Which Greek island should we visit?
March 3, 2018 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Please help two families choose a destination for a week in Greece in early July. Travelers include four adults, two boys (12 yo), and two girls (7 yo). We like beaches, villages, ruins, food, and knowing that we're not in America. We don't like Disney Land, clubbing, or scary mountain roads.

One family is currently residing in Eastern Europe. The other family will be coming from the US and has never traveled overseas as a family. All of us are US citizens. We'll meet up in Eastern Europe, spend a week there, and then travel down to Greece for a week together.

We'd like to choose one island to stay on for the entire week, with possible day trips to other islands if that's convenient and worthwhile. We're looking for an island where we can do some exploring, see some smaller towns and villages, visit ruins, eat local food, and meet local people. We want to visit a place that looks and feels different from where we come from.

Our preference is to stay in a house/condo or a couple of condos next to each other, or maybe a guest house. We don't want to stay in a hotel and definitely not a resort. We'd rather be around more Greeks than other tourists, to the extent that's possible in July.

There are so many islands! How do we choose? It's easy to cross off Santorini and Mykonos. We're currently looking at Naxos and Crete (specifically Chania). Would one of those be good? Any other recommendations?

We're also thinking of doing one day in Athens at the start or end of the trip to stand in awe of the Parthenon. Good idea?

In addition to island recommendations, we'd welcome any other suggestions or Greek island travel tips.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Winnie the Proust to Travel & Transportation around Greece (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Paros, Naxos or Crete are all good options.
posted by fshgrl at 8:57 PM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah I think you would really like Crete and as long as you get out of Iraklio you will have plenty of opportunities to get a "Greek experience" like what you want with plenty of ruins and amazing food. But do any of you speak Greek? I guess translation apps are better than they used to be, but we definitely ended up relying on the elementary school aged granddaughter of one of our B&B owners to translate for us because they didn't know anyone else around who could speak English. You'll get along, I'm sure, but English speakers are less common on Crete than in almost anywhere else I've been in Europe. Crete is really big and you'll also want to give some thought to how you want to get around. Some of the scariest driving I have ever been in the passenger-seat for was on narrow mountain roads on Crete.

I'm very much in favor of your plan to see the Parthenon and then GTFO of Athens.
posted by potrzebie at 12:33 AM on March 4, 2018

Patmos is a beautiful Aegean island.
posted by lois1950 at 2:25 AM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

When in Crete we did a drive to some monistaries in the mountains, which was fun and very peaceful. It sounds like Crete will have a good mix for you.

I also travelled to Lefkas, which was absolutely stunning. We have distant family there. So we got a personalized tour so the recommendations we're on point and food and such was amazing. But the beaches were beautiful and because it is out of the way there wasn't many tourists . It does have a little airport.

My MIL speaks fluent Greek, so I'm honestly not sure about the English.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:15 AM on March 4, 2018

Favourite non-touristy Greek islands so far (experienced with a couple of young kids in tow):
- Ikaria (plus Fourni, though that's real tiny...)
- Karpathos (more nature and people than ruins)
- seconding Lefkada (beautiful guest-house in the interior, me-mail me)
- Zakynthos (you'd catch the turtle egg-laying season, which is amazing for kids)
Crete is pretty huge, but you'd need a car in any of the above, so...
posted by progosk at 7:19 AM on March 4, 2018

Oia on the Island of Santorini would my first choice. I'm not really sure why anyone looking for less-heavily-touristed Greek downtime would go to Crete; it's so tourism focused.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:33 AM on March 4, 2018

English speakers are less common on Crete than in almost anywhere else I've been in Europe

I have to say that has not been my experience at all. Apart from the extreme west I’ve never found a place in Crete where English wasn’t readily understood. Maybe I spend too much time in bars, and not enough in the fields.

I think the good news is that most of the accessible Greek islands are charming. You might consider hopping around two or three that are connected by ferries.
posted by Segundus at 8:42 AM on March 4, 2018

If they don't like scary mountain roads Oia is questionable.
posted by fshgrl at 10:46 AM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband recommends Spetses, though he hasn't been back there in 20 years.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had such a great time on Naxos and fantasize about going back to spend a whole month. I think it would be an ideal place for a family vacation because it's got a great mix of beaches and old villages, and really interesting history (including some neat Greek mythological history).

The main town is good for eating out, browsing in shops, and wandering around ancient back streets/alleys. There's a great and very family-friendly boardwalk type area as well. Along the coast south of the main town is a string of beaches, each with its own vibe. I personally loved Agia Anna which was quiet in May but might be a bit crowded in July. You could spend a few fun days just checking out different beaches. The Mikri Viglia/Orkos area was stunningly beautiful.

I think it'd be pretty easy to visit other islands. You could take the ferry across to Paros. Or take one of the sailboat trips to another island or two.

One thing: one of the best aspects of Naxos is that it has both beaches and mountain villages. The mountain villages are amazing, and a real highlight, but you do have to drive through the mountains to get to them! I had a few slightly-scary moments on the roads, but it was fine.

The food in Naxos is amazing, and there's still a lot of agriculture there so it's fresh.

Good move skipping Santorini. I found it really crowded and overly touristy in May - I can't imagine what it would be like in July.

One other possible suggestion if you want to to several day trips to other islands: Paros is the hub for Cyclades ferries so it's easy to take a ferry almost anywhere else in the Cyclades. I haven't been there but hear it's nice.
posted by lunasol at 2:22 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I visited Rhodos..It is amazibg place with beautiful views anf history. Try it.
posted by Tori88 at 1:58 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for the feedback. This is very helpful. At one level I think we'll be happy wherever we go, but it's great having some personal pointers. At this point we are going to start looking for lodging on some of the suggested islands, and let those results drive the next level.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:42 AM on March 7, 2018

@winnie the proust

any takeaways from your trip? favorites?
posted by specialk420 at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2018

Thanks to everyone for the advice and suggestions. The trip was great! Here's some info for future travels.

We opted to spend our week on Naxos. It felt like it had the right combination of beaches, villages, and ruins without being overrun by tourists. This turned out to be exactly the case. We spent most of our time on the beach, which was spectacular. This was obviously a tourist spot, but many of the tourists were Greek or from other European countries, the local shops catered to Greek people as well as tourists, and it was generally very chill.

We had the good fortune of renting an apartment that was about 100 steps from the beach, so our days were very relaxed. We didn't have to plan our days in advance, get all our gear together, and drive to the beach. We could just wander back and forth between our flat and the beach all day long as we needed. Because we were two families, this made a huge difference. It would have been much more stressful if we'd been even a ten minute drive to the beach.

The restaurants in our neighborhood were all very good and relatively inexpensive.

One of the other highlights was a visit to the ancient quarry in the middle of the islands. This was active around 800 BC, and when you visit you can see some sculptures that were started and then abandoned. The setting is mountainous and you get there by walking through the hills, passing fig trees, along with olive and carob trees. It was beautiful and very ancient.

There was no direct flight from Prague to Naxos, so we got there via Santorini. It was nice having one night in Santorini. The sunset over the Santorini Caldera was jaw dropping. I've seen some nice sunsets before (Southern Africa in particular), but not quite like this. On the other hand, Santorini was incredibly crowded with tourists. The narrow streets were so full of chic westerners that I literally had turn sideways at times to make it through the crowds, holding my kids hands to make sure we didn't get separated. While I enjoyed my evening there, I was very glad to leave the next day by ferry.

After Naxos we had one day in Athens as we made our way back to the US. This gave us a chance to have a tour of the Acropolis. I am not generally a fan of tours, but in this case it was very valuable. There is a lot of context and history that I would not have gotten if I'd visited on my own. It still would have been awe inspiring, of course, but it was great to hear about the history of the construction of the various temples, etc.

We had dinner that night at the rooftop restaurant of the A for Athens hotel, which provides a direct view of the Acropolis to the South and the sunset to the West. That was a great way to end our trip.

If anyone has any specific questions, please feel free to memail me. All the advice and suggestions here were great and very helpful.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 9:45 AM on October 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Aesthetic: 80s cannibal eater   |   Infographic software without being a graphic... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.