The Best Greek Islands to Visit.
One of the questions we get asked the most is, “Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?” And we pretty much always answer, “Greece.” Greece is so amazing, because it’s so diverse. It has everything from epic beaches and the iconic blue and white churches to quaint towns and delicious food. And now that it’s almost officially summer, it’s the perfect time to plan a trip to Greece.
Pretty sure it’s not a surprise to anyone at this point that we love Greece. We’ve been three times in the last 2 years and are definitely planning to go back. But with 6,000 islands, it’s hard to know which of the greek islands to visit. We obviously haven’t been to all of them, but if you’re visiting Greece for the first time and looking for the best things to do and islands to visit, here is our Ultimate Greek Itinerary:
We recommend starting and ending your trip in Athens, Greece. We’ve found that flying directly to Athens from the United States seems to always be pretty expensive, so we normally find cheap flights to Paris or Amsterdam or another big European city, and then fly a cheaper European airline, like Aegean, Ryan Air, or Norwegian, to Athens.
Day 1: Start in Athens
Once you get to Athens, drop your bags off at your hotel and start exploring. Go to Monastiraki Square, which is the main plaza, grab a gyro, and then head to the Acropolis. After seeing the Acropolis, spend some time shopping and wandering through Plaka before returning to your hotel for the night. Athens is beautiful, and I’m sure you could spend a lot of time there, but we much prefer the islands, so after you’ve spent a day exploring Athens, hop on a flight to Santorini the next morning.
Where to Stay: Electra Metropolis Athens
Days 2-5: Santorini
We always suggest visiting Santorini first, because it’s iconic and one of those bucket list places that you really need to visit at least once in your lifetime. To get to Santorini from Athens, we always fly Ryan Air. It’s about a 40 minute flight and you can find flights for as low as 20 euros.
We suggest spending about 2-3 days on each island, so you can really get a feel for the island and not feel like you’re hopping around too much. Santorini is absolutely breathtaking and definitely lives up to the hype. However, Santorini is also very popular. So popular that they’ve started limiting the number of tourists they allow to visit the island. That also means it gets very crowded which can be a bit overwhelming.
Check out our Guide to Santorini and the Most Instagrammable Spots in Santorini here.
Santorini is perfect for a honeymoon or a luxurious romantic getaway. The iconic blue and white churches set up on the cliff are even truly even more incredible in person.
Tip: Wake up for sunrise to enjoy the views and wander the town without the crowds. And take a sunset sailing cruise, so you can watch the sunset from the sea instead of fighting the crowds at the castle.
We suggest renting a car to avoid feeling “stuck” or having to pay ridiculously expensive taxi fares. The cliffs are steep and there are a lot of sharp turns, so we’d suggest a renting a car over an ATV while you’re on Santorini.
Where to Stay: Ikies Hotel for a more affordable option with incredible views, but if you’re planning your honeymoon or a romantic getaway and looking to splurge, we suggest staying at Katikies Hotel for it’s epic infiniti pool and excellent service.
Days 5-7: Mykonos
From Santorini, book a ferry to Mykonos. It’s about two and a half hours and costs around 50 euros per person.
Mykonos is so charming. From the famous windmills to Little Venice, it’s a photographer’s dream. It’s a great island for shopping, partying, and getting lost in the blue and white streets. It is known as a party island, so if you’re interested in beach parties and a lively nightlife, Mykonos should definitely be on your list. But if you’re like us and partying isn’t really your scene, Mykonos is still worth visiting. The island has stunning beaches (much better than the ones in Santorini) all over the island. Be prepared though because some of them are nude beaches. The “old town” can get quite crowded with cruise ships and other tourists, so we suggest renting an ATV, so you can explore other sides of the island.
Tip: Avoid eating right on the water. They charge twice as much and they serve the same food for cheaper a few steps into the city.
Read more about our stay at Tharroe of Mykonos here
Days 7-10: Milos
Take the ferry from Santorini to Milos. It’s about 3 hours and costs about 60 euros per person. There aren’t a ton of flights to Milos, so if you’d rather fly, you’ll end up having to fly back to Athens and then fly to Milos from Athens, so we’ve found that it’s easier to just hop on a ferry.
Milos is by far our favorite island in Greece. It’s has a very authentic Greek feel to it and it’s much more laidback and less crowded than the other islands. However, it has definitely started gaining popularity, so it is busier than it was a few years ago. The beaches in Milos are some of our absolute favorite in the world. The moonscape of Sarakiniko Beach is truly one of the most breathtaking places on earth, and if you’re looking for a soft sand beach, visit Tsigrado or Firiplaka. The water in Milos is absolutely stunning. It has some of the clearest blue and turquoise water we’ve ever seen. Milos is a so picturesque with its adorable towns, traditional Greek churches, stunning beaches, and authentic Greek feel. Everything on the island is pretty spread out, so rent ATV’s so you have a chance to really explore.
Tip: Watch the sunset every night. The sunsets in Greece truly are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Check out our full Milos Travel Guide here.
The hotels on the island are very small, and each hotel only has a few rooms, so we suggest booking in advance.
Not sold on Milos yet? Check these out:
From Milos, fly back to Athens for between $30-90 per person and it’s about a 40 minute flight.
You can obviously switch it up based on what you prefer, but we personally like hitting the iconic places first and then discovering the more laid back, less-touristy places toward the end of our trip.
If you only have 10 days, head back home from Athens!
Days 10-13: Crete
If you have a few more days in Greece and are looking for another island to visit, we’d suggest heading to Crete. Crete is the largest island in Greece, and it has a completely different vibe than the other islands. Spend your days visiting Elafonisi Beach, a pink beach located on the southwestern side of the island, relaxing in Balos Lagoon or at Stefanou Beach, trekking though Samaria Gorge, and exploring ancient Minoan palaces.
Where to stay: St. Nicolas Bay
If you only have 7 days, cut out an island or just spend 2 days on each island. If you have 14 days, add an island on—we’d suggest Naxos, Koufonisia, or Antiparos. We also loved Sailing Around the Cyclades with Yacht Getaways. If you’re looking for something to do outside of island hopping, check out Meteora on the mainland.
The beauty of Greece is literally everywhere is absolutely beautiful. There are 6,000 islands, so you can’t really go wrong no matter which island you choose. There will definitely be something on each island that will take your breath away.
What are your favorite Greek islands? We love Greece so much and will definitely be back, so we’d love to hear about the islands that you love too!
Tips for Traveling to Greece:
Best Time of Year to Visit: We suggest visiting between April and May or September and October as those months are considered the shoulder season. The water is still pretty cold in April and May, but it’s absolutely worth it for fewer crowds and cheaper accommodations. June, July, and August are going to be super busy, hot, and the hotel prices skyrocket.
Getting Around: Ferries can be canceled at the last second due to bad weather or choppy seas, so if you’re worried about time or if you get sea sick, it might be safer to take a flight.
Currency: The Euro is the local currency. Most places take credit cards, so make sure to bring one that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.
Language: The official language in Greece is Greek, but most people speak enough English that it isn’t too difficult to communicate.
Driving: Renting a car or an ATV is recommended if you want to really explore the island. Getting an international driver’s permit is recommended, but most places don’t ask for them. In order to rent a scooter, you will need a motorcycle license.
Cost: Once you get to Greece, it’s pretty inexpensive. Flights to the islands and ferries in between islands are pretty cheap. Hotels can be very expensive, but there are also a lot of cheap and affordable options outside of the iconic spots. A gyro, which is our favorite thing to eat while we’re there, is about $2 and is the perfect lunch.
Weather: In April, the water is pretty cold and you’ll definitely want a sweater at night, but there are still sunny, warm days that are perfect for relaxing on the beach. In the height of summer it can get very hot, around 90 degrees Farenheight, and the water gets a lot warmer by September. You’ll mostly want to pack bathing suits and lightweight summer clothes. But be sure to pack a sweater and a pair of pants for cooler days.