We’ve rounded up everything you need to know before your trip to the Greek islands.
There are few places more beautiful and laid back than the Greek Islands in the summertime. With so many islands to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start when embarking on your Greek trip. So, before you start booking flights, hotels and restaurants, we’ve put together a little guide to a few of our favourite islands: Paros, Santorini and Mykonos. From where to stay, where to eat and what to do, we’ve got you covered. Once you’ve ticked these three islands off your list and want more of a carefully curated experience, Scott Dunn’s Off The Beaten Track guide to Greece takes you through 10 days, showcasing the best of Athens and the Peloponnese. For shorter trips, head to Patmos, Corfu and Naxos. No matter where you end up, Greece won’t disappoint.
As one of the largest islands in the Cycladic cluster, Paros is known for its beautiful long stretches of beach, windsurfing, cosmopolitan nightlife and ancient ruins.
How to get there
Blue Star ferries run three times a day during high season, and the crossing from Athens takes about four hours. There are also direct flights from the capital, but these only run during the summer and can be affected by the wind. Once you arrive at Parikia, the main port, there are taxis or buses to take you to your hotel.
Sassy Tip: The buses are irregular and taxis get booked up in advance, so make sure you plan your route beforehand.
Where to stay
There are boutique hotels and guest houses all over the island, but Naoussa, Drios and Parikia are our top spots on the island.
- Naoussa is a traditional coastal village packed with seaside tavernas, boutique shops and cute cocktail bars.
- Drios is a very small village with a handful of tavernas and one of the most impressive beaches on the island: Golden Beach.
- Parikia is the island’s “capital”. This bustling town is a shopper’s paradise, brimming with handcrafted jewellery, boutique clothes and small galleries. There are also a number of buzzing restaurants, cocktail bars and small nightclubs.
Calme Hotel Paros
This is one of our favourite hotels. It’s pricey but worth every penny. With stunning views of the Aegean Sea, an incredible fine dining restaurant and beautiful rooms with private pools, this is the perfect hotel for a romantic getaway.
Golden Beach Hotel
This family-run, understated hotel features a lush lawn that runs right to the beach. With wicker sun-loungers, a popular restaurant and a secluded beachside location, this makes an ideal base in Paros.
Mr & Mrs White
A stone’s throw from Naoussa, this boutique hotel is the height of style on Paros. Known for laid back luxury, you’ll feel right at home here. There are even airport roundtrip transfers available on request.
Nisiotikko Hotel & Apartments
This small guesthouse is family run, with simple rooms furnished in a chic Greek style. The breakfast is basic but filling, giving you a real local experience. The owners are delightful, and what’s more, it’s set just off the beach front!
Where to eat
There are many restaurants to choose from on Paros, offering Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Here are a few favourites:
Every Monday night, the Anezina hosts its Greek night. Diners can enjoy a buffet of home-cooked Greek dishes, washed down with good wine from Paros.
Sassy Tip: Make sure you join in with Greek locals and the dancing as the night goes on.
Anezina, Anezina Village Hotel, Main Street, Drios, Paros, 844 00, Greece, +30 2284 028010
This is an unusual choice as it’s not set on a beachfront. In fact, it’s in the centre of the small village of Drios, but the traditional Greek food served here is delicious.
Anna’s Restaurant, Drios, Paros, Greece, +30 2284 041015
Siparos Seaside Restaurant
Siparos can be found on Santa Maria, arguably the nicest beach on Paros. This elegant restaurant serves fresh Greek and Mediterranean food set against a backdrop of the Aegean Sea.
Markakis & To Kyma
Markakis and To Kyma are small family run seaside tavernas on Drios Beach. They are side by side just off Drios Beach and serve very similar dishes, at similar prices. Both are worth a visit – make sure to try the Octopus Stifado at To Kyma and the Grilled Squid at Markakis.
Markakis Taverna, Seafront, Drios Beach, Drios, Paros, 844 00, Cyclades Islands, Greece, +30 2284 041913
To Kyma, Seafront, Drios Beach, Drios, Paros, 844 00, Cyclades Islands, Greece, +30 2284 043306
Thalassamou is set in a white paved courtyard that faces the sea on the beautiful Aliki Beach. The restaurant serves Mediterranean food with a Greek twist, and a great wine list.
Thalassamou, Aliki, Paros, 844 00, Cyclades Islands, Greece, +30 2284 091461
What to do
Santa Maria Beach: Rent a scooter and explore the island’s beaches. Check out Santa Maria Beach, Golden Beach (home to the Windsurfing World Cup) and learn to windsurf. Windsurfing is taken very seriously on Paros, but the pros and instructors are always willing to teach beginners. We highly recommend giving it a go, it’s a great workout and really fun.
Byzantine Road: Wander the Byzantine Road, an ancient marble footpath which connects the smaller villages on Paros. Lefkes is really beautiful!
Delos: Take a day trip to the ancient ruins of Delos or hire a scooter and visit Antiparos for lunch.
Dive: If you are a diving fan, you’ll find an abundance of dive shops on the island. There isn’t much by way of wildlife, but the shipwrecks and caves make for excellent adventuring.
Sassy Tip: Ask for a scuba hood if it’s not yet summer – the water can be surprisingly cold!
Santorini is one of the most famous of the Cycladic islands because of its dramatic scenery. Discover the hidden treasures down winding paths, the wealth of elegant hotels and watch incredible sunsets with a cocktail in hand.
Sassy Tip: It can be very busy during high season, so we recommend going at the start or end of the season.
How to get there
Blue Star Ferries run frequently during high season, and the crossing from Athens takes about eight hours. There are also direct flights from Athens to many destinations around the world. Once you arrive at the main port, there are plenty of taxis and buses to take visitors to the main towns on the island.
Where to stay
Most people consider Oia as the most romantic spot on the island, but during high season, it is packed with tourists hustling for a spot to watch Santorini’s renowned sunset. If you’re looking for romance, try Imerovigli instead. It’s the most secluded spot on the island, ideal for romantic getaways, and it’s a walk from Fira, which is the hub of the island with great nightlife.
Astra Suites is a beautiful caldera edge hotel with stunning views, colourful and spacious rooms and really good food.
Myst Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel raises the bar when it comes to accommodation on Santorini. With a high standard of comfort in each of the rooms, an innovative restaurant and a large pool, this is one of true luxury.
This hotel is often named as one of the best on Santorini and is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. The hotel is ideal for couples or honeymooners, with infinity pools, dramatic views and cottages.
Contemporary style, breathtaking views and private plunge pools, is this the most beautiful hotel in the world? We want to say yes.
Where to eat
Santorini is renowned for its distinctive cuisine, which comes from its unique volcanic soil. You’ll find fine dining and local options across the island.
Sassy Tip: Google Maps isn’t great here, so be prepared to ask a local for restaurant help if you get lost!
Mo Mix & Casablanca
Mo Mix and Casablanca are top cocktail bars, ideal for a girls’ night out in Santorini. Mo Mix offers molecular mixology cocktails alongside great music, and Casablanca is a small bar, which hosts club nights with regular international DJs and live bands.
La Maison Restaurant
Found in the beautiful village of Imerovigli, this restaurant commands impressive views over the caldera and serves Mediterranean fusion dishes, set against the backdrop of the Santorini region.
Metropolis Str Wine Bar
Experience the sun go down in full view of the caldera, as you sip on delicious wine and a range of Mediterranean dishes.
Metropolis Str Wine Bar, Fira, Santorini, 847 00, Cyclades Islands, Greece, +30 2286 022200, www.metropolisstr.restaurant
One of the better-known restaurants on the island, Selene is an award-winning fine dining restaurant. The restaurant champions local cuisine with an innovative twist. We recommend the seafood plates.
What to do
Perissa or Perivolos: As the most famous beaches on the island, there you’ll find black sand and red volcanic pebbles. The beach bars are a great bonus.
Thera: Hike to ancient Thera, the mountaintop city with ruins and dramatic ocean views, or the Byzantine Castle Ruins. It’s also worth visiting the handful of archaeological museums featuring an abundance of Greek artefacts.
Fira: Spend an afternoon shopping in Fira and load your handbag with Greek trinkets and handcrafted jewellery.
Beachside bars: Enjoy a cocktail at one of the many bars and restaurants and watch the incredible Santorini sun go down.
Mykonos has a reputation as being the party animal of the Greek Islands. Think Ibiza but not quite as hectic. There are beach clubs, beach bars and super clubs that pulse through to dawn. But alongside the glitz and the glam, this island also offers a quiet charm and a dining scene to rival the others.
How to get there
There are direct flights from Hong Kong to Athens and then the ferries run very regularly. Mykonos is roughly five hours on the ferry from Athens or there are direct flights from Athens and many European cities. The main port is very close to the town, so visitors can easily walk or get a bus onwards.
Where to stay
There are many options for Mykonos visitors, but it all comes down to budget. Hora, the island’s capital, has a plethora of options for travellers, to suit all price points. If you’re willing to splash out, we recommend staying in one of the hotels clustered around the beaches on the South coast.
Mykonian Mare Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel caters to each of your senses, offering guests spacious suites with private terraces and breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea.
Nissaki Boutique Hotel
With a stunning pool overlooking the bay, this spot is ideal for couples looking for romance. The whitewashed rooms with multi-coloured stone floor tiles and hot tubs are a delight.
Petasos Beach Resort & Spa
This beautiful hotel stands majestically on a private peninsula overlooking the yachts at the Bay of Psarou, offering guests luxury and privacy.
Santa Marina Resort & Villas
This hotel is known for its stylish Buddha Bar Beach restaurant and its secluded location, including the only private beach on the whole island.
Where to eat
Mykonos has an excellent dining scene and we think the best way to experience it is to eat and drink everything in sight – you’re on holiday after all. You’ll find tons of Greek tavernas, but also be sure to check out these tried and tested eateries:
This courtyard restaurant is a Mykonian hot spot and a favourite with both locals and visitors. Serving delicious Mediterranean dishes, it turns into a bar meets dance spot as the hours pass.
You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t recommend this little beach shack. There is no electricity – just a grill, fresh local produce and lots of good wine.
Sassy Tip: Get in the queue for lunch early and be prepared to wait a little while. But don’t worry, wine is offered to all queuing visitors.
Kiki’s Tavern, Agios Sostis Beach, Mykonos, 846 00, Cyclades Islands, Greece
If you can’t get through a holiday without your Japanese fix, head to Kiku where you’ll find a tribute to Japanese cuisine and culture.
This is a must-do when visiting Mykonos. Soak up the sun on the wicker day beds, take a dip in the sea and drink your way through the extensive (and expensive!) cocktail list. Wait until the sun goes down to dance the night away.
Spilia Seaside Restaurant
Set on the rocks of Agia Anna Cove, Spilia has one of the most dramatic settings in Mykonos and serves melt in your mouth seafood, straight from the blues of the Aegean Sea.
What to do
Hora: Visit Hora and get lost in the warren of pretty streets lined with boutiques catering to all tastes.
Little Venice: Head to Little Venice for souvenirs and handmade silver jewellery.
Mountain Bike Tour: Venture out of the main beat to visit the small traditional villages on the islands or join a mountain bike tour along the island’s hilly interiors and quiet back country roads.
Pick your beach wisely: Mykonos boasts 25 beaches on the island, so there really is a beach to suit every taste. Paradise and Paraga are ideal for partygoers, offering a number of beach parties throughout the summer. Elia is a stunning long expanse of white sand, perfect for families or those looking to work on their tans in peace. Agios Ioannis is the spot for windsurfing, and the pebbled Fokos Cove offers respite from the crowds.
Featured image courtesy of Tom Grimbert via Unsplash, image 1 courtesy of Annie Spratt via Unsplash, image 2 courtesy of Calme Boutique Hotel Paros via Facebook, image 3 courtesy of Golden Beach Hotel via Facebook, image 4 courtesy of Siparos Seaside Restaurant, image 5 courtesy of Saverio P via TripAdvisor, image 6 courtesy of Nathan Landers via The Paros Experience‘s Instagram, image 7 courtesy of Tom Grimbert via Unsplash, image 8 courtesy of Astra Suites via Instagram, image 9 courtesy of La Maison Restaurant via Instagram, image 10 courtesy of Selene via Instagram, image 11 courtesy of MARK ADRIANE via Unsplash, image 12 courtesy of Alex Korolkoff via Unsplash, image 13 courtesy of Mykonian Mare Boutique Hotel via Instagram, image 14 courtesy of Petasos Beach Resort & Spa via Instagram, image 15 courtesy of Interni via Instagram, image 16 courtesy of Scorpios Mykonos via Instagram, image 17 courtesy of Héctor J. Rivas via Unsplash