We’re on a budget (think €50 per person per day) and would like to go someplace warm and sunny where there’s also a combination of culture and nature. So we can explore in the mornings and relax at the beach in the afternoon. Preferably a sandy beach. We don’t need a lot of nightlife but it would be nice if not the whole island is closing down already. Do you have a suggestion?
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Great list Matt! Indeed, there obviously there are some spots on this globe I have to visit. Can confirm the Maldives though. Has changed over time, but then again, the first time they were still “exploring” their “tourist economy” potential. Been there twice now and although definitely more crowded still holds its appeal. Be prepared for culture shock though. If you return to the “civilised world” you will wonder about the rest of the grubby world and catch yourself day dreaming regularly. 😉
Excellent choice of islands, though getting between them presents one or two challenges (they are not as conveniently connected like the Cycladic or Dodecanese islands so island hopping is not as popular in this island group). All three islands are served by airports with year-round connections to Athens and in the Summer with international charter flights from Europe. Let’s take the pros and cons of each island.
Take everything you want Greece to be — olive groves and tavernas, fishermen and bakers leading quiet village lives, stone villas and cypress trees and brilliant bougainvillea — and put it on a tiny, Ionian island only reachable by boat: That’s Paxos. On the western coast, sheer cliffs, rock arches and 40 sea caves put on a stunning show. Daytrip to the neighboring island of Antipaxos for powder sand and water so aqua, it rivals the Caribbean Sea.
Nicknamed “The Helen of the West” (an allusion to the beauty of Helen of Troy), St. Lucia stuns with its signature feature: the UNESCO-listed twin Pitons. Reaching heights of about 2,500 feet, the voluptuous volcanic spires complement the island’s other attractions, including verdant jungles, sparkling silver-sand beaches, haunting sugar-estate ruins, and a mineral-rich natural mud bath. Meanwhile, the island’s most famous resort, Jade Mountain, is an architectural gem in its own right.
These groups are generally better connected among themselves than with other groups, so you are probably better advised to target them on this basis. As it’s your first time to Greece, you may want the full-on Greek island experience and you could easily fill your five weeks flitting from one island to the other in the Cyclades. You could start in Kea and work your way down to Milos via Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos then segue to Paros and Naxos. Dip down to Santorini, up to Mykonos and back to Piraeus. The map will also show plenty of other Cyclades islands to pick and choose from such as Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Amorgos, Syros, Tinos and Andros – yes! too many choices, but you will find that sticking to one group it will be easier to get between them. Realistically for a period of five weeks you will not want to be doing more than 6-8 islands.
Transport between them can be patchy, but a new service linking Zakynthos with Corfu which started this year now brings all the islands (bar Kythira) together. Zakynthos is otherwise linked to Kefallonia with an old-style open deck ‘slipper’ ferry; Kefallonia includes Ithaki on its local small ferry route to Nydri on Lefkada. There is no link (except for the new service) from Lefkada to Paxi/Corfu. Corfu has links to Paxi and its little know satellite islands just to the north. Kythira has an airport with flights to Athens and ferries to Crete (Kissamos) and the Peloponnese (Gythio, Kalamata, and Neapoli).
To sum up: a lot depends on your own stamina because island hopping means packing and unpacking, getting on and off buses and ferries. Limit your choice of islands to perhaps one or two less than you think you can manage. Maximise transport links to avoid backtracking or port-transferring and since you are traveling high season be aware that you will usually need bookings ahead at most places. It is possible to turn up on an island and not find a place to stay or have to make do with a third-rate option.
I’m sorry if you covered this in another part of your site, (either I’m technically challenged or there just isn’t a search function for your site) but I’m curious about Corfu. From what I can tell, you mentioned it once in your site under your post about best beaches. The Paleokastritsa area is something that has caught my attention for a while and is on my list, and then I saw pictures of Nissakids Bay and that looked kind of amazing.
Hi Dave! One more question, do you know of any resorts with heated pools or private jacuzzis/pools in the room that are heated on islands other than Santorini and Mykonos? Looking for something above 26/27 degrees and can’t seem to find any! Elounda Beach resort said they could heat the private pool but it costs 45 EUR per degree! Hoping you know of another option that would allow us to swim comfortably in Early June. Thank you!!
Every imaginable shade of blue manifests in the lagoon of Bora Bora, aka, the Jewel of the South Seas. Coral motus ring the main island like a sandy sash, and beneath the surface, dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles and colorful fish throng. Presiding over it all is the moss-green volcanic peak of Mount Otemanu, where god descended to the island on a rainbow, according to local lore. Timeless grass-skirted dancers and exotic overwater bungalows round out the sublime scene.
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Have just discovered your blog today and love it! I am a student from NZ and want to travel to somewhere fantastic next year for a few weeks to get away from the hussle and bussle of study and work. Originally thought Thailand would be fantastic, and I see you agree with me here so great! But I also did not realise Bali was also so cheap. For a first trip overseas for a poor student (apart from Aus), where would you recommend? Bali or Thailand?
Fabulous site Dave! I am taking my daughter to Greece for 12 days in late May 2017 as a grad gift (yeah I know…, I think my Dad gave me a Timex watch, but I digress) and we are flying into Santorini expecting to spend 5-6 days there then ferrying over to Mykonos (not really sure why?) for a couple days. A couple days there and then flying into Athens for 2-2.5 days to inject some culture into what is otherwise somewhat hedonistic trip. I was wondering, after reading about other islands whether it is worth going to Mykonos. I’d love to go to Crete but it seems to be tough to squeeze that in. The original plan was to go to Istanbul for a couple days but it seems really sketchy right now. So is Naxos a better idea than Mykonos? Should we stay longer in Santorini? Is 2.5 days too much for Athens? Any and all info is appreciated.
I think Naxos would be the best island for you: incredible beaches, wonderful villages, great restaurants, and some very good hotels (though I don’t think I’d go so far as to call them hip – but nice, for sure). The farther south you go from Naxos Town the quieter the beaches get – so keep going to find the balance you prefer. If you want an island with a little more hip but beaches not quite as perfect then try Paros. If you want to err on the quieter and idyllic side then Antiparos or Ikaria.
Great place to have fun and people watch simple good food and some fancy delicious food – exciting shows and magic acts -Then there’s the other side of the coin , the criminal element , destitute wondering souls. Casino security has to stay on it! Door posted sentries are needed !! People will harrass you to buy gold jewelry ,cocaine , (any kind of drugs), or just Wander around inside looking in the machines trying to find the leftover tickets Or some tourist to hustle. Allowing those “regulars” street hustlers inside the casinos is definitely going to hurting that business. it’s amazing to me that don’t crank down on it harder!
Since St. John is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens can visit without a passport. There are quite a few bargains on both St. Thomas and St. John right now, so it’s a good choice for travelers on a budget. Snorkelers should not miss visiting Trunk Bay, one of the best snorkeling spots in all of the Caribbean for seeing amazing marine life.