I spent two months traveling around Greece during the times of Coronavirus. It was absolutely unreal to visit all these islands as well as Athens in the summer months without the typical summer crowds.
I ended up visiting about 15 islands in total which seems like a lot but is not even 10% of the inhabited islands Greece has to offer!
This post will focus on an itinerary centered around the most popular destinations in Greece. For those without months on end to travel, it’s likely you’re thinking of the most well known and popular places: Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. These three places are by far the most popular and well known places in Greece and some of the best known places in the world.
This itinerary will help you plan a week, 10 day, or two week trip centered around these places!
Greece is my favorite country in Europe and I traveled extensively through the country. If you need inspiration for other parts of Greece, make sure to read my Ultimate Greece Travel Guide that details everything yo need to know about Greece and the places I’ve been to.
Traveling in 2023: Note that I suspect tourism and crowds to be monstrous in the summer 2023 season. Book well in advance and prepare yourself for huge crowds of tourists coming from America and China. If possible, plan your trip from mid September onwards!
Where I went in The Cyclades, Greece
So I had about 4 weeks to travel around the Cyclades. Prior to this, I was traveling through the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia (which has the most amazing beaches, more superior to the Cyclades for sure), as well as the capital of Athens (which is a must)!
This is of course more than what most people will have but I thought it really helped me see all the places I wanted to without rushing through it. I also traveled during the times of Coronavirus and was able to work remotely which helped me take the additional time necessary.
Don’t worry, I will help craft itineraries if you have one week or two weeks which is of course the more common route!
If these places ring a bell and sound like the places you want to visit, this is the perfect itinerary for you!
What do I need to know about traveling in the Cyclades?
The Cyclades archipelago is one of the most famous and beautiful parts of Greece. It’s very developed and is quite easy to travel through. Regular ferry connections are possible between the islands and there are nice paved roads in every place.
The food in Greece is among the best in the world so no matter where you go, you will be well fed with fresh Greek food and delicious Greek wines.
Generally, most people come to Greece in the summer months which are its warmest and busiest. However, if you aren’t into big crowds, traveling during the shoulder months might suit you better.
There are a ton of different factors to know about the Cyclades that it can be its own post. And what do you know? I have done exactly that. Make sure to read my ultimate guide to traveling the Cyclades in conjunction with this itinerary to understand all the nuances of traveling here!
How to travel between the islands?
Well there is no island hopping without a way to get between the islands. Thankfully, Greece has one of its most extensive and serviced ferry system in the Cyclades.
Ferries are the only way to get between islands. In the summer months, they run frequently with multiple ferries coming into an island per day. There are multiple companies to choose from which is great for keeping costs reasonable.
Some of the most popular islands have airports like Mykonos, Santorini, Milos, Naxos etc. where you can fly into from Athens or international destinations. However, there are no flight routes (that I know of) between the islands, so you will not find any flight between Mykonos and Santorini. This is because the distances are so short that flights don’t make sense as well as there being an extensive ferry system to cover this.
Ferries in the Cyclades are generally quite big ships and are very comfortable. I took ten of them so I’ve experienced all different types of boats and for the most part, I am pretty satisfied. Most ferries start from Athens and make a route where they stop at different islands. You are essentially hopping on and hopping off depending on your point of origin and destination.
There’s so much to know about the Greek ferry system that I’ve written an entire post dedicated to this topic. Make sure to read that so you know what to expect when you arrive!
Full Athens, Mykonos, Santorini Itinerary
This itinerary starts in Athens, Greece’s capital. Most long haul international flights arrive into Athens. Mykonos and Santorini have international arrivals but mostly from Europe.
From Athens, I took a flight to Mykonos to start my island hopping trip. The whole reason I did not take a ferry from Athens to Mykonos (which there are countless options), is because the flight was actually cheaper than the ferry and it takes less than 30 minutes.
I stayed four nights in Mykonos which is plenty of time to explore the island in my opinion. From Mykonos, there are regular daily ferries to Santorini (even during the off season as well).
In Santorini, I stayed in and around Oia which is the main town where all the iconic photos are taken. Three to four nights is good to experience Santorini in my opinion. From Santorini, you can fly back home as it is connected to numerous large airports in Europe!
Need help planning your Greece trip?
If you’re keen to visit the Greece and are feeling overwhelmed with the logistics of it all, I can definitely help! I’ve traveled extensively around Greece and have visited more islands and sights than most people. I’ve even lived in Athens for a short amount of time. I’ve helped many of my readers plan their dream vacation, honeymoon, becoming a digital nomad and everything in between. If you’d like me to help plan your trip, please send me a message on my contact page and we can take it from there!
Day 1-4: Athens
The itinerary starts in Athens, Greece’s modern day capital! Athens is an amazing city that is certainly underrated compared to the other European capitals. It’s home to so much history and wonderful monuments that you’ve probably learned about in school. The world famous Acropolis home to the Parthenon is here visible from all parts of the city.
The food and drinking scene in Athens is also top notch. There’s a palpable sense of energy here that you can feel as soon as you step out. I had some amazing cocktails and rooftop drinks here as well as eating some of the finest cuisine that Greece has to offer.
I stayed in a beautiful Airbnb with unobstructed views of the Parthenon which I’d highly recommend. You don’t really need that much time in Athens if you’re just concerned with seeing the main sights. However, I adored the vibe and feel of the city and could have easily stayed a week here.
If you don’t plan on visiting Athens and have a direct route into the islands (like Mykonos or Santorini), then ignore this part of the itinerary and move to the next section.
Read my detailed post about visiting Athens! Athens is one of my favorite cities in Europe. I lived here for a few months so if you are also planning to spend extended time here as a digital nomad, make sure to read my living in Athens post!
From Athens, the next step is to book your transfer to Mykonos. Your two options here are to use the ferry system or to fly. Piraeus Port is the main port of departure in Athens and where you will take your ferry ride to Mykonos. You can get there via Uber for around €20. Otherwise, take the line 1203 train which takes 17 min and costs 1€.
Alternatively, booking a flight will be slightly more expensive than the ferry but take you a fraction of the time. There are numerous budget airlines like Olympic Air, Volotea, and Sky Express where you can book a one way flight to Mykonos for €50-75.
Where to stay in Athens?
There are no shortage of places to stay in Athens. The city offers a plethora of nice hotels, guesthouses, and Airbnbs. I’m a sucker for views of the Acropolis. Nothing beats working or having a drink with the Parthenon as your backdrop.
- 24k Athena Suites
- Acropolis Apartment With a Unique View
- Flat in Monastiraki with stunning view of Acropolis
For higher end hotels, here is a list of places I found to be quite nice from the outside.
Day 4-7: Mykonos Island
From Athens, I flew to Mykonos where I spent the next three nights. Mykonos is probably the second most visited island after Santorini and is famous for its beautiful Chora (the main town) and its beach clubs.
Because of COVID, the beach clubs were open but not at its full capacity. Mykonos felt like the gathering place of the European Jersey Shore crowd mixed with all the semi-pro influencers you can find. Most times it felt like people were going that extra step to look better than they normally would. It’s like the Miami of Greece in a sense.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to avoid this by simply staying away from the fancy beach clubs and that whole vibe. The Chora is absolutely beautiful to walk around during the day when people are nursing their hangovers from the night before.
It’s everything you’re looking for in that typical Cycladic village with its perfectly manicured cobblestone streets, white houses, and blue doors. I also really enjoyed the sunset from the Armenistis lighthouse as well as from the 180 degree sunset bar (even if the cocktails are €18).
Read my detailed post about visiting Mykonos!
Getting to Santorini from Mykonos
From Mykonos, you will have to take the ferry to Santorini. This is a very common route (as you can imagine) between the two most popular islands in Greece. In the summer months, there are multiple ferries a day that go between the two islands.
The ferries in Greece are a hop on hop off format so you will stop off at all the other islands before arriving in Santorini (since Santorini is the last island before Crete).
Make sure to book your ferry tickets in advance because they do sell out especially in the busy months!
Where to stay in Mykonos Island
There are not too many accommodations in Mykonos that are “cheap” outside of staying at hostels. You can find cheap Airbnsb in and around the Chora for under 100 euros a night during the high season months.
Mid Level accommodations
Super high end
There are no shortage of ultra lux trendy hotels in Mykonos. Prepare to dish out the big bucks!
Day 7-10: Santorini
Last but certainly not least, what long term trip through the Cyclades is complete without a visit to the mother of them all in Santorini. Santorini is the most famous and most visited island in all of Greece, and maybe even the world.
Even if you’ve never heard of Santorini, there’s a high chance you’ve seen a photo of its iconic blue domes floating around somewhere. Mykonos has become the defacto upscale party island of Greece whereas Santorini has become the mecca for romantic couples trips, honeymoons, and influencer photo sprees.
Santorini is unlike the other islands in that it was formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The entire island nowadays is built on the remnants of lava hardening in the sea. The island is very beautiful in that all the houses were built on the clifftops that descend straight into the sea allowing for dramatic effects.
The main towns of Santorini are Fira and Oia with the latter being the famous town that everyone takes photographs from. I stayed in an Airbnb with direct views onto the famous three blue domes and there was an endless line of people waiting to take photos.
Santorini is extremely overwhelming during the summer months with thousands of people per day descending into the small towns. I would highly advise visiting in July and August.
To be honest, Santorini was not my favorite island especially having been to so many before coming here.
If you have more days in Santorini, consider a day trip to the neighboring island of Folegandros, which is my opinion far superior to Santorini (and much cheaper).
Where to stay in Santorini
Like Mykonos, there are no shortage of places to stay in Santorini. Staying in Oia of course will cost the most but then you are also at the footsteps of the “famous” photos of Santorini.
Most people are looking for those photos of them in a clay pool with dead on views of the Mediterranean. Suffice to say, these are literally everywhere. Oia and Fira are essentially just towns with countless hotels. Hundreds if not thousands of hotels. You’ll want to stay at a nice hotel that is located at the edge of the cliffs so you’ll be able to have those dramatic views.
Day by Day breakdown of my Athens, Mykonos, Santorini Itinerary
Here is a day by day breakdown of the Greek island itinerary. It’s pretty involved each day so absolutely feel free to spread it out over more days if you have the time!
Day 1: Land in Athens, explore the city
Day 2: Explore Athens, including Acropolis
Day 3: Explore Athens
Day 4: Flight to Mykonos
Day 5: Fu day in Mykonos
Day 6: Full day in Mykonos
Day 7: Ferry to Santorini
Day 8: Full day exploring Santorini
Day 9: Full day in Santorini
Day 10: Fly out of Santorini back home
This is a bare bones itinerary for my trip between Greece’s most popular attractions. I think if you have a Friday to the following Sunday type of vacation, this will be perfect for you. If you have more time to the tune of two weeks and more, then I would actually visit another island in between Mykonos and Santorini.
There is no point to spend so much time on these two islands because I find the other islands to be more interesting. I would structure my trip to include an island or two in between Mykonos and Santorini so you can really get the full experience.
The ferry from Mykonos to Santorini already stops in numerous islands so you are not going out of the way. I would still start in Mykonos, and work my way down to end in Santorini (since Santorini is essentially the last stop on the ferry routes).
Two week itinerary with Naxos and Paros
Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades and while close to Mykonos, feels like a different world. The Chora is reminiscent of Mykonos although not as perfect. However, the nearby villages are some of the most spectacular villages in the Cyclades. Rent a scooter and explore the island!
Paros is next door to Naxos and is famous for its beautiful villages. Places like Naoussa and Marpissa will make you swoon over Greek architecture!
Day 1: Land in Athens, explore the city
Day 2: Explore Athens, including Acropolis
Day 3: Explore Athens
Day 4: Flight to Mykonos
Day 5: Full day in Mykonos
Day 6: Full day in Mykonos
Day 7: Ferry from Mykonos to Naxos
Day 8: Full day Naxos
Day 9: Full day Naxos
Day 10: Naxos to Paros
Day 11: Full day Paros
Day 12: Paros to Santorini
Day 13: Full day exploring Santorini
Day 14: Full day in Santorini
Day 15: Fly out of Santorini back home
- The Perfect Cyclades Greek Island Hopping Itinerary
- Mykonos Vs Santorini: How To Decide Between Greece’s Most Popular Islands
- Why Santorini is my Least Favorite Greek Island
- The Perfect One Week Itinerary For Greece
- The Ultimate Guide To Greek Ferries
- A Guide To All The Ionian Islands, Greece: Which Island Is The Best?
- Ionian or Cyclades Islands: How To Choose Between Greece’s Most Beautiful islands
- Best Time To Visit Greece: The Best Months For Every Traveler
- The Perfect Athens Itinerary: One Day, Two Days, and Three Days In The Greek Capital
- The Perfect Travel Guide For Milos Island, Greece
- The Ultimate Folegandros Travel Guide – A Slice Of Greek Paradise
- Singapore Island Hopping: Visiting St John’s and Kusu Island