Top 5 Greek islands near Santorini
by Irina Vishnevskaya, Tastemaker in Residence
There’s nothing more quintessential, or more picture perfect, than a summer trip to a Greek island, and for many, the top Greek island to visit is Santorini. For good reason too- sunsets in Santorini are a real sight to behold. And those whitewashed houses on the cliff? Unreal. But what about after Santorini? Say you want to keep adventuring and checking out what’s around. Below are our top picks for Greek islands near Santorini that are easily accessible by a short ferry ride and well worth the detour.
If you are yearning for an island where you can enjoy the sun, sea, and sand, you might want to consider the island of Tinos. It is part of the Cyclades island group and is famous for its religious sites that lure pilgrims to the island annually. The island is known for its natural beauty, breathtaking landscapes, historic monuments, and beautiful beaches. This island is not a place to party, but if you enjoy an unhurried pace and a much quieter and relaxing atmosphere, this is the island for you. Its famous beaches include: Panormoswhich is known for its fine sandy beach located in front of the village of the same name. Because it gets very windy at times, it is also ideal for windsurfing; one of the most beautiful beaches in the southern coast of the island, Kalivia boasts of a long sandy beach and a clear seabed. It is a great beach to enjoy seclusion where you get to choose your own spot to spend the day; Kolympithra is one of the most popular beaches in Tinos. It is actually composed of two beaches suitable for swimming and sunbathing. It is also a favorite of windsurfers if you would like to enjoy some drinks and food while enjoying the beach, Agios Sostis located about 6 kilometers from the town is where you must be headed. There are a couple of taverns and a beach bar within walking distance. The beach is known for its soft sand, crystal water, and shaded areas; a quiet and secluded beach, Lychnaftia’s remoteness will appeal to people who want to have the beach by themselves. It does not have any beach bars so you have to bring food and drinks. The beach is known for it's relaxing and natural setting featuring a stretch of sand and pebbles.
Tinos is a cultural and religious hub of the Cyclades, and it has also of attractions that will be enjoyed by history buffs including Panayia Evanyelistria Cathedral and Museums, Monastery Agias Pelagias, Moni Kimiseos Theotokos Monastery, a number of Dovecotes, Museum of Sculptor Chapelas, Museum of Marble Crafts, and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary which will be open by August 15.
There are nearly daily ferry crossings between Tinos and Santorini, the crossing takes about 3.5 hours and costs 45- 65 €.
Known for its traditional villages and beautiful beaches, the island of Paros is located in the Aegean Sea, and is one of the most popular islands of the Cyclades island group. It covers a total area of 196.3 square kilometers and is home to more than 13,000 people. It is a favorite destination for families, the younger set, and romantics. The main villages of the island are Parikia and Naoussa, where most of the activities are concentrated. There are 38 beaches on the island which boasts of crystal water and fine white sand. Its most popular beaches include: Golden Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the island and is defined by its soft sand crystal water. It is the favorite of windsurfers, families, and those who want to indulge in watersports activities; Pounda, a sandy beach near the village Parikia. It has a number of beach bars where you can enjoy some food and drinks; Santa Maria, a fine sandy beach near the village of Naoussa and known for a number of watersports centers; Kolymbithres, one of the famous beaches in the area of Naoussa, characterized by its rock formations and clean water; and the New Golden Beach located right next to the Golden Beach. It is not as popular as its neighbor. This is the best visited by people who yearn for a less developed and quieter beach area.
Its breathtaking architecture, beaches, and vibrant nightlife makes the island a favorite of the younger set but it also has a number of attractions which must be visited including the Valley of Butterflies, Folklore Art Museum Of Cycladic Civilization, Moraitis Winery, Old Port of Naoussa, Panayia Ekatondapiliani Cathedral, Venetian Fortress, Paros Ancient Cemetery, and the Yria Ceramic Studio.
Ferries available from Santorini and ferry ride takes 2-3 hours. High-speed ferries are available between Athens (Piraeus port, outside the city) and Paros, the speed ferry ride is 4 hours long and prices start at about $65. Flights Paros to Athens starts at $100.
The largest of the Cyclades island group, Naxos might not be as popular as it neighbor Mykonos, but it must be visited before it rivals its neighbor’s popularity. The island covers a total area of 429.785 square kilometers and is inhabited by more than 18,000 people. The island is known its cheese, potatoes, Kitron, and of course its beautiful beaches. The island has a lot of undiscovered beaches which is best explored by renting a motorbike, bicycle or car. Its popular beaches include the beaches of Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna, known for their clear turquoise water and a long stretch of fine sandy beach; Plaka which boasts of five kilometers of golden sand and considered by many as the best beach in the island. It is also the unofficial nudist beach of the island; Agios Georgios often called Saint George, the center of activity of the island and where most tourists enjoy watersports and a dip in its shallow waters; and the Kastraki which features a six kilometers long stretch of beach and the clearest one in the island.
Aside from its beaches, the island’s attractions include the Eggares Olive Press Museum, Temple of Demeter, Kouros Statue, Temple of Apollo, Cave of Zeus, Bazeos Tower, Zas Mountain, and the Venetian Museum. Naxos is also known as an agricultural island so you can be sure that the freshest ingredients are used in its restaurants. Its specialties include a variety of sausages and cheeses.
The daily ferry between Santorini and Naxos, takes 1.5 hours. Speed ferries take about 3.5-5.5 hours to Athens Pireas port and start at about $65 per person for the slowest route. Flights Naxos- Athens start at $110.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, Mykonos is part of the Cyclades island group. It is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and party vibe. It is a favorite playground of celebrities and the sophisticated crowd. Known as “The Island of the Winds”, Mykonos has been an international hotspot since the 1930s. Its famous beaches include: Psarou Beach is a hip fun beach favorite of the young and the jet-setters. It known for its crystal clear waters with soft sand. It is the place to be seen in Mykonos, albeit its facilities and restaurants are on the expensive side; Paradise Beach attracts the younger crowd because it is known as the place where you can party non-stop. It is a nudist friendly beach with lots of activities and watersports to enjoy; Fokos is perfect for those who want to get away from the crowd. It is an undeveloped beach which can only be accessed by a car or taxi. There is nothing here except for the Fokos Taverna where you can enjoy a superb meal after enjoying the hours having the beach by yourself; another beach to go to if you would like to have the beach by yourself is the Agios Ioannis. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches located on the southwest coast of the island and features crystal blue waters and soft sandy beach. You can also enjoy a view of the island of Delos; the longest and one of the most popular beaches in the island, Eli boasts of a huge sandy beach where you can enjoy a number of watersports activities. The beach is usually crowded but is wide and long enough for you to find your own space.
In recent years Mykonos has become a prime destination for the LGBTQ community and many of its beaches are semi-nudist (nudism is OK and many practice it, but you don’t have to!) Because Mykonos is known as a party island, it is pulsating with energy, and there are a number of pubs and bars you can enjoy at any time of the day and night. It has its share of attractions including the Windmills, Mykonos Vioma Organic Farm & Vineyard, Armenistis Lighthouse, Church of Paraportiani, Lena’s House, Rarity Gallery, Matoyianni Street, Folklore Museum, Aegean Maritime Museum, and the Archaeological site of Delos.
The daily ferry between Santorini and Mykonos, takes 2 hours. Speed ferries take about 2.5-5.5 hours to Athens Pireas port, prices start at about $60 for the slowest ferry. Flights Mykonos- Athens as low as $45.
It may not be near Santorini, but the speed ferry makes it so easy to get to that’s why it made it to this list. As the largest island in Greece, Crete is known for its ancient ruins, fertile valleys, rugged mountains and steep gorges, white sand beaches with crystal clear waters, charming villages, breathtaking landscape, and friendly locals. Its famous beaches include: Váï, a golden sand beach, which has a more Caribbean vibe, and was once a favorite of backpackers and is now the choice of north European tour groups from resorts nearby; Plethora, the best beach on the southwest coast, is a favorite of both the young and the old, and families; Elafonisi, known for its lightly pink-tinted sands, and one of the most promoted beaches in Western Crete. It caters to everyone who wants to enjoy a day of relaxation and sunbathing; and Myrtos, known for its kilometer-long, fine-pebble beach. It has a bohemian vibe and caters to all type of travelers.
The island has a vibrant nightlife ranging from parties to the more traditional Greek nights. Its attractions include Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Spinalonga, Lychnostatis Open Air Museum, Rethymnon Old Town, Old Venetian Harbor, Manousakis Winery, Cretaquarium Thalassocosmos, and Knossos Archaeological Site. You must not miss exploring the Cave of Zeus, believed to be the birthplace or hiding place of Zeus.
Crete is quite large and can feel like a country in and of itself (a 5 hour drive from one side of the island to the other!), and for explorers like you, we’d really recommend renting a car here to get around if you are open to it. There are busses that connect major cities, but this way you’d be completely independent. Rates vary but start at about $25/ day.
It’s very easy to get from Santorini to Crete (high speed ferry connection; 1.5 hours) and there are countless flights between Athens and Crete- some for as low as $25-50! It’s much easier to fly between Crete and Athens than take an overnight ferry.