Two weeks itinerary of island hopping in Greece from Samos in the east over the party island Mykonos, to the calm and rural island of Naxos, crowded Santorin to Athens.
You can avoid the big crowds if you go there in spring. To get around the islands we used normal ferries which have to be planned in advance since some routes like Samos to Mykonos are just served twice a week.
|Our 14 Day Greek Island Hopping Itinerary|
|Day 1: Arrival in Samos & Beach Time|
|Day 2-5: Samos|
|Day 6-7: Mykonos|
|Day 8-10: Naxos|
|Day 11-12: Santorini|
|Day 13-14: Athens & Departure|
Samos is an island in the very east of the Aegean Sea just next to the Turkish mainland. Compared to the other islands in the Aegean Sea it is very green with pine forests covering a big part of the island. Samos is well-connected via its airport but still spared by mass tourism. It’s a beautiful island with untouched beaches, remote mountain villages, great hiking opportunities, awesome food, ancient ruins and on top it is the birthplace of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras.
How to get there
By plane: Samos has all year connections to Athens, Thessaloniki and a few Greek islands. Seasonal connections from spring to autumn include connections to most European countries often served by low-cost airlines.
By ferry: Samos has three ports (Vathi, Karlovasi and Pythagoreion) and they all serve different routes to the Greek mainland, Greek islands and to Turkey. For up to date timetables, routes and tickets check out the Ferryhopper website.
We got a rental car for three days. Taxis and busses are not a real option for the day trips but of course if you want to get away and to the airport or the ferry terminals.
Things to do
Heraion of Samos: The UNESCO World Heritage Site was an ancient sanctuary to the goddess Hera. The remaining parts of the temples, statues and altars are nowadays accessible to the public for a little entrance fee. Best way to get there is by car and you will need around 2 hours to see everything in a slow pace.
Megalo Seitani Beach: One of the best beaches in the Aegean Sea in regards to its surrounding. The beach has some wild mountains in its back and is only accessible by boat or foot. We started our hike west of Potami beach where you will find big parking lot. Take the paved road uphill and after 15 minutes follow a small path to the right through an olive grove. After one hour you will reach the smaller Mikro Seitani Beach and after another hour of walking Megalo Seitani Beach. Walking time one way is around 2 hours. Bring enough water and food for the day, there are no shops or restaurants on the way.
Kokkari: Small village on the north coast close to the popular Lemonakia Beach. Kokkari has a wide range of excellent restaurants with sea views on the beach. Best time for a visit is the evening hours.
Pythagoreio: The small town is home to the oldest man-made harbor located in the south of the island. Its valued by tourists and locals for its many cafes and family run restaurants close to the water. Mount Kastro which is located just north of town can be crossed via an ancient tunnel that served as an aqueduct. We choose to go up to the top of the mountain for a little hike which takes around 3 hours round way from the city center.
From the summit you will have great views to 1237m high Mount Mycale in neighboring Turkey.
The small island of Mykonos is famous for its windmills, party beaches and white colored narrow alleys in the old town. We only spent 2 days here to see the main sights. The island is a popular stop for cruise ships and is constantly overrun by tourists. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful place and absolutely worth the visit.
How to get there
By ferry: We arrived by ferry from Samos which takes around 4 hours. Check timetables in advance, the route is not served on a daily basis.
By plane: Mykonos has an international airport with seasonal connections to many European destinations. There is a bus transit service to Mykonos Town and other popular places of the island during the summer season.
If you stay in Mykonos Town you can easily walk to the main sights. Taxis are limited on the island to a fix number so plan long waiting times if a cruise ship has arrived and book them in advance whenever possible. Most hotels work with their trusted company and can make reliable reservations.
Things to do
Chora (Mykonos Town): Walk around town to see the famous white colored houses and enjoy a Café frappé. On the waterfront you will find the picturesque houses of Little Venice which is also home to the island’s famous pelican Petros.
From here you can already see some of the famous windmills on the neighboring hill which are just a 10 minutes’ walk away.
Beaches: The best beaches are located in the south of the island. From Chora you can take several busses for example to Platis Gialos and then go beach hopping with the shuttle boats.
Delos: From the small harbor at the city center you can take a boat to the neighboring island Delos with its historical excavations. The Greek mythology says that Apollo and Artemis where born here. You can spend half a day to see all the ruins and excavations before going back to Mykonos. Don’t miss the climb up the small hill from where you have great views to Mykonos, Tinos and the small islands around Delos.
Widely ignored by mass tourism this island is worth a longer stay. Located between the tourist hotspots of Mykonos and Santorini, Naxos is the biggest island of the Cyclades with long empty beaches and great inland hiking opportunities.
How to get there
By ferry: Naxos has ferry connections to all bigger islands of the Cyclades and the mainland. We arrived by ferry from Mykonos which takes only 40 minutes with the fastest one. Regular ferries will still make the journey in about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
By plane: Aegean Airlines and Sky Express are operating daily flights from Athens to the island.
It’s best to have a rental car for you stay if you plan to explore the island on your own. Car rentals can be found just next to the harbor.
Things to do
Beaches: The best beaches are located north and south of Mikri Vigla. The one in the north is popular for kite surfers while the one in the south is quieter with sand and crystal-clear water. When we were there in May both beaches where almost empty.
Portara and Chora (Naxos City): Portara is the landmark of Naxos just next to the harbor. It’s the only remaining part of a former Apollo Temple and was built in the 6th century BC. You can just walk there in 5 minutes from the harbor and its free of charge. Chora itself lies on a little hill with narrow alleys and has an old castle district. You will need about one hour to see the whole old part by foot.
Kouros of Apollonas: It’s an unfinished statue of marble close to the village of Apollonas. A visit here is best combined with a road trip to the northern and eastern part of the island which is even less populated than the west.
Mount Zeus: The highest mountain in the Cyclades offers great views over Naxos, the neighboring islands and we even saw the outline of Santorini. Our hike started at the little chapel Agia Marina where you can park your car. You just have to follow the marked path to the top which takes around one hour each direction. The mountain is often covered in clouds especially in the afternoon. Also, strong winds are common. So, make sure to go up on a less windy and clear day.
At the bottom of the mountain you can visit the Zeus Cave. Greek Mythology says that the goddess Zeus grew up in this cave. Beside this ‘fact’ there is nothing special to see in the cave but it’s just a little drive down the hills after you finished the hiking tour.
Despite the mass of tourists on this little island it’s still worth a two day stay for the unique form of the island, its beaches, vineyards, pools on the edge of the cliff and sunsets. The main villages on the edge of the caldera are Oia and Fira. I would recommend to stay in Fira since Oia is even more touristy and packed with boutiques of luxury brands.
How to get there
By ferry: Being one of the most touristy places on the Cyclades there are many ferry connections to all major islands including Crete and the mainland. We arrived by ferry from Naxos which took around 3.5 hours.
By plane: Santorini International Airport has all year connections to Athens via Aegean Airlines and many seasonal connections to all major European destinations.
The unwritten rule of Santorini is to rent an ATV. You can also take taxis, busses or rent a scooter but most tourists enjoy the ATVs. You will find many rental companies all across the island. Despite the fact that they are fun to drive they’re also very useful on the many dirt roads leading to viewpoints and beaches.
Things to do
Akrotiri: The prehistoric city of Akrotiri was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC and has been excavated in the last decades. It’s located in the south of the island and the most part is covered by a giant roof. A visit will take around one hour and is close to the Red Beach.
Red Beach: The Red Beach is accessible by foot from the small parking lot at Saint Nikolaos Orthodox Church. It’s not the best beach to hang around but a beautiful landscape that should be visited during your stay. Just walk around the cliff for 10 minutes and you will already see the beach and the red wall behind.
Nea Kameni: The uninhabited island lies in the middle of the caldera and is an active volcanic area with sulfur vents and underwater hot springs. It is accessible by organized boat trips and is a very popular tourist attraction.
Sunset hike: A hike along the caldera between Fira and Oia offers great views of the islands and you will be surprised how few people you meet on the way. It’s also a great opportunity to see the volcanic origin of the island since you’re walking through a lot of lava gravel. Just start anywhere in Fira and walk north along the edge of the cliff. Once you left the village you will see a small path leading further to Oia. Start in the afternoon to avoid the heat and you will be in Oia to watch the sunset. Walking time is around 3.5 hours and to return we took a bus.
Greece capital has this unique mixture of ancient history and modern life. You will see excavations from antiquity all around the city. Athens has also some nice beaches. We only spend one day in Athens on this trip but have been there before for a longer stay.
How to get there
By ferry: Athens has two big harbors providing ferry connections to the Greek Islands with Piraeus being the biggest passenger port in Europe and Rafina with additional routes for example to Mykonos.
By plane: Athens International Airport is well connected to the whole world as well as nearly all Greek islands with an airport.
Athens Metro is the fastest way to get around in the city and it is also connecting the airport and harbor with the city. In the city center you can easily walk to the main sights.
Things to do
Acropolis: Of course, attraction number one is the Acropolis sitting on a hill in the middle of the city. It’s a whole complex with an old theatre and many excavations. Go there early to avoid the crowds and heat.
Beaches: There are beaches all around Athens but I want to point out three of them where you are able to take public transportation to. The first one is at the suburb of Voula as has an entrance fee of 4 to 5 euros depending on the weekday. Take the tram to Asklipio Voulas and then simply walk towards the beach. The second beach is at the suburb Varkiza, take the metro to Elliniko and proceed by bus 122. The closest one to the city center is Edem which has a similar called tram stop. Because its so close to the city it often gets really crowded.
If you have a car one of the best options are the beaches around the Sounio peninsula which is about one hour by car from Athens city center.
Go out: There are many rooftop bars around the Acropolis which you should visit at night. A general good advice for food and drinks is the Psyri district.
You can continue from Athens via train to Nafplio, Patras and by ferry into Italy and France.