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.
It’s a tough call. The good news is that whatever you decide, it will feel like the right thing after you’ve done it. You’ll almost certainly say to yourself, “I’m so glad we saw both islands” or “I’m so glad we had 6 full days on Santorini.” In deciding I would ask whether a return trip to Greece is likely or possible in the next couple of years. If so, then spend your 6 days on Santorini and explore that island, then return to Crete at some time in the future for a deserving 7 to 10 days. But if this is a one-time deal for the foreseeable future then do 3 days on Santorini and 3 days in Crete. (Whatever you decide don’t do a day trip to the other island as it’s not worth the time and effort.)
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.
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.
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.
Yes, it’s possible. Get the SeaJet ferry from Athens to Mykonos. It should arrive at 9:30am or shortly after. You’ll have to hurry to store you’re luggage at the Sea and Sky travel agency across from the Old Port and then buy tickets for Delos. The last ferry to Delos leaves at 11am or maybe 11:30am. Ferry to Delos is about 30 minutes. Last ferry back is at 3pm which will give you plenty of time before the last ferry of the day to Naxos (at 6:15pm on SeaJet). All the ferries mention here use the Old Port. Don’t book any ferries that use the New Port or you’ll have trouble making the connections.
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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.
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