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.
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.
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 sailing trip 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. There are also some amazing restaurants in Naxos as well so you will never lack for great food.
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 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 in 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 is 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.
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.
Is Santorini still on your list? Buy my Santorini Itineraries – 1, 3, and 5 Day Guides to make the most of your trip!
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 rooms 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.
Kea is a great alternative to Santorini which 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 a 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 that 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.
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 which 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.
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 have plenty to choose from!
Still, planning on visiting Santorini? Check out my ebook, Santorini Itineraries – 1, 3, and 5 Day Guides.
Do you have favorite Greek islands that are alternatives to Santorini? Share with us in the comments!