You guys know that I have a massive love/obsession/overall dreamlike enchantment with Santorini, potentially one of the best known Greek Islands out there. But did you know that there are nearly 6,000 islands in that stretch of the Aegean?! That’s a heck of a lot of paradise to cover. Approximately 200 (this number is debated, some say as few as 167, some say as many as 227) are actually populated. So many islands to choose from, so little time. When we decided our hearts were set on Greece, we knew we wanted to explore another island besides Santorini. We searched high and low and finally landed on one: Naxos.
Why Naxos, you ask? Well, I’m so glad you did. Naxos, also located in the Cycaldes, hit the mark for us for three reasons. 1. It was incredibly easy to get to from Santorini (more on this momentarily). 2. While Santorini has the whitewashed rooftops of your dreams, it’s lacking the sandy beaches we so desired. Our requirement for our next island hop was that we wanted to plant our behinds on the beach, and soak up that sun! Naxos has some of the most insanely gorgeous beaches in all of Greece (if not Europe as a whole). 3. We wanted something that didn’t break our budget, and that wasn’t overrun with tourists. By this point in our trip, we had come off of both Santorini & Paris. Both are some of the most iconic locations in the world, which means they also come with a plethora of tourists. Naxos was perfect, because it’s less well known, it’s super affordable, and it’s definitely a hidden gem.
Because there was so much to explore, we made up our minds and decided that we would head to Naxos for around 72 hours (essentially a little over a weekend) during our trip. I couldn’t be more grateful we decided to hop on over to this little slice of paradise. But how do you get there? Greek Island Hopping sounds very romantic, but it can seemingly be a bit overwhelming. I’m here to tell you, take a deep breath, because you got this! Don’t worry, I’ll help you get there with some tips and tricks that we wouldn’t have survived without!
HOW TO GET THERE
So. Our minds were made up, we were going to Naxos! Now, how do we get to this heavenly locale? As I mentioned above, one of the reasons we decided on this island was because it was relatively close to Santorini. If you decide to Greek Island hop, I would suggest not going anywhere that’s over a half-a-days journey on the ferry from where you’re currently located.
Speaking of ferries, that is absolutely 100% without a doubt the best way to get from island to island. We flew directly into Santorini from Paris (more on how we made that trip happen on a budget, here). Some google sleuthing lead us to a website called Direct Ferries. It is the best and SO easy to use. It shows travel options for the majority of the Greek Islands, with multiple ferry lines. Zach and I were able to book a ferry trip (less than $50 USD for each of us round trip) to make our way to an entirely different island. The trip itself took a little less than two hours, but let me tell you, it was the best commute of my life (photographic evidence below). We each managed to finish a book on the way over, sat outside on the deck, cracked open a cold one, and stared out into the sea during our trip to our new favorite Greek Island. Sigh…if I could snap my fingers and take myself back somewhere, that wouldn’t be a bad place to go! If only my commute to work was that enjoyable…
Zach & I waiting for our ferry to get here at the port in Santorini (called Thira). You will absolutley get haggled by the local shop owners as they fight for your business. My advice? Just pick one, sit down, (maybe treat yo’ self to a fruity cocktail), and enjoy the view as you await the most memorable commute of your life.
P.S. the dress I’m wearing here is something Zach & I lovingly began referring to as “Old Faithful”. I legit threw this thing on during every single travel day. It was so easy, kept me cool, was comfortable as all get out, and still managed to make me not look like I’d just been traveling for days* (Hopefully). Check out some of my new “old faithfuls” below!
Just enjoying the most memorable commute of my life…
Sidebar: If you decide that Greek Island hopping is something you need to put on your bucket list, do not stop, do not pass go, and purchase yourself a backpack. I can wholeheartedly promise you, you will not want to be dragging around a roller suitcase on the cobblestones of Greece. Find some of my must have travel items below (is it living up to a stereotype that I live in Birkenstocks AND Seattle? Oh well, they made a comeback for a reason, folks!)
Backpacking through Europe is a cliche for a reason, because it’s the easiest and most efficient way to get around. You will end up being eternally grateful for that bag you can just toss on as you head off to your next adventure. Speaking of your next adventure, you’ve arrived in Naxos! Good job, you.
Now, where should you be staying? Well let’s get to it, shall we?
WHERE TO STAY
Welcome to Naxos town! Naxos is a much more rural island, and the main area of population is known as Naxos Chora (or, commonly, Naxos Town). The majority of the shops and hotels are within walking distance of this area, “Old Town”.
We stayed in an Airbnb (because we are obsessed) and were not disappointed. However, if hotels are more your thing, Hotels Combined is an excellent resource for snagging great hotel deals. We ended up getting out Airbnb for less than $40 USD per night (SUCH an affordable island!) and couldn’t have been happier. We weren’t staying at The Ritz, by any means, but we were satisfied to our hearts content.
There are tons of benefits to staying this close to the heart of Naxos, one of which is that you’re closest to some of the most delicious food your tastebuds will ever have the joy of experiencing. Our favorite place was Taverna Apostoli’s, right in the heart of old town. It was charming beyond belief, and the food was out of this world. Topped off with potentially the best service we’d had during our trip, and we were sold on coming back the next evening. If you end up here, look for the old bicycle outside the front door. I can promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
The other benefit? You’ll be walking distance to the Temple of Apollo, a gorgeous statue on the tip of the island. This place gets packed for sunsets, but we got a recommendation from our lovely waitress at the aforementioned taverna to go at sunrise instead. Game. Changer. The view, peace, and serenity we experienced during that sunrise with Apollo was something I’ll never forget. Turns out, the early bird really does get the worm (and an unforgettable sunrise to boot!)
View from our charming table inside of Taverna Apostoli’s
Port of Naxos, photo courtesy of Naxos Tourism
The Temple of Apollo, a very short walk from Naxos Town (aka Naxos Chora)
Catching the sunrise with Apollo, we were out there completely by ourselves. Beyond idyllic.
So worth the early morning wake up call for this moment of serenity
You can find some of my favorite sunrise watching garb below (*unfortunately, the sunrise itself is not included but that amazing purse, which is less than $40, definitely is!)
WHAT TO DO
1. RENT A SCOOTER (& EXPLORE YOUR SOCKS OFF!)
If you’re going to do one thing from this list, promise me you’ll do this. Renting a scooter is by far the best, easiest, cheapest, and most memorable way to explore the island. We wouldn’t have been able to do half the things we did in Naxos without the help of our trusty scooter.
This little guy lead us to places the guide books would never dream about, which allowed us to have cliffside picnics you can’t put a price tag on. I’ve mentioned my love of picnicking before, because it is such a great way to help you not blow your budget during your trip. This way, you have more moolah to do the things you’ll remember (like island hopping in the first place!) We packed up a picnic, hopped on the scooter, and headed out to the nearest (or furthest) cliff side we could find, and had a private showing of the sun setting over that gorgeous blue sea every night.
Dear beloved scooter, if you’re reading this, thanks for the memories! You’re a true friend.
Some of my favorite things in the world, our scooter, Old Faithful, and white sandy beaches.
Cliffside dining for two? Yes please!
Safety first though, those cliffs are steep AF
2. HIT THE BEACH
Why do I always end up saving some of my favorite things for last? The anticipation is always killing me by the time I get here to write about it! It works out here though, as we saved something we were looking forward to so much until the end of our trip. Those beaches, baby!
The beaches in Naxos were unlike anything I’d ever seen, the sand was so white, and that water so blue, I think I know what Moana was singing about! (PSA: I know Moana is singing about a mythical Hawaiin island, but she clearly had never been to Naxos, I think she’d dig it. Extra PSA: If you haven’t seen Moana and have no idea what I’m talking about, go do yourself a favor and watch it immediately!)
Naxos is filled with beaches, but we were only there for a few days so we had to narrow it down to our top picks. Agios Prokopios is closest to Naxos Town (it’ll take you less than 10 minutes on your trusty scooter!) And it’s filled with beach hut bars, and these umbrella’s that I didn’t know I needed in my life until I saw them with my own eyes. Please come back to me, sweet shady beach umbrellas. I miss you. Hit this beach if you don’t have a ton of time, it’s ridiculously long and expansive, so you won’t have trouble finding a place to yourself.
My favorite beach, however, had to be Plaka. It was a bit more difficult to get to (we got soooo lost on our scooter, but hey, the scenic route exists for a reason!) Bring a map with you, and no, not the one on your phone. Bring an O.G. real life map, and you’ll find your way!
Plaka was much less crowded, and we spent the entire day their sunning out buns off (don’t forget your SPF, mother nature is a feisty one!). Not to mention, service staff will bring you drinks and treats, and you don’t have to be staying at any kind of resort for this treatment. Sign. Me. Up. Also, please take me back to these swoon-worthy beaches…
What places are you checking off your bucket list? Have you hopped around the Greek Islands? Let me know in the comments, or #CurateThatMoment with me over on Instagram! (@thelyonbadger)
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