Whether you’re still hoping to book a last minute get away in the sun or already planning for next summer, our Greek Island Guide is a must read.
When to go: Mid-June to mid-July or later on in the year (Late September – October). It’s not recommended to go during the high season due to the volume of tourists, high accommodation prices and busy ferries. Out of the high season however, quad and jeep rental is much cheaper and you can find some really nice accommodation at reasonable prices.
Budget: It’s hard to put a price on visiting the many GreekIslands due to the vast number of possible places to stay and visit. The best thing to do to save money is to make sure you book flights early!
Before you leave: Make sure you try the amazing cuisine and drinks that Greece is renowned for, including Mythos, Ouzo, freddo cappuccino, grappa, tzatziki, lamb kleftiko, beef stifado, chicken souvlaki, moussaka, meze and the outstanding dessert baklava.
Where to start…
Where to stay: Around Monastiraki Square and Plaka is an ideal spot in the centre of the city. Monastiraki metro station also provides easy access to and from the airport and also hosts a direct line to the port of Piraeus. Hostelworld.com is your best bet for booking accommodation.
What to see and do: The obvious must do, is a visit to the main touristy sites like the Acropolis, Olympic Stadium and Temple of Zeus. Make sure you take your student card, as it gets you into the many sites for free (and discounted travel on the metro). Once you’ve ticked off the ‘must sees’, let yourself wander through the streets of Plaka and Monastiraki to discover the rest of the city. If you want to escape from the chaos and often blistering heat, the National Gardens is the perfect place to chill.
Before you leave: You really don’t need more than a day to explore Athens, and after the chaotic sightseeing you’ll probably be keen to leave city life behind and make your way over to the islands. If you have a general island route in mind, I’d recommend booking your ferry tickets in advance at an agency in Athens. If you have a change of plan along the way, don’t worry as unlike in the UK, you’re able to change the date and time of your ferry at any agency on any of the islands – just make sure you do this the day before you’re due to travel.
Where to next…
Where to stay: In Mykonos the best place to be has to be the Paraga Beach Hostel. It has a great atmosphere and is located right at the end of the Paranga Beach overlooking the sea. The accommodation itself is pretty basic but if you can handle communal toilets and showers, it really is the perfect place to stay especially as it’s perfect for meeting lots of different people. DJ sets also play throughout the day and night as well as some live music performances in the evenings.
What to see and do: Hiring quads is a must and a great way to explore the island, especially once you get off the main roads. Don’t miss Panormos and Fokos beach, and if you want a challenge on the quads, head down to Super Paradise. Jump on the bus to get into Mykonos town and whilst there you can enjoy getting lost amongst the beautiful white washed streets. Don’t miss the windmills, little Venice and the old port.
Where to go out: Paradise Beach Club, in the next bay from Paraga Beach Hostel, always has something going on both day and night. Beach parties whilst the sun’s up, and pool parties and DJ sets once it’s gone down. Mykonos town is also full of bars and clubs so there’s plenty to choose from. If you start your night on the local Greek ‘grappa’, you’re guaranteed fun wherever you end up!
Where to stay: Paros has plenty to offer in the way of hostels and apartments but I would recommend Stratos Apartments, which are located within walking distance of the port of Parikia and also overlook the beach.
What to see and do: Hiring a jeep is the best way to see many of the Greek islands, especially if you’re limited by time. You won’t be short of beaches on Paros (if you want to try windsurfing head for Golden Beach) and the regular bus service allows you to reach most of the island if you don’t fancy driving on the other side of the road. If you have the time, try and get to the villages of Naoussa and Piso Livadi – both are picturesque fishing villages with a real authentic Greek feel to them.
A Must: Catch a ferry over to Antiparos via Pounta. If you’ve hired a car or quad, take it over on the ferry with you as it is the best way to get around on the other side. Make sure you visit the cave on Antiparos and afterwards head for Agios Georgios beach. Before you head back to Paros make sure you drive over the mountains to the west side of the island and visit Livadia beach… well worth the drive.
Prepare yourself for…
Where to stay: Far Out Beach Club located right on the beach has an amazing party atmosphere with great pool and bar facilities as well as a good onsite restaurant. If you want to stay in comfort and somewhere more chilled,book to stay at the Far Out Hotel and Spa just up the hill from the beach.
What to do: After a night out in Ios, you’ll spend most of your day lying in the recovery position on the beach preparing for the night ahead. Ios town is the place to go out (only a short taxi ride from the beach club) but things don’t really get going until 1am so make sure you don’t peak too soon. You won’t be short of bars and there’s a great atmosphere in the town, especially around the tree at the top of the steps (you’ll know where I mean when you find it.) Slammers, Flames, Disco ‘69’ and Sweet Irish will no doubt form part of your Ios memories, if you can actually remember what happened that is.
A Must: Swedish Midsummer Party is a huge event on the Ios calendar and next year it will be celebrated on June 20th. The party starts at 9am in the town at Flames Bar and works its way to the Far Out beach club. The celebrations carry on by the pool until the sun sets and then back to the town until the sun rises. It’s really one not be missed!
Where to stay: Santorini is known for its expensive accommodation. If you want to make your budget stretch, stay somewhere in Perissa for more affordable rooms.
What to see and do: Compared to many of the other islands, Santorini is very spaced out and so if you want to see the island, you’ll need to rely on the bus service or hire a car for a couple of days to get around. Make a trip to both ‘Red Beach’ and ‘White Beach’ and carry on to Faros for views of the island.
Take a picnic and a couple of bottles of wine to watch the sunset sat on the castle walls in Oia – rather than driving along the main road to get to Oia, take the coastal roads to see the rural parts of Santorini without the tourists. Apart from the long walk down to the port and the 567 steps back up to the top (whilst breathing in the smell of donkey poo), it’s worth spending an afternoon going on a boat trip to visit the volcano and hot springs.
Where to go out: Head to Fira for the nightlife. Nothing quite as wild as Ios but a strip of bars all in the same vicinity and all with extensive cocktail menus. Try and hit it in time for happy hour.
Where to stay: You will struggle to book something in advance so it’s best to just turn up and take your pick from one of the many people advertising rooms at the port. Look out for ‘Giannis Hotel’ in Adamas, which was a lovely, very Greek, family run hotel in a great location.
What to see and do: If you’re a beach bum, the island is a dream. Life on Milos is very slow and not at all touristy, so there’s nothing better to do than spend your days lazing on one of it’s 70 beaches. You should hire a quad to visit the old fishing village of Klima (best place to watch the sunset) and spend a day visiting the beaches on the north of the island… Firopotamos, Sarakiniko, Papafragas, Alogomandra shouldn’t be missed. Always end your day in one of the tavernas overlooking the sea, just a short walk from the centre of Milos.
Words: Laura Potter