Most traveling around Greece tends to focus on the Greek Islands and for good reason—they’re beautiful, cheap, relaxing, exciting, and did I mention beautiful? It’s always been a dream of mine to spend a summer slowly moving from island to island, getting to know the character of each while also working on a great tan. This summer I’d planned on doing just that, but like all best-laid plans, it didn’t work out and I only got three weeks around the Cyclades island group. Still, three weeks on the Greek islands isn’t too bad of a deal (and I did get a good tan!) I visited four islands: Ios, Paros, Mykonos, and Santorini.
As you know from my last post, I spent most of my time here. I fell in love with the people here and simply couldn’t leave. While the island isn’t the most beautiful of the group, it is the cheapest. Since the majority of people coming here are young travelers on a limited budget, you easily find cheap food (two-euro gyros), accommodation (10 euros a night), and drink specials (one-euro shots, two for five euro drinks). There’s only one main town on Ios, and it’s easy to walk around, taking only about 10minutes end to end. However, even if hanging out with backpackers doesn’t appeal to you, Ios has the best beaches out of all the islands I visited. All of them are wide, white-sand beaches and on the opposite side of the island, they’re deserted.
Outside of Ios, Paros was my favorite island. While there are a few ruins, a cave, and a boat trip you can take, overall, this island is for those who simply want to relax. There’s no nightlife, no crowds, no cruise ships docking at the port. It’s quiet. Tranquil is the word I’d use. More importantly, I thought this was the prettiest island in the group. The mountains and valleys had more color to them, the towns looked nicer, and the views were spectacular. The island was simply striking and serene. My favorite part? The port of Naoussa. Besides having delicious and inexpensive seafood, it was a simply stunning place to walk around. There’s a small beach, and you can go out to an old fort. Sitting on the breakers watching the fishing boats going in and out is a great way to spend some time.
One of the main tourist destinations in Greece, this island attracts cruises, families, and honeymooning couples. It was the most expensive island I visited. The night I went for seafood the going rate was 75 euros per kilo for fish! On Ios, you can get a whole fish for 30 euros. The clubs charge a high cover (20 euros), and the drinks are about seven to eight euros. Even a light dinner of pasta and wine cost me over 20 euros. While I thought the island was pretty, the real highlight was the town. Out of the four islands I visit-ed, Mykonos had the most beautiful town, with its quiet, winding streets and small alleys lined with whitewashed houses overlooking a beautiful harbor. Mykonos is famous for its “Little Venice” which, though beautiful, is nothing more than a row of houses on the water. It was a beautiful place, but I’m not sure I’d go back.
Like Mykonos, Santorini is very famous, sees a lot of older tourists, and is a frequent stop for cruise ships. The cliffside towns of Oia and Fira are the two main towns on the inner side of the island. Both towns overlook the famous caldera. Both these towns offer great sunset views and angles to get photos of blue-topped churches and blue-rimmed houses. From either town, you take the day trips to the old volcano, do a donkey ride, and relax in the hot mud baths. Near the beach area of Perissa, you’ll find the bars and hostels that the younger travelers frequent. The beach area gets a lot of visitors and sun but has black sand, not white sand. Santorini has the best restaurants out of the four islands, and I’d gladly come back to explore the ancient ruins and cliffs more.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see some of the other islands I’d hoped to see like Naxos, Rhodes, Crete, or Kos. But one day I’ll return to explore them. As a history lover, I’m especially interested in seeing the Minoan ruins on the island. But for now I’ll settle for what I saw. The Greek islands may look the same on the surface, with their white buildings and similar landscapes, but each island is different—there’s something for everyone.