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I’m not exaggerating when I say this; the Greek Islands are stunning. Whichever island you go to you shouldn’t be disappointed but I have a soft spot for the Cyclades islands.
There are actually over 200 islands in the Cyclades but the most well known of them all are Mykonos and Santorini. And for good reason! These two islands are both beautiful, with some great beaches, restaurants and nightlife.
Santorini is best known for its postcard-perfect sunsets over the village of Oia, while Mykonos is known for its famous windmills and beach clubs. Both islands attract a lot of attention from influencers and Instagrammers, making them two of the most popular destinations for a summer vacation in Europe.
On my first Greek islands trip I traveled there I visited Athens, Santorini, Ios, Paros, Mykonos and Kos by ferry.
I fell in love with the islands so much that I later returned and spent a summer season working at a bar in Ios, making a couple of trips to Mykonos for a change of scenery. I have fond memories of my time there and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these islands to my friends.
Planning a Mykonos and Santorini trip? This guide will cover how to get there, what to do, where to stay and what to eat!
Santorini and Mykonos both have airports, so you can actually skip Athens and fly directly to these islands from various cities in Europe.
Between the months of April and November, several airlines operate non-stop flights from London to Santorini (Thira) and London to Mykonos.
Airlines that fly from London to Santorini: Easyjet, British Airways, Jet2.com, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
Airlines that fly from London to Mykonos: Easyjet and British Airways.
Your other option is to travel to Athens first and then either take the ferry or fly. If you’ve never been to Athens before, you may want to include the capital on your Greece itinerary. Personally I’m not a huge fan of Athens but you can see the Acropolis and a few other very famous archeological sites. If it’s your first time in Greece then I’d definitely suggest you see Athens at least once in your lifetime.
To get from Athens to Mykonos or Santorini you have two options; fly or take the ferry.
Flight – Flying is the fastest option since it only takes 45 minutes but then you have to factor in the travel time to Athens International Airport.
Ferry – Ferries are more relaxed because you can walk around on board and stretch out but they take longer than flying.
Ferries to Santorini take around 4 to 10 hours depending on the vessel you’re traveling on. Ferries from to Mykonos range from 2 hours 45 minutes to 5 hours 15 minutes.
When catching the ferry to either of these islands you’ll depart from Piraeus ferry terminal, which is about 14km south of central Athens. There are several different ferry companies to choose from and there are usually several boat departures per day. Use Ferryhopper.com to search ferry schedules in Greece and book tickets.
Since you’re visiting both islands you’ll need to take a ferry between the two. There are up to four ferry crossings daily with journey times taking around 2 hours or more. Again, you can use Ferryhopper.com to search the latest timetables.
When you’re in the towns you can walk around on foot but the best way to get around Santorini is by hiring an ATV. It’s the most fun way to see the island with the wind in your hair! You’ll see rental shops all over the island, including Fira. If you’re not confident about driving an ATV then you could hire a car from the airport or in Fira. Check out Rentalcars.com for rental car prices.
Alternatively, you can travel around the island by bus. There are KETL buses from Fira to many different places around the island. You can purchase tickets on the bus and fares range from about $2-$3. Just remember that the buses can get really crowded during peak months.
Taxis are also available on the island – this is the best way to get to and from the airport if you’re not hiring a car. Some routes, such as from Fira to the ferry port or from Fira to Oia, have fixed rates. At other times you’ll just negotiate a price, so make sure you do that before setting off.
Sunset in Oia – Oia is that magical postcard-perfect place that you’ve seen in the magazines and on Instagram. The sunset here is beautiful and it’s well worth the visit to this pretty little village in the north of the island. That being said, the crowds are crazy here at sunset. Don’t expect it to be an intimate moment with just you and other people. Restaurants and cafes are completely full of tourists and there’s not a spot that isn’t taken. Yet it’s still worth it; the village is stunning, with white buildings nestled into the cliff face.
Kamari Beach – Kamari Beach is one of the largest beaches in Santorini and is located about 4 miles southeast of Fira. The beach is close to everything and has a relaxed vibe with plenty of beach restaurants to choose from. Remember to bring beach shoes because the black sand can get very hot in summer!
Perissa Black Sand Beach – Perissa lies on the southeast coast of Santorini and it’s where I usually stay when I visit the island. There are both hostels and hotels here as well as restaurants along the beachfront. Most cafes and restaurants offer lounge chairs for free, which is great because the sand is quite coarse and gets hot.
Walk around Fira – Fira is Santorini’s capital and can be found on the west coast of the island. Here you’ll find plenty of whitewashed villas, blue domed churches, shops, bars and restaurants. If you’re looking for nightlife, this is where you’ll find it (although it’s a lot more low key than Ios and Mykonos). Fira is set in a cliff, so you’ll be able to capture some pretty epic photos of the views over the Aegean Sea.
Santorini Volcano – Many people ask – is there a volcano in Santorini? Yes there is, and it’s active but it lies underwater. Santorini is a volcanic island with black sandy beaches and much of its landscape can be attributed to volcanic eruptions over the years. One of them formed the Santorini Caldera, which is basically a large volcanic crater. A volcano & boat tour will take you to the two small islands of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni, which lie in the center of the caldera.
Visit a winery – If you enjoy a glass of wine, head to Santo Winery, where you can enjoy wine tasting and nibbles while soaking up the views of the caldera from the outdoor terrace. Assyrtiko is the dominant white grape variety that thrives on Santorini and you can sample a variety of wines that are produced from this grape.
Akrotiri Archeological Site – Another interesting thing to do in Santorini is to pay a visit to Akrotiri Archeological Site, which was a Bronze Age settlement that eventually came to an abrupt end in the last part of the 17th century B.C, when inhabitants had to abandon it due to severe earthquakes.
There are lots of hotels and guesthouses in Santorini and if you step off the ferry you’ll find plenty of guest house owners crowding the ports and touting their accommodation. If you’re booking your accommodation online before you go, here are some great accommodation options around the island:
George & Joanna Suites – This brand new hotel is centrally located in Fira and boasts modern, beautifully decorated suites with kitchenettes, king size beds, ensuite shower rooms and balconies. The hotel also has an indoor bamboo swing and an outdoor private hydromassage tub.
Ducato Di Oia – If you want to stay in Oia, Ducato Di Oia is a solid choice, with cave-style suites inspired by the island’s Cycladic architecture. This luxury hotel offers 15 suites and 3 rooms featuring handpicked Moroccan statement décor pieces. Nine of them have private heated indoor and outdoor pools, while all of them have epic views of the Caldera.
You and Me Suites – Located in Firostefani just a few minutes from Fira, Your and Me Suites blends boho-chic style with traditional Cycladic architecture. The Premium Suite has an outdoor heated plunge pool, the Honeymoon Suite has an indoor heated jacuzzi and the Exclusive Suite boasts a heated private pool. All suites boast sea views and provide the perfect backdrop for creating beautiful Instagram photos.
Athina Luxury Suites – Perched on the cliffs in Fira, Athina Luxury Suites features a bar/restaurant, spa facilities, infinity heated pool and a pool bar inside the pool. Suites are minimal yet luxurious and each one has sweeping views of the caldera, the volcano and sunset.
Youth Hostel Anna – When I stayed in Santorini I stayed at Youth Hostel Anna, which is situated in Perissa village, by the black sand beach. I liked being just a 4 minute stroll from the beach and the hostel’s big terrace is great for meeting other travelers.
Bedspot Hostel – A bright, modern and airy boutique hostel in Fira with a rooftop and small yard. Bedspot Hostel has three types of rooms – double rooms ensuite , 4-bed male and female dorms with ensuite and 8 bed mixed dorms with ensuite.
While you’re in Santorini you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try delicious Greek food. These are some of the best restaurants in Santorini:
Aktaion – Aktaion is located in Firostefani, meaning “the village that crowns Fira”, and has been serving food to locals and tourists since 1922 . Dishes are made with fresh ingredients found on the island and include fava, korkosela, Santorinian salad with codfish, Santorini tomato balls and moussaka.
Selene – This Greek fine dining restaurant is led by Michelin star-rated chef Ettore Botrini and is housed in an old Catholic monastery in Fira. The menu offers a contemporary spin on traditional Greek recipes and is inspired by the culinary heritage of Santorini.
Katsaboo Restaurant – Restaurant serving Santorini cuisine with a modern twist next to the elegant pool of the San Marino Suites hotel. Most of the ingredients and vegetables found in Katsaboo’s dishes are sourced from the family’s Katsipis family orchard
Alisachni Art & Wine Gallery – A multi-use space combining an art gallery and restaurant, Alisachni Restaurant provides a unique dining experience in Megalachori. The restaurant has a cave-like interior with whitewashed walls and an outdoor patio where you can enjoy Greek cuisine and fine wines.
Lefkes – Situated in the village of Foinikia in Oia, Lefkes is housed inside a subterranean cellar (Kanave) that was carved by a local craftsman in 1848. For the menu the chef has given a modern take on Greek cuisine, featuring dishes such as Feta Cigars, Moussaka Croquettes and Lamb in Tagine with Naxos graviera cheese.
Pitogyros – If you’re looking for the best souvlaki and gyros in Oia, look no further than Pitogyros. Meat eaters have the option of a variety of meat gyros including chicken and pork, while vegetarians can choose between salad or halloumi gyros. Dine in on their outdoor terrace or take one to go and eat it will enjoying the sunset.
Mykonos is famous for its windmills, sandy beaches, beach parties, whitewashed buildings and blue doors. It’s my favorite out of the two islands, mainly because I love techno music and there’s plenty of that on the island. Plus it’s beautiful!
Mykonos has buses that connect many of the towns and beaches so you can easily get around by public transportation. Tickets can be purchased at stands in the streets as well as tourist shops and will usually cost a couple of euros. In the summer months the buses run later so you can still catch a bus after a night out.
If you’re traveling to the beaches then the other option is taking the Mykonos Water Taxi. The taxi stops at several beaches along the south coast, including Ornos, Platis Gialos, Paraga, Paradise, Super Paradise, Agrari and Elia. Fares cost 10€ for a one-beach pass or 20€ for an all-day, all-beach pass.
Alternatively you can get around by taxi. Taxis are especially useful if you’re traveling to and from the airport or if you need to get somewhere quickly. Cars aren’t allowed in Chora so you’ll find them on the edge of town in Manto Mavrogenous Square.
Visit the windmills – The iconic Mykonos windmills are located on the edge of Mykonos Town (Chora) on top of a hill. There are actually 16 windmills in Mykonos and several of them are lined up on this one hill, making for a perfect photo opportunity. Built by the Venetians in the 16th century, the windmills were used to mill wheat until the 20th century.
Watch sunset in Little Venice – Little Venice is a part of Mykonos Town that sits right on the water. Waves often crash up along the wall, sending water spraying up into the air. It’s a beautiful area with lots of bars and restaurants that have terraces where you can get front row seats to watch the dramatic sunset. It’s one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life and makes you feel so alive.
Wander Mykonos Town – Mykonos Town is a beautiful town with a labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed buildings covered with bougainvillea. Hunt for pretty blue doors, shop for souvenirs and dine at one of the many restaurants in town.
Boat trip to Delos – If you have a few days in Mykonos, take a boat trip over to Delos island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is the mythical birthplace of Artemis and Apollo and at one point people were forbidden to die or give birth there; instead they had to take a boat over to Mykonos. Delos was first settled around 3000 BC, became a shrine to Apollo around 800 BC, and in subsequent centuries became a thriving commercial port. The island flourished for 700 years before eventually falling into decline, and was abandoned around the 8th century AD. Tours usually depart from the port in Mykonos Town and will take you to visit highlights such as the Sanctuary of Apollo and the Terrace of Lions.
Party at a beach club – Two of the best known beach clubs in Mykonos are Paradise Beach Club and Super Paradise Beach Club. Super Paradise is popular in the daytime with DJs and lots of people dancing and drinking by the beach. Paradise Beach Club has a party vibe in the daytime but it gets even wilder after dark and often hosts famous DJs from all over the world.
Explore the island’s beaches – Mykonos has lots of golden sandy beaches to discover. The most popular beaches for partying are Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach, which both have beach clubs. If you’d prefer to visit a more relaxing beach, try:
Paraportiani Orthodox Church – There are hundreds of churches on the island of Mykonos but the most iconic of them all is Paraportiani Orthodox church, which is located in the Kastro neighborhood in the town of Chora. Dating back to the 1400s, this church has a snow white exterior and is an excellent example of Cylcadic architecture. It sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its name means “Our Lady of the Side Gate”.
Myconian Villa Collection – Part of the Myconian Collection of resorts and hotels, the Myconian Villa Collection is situated in Elia Beach and is one of the most glamorous resorts on the island. Nestled in a hillside, this 5-star hotel features terraced villas, saltwater swimming pool, epicurean restaurant and Thalasso spa.
Hotel Tagoo – Family run hotel on a hillside location near Mykonos Town with an outdoor pool, sea-view terrace and poolside snack bar. Rooms vary from ultra-modern and minimalist to traditional.
Paola’s Town Hotel – Relaxing boutique hotel just a two minute drive from Mykonos Town. The minimalist rooms have terraces with garden views or pool views and some have their own indoor hot tubs.
Soho Roc House – Part of private member’s club Soho House, Soho Roc House is located just a 3-minute walk from Paraga Beach and overlooks the sea. The hotel features 44 guest rooms, a poolside veranda, an outdoor gym and a restaurant/beach club called Scorpios.
Nissaki Boutique Hotel – Situated just steps away from Platis Gialos Beach, Nissaki Boutique Hotel has a wide array of facilities including an outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, beauty salon, spa center, fitness center and hammam. Rooms are contemporary with stunning views of the sea and range in size from double rooms to three bedroom suites.
Boheme Mykonos – Built in a traditional Cycladic style, Boheme Mykonos is a stylish boutique hotel in a convenient location just a stone’s throw from The Windmills and Little Venice. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, gym, boutique and an a Mediterranean restaurant called Bilo.
Paraga Beach Hostel – Located on Paraga Beach, this hostel is just a 10-minute walk from Paradise Beach and a 15-minute walk from Cavo Paradiso club. Accommodation options include dorm rooms, 3-person private rooms, tent rental beds and bungalows with shared bathrooms. On-site you’ll also find a pool, two pool bars, an a la carte restaurant and a mini market.
Mycocoon Hostel Mykonos – This design hostel is located in the area of Kaminaki which is right opposite the entrance to Mykonos Town. So if you want to stay near town, this is the option for you. The cave-like rooms look like something out of Tatooine in Star Wars and the infinity pool provides beautiful views over Mykonos Town.
Paradise Beach Camping – When I stayed in Mykonos I stayed at Paradise Beach Camping, which is where the party’s at. This hostel is located right on the beach and features a club that’s open from April to October. There are daily parties at Paradise Beach Club and the club attracts famous DJs from all over the world. Guests can book cabins with access to a shared bathroom or bungalows with private bathrooms that fit 2 or 3 people.
Funky Kitchen – My favorite place to eat in Mykonos, Funky Kitchen is a small eatery in Mykonos Town that serves delicious food made with healthy ingredients. Plates are really well presented and the menu features dishes such as feta summer rolls, tuna tataki, octopus carpaccio, and rack of lamb.
Niko’s Taverna – Niko’s is one of the oldest restaurants in Mykonos and is located in a square near the waterfront. On the menu you’ll find traditional Greek dishes and seafood, including Tzatziki, Moussaka, Greek salad and grilled fish.
Santorini has a completely different vibe to Mykonos. While both islands have white buildings with blue doors, the overall feel on each is completely different.
Santorini is a laid-back, romantic island with a volcanic landscape and dramatic scenery. Some of the beaches have black sand. Mykonos, meanwhile, is more of a party island with golden sandy beaches and beach clubs. It’s difficult to say which one you’ll prefer because it depends on personal tastes.
I’d suggest around 3 days on each island, so 6 days exploring both islands. Of course, you could spend a lot longer on both islands just soaking up the sun, relaxing and enjoying the beaches. It really depends how much time you have.
Mykonos is better for partying. The island attracts world renowned DJs so if you like techno music, you’ll love Mykonos. Most of the good parties take place in the beach areas, particularly Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach. I also love Scandinavian Bar in Mykonos Town.
The journey from Mykonos to Santorini takes around 2 hours.
You’ll find that both islands are more expensive than the other Cyclades islands. Out of the two, Mykonos is more expensive. Lots of celebrities visit Mykonos for the beach clubs, parties and luxury resorts. It’s therefore one of the priciest Greek islands to visit.
If you only have a week in Greece I’d suggest doing Athens, Mykonos and Santorini as your first trip. If you have longer then definitely explore more of the islands and perhaps incorporate Ios, Naxos and Milos into your Greek islands itinerary too!
I hope this guide helped you with your Mykonos and Santorini trip planning! If you have any suggestions for this article, leave a comment below!
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