The Greek Islands

By Nomadic Matt | Published June 3rd, 2010

Most traveling around Greece tend to focus on the Greek Islands and for good reason- they are beautiful, cheap, relaxing, exciting, and did I mention beautiful? It has 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 had planned on doing just that but like all the best laid plans, it didn’t work out and I only got 3 weeks around the Cyclades island group. Still, 3 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.

Ios
the beautiful greek island of ios
As you know from my last post, I spent most of my time here. I feel 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 (2 Euro gyros), accommodation (10 Euro a night), and drink specials (1 euro shots, 2 for 5 Euro drinks). There’s only one main town on Ios and it’s easy to walk around- end to end takes about 10 minutes. However, even if hanging out with backpackers doesn’t appeal to you, Ios had 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 are deserted.

Paros
the beautiful greek island of paros
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 would 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, the views 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.

Mykonos

the beautiful and expensive greek island of mykonos
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 Euro 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 7-8 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 4 islands I visited, Mykonos had the most beautiful town with its quite winding streets, small alleys lined with white washed 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 to it.

Santorini
the island of santorini which is famous for its volcano and caldera
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, hostels and younger travelers that visit the island. The beach area gets a lot of visitors and sun but it’s black sand not white sand. Santorini had the best restaurants out of the four islands and I would gladly come back to explore the ancient ruins and cliffs more.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see some of the other islands I had hoped to see like Naxos, Rhodes, Crete, or Kos. But one day I’ll return to explore them. As a lover of history, I am 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 landscape but each island is vastly different and there is something for everyone.

For more information, visit my page on backpacking Europe or my country and city guide to Greece.

comments 27 Comments

Scott

The islands sound beautiful, and Los sounds the most attractive with their budget prices. 75euro per kilo of fish on Mykonos? Crazy!

Amazing the price difference. That’s reason enough for me to steer clear of Mykonos. I spent about two weeks on the island of Chios which was very chill, cheap, and a great place to relax. Highly Turkish influenced as well as its only a 45 minute boat ride away.

Jan

Wow! So gorgeous. Definitely keeping this bookmarked for some tips! Thanks for posting!

Another part of the world I’d like to see and the declining value of the euro makes it more appealing at this point in time.

Crazy! This is the same trip I will be doing in 5 weeks time. Mykonos, Paros, Santorini then Ios. Did you book with busabout? I’m going for 3 weeks too..

NomadicMatt

No, I don’t really like those kind of tours but I saw a lot of people doing busabout while on Ios

Pythia

As a Hellenic Pagan, I’m dying to visit Greece and seeing all the temple ruins. It’s definitely in my top 5 must-visit locations.

I never made it to Mykonos, I always got distracted by Ios as well. Maybe it’s a good thing with those prices, but I’d still like to check it out. I also really enjoyed Paros. We took a schooner cruise to a place called the Blue Lagoon(i think), it was the clearest, deep blue water I’ve ever seen. Stunning! We camped there by the foreshore and had such a fun time. It was my first introduction to the Swedish Gods and Goddesses walking around. The bathroom area was eye-opening as they all chose to freely walk around without clothes on- very common in Sweden apparently. Might have to put that on my travel list.

Gosh, I can’t wait to explore Greece one day! What a helpful post!!!

I plan to visit some Greek Island this year but it will not be Mykonos, too expensive for me.

Yoel

I love the Greek islands too. Santorini was especially beautiful and I do remember that somewhat awkward donkey ride up the steep climb from the fisherman’s village. The Aegean islands are nice too. Thanks for the post which reminded me of that beautiful place. I can’t wait to go back!

I had a great time in Santorini, and the sunset was indeed amazing. Whenever I think about Santorini, I always remember that the staircase from the port to the town was so slippery that evening I walked back down to the port, because of those thick pile of the donkey droppings. I was slipped and landed on that soft pile!

My favourite of Greek Islands is Crete. There’s a little town near Chania thhat I love so much because it was very relaxing to be there and the food was great (I ate moussaka every other day). Watching sunset was in every day’s agenda, and if we hardly ever saw any cloud in the sky. So gorgeous. Of course if you go there, you want to visit the Minoan civilization centre Knossos and its museum in Heraklion.

I’ve not been to any of these islands – as my sister lives on Zakynthos I’ve only visited the Ionian islands and a bit of Mainland Greece – there are some really pretty towns on these islands – unfortunately a lot of the old stuff in Zante was destroyed in a big earthquake in 1953, so it’s not a picturesque although the countryside is still as lovely.

Take plenty of sunshine and mix them throughly with chrystal clear waters of the mediterranean in all colors of the green and blue from turquoise to emerald, put a little soft breeze, few shaded beaches with pine trees, add some lonely bays and some some rugged coastlines, stir them with exotic islands and generously add, lush green olives, figs and lemon trees. Then serve generously with bright blue skies, romantic sunsets and enchanting starry nights. How did you like it so far ? Well, if yes then how about a trip called “blue Cruise” with us.

john lunniss

i have been visiting greece for 30 years now and have seen many changes but one thing never changes we always have a great holiday and always good value give it a try

This is perfect! My friend and I are planning to visit Greece next summer and these tips were just what I was looking for. I want to visit a few islands, but I wasn’t sure which ones were the best. Thanks for sharing!

NomadicMatt

Great! If you need more information, don’t hesitate to ask!

Great blog Mat.

I am an award winning landscape photographer and have just returned from Kefalonia where I took some beautiful images of the landscape.

Your readers may enjoy viewing these images of the islands of Kefalonia. I hope you see this is quality and relevant content for your readers. Keep up the great work.

Ty

What’s the cheapest way to get around the islands? Is it worth booking the ferry ahead of time?

NomadicMatt

The ferry.

Jessica

Ekkk..thank you so much for this post as well as your whole website! I’ve been researching and planning out a trip for May…I will be turning 30 (shhh!) and need to relish those days/weeks prior by backpacking in Europe. I’ve always wanted to but never planned it out, lived as a expat in S.Korea and summers studying in South America (Ecuador and Galapagos Islands). I do have a question about backpacking around Europe, do any of the countries require a travel visa (or is this only China?)….we encountered this problem while in SK attempting to plan a trip to China. Just curious! Thank you again for this website :)

brie

I am so appreciating your information on this site! I think Greece will be our next adventure… any favorite places to stay?

Libby

This is so great! I’m planning a honeymoon for October and was wondering a little bit more about the cost on Santorini? It seems to be the only place you didn’t really talk about prices. From your description it seems like it has a good combination of what we are looking for. We just aren’t looking to spend a fortune on our trip. I’m just kind of wondering what food, activities, and accommodations are like price wise? Thanks!

Mary

Thanks for the post, u did a great job! Greece has amazing islands indeed… Ios and Santorini are my 2 fav. islands. In Crete there is also a small piece of heaven on an island called Chrysi, which is about 1 hour ferry ride from the port of Ierapetra. Its got golden sand and clear waters on one side and after a 15′ walk through a sandy path u get pure white sandy beaches and turquoise waters on the other!!! A complete castaway island with only a taverna available for water so for a daily trip its pure paradise!

Nicole

Hi Matt,

I am travelling to through Europe and am currently in Italy right now. We just decided to make a last minute decision to go to one of the Greek islands. Do you have any recommendations on the cheapest way to get there from Italy, most likely will be in Rome when departing. Thank you so much!

NomadicMatt

Fly!

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