Greece - Santorini, Naxos and Athens

Hey Eric,

Sounds like you had a good time. We are heading to Crete this Friday (Elounda area), then Santorini from the 6-10th, finishing around Athens for a couple of days. Anything in Santorini - restaurants, experiences, whatever that you particularly liked? Thanks!

Hey Mark,

Where are you staying in Santorini? We stayed in Oia and only went to Fira 1x. We drove through a few of the other towns though during a full day tour.

Activities:

  1. we did a full day private excursion with https://santoriniwinetrails.gr/ - We went to a local farm to taste some local produce/nuts, then visited 3 wineries - Argyros, Gaia and Gavalas, stopped for lunch, then went to the tip of the Island to see the Lighthouse. We also left a very specific charger at home so she stopped at the big electronics store for us on the island and they had the charger (20w USB-C wall warts are not easy to find abroad!).

  2. We did the Oia/Fira hike - online and those on the island all suggested we do Fira > Oia, so we did that, we took a cab in the morning to Fira, and walked back to Oia. Very nice sights, great views, good exercise. not really hard, just super windy. most online sites say 3-3.5 hours, we did the whole thing including the cab in maybe 2.5 hours.

  3. since we were in Oia, we did a day trip to Fira when there was only 1 cruise ship in the port (From our hotel in Oia we could see the cruise ships in Fira so we picked a slow day to go).

  4. there is an open air movie theater that gets good reviews, but a cab ride from Oia to anywhere is $35 and up each way, so I didn’t want to pay $70 in cab fares just to go see a movie and it was either Mamma Mia or Jurassic Park 3…so yeah, if you are closer and its a good movie, it may be worth it.

  5. lots of water activities, day trips, full day trips, etc but we did not partake. your hotel can likely help and there are 1-2 tourist centers/operators on the main strip in Oia (and I am sure Fira as well) who can make reservations for you.

Food:
most of the food on the main strip in Oia seems very touristy - hostesses trying to seat you, menus with photos of the food and nothing like going to Greece and getting a burger or pizza or risotto? Think Times Square.

Our hotel concierge kind of knew we didn’t want touristy restaurants and stuff so she pointed us out to the town of Finikia: Finikia is a small picturesque village in Santorini - it was ~7-10 minute walk at most from our hotel and there are some really fun restaurants there.

Lefkes Santorini | Lefkes > the menu at the restaurant is different but same style, very good, if the Chocolate Soup is still on the dessert menu, get it and thank me later (unless you have a chocolate allergy!)

MENU - Κρινάκι > another really good place, lots of locals, fresh made food that is thoughtful.

The one place in the center of Oia that we enjoyed was Roka https://www.roka.gr/ - no views, smaller restaurant, nice outdoor courtyard though and just good service, good food and very well priced.

We also went to http://ammoudisantorini.com/ - everyone recommends it, the hotel, our neighbors, other forums, etc. It was ok. The waiter sold us on some “special” fish they rarely get called Detex or something and it was 2-3x the price of the other fish but hey when in Rome. So we got it, eh, it wasn’t bad but I’d maybe just get something normal off the menu. Also in typical European fashion the waiter never came over to us. The table next to us - same thing, and turns out they were from Long Island and we are in Northern NJ. We chatted all night, both pointed out they never came to ask us about dessert, order another bottle of wine (both tables finished theirs, etc). So it was a nice night, but the service was “eh” and the food was good but not otherworldly. Also - you need to walk down to the bay to get there, its 100’s of steps full of donkey poop because yes, tourists can go up/down the steps on donkeys. we did take a cab home at night, 0% chance I was walking up 200+ steps full of donkey poop at night.

If you are in Fira, or will be in Fira, we did do lunch at https://www.kaliya-restaurant.com/ and really enjoyed it. One of our better meals in Santorini next to Lefkes and Krinaki.

Not to ruin your trip, but I am mixed on Santorini - the views are great but its full of “instagram wannabe’s” - you are going to trip over so many people lunging to take “the photo”. The first day or two we thought it was funny, by day 4 or 5 I wanted to push someone off a cliff just to get to a restaurant (but I didnt!). And this is coming from a 42 year old who is a VERY much a hobbiest photographer, so I am not an old geezer (maybe I am?) and I enjoy taking photos…

Another piece of advice, try to plan around cruise ships. If you are not in Oia and want to go see the Sunset, try to find out how many boats are in town each day, and go the day with the least amount of boats. Since we went a little early the most boats in town were 1 on a given day, I heard it can go up to 5-6. Even with 1, Oia was very crowded at sunset.

Lastly, as I pointed out above, I think there are like 25-40 registered taxis on the island, so you cannot easily hail one. Any hotel or restaurant will call for a private transfer for you, its not a big deal, but again Oia > anywhere is $35 each way if not more. The taxis are the same price as the private transfer, so you aren’t paying more, but to go to other towns can really add up so plan your outings or hotel accordingly.

In all, we mostly treated it as a “beach vacation” without the beach, as you need to take taxi’s to get to the beaches. We had a nice room facing the Caldera, so we read a few books, relaxed, took some walks, kept it pretty chill. You could certainly be more active if you wanted to.

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Eric,

This is fantastic! Thanks so much for putting it together—I just copied it and sent to my wife as well. We are staying in Fira - we just booked so there wasn’t a lot to pick from - staying at Katikes Garden there. I wouldn’t have thought to plan certain activities around the cruise ships, but that makes a ton of sense. And I don’t even have an Instagram account so I’m sure I’ll feel the same way as you. I think the kids (8 and 10) should be fine making the hike to Oia - that looks really cool!

In Ammoudi, walk past the first restaurants with the orange chairs to Sunset Taverna with its blue chairs. Do not eat frozen shrimp, calamari, or octopus (Santorini waters are too deep and they are all frozen from elsewhere). Rather, pick fresh fish from the cooler or order the lobster spaghetti special for two and wash it down with Assyrtiko. Heaven.

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Back from Greece-a great trip. Syros is an undiscovered gem-really wonderful. We plan to visit again and the day flight return from Athens was a breeze.

Thanks for all the info. Flights booked today JFK/Athens 8/30-9/10. One night in Athens on front end and 1 night on back end . Planning on splitting time between Santorini and Naxos . Hotels booked everywhere. Katakies on Santorini and 18 Grapes on Nakos . Wife picked .

Now time to do some research on the areas and ferries. .

Enjoy! I tried to put as much as I could on those two islands above. But if you have any specific questions let me know. Really enjoyed Naxos, just a great vibe.

In Athens we really enjoyed https://www.oinoscent.gr/ Which is a recommendation I got from someone on this board.

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Incredibly helpful post on Santorini! We had a Greece trip booked for May 2020 that we are now doing in August of this year. Wanted to go in May or September, thinking crowds might be reduced versus August, but our kids school schedule doesn’t allow it.

I’m thinking we take a day and do the exact same wine tour you did. Did you consider any other wineries? I’ve just started my research.

And for you or any others on the forum with experience, any recommendations (wine, or otherwise) for Mykonos and Paros?

Our trip is 5 nights Santorini, 3 nights Mykonos, 5 nights Paros and 1 night Athens.

Well we hired a tour guide for our wine trip and she had ~5-6 suggestions but we didn’t want to do more than 3 in the day which is why we picked only 3 of her suggestions.

We left off:

  • Santo: she suggested it has the nicest views and some decent food, but the wine itself wasn’t as good as some of the other places
  • Sigalas - our tour guide said it was very good (and gets good reviews online) but it was very close to our hotel, so she said to optimize her as a driver, we were better off going to places further from our hotel and we could always get to Sigalas easy on our own
  • Hatzidakis - she said they do tastings in a Cave and no open air tasting and given when we booked this in 2021 for a trip in 2022 COVID was still on the mind so she suggested for caution to go to places with open air tasting
  • Venetsanos - she said great views, but the wine was eh and because of the views, usually over crowded

Cannot help with Mykonos or Paros, though there is some island of old ruins right near Mykonos, forget the name but there were day tours from Santorini to go to this island for 2-3 hours, then Mykonos for a few hours, then back to Santorini but early evening. We didnt go but I assume from Mykonos it would be a very popular and easy to book half day tour.

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Have a great trip. Selfishly, please post after your trip and any info/questions you gather along the way . Wife wants to do day trip to Paros

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Anybody have any info on kayaking on Santorini??

On Santorini, thinking about switching from staying in Oia to Imerovigli. Any thoughts ?

It looks like our itineraries will potentially overlap - we’re doing Athens-Santorini-Naxos from 9/3 to 9/15.

My current plan is to devote one day in Santorini to winery visits. Art Space, Argyros and Karamolegos are all within walking distance of each other so I’m thinking it should be possible to catch the bus from Fira to Exo Gonia and hit up these three (perhaps with a lunch stop at Metaxi Mas) without hiring a guide or a car to chauffeur us around the whole day. I would love to fit in Hatzidakis as well but that’s an hour walk away from the other three, which, while feasible in theory, I don’t think my wife would be pleased with.

As for accommodation in Santorini, we’re dividing our nights between Oia and Fira. Have looked into Imerovigli, and my takeaway was that it would be a good base if we were in Santorini longer and wanted to relax in a more low-key setting while being within reach of both Oia and Fira. We’re trying to maximize sightseeing/winery visits during the 4 days we have in Santorini, though, so that was the rationale in splitting between Oia/Fira and will be doing the relaxation part (as well as scuba and other water activities) subsequently in Naxos.

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Sounds good, enjoy the trip. We are going to stick with Oia. We have nothing planned, other than flights to/from Athens and all our lodging.

So need to figure out intra-Greece logistics. We are thinking flights Athens-Santorini and Naxos-Athens, and ferry Santorini-Naxos. Thoughts??

And I’m a certified diver, although my diving days are probably over. I will do some research on snorkeling on Santorini and Naxos. I prefer shore snorkeling (no set schedule) but have no hesitation on getting on a boat to snorkel. Any insight on locations and or companies ? What other water activities do you anticipate in partaking ?

Time for me/us to do some homework/research it sure seems !!

I’d avoid staying in Fira. Overrun daily in summer with cruise ship passengers. Imerovigli is a nice bend in the road with a good restaurant, Anogi, but otherwise doesn’t have much to offer. We prefer to stay in Oia. YMMV.

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Like others, we stayed and preferred Oia. It’s very easy to rent a SmartCar for a few hours to get around the island. One of our favorites is Crete - amazing island and something for everyone - beaches, Knossos, military sites at Souda Bay, the monastery in the National Road, Chanda, etc. Tasting at Sigalas was ok as were the wines. Akotiri was closed when we were there but friends went in April and enjoyed it.

It’s also an easy day trip out of Athens to Nemea to visit wineries and the ruins at Mycenae.

We flew from Athens to Santorini, but decided to take a ferry from Santorini to Crete. Easy crossing but loading is not for the feeble if you have sizable luggage.

from our experience, Oia was a little touristy as well but we found Finikia a nice walkable town next door which had a lot more charm. I agree Fira is to avoid with the cruise ships.

We flew 1 stop but direct into Santorini, then did a ferry to Naxos, ferry to Athens then a flight home. This avoided having to figure out how to get to Santorini on a separate ticket or ferry. So I cannot be of much help to you but Athens was enjoyable, so on one end of the trip you should stay for 36-48 hours.

The ferry is fine - lots of discussion on how they are always late, but both of our ferry trips took off within say 10-15 mins of the scheduled departure time. We booked the highest/first class available, it was all of $20 USD each more per way, but the seats were a little larger, more leg room, and a smaller cabin so it was quieter, less mess in the bathrooms, etc. Plus the cabins were maybe half full whereas the coach cabins were 100% full. As a New Yorker it was very odd to leave my luggage in the hull of the ship and just walk away from it, but we did it 2x and no issues. I am 6’3’’ so I made sure to put our luggage on the very top shelves of the rack assuming a thief may go for the lower laying suitcases?

I am also a certified Diver but opt’d to skip diving on this trip as its been years, because of COVID it was tough to get a “refresher training” scheduled prior to the trip, etc. But in Oia there are plenty of tourist offices to stop in and book excursions of all kind (boat rides, snorkeling, etc). Same thing in Naxos, right on the water in the main drag of town there are at least 5-6 agencies set up to book anything from a day trip to Mykonos to dinner cruises, etc.

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Crete is fabulous.

Be sure to take one of the fast catamaran ferries if you decide to ferry among the Islands. Much faster, much easier to board and disembark. And buy first class, as mentioned above. The water between Crete and Santorini and Santorini and Mykonos can get a bit bumpy, so sit in the front of first.

Choose either fast ferry or seasickness.

The Eastern Mediterranean sloshed around a lot.

Take a seasickness pill even on the fast ferry if you are susceptible.