Replies: 9 - Last Post: Feb 14, 2012 11:51 AM Last Post By: davywaves
Jan 17, 2012 1:33 PM
Cyclades honeymoonHello hello!
I'm looking for some advice as we start to plan for our honeymoon in the Greek islands this July (busy season, I know). I've done some looking around, on these forums included, and have some rough ideas but I'm sure you lovely folks have some thoughts for our specific situation.
I think we'll definitely be looking forward to a relaxed 1-2 weeks (length of trip depends on cost), soaking in natural beauty. But also we've explored major cities around the world together and love wandering places full of life and culture - such as Paris, NYC, Tokyo. We tend to pick neighborhoods with an occasional must-see sight and just spend the day exploring. Looking forward to being outside, on sandy beaches, swimming aimlessly, taking long walks or bike rides, but not necessarily anything too exerting (I'm thinking stuff like windsurfing or other sports).
That being said, I'm thinking: fly into Mykonos for a few days, maybe a few days in Naxos or Paros, a few days in Santorini, then a full day, two nights in Athens, then fly out of there back home. Additional thoughts being:
- I'm aware of the crowds and cost we'll run into because of the time of year. Unfortunate, but acceptable.
- I've placed Santorini on the tail end because it seems like the ideal way to end, but maybe it's even better as the first destination? Also keeping in mind that we'll probably be more in the mood for nightlife later in the trip so Mykonos in all its bustle may be appropriate then. But would everything else just pale in comparison after starting in Santorini?
- Day trips sound like a lot of fun (such as Antiparos or Delos), if they're worth it . Ideas here would be very appreciated.
- I'm not entirely sold on Naxos and Paros, or even sure how to pick between the two. I get the impression Naxos has awesome beaches but is bigger and a little costlier while Paros is a little more comfortable and affordable. What other distinguishing features? What would we be missing if we cut these out? Maybe the sand beaches without the crowds of Mykonos?
- In the same vein, there's always the question if Mykonos is a good fit as well. Unless the beaches there are a sin to miss, maybe Naxos/Paros then Santorini would be the right way to go.
- Are we missing out by skipping the smaller, less discovered islands? Or would it be even worse to choose small islands and miss out on the reasons the popular islands are popular?
- Athens is more of a travel buffer than anything else. If this isn't necessary, all the better and we can cut it out.
Thanks in advance!
Jan 18, 2012 10:57 AM
1If you choose both Mykonos AND Santorini, you certainly will have to cut your honeymoon shorter, because they are the 2 MOST costly (AND crowded) islands in High Season. IMHO, would skip Mykonos... if u want to "see" it, you can do a day excursion from Naxos or Paros (the only 2 isles that offer such excursions) that goes to beoth Mykonos & Delos. Beaches? Naxos/Paros superior to Mykonos, aside from the drunken dancing-on-tables featured on Mykonos.
Between Naxos & Paros -- I known them both well (have been to Naxos 11 times, Paros 5 times). Naxos is NOT costlier than Paros, the opposite, more "comfortable" and more real -- because it has a big agriculural aspect, not all tourist oriented. ; Paros gets more crowded in high season... Naxos Port town much more attractive than Paro port town (Parikia). Naxos has best bus system, on Paros you'd have to rent wheels most days. Interior of Naxos fascinating... mountains, ruins, tiny villages, for a day-long drive-around. In Paros no mountains, but the plus is, you thus can explore Paros interior by scooter or 4-wheeler. Here's a quick slide show of Naxian delights: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/552001505EYxVYT by another Naxo-phile.
If choosing Paros, I'd recommend staying around Naoussa, tho more costly (and kinda artificial-pretty). If Naxos, you'd avoid crowd by staying out at Plaka Beach ... busses run to town until midnight... Look at http://aronisnaxos.com/index%20en.html -- not a fancy "spa," but a SUPER location right on sand, wonderful family restaurant with food from its own organic farm. If you want to stay near Naxos Town on the beach of St. George, you can bus to Plaka beach by day, walk by night to the clubs and nightlife, then stroll back to rooms by sand, where it's v. quiet at night even in July. St. G. beach is shallow, & in July lots of families... but its great for walking along, cafe-sitting etc. One place in St. George I recommend is Villa Naxia ... 60 yards off the sand, great balcony views and landscaping, great reviews: http://www.villa-naxia.gr/en/saint-george-beach.html
As I say, I enjoy both islands, but I feel Naxos has so much more, for those who like to wander and explore, as you say you do. Naxos has some of the best walks in the Cyclades http://www.cycladen.be/NaxosEng.htm ... plus, surprises everywhere! On the bluff above Grotta, i encountered a 'dig" of a 3000 bc Minoan ruin. In the courtyard of the cathedral, they uncovered a 2000-bc Mycenaen graveyard -- so they just left it, covered with glass brick, for you to walk upon and marvel!
With the savings you'd realize in either of these isles, you can afford Santorini even in July. Go to Oia if you wish, and can pay its top prices. Also -- from 10am to 4 pm, it's jammed with tour groups and cruise throngs, and again from 7 - 9 pm. Me, I prefer a less-known alternative... Firostephani. This is basically just north of the main town of Fira -- but it does NOT get the cruise mobs, it has the same glorious caldera views, hotels are half the price, and you're right on the bus line to go see Oia & take pictures. You can walk to the Fira nightlife in 10-15 minutes, but it's blissfully quiet at night. What kind of hotel to look for? In July, a pool is a must on the Caldera Side of the island because it will be HOT (and the beaches are far away, an black gritty besides). Among choices with Pool: Blue Dolphins, Ira Hotel, Mill Houses, Villa Ilias, Dana Villas. Doubles will range from 175-500€ ... but way less than in Oia.
As for sequence -- I would advise on arrival, you don't leave airport. Fy immediately to Santorini for your time there. Then take the daily Blue Star ferry (a great 2.5 hr ride) to Naxos or Paros for your time there. You can take the Blue Star back to the mainland (it goes 2x a day) for about €35 pp (4-5 hrs)... or the 1x day Olympic air flight (45 mins) for about €80 -- but RSERVE air seats ahead! (only 50 seats, ALWAYS booked solid). DO leave at least 2 days for Athens ... it is NOT a travel buffer!! Cradle of Western Civ. Nice place to stay, Just south of acropolis, with good balcony views from hi floor = Hotel Herodion. Quiet area, because it's off the lovely nocars promenade. Tell them you're honeymooners and you'll probably get a free upgrade! In 2 days you can see Acropolis, Acrop. Museum, wander around the ancient ruins, marvel at the history all around you. Athens is ideal for your wandering time.
Jan 19, 2012 11:49 PM
2Thank you so much, travelerjan! Your post was hugely helpful and your recommendations sound right on point. It seems like Santorini - Naxos - Athens is the way to go. I had read a couple suggestions for Firostephani, but wasn't sold until your comments here. The hotel referrals are huge as well! When we nail down our exact budget, dates, and areas I'll be back for more!
Would it be possible to do Naxos before Santorini? I feel like that would be a nice escalation if the transit makes sense.
Thanks again, and if anyone has more insights, I'd more than welcome them!
Jan 20, 2012 12:18 AM
Agree with everything travelerjan is mentioning! And they are 2 very different Islands so you will see and explore a lot...Feel free to ask me for good local Taverns/beaches/villages to see since I live in Santorini since 20 years.And Yes, you can do Naxos before Santorini since there will be ferries every day to both Islands from Athens.
Jan 20, 2012 8:07 AM
4Hello Again, David --
I'm glad that you found my suggestions helpful, and I'll try to help further on your query about sequence. FOrgive me if I take this opportunity to point out the importance of providing Full Information. If you want advice beyond generalities, it is thoughtful to tell us (1) time limits -- i.e. 10 days, 2 weeks, more than 2 weeks; (2) day of week you're likely to arrive -- i.e., saturday? Sunday? Wednesday? and (3) Where you are coming from -- U.K, or USA or Canada, and WHERE in the latter 2 countries. You give no location -- are you in the Witness Protection Program I don't think so hee hee.
Why do these matter? LIMITS: if you have 14+ days, you can lose a half-day or day here & there due to ferry or flight schedules; if not, you must maximize transport efficiency. ARRIVAL DAY: Plane & Ferry schedules vary in High season -- and also, strike likelihood is confined to T-W-Th usually. COUNTRY: From UK, you have much more flexibility, many flights arriving from pre-dawn to dusk. If from USA, only the nonstops arrive 9-10 am; if u change in Europe, best arrival is noonish, more usual is 3 or 4 pm, To Naxos, the only flight leaves around 9 am, and morning ferry(5 hrs) is 7:30... so doing Naxos first is a challenge, not to lose a day of your precious time. LOCATION IN N. AMERICA: If US East Coast, a lot easier/shorter trip; get to NY/Phila/Newark airport by midaff Friday for nonstop, arrive ATH 9 - 10 am Sat (lose 7 hrs due to clock change). From LA or SF, u must start by 10 am latest... and even with nonstop from East it's a loooong trip. That's why I always call it a Quest!!
SEQUENCE I disagree with u anyway on Naxos first. You'll be Dead on arrival (weddings are exhausting), and Santorini is not for outdoor sport, it's mainly about the View. You can loll on a balcony & recover from jet-lag. Then by the time you arrive on Naxos, you'll be more energized for swims, hikes, etc. Also, after the cruise crowds of Santorini, you will appreciate the calmer pace of Naxos even in high season.
BACK to ATHENS: You can ferry back on Blue Star to Piraeus, a 5 hr journey, but a nice modern huge ferry... buy the "reserved economy" or "airseat" ticket. This gives u a reserved seat indoors -- but you are also welcome to sit outside as long as you wish. The day ferry goes 9:45-3 pm, which devours a whole day. I recommend an alternative which gives you practically another full beach day for your island finale. Take the 6 pm sailing (which I call the "dinner sailing"). Sit on deck to enjoy sunset then go indoors, eat, arrive at 11:45 or midnight. Take Metro (30mins) to your Plaka area hotel (but safeguard your €€ in money belt or zipped handbag because this Metro line attracts pickpockets). If ferry arrives too late for Metro, use taxi. Taxi fares double at midnight but you can meet another couple on the ferry and arrange to split a taxi to one destination, and split the cost.
Jan 20, 2012 2:53 PM
5Thanks (again), INGELALEX and travelerjan. Since it seems helpful to know, we'll be coming from SF (whew!) and we'll say for now we're thinking a week and a half from 7/4 until 7/15, with flexibility to shift a few days later if airfare warrants it.
Traveljan, I get what you're saying about Santorini first. Are the "BACK to ATHENS" recommendations departures from Naxos or Santorini?
Jan 20, 2012 3:36 PM
6Think about it Davy ... if I recommended Naxos 2nd, would I then give u directions back from Santo?? Also the ferry from Santo takes 9 hours or so, and flights are frequent, so I would always say fly from there.
When you say 7/4 do you mean you leave your house that day or you arrive athens 7/4? if you leave SF the AM of 7/4, and connect with NY (delta) or Newark (Contental) or Philly (USAir) nonstops, you arrive 7/5 at 9 or 10 am. Do remember that the strike potential is greatest on T-W-Th. However -- if u fly out on domestic air, your disruption chance is low, because Air Traffic Control almost never strikes in high season, even tho Athens busses etc may be participating.
International fares ARE somewhat lower T-W-Th than on other days... I would fare-hunt right now if I were you. In 2011, for first time in years, there were few bargains. l wanted the USair nonstop but waited for Months and it did not drop a single penny, so I did a one-stop with British Air. But then I'm right here in Philly, and my total airtime was not horrendous. I think for SF folks, 2 changes would be too much -- AND more risk of lost or delayed bags.
Get busy,and good luck!
Jan 25, 2012 12:27 PM
7Thanks again, travelerjan. Sorry about the confusion, just wanted to double check.
We've definitely decided we're going to take on this trip over the other destinations we were considering - very excited!
I've started looking into airfare and it seems like a potential itinerary looks like:
7/5 morning depart SF
7/6 evening arrive Santorini
7/7-9 full days in and around Santorini
7/10 ferry to Naxos
7/11-13 full days in and around Naxos
7/14 evening ferry (as travelerjan recommended) to Piraeus
7/15-7/16 full days in Athens
7/17 morning depart Athens, evening arrive SF
I'm a little concerned I can't find ferry schedules on gtp.gr or the Blue Star site, but it seems they may not even have timetables this far in advance. Also going to start looking into places to stay, starting with your suggestions in Firostephani, near St. George, by the Acropolis.
Any feedback? Thanks in advance!
Jan 25, 2012 1:35 PM
8Do not fret about those ferries... the Blue star ferries have been on the same timetable for DECADES ... daily 3:15 from Santo - Naxos ... daily about 6 pm Naxos to Piraeus. These ferries accommodate from 1400- 1800 passengers ... they are not the ferries you see in San Francisco Bay!! they are more like small ocean liners. Just go to the local ticket agency & Buy tickets a day or 2 before. Since u seem to be coming in to Piraeus on a Saturday nite, good news -- because the Metro (fare is €1) on Fr & Sat keeps running until 1 or 1:30 am.
Edited by: travelerjan
Feb 14, 2012 11:51 AM
We've started making our flight and hotel bookings and your recommendations were so helpful. A couple quick questions:
Should I plan ahead for transportation from our arrival to JTR to Villa Ilias? They offer a 20 EUR pickup but will a taxi be comparable? Would the hourly buses cut it?
For those of you who have been to Villa Naxia, I'm curious if you have recommendations on a specific room to request. We'd love privacy and a view.
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