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.
The Ionian Islands are a quite different entity to the more familiar Aegean islands. There are in effect only seven of them plus a sprinkling of satellite islands that make for a very enjoyable package. They are different from the point of view of flora – they are greener and less barren than their Aegean cousins and they share a different history to the rest of Greece and the other islands, having absorbed much Venetian and Italian influences over the years. This is particularly apparent in the Old Town of Corfu where you could be forgiven for thinking you might be somewhere in Italy.
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.
You’d have to check the schedule for your specific dates but I think Santorini then Milos then Paros then Naxos and Athens would probably be the best order. 3 days in each sounds great. Or a small tweak: 2 days in Milos and then 4 days in Santorini (splitting time between 2 of the 4 caldera towns) or even 4 days in Paros (splitting time between Naousa and Parikia).
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.
Be cautious with Santorini and kids. Some hotels don’t do kids (check carefully) and not all hotels are suitable for kids along the caldera lip. Many steps, confined spaces and other guests who don’t actually want to hear kids … Here’s an idea – look for a child-friendly hotel (perhaps on the beach at Perissá) and base yourself where the kids will like it and then take them to the caldera scene. There are a couple of child-friendly hotels on the Caldera, but they get booked very early in the year.
Unlike its luxurious Caribbean neighbors, here you’ll only find more budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses. Everything needs to come by ship or airplane, so it’s not super cheap. However, since no non-natives can own property there is no influx of overdevelopment, keeping the island simple but beautiful. For a more rustic, non-touristy getaway, this might be the island for you!
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!