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Starting in Santorini: 6 Smaller Islands to Visit

Anafi ● Folegandros ● Ios ● Naxos ● Paros ● Santorini ● Tinos ● 18 December 2017

The practice of exploring several islands in the course of one greater trip has become an extremely activity in recent decades. While there are plenty of activities for you to take advantage of in the mainland of Greece, its groups of islands located around the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea have developed an enticing combination of typical Greek culture combined with their own unique histories and personalities. Santorini, one of the largest and most popular islands to visit, is a common starting point for many travellers’ island-hopping adventures. Not sure what islands to visit near Santorini? Stay tuned to find out where to go next!

1. Paros. This island has an array of traditional Greek villages and coastal coves. Home to more than 13,000 inhabitants, Paros is a popular choice among families and younger travellers, acting as a good in-between from the totally rural, authentic islandic lifestyle and the more party-focused traditions of the more popular islands. For instance, there are a good number of beaches that are more remote and secluded as well as some that are lined with bars for you to enjoy food and drinks with friends. Some of the popular sites on Paros include the Valley of Butterflies, the Moraitis Winery if you’re thirsty from some home-grown wine, a preserved Venetian Fortress, an ancient cemetery, and the Folklore Art Museum of Cycladic Civilisation. Ferries from Santorini usually take between 2-3 hours.


2. Tinos. Visitors flock to Tinos for its classic Greek religious symbolism and ancient historical sites. With historic monuments, gorgeous landscapes, and natural beaches, this island will offer you an alternative to the go-go-go lifestyle of some of the larger islands you might visit. While many Greek islands are more than happy to accommodate travellers and tourists from the Western world, Tinos exists at a more unhurried pace, with the busiest spots occurring at some beaches, including Panormos, that have a thriving windsurfing community. Some of the larger beaches have some bars and taverns within walking distance, but for the most part, the natural beauty of the island remains untouched by commercialism and the tourism industry. With a number of lesser-known museums, cathedrals, and monasteries to visit, history buffs and explorers alike will appreciate the unique photo opportunities from Tinos. Ferry crossing from Santorini and Tinos takes about three and a half hours, so it is up to you if you want to limit your time on Tinos to a day trip or stay overnight.


3.  Anafi. Another island that is less popular amongst tourists, Anafi will provide you with a true foray into the authentic, genuine Greek island experience. If you’re looking for fancy restaurants, high-end hotels and resorts, and beaches lined with sun umbrellas and chairs for you to rent, you won’t find them here. Instead, you’ll learn to the love the family-owned taverns and hole-in-the-wall cafes. The main town on the island, Chora, is much less fast-paced than the downtown areas of other islands. Many older travellers will tell you that Anafi is one of the only islands that have not lost some of their magic over the years (that is, given into commercialism and crowds). The ferry ride to Anafi from Santorini should take only 1-2 hours, making it the ideal stop for a day trip, as longer ferry rides only give you a few hours to spend time on the island itself.


4. Ios is a largely underrated island. Recovering from its reputation as a thoughtless party-crazy island, Ios offers some of the best beaches in Greece, with gorgeous golden sands. It has plenty of natural beauty, walking paths and camping sites for the nature geeks reading, and of course, plenty of bed-and-breakfast establishments to appeal to travellers. For this reason, Ios is usually popular amongst younger tourists rather than families, but since it’s only about a 45 minute ferry ride from Santorini, there’s really no reason not to give it a chance!


5. Folegandros is a popular choice among those who wish to avoid the crowds and masses of tourists that crowd the larger islands (a bit of ironic and oxymoronic distinction, we know). The main town is built on top of a cliff, considered to be one of the most beautiful sites in all of the Greek islands. The beaches of Folegandros are a bit harder to reach than those you would find on a larger island, usually requiring a trek through a rocky path or even a ride on a small boat. If you’re looking to hike your way to stunning natural views over the crystal-clear ocean, Folegandros won’t disappoint you. Between the little shops, taverns, and natural beauty, you’ll probably find enough to keep you occupied on Folegandros for more than just a day, which is a plus since the ferry ride is going to take around 3 hours (a time that can be slashed in half if you shell out the cash for a speedboat trip instead of a passenger ferry).


6. Last but not least is Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades group although living in the shadow of its neighbouring island, Mykonos. With over 18,000 inhabitants, Naxos is famous for its cheese, sausages, beaches, and potatoes. Naxos is the kind of place where you’ll want to rent a bicycle, if not a car, to explore. If you’re looking for golden or soft-sand beaches (including some nudist beaches), you’ll want to make it a point to visit Naxos at some point during your trip. In addition to its half a dozen or more beaches, some main attractions include the Cave of Zeus, the Eggares Olive Press Museum, the Temple of Apollo, the Venetian Museum, and more. Daily ferries will shuttle you between Santorini and Naxos at about 1-2 hours each way, plenty of time to squeeze it in as a day trip.