Travelled in July 2018
Travelling around the Greek Islands has always been a dream of mine. This year I was determined that my summer holiday was going to be spent island hopping in the Cyclades, so I planned a little adventure to travel around 4 Greek islands… Crete, Santorini, Paros and Mykonos.
One thing I realized quite early on in my island hopping plans is that this holiday was not going to be a cheap one. Greece is really expensive to travel, especially in the high season of July. I ended up spending more on this holiday than I did on Bali last year. It is crazy how somewhere so close can be so much more expensive than travelling somewhere far away. With that said though it was definitely a beautiful place and worth the expense, but for the sake of my bank balance, my next adventure will probably be back in Asia!
This is what I got up to in 12 days island hopping in Greece…
Getting to Greece…
I always use sky scanner to find the cheapest flights. I compared the price of all the Greek islands that had airports, then planned my route around where the cheapest flights were to.
Getting around Greece…
Greece is a big country and the islands span across a vast area. Make sure to look at the map and work out if your route is logistically possible before planning your trip. I focused my trip around the area of the Cyclades and Crete.
To get between the islands the best option is to take the ferry. Some of the larger islands do have airports so it could also be possible to fly if you wanted to cover a larger area.
I booked all of my ferries in advance via Seajets. The day before my first ferry was due to depart I went to pick up my tickets and annoyingly found out that 2 of my 3 ferries had been cancelled without any notification. I had to re-book on to new ferries at an additional cost, which put a bit of a downer on the holiday. Seajets did later end up reimbursing me for the additional costs incurred, so they did end up redeeming themselves, but something to be wary of if you plan on booking with them.
Getting the ferry was quite an experience. The ferries are great when you finally get on them, however expect long delays and unorganized chaos at the ports.
As with any mode of public transport it’s just worth bearing in mind that no matter how organised you think you are, your journey may not go to plan. Always allow extra time if you are planning to catch a ferry on the same day as your flight!
Island Hopping in Greece: My Itinerary…
My first stop was Crete for 5 days…
Crete is one of the largest Greek Islands. To get around and fully explore you will absolutely need a car!
I booked the cheapest small car through my trusty favourite website rentalcars.com using the hire company Caldera. I hire cars a lot and have never had any problems, but I wouldn’t recommend using this company. We had quite a few issues with them trying to make more money from us. It might have just been a one off bad experience, but out of principle I won’t be using them again. If hiring a car in Crete I would recommend paying a bit more and using a more established hire company instead.
I stayed in West Crete in a small seaside town called Almyrida. I booked a brand new hotel called Aloe Boutiques and it was beautiful! Almyrida is a very quiet town, but in a good location to explore the rest of West Crete.
There are some beautiful places to check out in West Crete….
Balos Beach is located at the most western point in Crete! I didn’t do much research on this one, so what I didn’t realize was what an adventure it was going to be to get there. Balos is in a national park, there is a €2 entrance fee to enter. You will need a car or a boat to get here. To reach the actual beach you have to drive down a 7km dirt track of winding cliff side roads, park on the edge of the cliff, then hike down a 2km dusty mountain edge to actually get to the beach and water. I was definitely not prepared for that, but it was so worth it!
The water was crystal clear blue and the sand was white like the Whitsundays. There were some boat day trips that go directly to the beach, however when they arrive in the afternoon the beach gets really busy, so it is better to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
Chania (pronounced without the C) is the second largest city in Crete and well worth a visit. It has a pretty old Venetian Port with a lighthouse and tons of great traditional restaurants! I ate at an amazing one called Amphora, the food was fantastic and in a lovely setting.
Rethymno is another cute old town worth a visit. The streets are filled with boutiques, bars and tavernas. There is also a huge beach, which isn’t the prettiest, but a good place to chill after exploring the town!
Next stop was dreamy Santorini…
I arrived in Santorini on the ferry from Heraklion to Thira. Thira Port is abit crazy and there are a lot of people trying to sell you transfers and rental cars. I hadn’t booked a transfer so found one on arrival which cost €15 per person to take me directly to my hotel in Oia. If you can I would recommend booking a transfer through your hotel in advance to avoid wasting time.
Santorini is a lot bigger than I had imagined and if you want to explore at your own pace a car or RTV is recommended. It is possible to get around on the public buses, which were fairly reliable and cheap, the journey times just take a while as everywhere you want to go you have to change bus in the capital city Fira.
We stayed close to Oia (pronouned Ee-ah) which is the most famous area of Santorini and naturally the most expensive and exclusive area to stay. I managed to find a really cute boutique family fun hotel in a village just outside of Oia called Finikia Memories. I highly recommended this place, the staff go above and beyond, the views are amazing and the rooms are super cute traditional cycladic style. I paid around £450 for 3 nights. It is only a 10 minute walk to the start of the Oia Caldera, so it was the perfect location.
Santorini is obviously a really beautiful place, everywhere you look there is an amazing view! The only problem being the amount of people that come to see these views… Santorini is not a secret or a hidden gem, unfortunately and the whole world and his wife visits the island in July so expect big crowds. It is quite amusing to watch everyone posing for the perfect instagram snap (obviously I was also doing this), but there were some people taking it to the extremes!
Oia and it’s Caldera is the main attraction to the island and it is easy to see why with its white washed buildings, dome roofs and windmills overlooking the shimmering blue water. It also offers the best sunsets on the island with hundreds gathering every night to watch the sun go down!
The best spots are from the old castle ruins and the steps down from them where you (and a million other tourists) get the perfect view of the sun setting over the water!
Eating in Oia can be expensive and there are a lot of really bad tourist trap restaurants. The best restaurants I found were closer to my hotel in Finikia, these are my recommendations…
Mes Amis is located right at the start of the Caldera, it offers panoramic views and makes for a great lunch spot.
Santorini Mou is a family run restaurant in Finikia, about a 10 minute walk from Oia. It was probably the most authentic and traditional eatery I went to in Greece. The owners playing live Greek music all night and they also give you a flag of your nationality on your table when you walk in to encourage conversation with the other guests.
Krinaki is also located in Finikia. It is a great local eatery, the food was delicious and because of its off the beaten track location a lot more reasonably priced than other places in Santorini.
Other things to do in Santorini…
Fira is the capital of Santorini and is worth a visit. It also has an impressive caldera view and offers some of the best shopping on the island.
There are beaches on Santorini, however they will not be the most beautiful beaches you have ever seen. A lot of the beaches are rocky, but there are some organised beaches on the south side of the island which are better for sunbathing with sand. I got the bus to Perissa beach where all the beach bars offer free sunbeds if you order food or drinks! Warning: The sand on this beach is black and gets very very hot, so be sure to wear appropriate shoes!
Paros was the third island I visited.
I spent 3 beautiful days on this island and it was by far my favourite place I visited in Greece! Out of all the islands Paros was the most authentic and offered something for everyone! Although quieter than Santorini and much smaller than Crete, Paros has the perfect mix of things to do, Greek culture and atmosphere.
I stayed in a beautiful hotel called Yades Suites in the picturesque town of Naoussa. It was probably my favorite hotel I have ever stayed in. My room was incredible, we had an amazing terrace with a jacuzzi hot tub and fantastic views out to the sea!
Naoussa is a pretty fishing village with a new and old port. There is a bustling old town with some really beautiful shops.
Naoussa also offers plenty of great restaurants to chose from. My favourite was Glafkos Tavern. There is also a big bar scene and loads of happy hours going on to spend your evening bar hopping around.
For beaches there is one right in Naoussa Bay, walking distance from the town, but if you want crystal clear waters and beautiful scenery I highly recommend hiring a vehicle or taking the shuttle boat over to Kolymbithres beach. The waters are so warm, clear and the rock formations on the beach make for the perfect spot to perch for the day just like a mermaid!
Mykonos was my final stop!
I only spent one night here before my flight home, but controversially it was definitely my least favourite island.
I stayed at Cyclades Studios close to Ornos beach. It was the cheapest accommodation I could find on the island and even that wasn’t so cheap at £130 per night! It was in a good location however only being a 15 minutes bus ride to Mykonos Town.
The bus is the best and cheapest way to explore the island. From Mykonos Town you can reach all the beaches and towns on the island. You can also get a bus to the airport which is only a 10 minute drive away.
Mykonos Town is cute. The main draw is the famous windmills which offer a perfect spot to watch the sunset from. Little Venice lies underneath the windmills on the waterfront, this was my favourite area in Mykonos and where a lot of the popular bars and restaurants are located.
Platis Gialos beach is also a popular place to spend a day relaxing. I preferred this beach to Ornos.
I didn’t make it to Paradise beach, but this is the place to be if you are looking for Mykonos’ famous party scene!
Overall I really enjoyed my Greek island hopping experience and hope to explore more islands in the future.
In summary these are my final thoughts on all the islands I visited…
Crete is a great place for a family holiday.
Santorini is perfect for splashing the cash and living a life of luxury.
Mykonos is overrated and expensive.
Paros is just perfect!