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Europe, Greece, Travel

5 Alternatives to Santorini

June 18, 2018
Alternatives to Santorini

 

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After I wrote my post, Why I Didn’t Love Santorini, many people ask what islands they should visit instead. So I am giving you my five alternatives to Santorini.

A few of these islands are close to Santorini and a few are closer to Athens. Each of them has comparisons to Santorini in some way and all of them are less expensive than Santorini, Greece. You could visit one of these islands or go island hopping between a few of them.

1. Paros

Alternatives to Santorini

Paros is one of the larger Cycladic Islands and is accessible by ferry daily from Piraeus port in Athens. Do not confuse it with Poros, which is an island close to Athens.

There is something for everyone on Paros. You can visit historic sites, get a tan on the beach or go windsurfing! It is a great alternative to Santorini because the villages have a similar style and since the main village, Parikia, is flat it is more accessible than Oia on Santorini.

Things to See and Do on Paros

  • Visit Panayia Ekatondapiliani Cathedral – This is also known as the church with 100 doors. It is very beautiful and there are tons to see.
  • Old Port of Naoussa – This is one of those iconic Greek places where cafe tables meet the sea!
  • Wander Parikia Town – This is one of the most beautiful towns on the islands I have seen. Tons of shops and restaurants to see as well.
  • Go Windsurfing – For the more adventurous, Paros has lots of wind making it a top spot for windsurfing.
  • Visit Golden Beach – One of the most beautiful beaches on the island and it is large. You might even be able to see the windsurfers from here.

Paros Hotel Recommendations

Parikia – Check out the Argonauta Hotel right in the center of town with great access to everything.  Click here to check prices.

Naousa – Hotel Liprando lovely hotel is in the center of Naousa and is comfortable and convenient. Click here to check prices.

2. Naxos

Right next to Paros is Naxos, the largest of the Cycladic Islands. Naxos has tons of beautiful beaches. It is also extremely family-friendly. You can fly to Naxos as well as take the ferry.

Book a day trip to Paros from Naxos here.

I like Naxos better than Santorini as it is also flat at the port and the Chora is right next to a great beach. It means you don’t have to walk far for dinner or rent a car.

Things to See and Do in Naxos

  • Visit the Kastro – Located right in the Chora, the 13th century Kastro is an ancient castle with three gates. Two of those gates are still in existence. The Kastro has several things to see inside including the Archaeological Museum.
  • See the Temple of Apollo – This is hard to miss as it sits at near the entrance of the port. Walking out to it is easy and offers great views of the sea.
  • Take a Dip at Agios Prokopios Beach – This great beach is right next to the Chora and has plenty of cafes and bars to hang out as well.
  • Go to the Eggares Olive Press Museum – The olive tree and oil are a very important part of Greek life. This covers the whole operation of the press operation.
  • Take a Day Sail – Spend the day on the water and visit places only reachable by boat. Book your day sail here!

Naxos Town – Galaxy Hotel in right on the beach and also offers easy access to Naxos Town. Click here to check prices.

Plaka Beach – Located at the quiet end of a stunning beach, Plaza Beach Hotel is a great option. Click here to check prices.

3. Ios

Alternatives to Santorini

Ios is close to Santorini and in my opinion, has the better sunset! The Chora is up on a hill just like Santorini but without the volcano.

Ios has 75km of beaches and is the island to visit if you are wanting to party or even if you are not. Given that parts of the activities are geared to young people, it makes much of the accommodation more affordable than Santorini.

Things to See and Do in Ios

  • Explore Skarkos – This is one of the best-preserved ancient sites in the Cyclades. You can see some artifacts from Skarkos in the Archaeology Museum in the Chora.
  • Visit Managanari Beach – One of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. You can take a bus for the day to the stunning beach.
  • Eat at Octopus Tree – This tiny port restaurant has some of the best Greek food on Ios. I recommend the fried zucchini fritters. Here is my list of all the best places to eat in Ios.
  • Watch the Sunset from the Liostasi Hotel – The sunset in Ios is stunning and due to its unobstructed views, the Liostatsi is one of the best places to see it. You don’t have to be staying there, just order a drink from their bar.
  •  Visit Homer’s Tomb – Homer the poet is supposedly buried on Ios. It is a drive, but worth visiting. The view from here is amazing.

Near the port – Kritkikakis Village Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in Greece. The staff are friendly and the room are comfortable. Click here to check prices.

Near the Chora – This luxury hotel offers amazing views of the sunset and a great pool. Click here to check prices.

4. Kea

Alternatives to Santorini

Kea is a great alternative to Santorini that is close to Athens. It is also great if you want a less touristy option as it is mostly Athenians that come here. You could come to Kea on a day trip if you wanted to as well.

The hilltop village is white and blue like Santorini and offers great views of the island.

Things to See and Do in Kea

  • See the Lion of Kea – Located in the hilltop village of Ioulis is a Lion sculpture. It was carved before 600 BC.
  • Visit the Archaeology Museum – Also in the village of Ioulis is the small but great museum. The pottery has feminine features and I have never seen anything like them before.
  • Go Scuba Diving – This is one of the few islands have seen with a dive shop. The waters here were calm making it a great place to dive.
  • Hike to Ancient Karthea – This is a long hike but worth it to see the site and go swimming after.
  • Eat at Bourkarion – This family-owned restaurant is located in the village of Vourkari, which is just down from the port of Korissa.

Kea does not have tons of hotel options but the ones they do have are wonderful, including the Porto Kea Suites. Click here to check prices.

5. Kythnos

Kythnos is also not far from Athens and is another great alternative to Santorini. The island is not too big, but if you really want to explore you will need a car as some of the best places to eat are not in the port. Kythnos still has some of the best food I have eaten in Greece.

It is also great as it is not crowded and much more affordable than Santorini.

Things to See and Do in Kythnos

  • Take a Dip in the Thermal Springs – In the village of Loutra right in the sea is a thermal spring.
  • Eat Mussels at Sofrano – Also in the village of Loutra is the great restaurant of Sofrano and has some of the best mussels I have ever had in my life.
  • Visit the hilltop Chora – This is one of the most charming white and blue villages and reminded me most of Oia in Santorini.
  • Swim at Kolona Bay – This two-sided bay offers great swimming and a stunning view of the surrounding island. There is a narrow strip of beach to relax on, but it is never crowded.
  • Visit Katafiki Cave – This is one of the largest caves in Greece. It was a mine and is now a tourist attraction.

Loutra – The beautiful Kythnos Bay Hotel is right on the beach! Click here to check prices.

At the port – Kontseta is right at the port and offers great access to restaurants. Click here to check prices.

Book an ancient trail hike on the island of Kythnos here.

I would never tell you not to visit Santorini, but it is expensive and is very crowded in the high season. If you are only going to Greece once, then visit Santorini for a day or two and then visit one of these great alternatives. There are over 200 islands in Greece, so you plenty to choose from!

Do you have favorite Greek islands that are alternatives to Santorini? Share with us in the comments!

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Places Like Santorini

Greece, Sailing, Travel

Sailing in Greece

September 28, 2020
Sailboats with sunset behind them in Athens, Greece

Sailing in Greece is how fell I in love with Greece on my first trip. Taking a sailing holiday in Greece is a great way to see several Greek islands and even some of the mainland in one trip. Not only do you get to see many places in one trip, but you can find spots that you want to revisit on your next Greece trip.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

You sail from one beautiful Greek island to the next. Each will have a wonderful beach with clear turquoise or blue waters that practically beg you to swim in them. Then each night you will dock under the glowing harbor lights of a Greek village harbor and get to know the warmth of Greek hospitality.

There are several options for taking a sailing trip in Greece that can fit all types of vacations. Except for a few options, anyone can go on one of these sailing trips.

Sailing Charters in Greece

A sailing charter in Greece is probably the most common kind of sailing trip. On a sailing charter, you rent the boat, get crew, and the boat is provisioned for you. Usually, the crew and provisioning are included. Sometimes a hostess or cook is also included or can be added to the rental.

If you want a luxury sailing holiday in Greece, this is the way to go! You and your friends can rent the sailboat or yacht together to split the cost.

The other good thing about this option is that you usually have much more say in the itinerary so you can visit the Greek islands that you want or make a change if you decide to stay longer in one place. Dietary issues may also be more manageable since they will provision the boat as requested.

You can opt to have all your meals onboard or visit one of the many tavernas or restaurants in the places you visit.

Cabin Charters in Greece

A cabin charter is how I did my first sailing vacation in Greece. The cabin charter allows you to book a cabin on a charter with others. It can be a cheaper option if you can’t find enough people to charter a whole boat.

On a charter like this, the itinerary is set with mostly set in advance. Although, all sailing trips are dependent on the weather. The nice thing about this is that the captain usually knows the islands or towns very well, so you get top tips for each place.

I have done this type of sailing trip in Greece twice. Most recently, with Sailing Jollies. Although we were also doing a boat delivery and there was no hostess, and there was more responsibility. What I like about the cabin charter that usually you can learn a bit about sailing if you want.

 

Bareboat Charter in Greece

If you have your skipper’s license, you might be able to charter a yacht in Greece. Usually, this means there is no crew, and you provision the boat. This is a great option if you have a large family or group of friends already ready to go on the trip. You can make the food you want.

You also get to set your own itinerary so you can see the places you want without compromise. The only thing is having the yacht or sailboat back to the agreed-upon marina by the end date.

A bareboat charter in Greece is probably only a good idea if you have sailed in Greece before since the winds can be strong at certain times of the year. Another option is to join a flotilla of boats that may be a combination of bareboat or charter sailboats. Going on a flotilla is useful if you are confident in your sailing ability but unsure of the sailing waters. 

Day Sails in Greece

Almost every island has an option for a day sail around that island or to another island nearby. A day sail in Greece may also be possible from Athens and other major ports on the mainland. 

A day sail means that you will leave early in the morning and sail to points during the day. It usually consists of sailing to a swim stop, having lunch, and then sailing to another swim stop before returning to the port. Many times these swim stops are in spots on islands that may be unreachable by car or walking. 

Going on a day sail in Greece means that you might get to see parts of the country you may not have seen on your island vacation only.

Boat Delivery

Maybe you have some sailing experience and would like to build miles, then going on a boat delivery is a great option. The only drawback to these is that sometimes the delivery is on a schedule, and you cannot stop much for leisurely days in the ports. You may only have a few days to make the delivery.

As with some cabin charters, the trip is not going to be round trip, so you will need to find your way back to the starting point if that is where your flight leaves from. Of course, you might be able to pick up another boat delivery or enjoy the place you are in for longer.

Most boat deliveries need people with sailing experience, so this might not be an option for the casual sailor. It depends on the skipper that sail with.

Sunset Sails on the Greek Islands

By far, the most popular option for sailing in Greece is to take a sunset sail. Greek sunsets are out of this world, and unless a cloud blocks it, I have never seen a bad Greek sunset.

A sunset sail will usually leave in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on the activities involved. Some are quick for about two hours just to get out to watch the sail, usually with a drink. Others include swimming and a light meal. The boat will head back to the harbor as soon as the sun sets to avoid getting back too late in the dark, usually.

Keep in mind that the time of the sail may vary during the year for the sunset sail since the sunset changes times.

Greek Island Hopping Itineraries

Now, where should you go on one of these fantastic sailing trips in Greece? There are so many options. Of course, if you are going on a cabin charter, flotilla, or boat delivery, you may not have much choice in your sailing itinerary.

However, if you have booked the entire boat, you get to choose! If you depart from Athens, you can choose from the Saronic islands, the Peloponnese, or the Cycladic islands. For example, my first sailing trip was Athens, Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Sifnos, and Ios. The return was Ios, Paros, Syros, Delos, Kea, and Kythnos. This trip was great since we got to see both the Saronic and Cycladic islands.

If you have less time, you could leave Athens and head to Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Spetes, and return to Athens. My second trip was from Athens to Corfu. This trip was great as we saw lots of mainland villages and sailed through the Corinth Canal.

Another area to consider is the Dodecanese islands in eastern Greece. These islands are closer to Turkey so your itinerary could include Turkey as well as Kos, Kalimos, Leros, and Patmos.

Each of these areas of Greece offers something different, so you will want to do your research and see what kind of experience you would like to have.

Types of Boats

There are many options for types of boats to charter in Greece. If you know what kind of boat you want, you have already narrowed down your choices of charter companies. Some companies only do monohull sailboats and some do a mix of monohulls and catamarans. If you are only looking for motor yachts, then you can look for those as well.

Going on a monohull sailboat is my top choice. If you are unfamiliar, a monohull is a single hulled boat with sails. Many sailing enthusiasts prefer this as you get the real feel of sailing this way. When underway with higher speeds the boat will keel to one side. This is when one side of the sailboat is lower than the other. The wind whips through your hair and occasionally you will get a light spray of seawater!

Another type is a catamaran. These usually have two hulls that are connected. These offer more stability than a monohull. The cabins tend to be larger as is the saloon. These are a great option for people new to sailing or those traveling with young children.

Then there are motor yachts. There are many different kinds of these and I won’t go into them all. The ones you charter will have cabins for sleeping and it will vary on where the helm is. This may or may not matter to you if you are the skipper or not. If you are skippering your own boat, you will know what you prefer. If you going with a skipper, make sure the yacht has the features you desire.

Wondering what to pack for you Greek island sailing trip? Check out my post all about it by clicking here!

Have you been sailing in Greece? Share your experience in the comments!

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Greece, Travel

What to Pack for Greece

February 17, 2020
What to pack for Greece

Visiting Greece is on many people’s lists but what to pack for Greece is one of the most frequent questions that I see and get. For the most part, packing for Greece is pretty easy. However, there are things you should keep in mind with packing for a trip to Greece. This list what to pack for 10 days in  Greece.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Most people will visit Greece in summer so this Greek packing list is a summer list.

What to Wear in Athens

Almost everyone that visits Greece will spend at least one day in Athens. Athens is an old city and many of the sidewalks are in need of some help. They are also often made of marble which is slippery even on a dry day!

Stick with flat shoes and sneakers for lots of walking. Many of the ancient sites are within walking distance and it isn’t worth getting on the metro to reach them.

People dress up in Athens but not so much as say in New York City. Dinner out can be formal or casual depending on where you want to go. I would also say that darker colors are favored amongst the Athenian crowd so dress similarly if you want to blend in with the locals.

Make sure to keep valuables near your person in Athens because like in many big cities pickpocketing can be an issue at tourist sites and the metro.

What to Wear on the Greek Islands

Dressing on a Greek island is less formal than in Athens. You will see everything as well. Shorts during the day are common and even at night on most islands. I like to wear a casual dress on the islands for dinner though. However, no one will care if you wear your nice shorts for the restaurant though.

Even in the summer months, it can get cool at night on the islands so you may want a light jacket or cardigan for the evenings. Also a pair of pants. Take an umbrella or a rain jacket in case it rains.

The pants are also good for taking the ferry where the air conditioning can be intense!

Light colors are best for the islands since the heat and the white of the buildings can make it seem hotter than it is. Choose cotton clothing that is breathable and dries fast.

Packing List for Greece

Three Dresses –  One nice dress for a nice dinner out. The others can be a casual dress for walking around in the day or used as a swimsuit cover-up.

3 Shorts  – It gets hot in Athens in the summer. Bring ones that are cotton and easily washable. I love linen shorts for all my hot weather travels, such as these.

Pants – One should be fine unless you are in Greece in September. Then you might want it for the evening. Jeans are an option as well.

5 Shirts – Make sure the colors match all your bottom pieces. These should be cotton or lightweight material. You will feel cooler this way.

One pair of walking sandals – Athen is very hilly and as mentioned the sidewalks are made of marble. I have fallen in Toms walking in Athens. You will need something with a good grip on the sole. I love these closed toed ones from Keen. You might be more comfortable in sneakers for the traction.

Dressy sandals – You will want something nicer for dinners out but make sure they have a good grip as well.

Flip flops  – Flip flops are essential for visiting a Greek beach. The sand can be hot and you won’t want to use your nicer sandals since the sand will come back to hotel with you.

Light cardigan – Nights can be chilly here even in summer since it is close to the sea. You may want a light layer to take with you at night. This cardigan is similar to the one I have.

Tesalate Beach Towel – You will need to bring your own beach towel as you can’t rent them on the beach and the hotels usually don’t let you take theirs to the beach.

This beach towel is the best beach towel I have found to date. The towel repels sand which is great when you are on a Greek beach! Your hotel will be sand free thanks to this beach towel. The Tesalate towel is compact and comes in tons of beautiful patterns.

You can even get a double for a couple or families. I also liked it because it is quick dry meaning it could be used as a travel towel. (I was gifted a Tesalate towel but all opinions are my own.)

Tesalate Towel on a chair near the sea

Beach bag – A bag to take your towel, sunscreen and book is necessary since you will not want to take a nice handbag to the beach. I like to bring a reusable tote bag that can double as a grocery bag or laundry bag. Like many countries in Europe, Greece grocery stores charge for using plastic bags.

2 Swimsuits –  You will want to swimsuits even for a short trip since it can be really humid in Greece in the summer. It might take a day to dry out and no one likes putting on a wet suit.

Sunglasses – The Greek sun is intense and even more so when it is being reflected off the white buildings of the Cycladic islands. Pack at least one pair and bring backup in case you lose yours in the sea.

Pajamas – Obviously you will want something to sleep in. This can be tricky in Greece as many hotels will only offer a sheet on the bed. I think this is because Greeks don’t sleep with the air conditioning on so you won’t want a heavy blanket. However, you may want the air conditioning on so bring the PJs you will be comfortable in.

Camera – You will want a camera for all the beautiful scenery you will be seeing in Greece. I used a Sony A7rii camera, which I love. However, it may be more than you want. Here is a good Sony camera alternative to it if you are looking for a good camera that is easy to use.

Laptop or Tablet – Most you won’t need a laptop on vacation but you may want it for entertainment on the plane or in the hotel in the evening. A few times I have been in Greek hotels without any English channels. A tablet is also a good option and may offer you a way to read some books on your beach vacation.

Packing cubes – Want to pack a bit more without having to bring a bigger suitcase? Consider using packing cubes to compress your clothes.  I use them on every trip and prefer the Eagle Creek brand packing cubes.

Water bottle  – Water on the islands is not drinkable but you can refill a water bottle at some city water fountains on the Greek islands. They look like fancy places to wash your hands or feet but they are actually potable water. It is a good place to fill up rather than having to buy plastic water bottles all the time, plus its better for the environment.

Toiletries  – Bring the minimum you will need to survive a night or two. After that, you can purchase larger toiletries in the pharmacy in Athens or the islands. Some of my favorite Greek cosmetic brands are found in the pharmacies and not in the grocery stores. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

This will save you weight and space in your toiletry bag plus you get a useable souvenir if you don’t use them all.

Backpack or Suitcase

Personally I think this is a matter of preference but many people will want to know what kind of suitcase to bring to Greece. If you aren’t island hopping then a rolling suitcase is fine in Athens since you will most likely check in to one hotel and not move around.

If you are going to an island after visiting Athens you might want a backpack as it will make walking to the ferry or your island hotel much easier since the sidewalks can be uneven on the islands as well as in Athens.

I personally take a rolling suitcase on almost all longer trips. It makes getting on the Greek ferry easier for me and saves my back. I also arrange transport on the islands with the hotel or take a taxi for arrival.

Europe, Greece, Travel

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

October 16, 2019

Looking at the sea from the back of a ferry in Greece

Ferry greece

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You dream of going to a Greek Island and soaking up the sun while sipping ouzo, but how did you get to those beautiful islands you dream of? Most of the islands are only accessible by ferry, although some of the larger more popular islands have airports. Booking ferry tickets are much easier than it used to be, but a first timer may need some help navigating the ins and outs of taking a Greek ferry.

Flights and the Ferry

My advice is to never ever book your ferry tickets the same day as your flight. This is especially true if you have hotel reservations paid for or work to return to after your vacation. Fly in and stay in Athens for the night or book a hotel near the ferry port. On my last trip, my ferry choices were to leave either at 7 AM or 4:30 PM which meant arriving in Ios after midnight. I opted for 7 AM, so I booked myself a hotel at Piraeus port for the night before. In this case, I could have never made a 7 AM ferry with any flight.

Which Ferry

There are many ferry lines, but not all the ferry lines go to every island. Which means you won’t have a lot of choices on which ferry line you take. You may be able to choose a fast or a slow ferry depending on which island you are going to.

Some of the Greece ferry lines include Blue Star Ferries, Seajets and Hellenic Seaways. They are all reliable ferry companies.

The advantages of taking the fast ferry are less time on the ferry and more time on the Greek Islands. The other advantage is that the fast ferries are usually more modern than the slow ferries.

The disadvantages are if you get sea sick easily, the fast ferry might not be for you. Many of the fast ferries are hydrofoils, which are less stable in the sense that you feel the waves not that they are going to flip over. Another disadvantage is that you are usually not allowed on the deck, especially if the weather is bad. If the weather is really bad, the hydrofoils will be canceled. If you are going to a Greek island in winter, keep this in mind and allow for it in your schedule and bookings.

Book your ferry tickets here with Ferry Hopper!

Which Port to Catch Your Greece Ferry

Athens has three ports in which ferries leave from, Piraeus, Lavrio and Rafina. The issue with this is that not all islands are served by each port. For example, to get to Kea, you will have to leave from Lavrio. If you are booking your own ferry tickets, then I recommend using FerryHopper.  It is straightforward and will give you indirect routes as well as direct routes.  If you are booking your tickets through an agent, make sure to check which port you are leaving from before you set out for your ferry as they are far apart and you will miss your ferry.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

Getting On and Off

The first time I took a Greek ferry, it was from Ios to Santorini and back. Ios is small enough, and I had help, so it wasn’t very hard. But in Santorini, I was alone, and there were a lot more people and a lot more ferries. It also seemed a bit disorganized, although in hindsight it wasn’t.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

If you are on an early morning ferry, go early as you may be able to get on without all the rushing that is associated with getting on later in the day. This is especially true if you are embarking on at the first stop. In Pireaus, you may board even an hour early on some ferries.

At Piraeus there are many gates the ferries leave from and from the beginning to the end is far, so check it and arrive early to find the right gate. On the islands, there may only be one gate or very few gates. The best way to figure out where your ferry will depart from is the ask the Port police. They are in navy uniforms that look a little military in style. Your ferry ticket should have the name of the ferry on it, and most ferries are clearly marked. Some tickets will have your gate number on them.

You need to be there early but not more than 30 minutes. Rarely are ferries early in Greece and more often a few minutes or more late. But the disembarkation and embarkation process is fast, and they won’t wait for you. However, if they arrive early, they will not leave early. Don’t worry if you see your ferry arriving before you have reached the port.

What to Do with Your Luggage

Once you are on, you should store your larger luggage in the area you are directed to. There are too many stairs involved on the ferry, and you won’t want to bring it to your seat. Unless your bag is light, leave it here. It will be fine and there is no reason to worry about it being stolen.  Do take your valuables with you to be sure, though.

Proceed up the stairs, and someone will help you find your seat. Last year, I sat where I wanted, well except for business class but this year they really seemed keen on people sitting in their assigned seats.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

They will announce each port as they get close and everyone will move downstairs to gather their luggage. It will seem chaotic, but don’t stress you will get your luggage and get off the ferry. It is a very efficient system even if it doesn’t look like it.

Book Your Greek Ferry Tickets

There are many ways to get ferry tickets. If you are in Greece in the low-season, you might be able to get them on the day. However, I book mine online in advance with Ferry Hopper. Book the tickets on their website and you can pick them up right before you board the ferry. Some ferry operators even have the option to show the tickets on your phone, much like an airline boarding pass.

Do you have any tips for the Greek ferry? Share with us.