worth taking the evening ferry on the 4th Sep to Crete (Heraklion) from Santorini, then the bus onto Chania so that we can do the Samaria Gorge on the 5th? Spending the full day in Chania on the 6th and taking the last flight out of Chania that night back to Athens? (or do you think this is trying to squeeze in too much in too little time)? 

They are packaged tourist places, though not quite in the extreme league of the north coast of Crete, but certainly they look to the ‘managed’ traveller more than the individual. September is a good time, though the start of September is still pretty close to high season and you will need to make bookings in advance. The waters of the Ionian are a bit chillier than the Aegean, but the islands sport some very spectacular beaches and seaside resorts. They are very popular with Italian travellers in their boats and motorhomes. 

Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a chain of 1,000 islands (200 are inhabited, and only 5 have any substantial population). The country is actually just a series of coral atolls that are barely above sea level. During the 2004 Tsunami, many of these islands were completely washed away. The government has built flood barriers to help lessen the impact of any future tsunamis.
While you will need a respectable budget, if you give Bermuda a chance you’ll find an island home to some of the most beautiful beaches in all of North America and the Caribbean. The locals are incredibly friendly people and you can find some world-class food here too. To keep you busy, there is tons of snorkeling, some caves to explore, lots of hiking, and tons more!
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!)
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.
Fabulous site Dave! I am taking my daughter to Greece for 12 days in late May 2017 as a grad gift (yeah I know…, I think my Dad gave me a Timex watch, but I digress) and we are flying into Santorini expecting to spend 5-6 days there then ferrying over to Mykonos (not really sure why?) for a couple days. A couple days there and then flying into Athens for 2-2.5 days to inject some culture into what is otherwise somewhat hedonistic trip. I was wondering, after reading about other islands whether it is worth going to Mykonos. I’d love to go to Crete but it seems to be tough to squeeze that in. The original plan was to go to Istanbul for a couple days but it seems really sketchy right now. So is Naxos a better idea than Mykonos? Should we stay longer in Santorini? Is 2.5 days too much for Athens? Any and all info is appreciated. 

Nine weeks in Greece is a dream itinerary it certainly gives you lots of flexibility. As you seem to have Athens and the Peloponnese sorted, you just need to sort out your five weeks on the islands. What you need to realize, however, is that the islands are not all mutually interconnected, but rather they are ‘grouped’ – both administratively and from the point of view of transport routes. Here are the main groups.
Hydra is great but it does take a bit of time and effort to get to from the Cyclades. You’ll need to ferry to Athens, then might have to overnight there, then ferry to Hydra. Whereas Naxos, Paros, Milos, Folegandros, etc. would all be one direct ferry from Santorini or Mykonos. If you do go to Hydra then Leto Hotel is a great choice close to the port and shops and restaurants.

Hey, sailors: In May, the 35th annual America’s Cup heads to the pink-sand beaches of the Great Sound, a prime time for racing enthusiasts. The event’s official hotel partner, The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, transformed its “pink palace” with new guests suites, exhale spa, a state-of-the-art marina and three new restaurants including celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s new venue, Marcus’. The upcoming Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel and branded residences plan to open a mega-yacht marina in time for the race, but keep this island on your long-term radar: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones break ground on the redevelopment of the famed Ariel Sands resort in 2017.


Question: Is it worth taking the evening ferry on the 4th Sep to Crete (Heraklion) from Santorini, then the bus onto Chania so that we can do the Samaria Gorge on the 5th? Spending the full day in Chania on the 6th and taking the last flight out of Chania that night back to Athens? (or do you think this is trying to squeeze in too much in too little time)? 

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. 

I loved you website, congratulations. Me, my wife and a couple of friends are traveling to Greece in march/2018 (I know it’s not the best time of the year to visit Greece, but it’s the time we have available). We are in our late 30’s and are looking forward to some beautiful views, chill out time and good food. We’re not after huge parties but some local music wouldn’t be bad. We have 13 days in our hands, so by reading your texts I’m considering spending some 2 days in Athens, 3 days in Mykonos, 4 days in Santorini, 4 days in Chania.
Fiji is poised for a comeback after 2016’s Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most severe on record. The quintessential Fijian Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort on Savusavu Bay reopened in September with 25 newly thatched houses known as bures. For total seclusion, guests are ferried via seaplane to the remote Kokomo Island, a new collection of 21 bures and five villas on uninhabited Yaukuve Island.
To island-hop some of the most beautiful havens in the world, book a trip to Asia, which lays claim to six of this year’s top 15 destinations. But if you only have a week, you’ll hardly suffer. Each of the islands on this list is worth a visit on its own, from the perennial World’s Best list-makers Maui and the Galápagos to Portugal’s rising star, the Azores, with its friendly locals and awe-inspiring landscapes.
To island-hop some of the most beautiful havens in the world, book a trip to Asia, which lays claim to six of this year’s top 15 destinations. But if you only have a week, you’ll hardly suffer. Each of the islands on this list is worth a visit on its own, from the perennial World’s Best list-makers Maui and the Galápagos to Portugal’s rising star, the Azores, with its friendly locals and awe-inspiring landscapes.

As a starter to explore ferry services, go to the Ferryhopper.com and punch in your route searches. Note: air travel between islands is not generally good. Air travel is normally only feasible between Athens (or other mainland destinations) and the island in question. Some exceptions do exist – Rhodes Kastellorizo, Kos-Leros-Astypalaia, Thessaloniki-Limnos-Ikaria etc. but again you will need bookings weeks in advance.


I’m hoping you can help myself and a friend decide where to go. We are hoping to go away around mid August for 10 days-2 weeks. We’re looking for a sunny place and beaches to tan and relax during the day, with some big nightlife and a good strip (the odd daytime activity maybe too). However we are in mid 20s so want to go somewhere with the same age group or older. I’ve been to Zante and although it was super fun at the time (I was about 18) and loved having the strip etc, just don’t want to be the older people there anymore! Money is also fairly tight, so nothing too expensive (was thinking santorini maybe before hearing the price along with it).
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