Greece was my first international trip after the pandemic and oh boy, what a trip it was! I was so excited to finally get to travel to another place other than The Netherlands or Portugal, and my expectations were fully met (I would say exceeded, even).
This was kinda of a last minute planned trip, since we had been waiting for Greece to lift their restrictions to travel there. Honestly, I didn’t have that much time to plan for everything and figure which islands we were going to visit. However, somehow, me and my friend Alicia managed to plan a really nice Cyclades itinerary, and I’m going to tell you all about it!
Stay tuned for my Greece Island Hopping Guide:
Before we get started, I would just like to give you some information on ferries and island hopping:
- The easiest way to do this is taking a ferry, as they have several daily schedules and are cheap!
- You can book your tickets online or get them in-store in the island center
- Usually the sea is not rough, but if you’re prone to sea sickness make sure to take some nausea pills
- The ferry journey usually takes between 1-2 hours if you’re going between islands in the Cyclades
First island: Mykonos
Great for: party goers, beaches with blue water, luxury lifestyle, beach clubs, techno music, sunset parties, water activities, LGBTQI scene, casual hook ups
Price range: $$$$
My rating: 4.5/5
Stay there for: at least 3 days
I flew straight from Amsterdam to Mykonos at 6am on a Friday. I was the first to arrive to the island and I was completely mesmerised; I remember arriving there, and felling home, because it kinda reminded me of Algarve, in Portugal – all the white little houses, the pink flowers and the intense warm Summer scent.
I proceeded to go to our rental property, Bay Bees Suites, which was literally 30 seconds away from the beach. We had an amazing sea view from our balcony, and I was so excited to be there that I didn’t even feel like I had only slept 3 hours.
Fortunately, I was allowed an early check-in (it was only 11h!) and immediately proceeded to change to my bikini and Summer clothes. Yes, I was still wearing warm jeans that I brought from Amsterdam… and I couldn’t have been happier to take them off.
The first thing that I did was head to the beach, sit on a beach bar and order greek yoghurt with fruit and an expresso. I’m obsessed with yoghurt, and I remember eating greek yoghurt all the time the last time I had been in Greece, 5 years ago. Well, let me tell you that this one didn’t disappoint me, and I kept having Greek yoghurt every single day of my trip.
The restaurant I went to was Yialo Yialo – it was a recommendation by our host, and I loved the service and food so much that I went there every morning for breakfast.
As soon as I finished eating, I walked along the coast and rocks to Paradise Beach. This was the beach where I had stayed 5 years ago, on a camping site, because that was literally the only place I could afford to stay at in Mykonos at the time. I was shocked at how different it was! There was no music, no people vibing, and several beach clubs were still closed. I guess it was good for people who go there to relax, but I would have enjoyed to see some action and maybe dance a bit.
I was a bit disappointed, but put it all behind my back. I was in Mykonos, the sun was shining, the water was blue and I was so happy! I sat on the beach chairs and went for a few swims, sunbathed and had some food. I couldn’t wait for my boyfriend and friends to come and show them this paradise!
Eventually, they did arrive. We got some quad bikes, as it’s a great way to explore the island of Mykonos! On the next day, we went to explore the Chora, which is the old town. It was still as I remembered; white houses with blue window frames, pink flowers and nice boutique shops. We wandered around and had a lot of fun, before heading back to the beach to make our own sunset party.
Mykonos is a great island if you’re into partying and basically listening to music all day while you’re chilling on the beach clubs and going for occasional swims. Sure, it can be an expensive island, but everything is so beautiful, nice and luxurious. Even the camping site I stayed at 5 years ago was really nice.
Here are some things you can’t miss in Mykonos:
- Walk through the Chora during the day
- Have Greek yoghurt by the beach
- See the windmills
- Rent a quad bike and explore the island
- Go for a jet ski tide
- Visit Scorpios Beach Club (and, to be fair, the many other beach clubs in the island)
- Party at Paradise Beach
- Watch the sunset at Principote Beach club
Second island: Paros
Great for: sandy beaches, hiking, seafood, lively Chora, boutique shopping
Price range: $$$
My rating: 3/5
Stay there for: 2 days
After a few intense days in Mykonos, we took the ferry to Paros, one of the largest islands in the Cyclades, after Naxos. I didn’t have many expectations about Paros; I had only heard really good things about Naoussa, a little village on the North of the island.
Although this wasn’t my favorite island, we still had fun. Naoussa is incredibly beautiful: it’s very similar to Mykonos Chora, but much more put-together. It’s the perfect “Instagrammable” place, with immaculate white painted houses, blue sea and pink flowers.
We went there three times! One to walk and explore the boutique shops during the day, another to have dinner in the lively square by the sea, and the last to have brunch at the cutest brunch place, Barbarossa. I seriously had the best Nutella pancakes ever!
Hiking is also really cool in Paros. We did quite a small but beautiful hike to the lighthouse, and the views were impressive. Because it was only 45 minutes (back and forth), it’s very manageable and not hard to do at all.
Paros also has a very popular and nice beach, called Golden Beach. It’s very popular for water sports, because it can be quite windy. For me, this beach was nice, but coming from Portugal, I’ve seen way more impressive beaches.
Here are some things you can’t miss in Paros:
- Stroll through Naoussa during the day, visit the boutique shops and have a nice breakfast or brunch at Barba Rossa
- Hike all the way until the lighthouse for impressive views
- Visit the Golden Beach if you’re into water sports
- Visit Parikia, the center of Paros, and have a proper pita gyros or souvlaki
- Go to Naoussa again in the evening, have dinner at the main square by the sea and then go for some drinks in one of the lively bars
Third island: Koufonisia
Great for: relaxation, wild beaches, local vibe
Price range: $
My rating: 4/5
Stay there for: 2 days
After sleeping for only four hours, we caught the 10am ferry to Koufonisia. Even though bars weren’t open in Greece due to COVID restrictions, we made our own party in our Airbnb. What started out as a simple barbecue turned into a wild party with too much Greek wine.
It took us 2:30h to get to Koufonisia, simply because the ferry was stopping on every single island along the way. Now, you can imagine being hungover on a ferry in the Aegean Sea was not the most pleasant thing ever. In fact, we couldn’t wait to arrive!
In the end, the journey was worth it; we arrived at Koufonisia and it was absolutely stunning. This island is not very known and it was recommended to us by a Greek person, and the truth is that I only have good things to say.
The island is small, with only a few properties and restaurants. You can walk or bike anywhere and get to places really easily. We started by renting a few bikes and exploring the island, and I must say I was truly blown away by the beauty of the beaches. Picture white sand beaches, with absolutely turquoise water, and almost no one there.
In the evening, we had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Greece: Armira Kai Pioto. This restaurant is simply amazing. It serves home cooked food with really special Greek flavours, and the owner is also super nice.
On the next day, we did a boat tour around the island. If you’re choosing an island for a boat tour, Koufonisia is the island to choose! You will see beautiful hidden beaches and rock formations everywhere.
The truth is that Koufonisia is not the most lively island ever, but I still enjoyed the relaxed and laid back vibe. It’s a nice island to explore if you’re in need of a quieter vacation!
Here are some things you can’t miss in Koufonisia:
- Bike around the island to discover beautiful beaches
- Go snorkeling, there are awesome spots near the rocks!
- Go out for dinner in the centre and enjoy the local vibe
- Hop on a boat tour around the island and explore hidden beaches and caves
Fourth island: Naxos
Great for: nice beaches, local vibe, hiking, mountain towns, food
Price range: $
My rating: 5/5
Stay there for: 4 days
After two relaxing days in Koufonisia, it was time to head to Naxos, where we would be spending two weeks working remotely. Maybe because this was the island where I spent the most time, it was also my favorite one, by far.
Naxos felt authentic and honestly I could picture myself living there. It kinda felt like home; I absolutely loved the local feel, the relaxed vibe, the beauty of the island; Naxos has everything: nice beaches, good restaurants, rooftops, history, culture, mountains, secluded mountain villages and good people.
I had the time of my life while I was remotely working in Naxos. I would wake up early before work and go for a 20 minute swim in the ocean to kickstart my day, straight from bed, The weather was always great and the water was warm – perfect to get my morning 20 minutes of exercise in.
After work, I would go for another swim again, and then just watch the sunset on the beach before heading out for dinner in the Chora (island center). Yes, we had dinner out every day because the food was delicious and so cheap.
In the Chora, you could find restaurants for every taste; gourmet restaurants, to local tavernas and pita gyros stalls. The Chora was always so lively and the locals already knew us; I felt it was really nice to connect with the locals there.
We also had the chance of hiking all the way up to Mount Zeus; it was the toughest hike I’ve ever made, but so worth it. The view from the top was unbelievable. Did you know this is the highest point in the Cyclades?
We explored the little mountain villages, that are such a nice contrast from the beach side. They have stone houses, trees with pink flowers everywhere, and when the sun starts setting, the light is magical.
It was a truly amazing experience and probably the best two weeks of my Summer.
Here are some things you can’t miss in Naxos:
- Visit the Apollo Gate
- Explore the Chora
- Hike Mount Zas
- Visit the Dionysius Temple
- Go to Plaka beach, it’s beautiful!
Fifth island: Santorini
Great for: views, sunsets, romance, luxury stays
Price range: $$$$
My rating: 5/5
Stay there for: 2 days
We actually went to Santorini just for a weekend (one night) while we were staying in Naxos (perks of working remotely in the Greek islands, am I right?).
We arrived there in the morning and went straight to the hotel – since we were only staying one night, we decided to splurge and booked a room with a private hot tub (Onar Villas).
When I got there, I couldn’t believe how absolutely beautiful the room and our view was! I had already been to Santorini when I was a student, and I remember looking at all those private suites and hot tubs and thinking that one day it would be me. I would be the one staying there with my boyfriend one day, and that day arrived four years later.
We relaxed for a little, and then decided to go out for lunch and a stroll through Oia, the most popular, picture perfect place in Santorini. We had some cold white wine and grilled fish and seafood, and it was just the perfect lunch.
After that, we went through another stroll in the island, took some photos and then got some souvenirs for our families. It was then time to get back to our suite to fully enjoy it.
We stayed in the hot tub relaxing, admiring the spectacular Oia view, and then decided to go watch the so famous Santorini sunset. When we got back to the suite, I realised there were candles and rose petals all over the hot tub… and a box on the table.
I opened it and there was a diamond ring inside.
I couldn’t believe that André was proposing and this so special and beautiful place! It was the perfect proposal and then of course we celebrated with champagne inside the hot tub. We cheered and celebrated life!
Here are some things you can’t miss in Santorini:
- Visit and stroll through the picture perfect town of Oia
- Visit Thira, the main town
- Visit the black sand beach
- Visit the red sand beach
- Go for a wine tasting session at Santo Wines, they have the best view!
I hope you liked this Greece Island Hopping Guide! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
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