I have always dreamed of visiting the Greek Islands. A place where flowers intertwine with winding cobbled streets and white-washed buildings, creating a beautiful splash of colour around every corner. I used to dream of walking through its charming streets with my camera in-hand, ready to capture its stunning beauty.
These islands are like paradise to me. I had never taken so many photos before I visited the Greek Islands on a recent trip with my partner. Our great passion is to travel the world together and I count myself lucky to have someone as my best friend and a great support for my love of photography.
We enjoyed a two week route over the Cyclades which started in Athens. Then, we went to Mykonos, Paros & Antiparos, Naxos and Santorini; with only our return round-trip plane tickets and first three days in Mykonos booked. The rest of the trip was like a care-free adventure. We knew the islands we wanted to explore and just had two weeks to do it!
First Stop on our Tour of the Greek Islands: Mykonos!
Mykonos town is an almost exclusive pedestrian area, so you can explore it all on foot. The streets look like they are always ready for someone to take that perfect shot. It’s such a gorgeous place to walk around and explore its white cobbled streets full of colours and lush bougainvillea.
You will find an island here which lives almost entirely off tourism. It is a village full of restaurants, bars, souvenirs and jewelry stores. Although the main streets are bustling with tourists and visitors (nothing compared to Santorini), the visit to Mykonos can be a tranquil experience if you visit outside of high season.
The island is not only for party-goers too. While the night is phenomenal, you still have many cultural attractions waiting to be discovered. The view from the windmills, for example, is a sight not to be missed. Perhaps it’s the most recognised landmark of the whole island.
Little Venice is another fantastic spot and the ideal location to watch the sunset while you’re enjoying a drink. Moreover, if you walk through the old port, you will surely be greeted by the famous pelicans of Mykonos (known as Petros) roaming freely in the village.
Admiring the Architecture and Natural Beauty of Santorini
It’s hard to choose our favourite Greek Island but if we had to it would be Santorini. This beautiful destination is home to white architecture beautifully designed in harmony with the island’s natural geology. Seeing white walls and smooth-edged houses fall down into the blue sea was amazing and made for some wonderful photography.
I decided to rent a motorbike to explore this beautiful island. Driving around it is extremely fun and gives you more flexibility to get around and to know the villages and its surroundings much better. We visited the villages of Oia, Thira, Imerovigli and Pyrgos. We stayed in Santorini for five days, towards the end of our two week Greek Island route.
Oia was the village I liked the most due to its magical views with an endless blue. Here you can find the most typical images of this volcanic island and for sure Oia is widely known for being an incredible sunset spot. The colours you can see while the sun is setting over the Caldera is something everyone should witness at least once in their lives.
It is a magnificent spectacle for your senses, especially when people start to applause when the sun disappears over the horizon. Walking down the streets in Thira is fantastic as well. Sunsets here are also amazing and make for a great comparison with Oia.
Another iconic spot in Santorini is Imerovigli, close to Fira. Imerovigli has the most fantastic views of the Caldera and is not as overcrowded as Thira or Oia. The atmosphere is much more relaxing and the streets are a lot quieter.
Then there is Pyrgos, the former capital of Santorini. This picturesque Greek village is a lot different to Oia or Thira. It’s more traditional, relaxed and less “picture-perfect”. Walking to the top of the medieval castle here is like going back 100’s of years in the past and makes for a pleasant place to have a stroll.
The beauty of the landscape in Santorini is unsurpassed and one of the most photographed places not only in Greece but the entire world.
What to do about the Over-Tourism in Santorini?
It’s an undeniable fact that Santorini suffers from extreme over-tourism. People who are staying on the island, along with hikers from the cruise ships, make for a saturated tourist destination (particularly in summer!) At about 11:00 am the island becomes overcrowded and it’s hard even to walk across the streets where there are masses and masses of tourists.
A tip you have to take into account if you want a more intimate experience of Santorini is to wake up really early in the morning. Our alarm clock was set for 5am most mornings. At this time, you will have empty streets to take photos and enjoy the sunrise in a calming setting.
When I first visited Oia and Thira there were people everywhere. I then went to visit Imerovigli, Pyrgos and other quieter areas of the island where I could get a more relaxing experience to watch the sunset. I recommend visiting these spots if you want to avoid the crowds.
I also recommend renting a vehicle of some kind – whether it be a motorbike, quad bike or car. It’s by far the most fun way to explore the island and makes for little adventures everyday.
If you want to see the sunset in Oia at least once, which I think everyone should, I recommend going early to get a good spot. Make sure you’ve got a good viewpoint of the town and relax into your spot and enjoy the moment.
Finally, the most important thing to consider when you’re planning your trip to the Greek Islands is the season. I would say the best time to visit the Greek Islands is between May and mid-June. This is just before high season starts and the weather is warming up.
The Colourful Paros: A Must-Visit in the Greek Islands
I had seen a lot of photos of Paros before our visit there. This is probably one of the most colourful islands in all of Greece — a place full of traditional architecture blossoming with facades of bougainvillea. Here I found some hidden gems where there were no crowds and more of a peaceful atmosphere.
We stayed in Parikia Town for four nights, the capital of Paros. Tourism has a presence in Parikia, but you can escape this easier than in Mykonos or Santorini. You can also find some hotels at a really good price. We devoted our first day appreciating the beauty of the streets in Parikia and getting lost in the old town with its narrow paved streets.
I recall one impressive, golden sunset there. In my opinion, it was the best sunset I had ever seen. We went to a point at a church called Agios Konstantinos that rises on the top of the castle’s district to witness this incredible sunset.
The second day we decided to rent a car and make a full day route over the main villages. We visited Naoussa – a charming and vibrant port full of restaurants – Lefkes, Marpissa and Pódromos. These were all small traditional Greek villages with not much tourism. We discovered charming seascapes and fantastic photography spots.
Even during this day we had time to visit the famous Kolymbithres beach with its interesting geology formations and crystal clear waters. On our third and final day in Paros, we organised a day trip to Antiparos, a small and quiet island close to Paros.
Relax in Antiparos and you can discover a traditional atmosphere offering visitors a more authentic experience. One must visit the Antiparos Cave (located 8km away from Chora). This exotic natural wonder showcases the oldest stalactite in Europe, about 45 million years old!
Naxos Island, the Largest of the Cyclades Island Group
Naxos was the third island we visited of the Cyclades. Despite the fact that we were only there for two days, the visit here was great and we created some amazing memories. Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands and is located in the centre of the archipelago. For this reason, I recommend staying longer than a couple of days.
We only had the opportunity to visit Chora but we loved exploring this jewel of the Aegean. In Chora, you can find a stunning medieval castle at the top of the old town. I loved its labyrinthine cobbled streets, where our cozy hotel was situated. The major tourist attraction in this area is the Portara, a massive marble doorway that stands close to the harbour.
A great plan in Chora is just to sit on the cliff and see an unforgettable sunset here. This makes for the perfect way to end the day. I must say that I have never seen so many colours in the sky before.
Following Chora, we woke up early in the morning and visited Aggia Anna beach. We were looking for sandy beaches and a relaxing place to take a break. The day was spent sunbathing in front of the sea, appreciating the turquoise-blue waters, and just relaxing. I highly recommend doing this on your trip to the Greek Islands.
Tips to Make the Most of your Trip to the Greek Islands
One of the most important tips for travellers who want to visit the Greek Islands, and in particular in the Cyclades, concerns the time of the year. You should try to avoid the high season (from Mid-June to Mid-September) which falls in the summer months. Going in these months means you will hardly escape the crowds and will always incur the highest prices.
Also, don’t be afraid to visit the Greek Islands on your own. There are many ferries companies that can take you around. The key is to consider your “must-see” destinations and make a route that works for you. You can easily book your journeys online or even at the port of each island. The ferries are comfortable and affordable.
On average of 3-4 days per island is enough (maybe you will need more time in Naxos Island since it was the biggest one in our route). Just take your time to decide the villages and towns you will be exploring and note the distance and how much time you have to spend to get around.
As mentioned before, you should try to wake up early each day. My alarm never went off after 6:00am. In Greece, the sun rises very early and by waking up early you will have the entire day to enjoy the islands.
Transport is another key factor in the Greek Islands. If you rent a vehicle, you should know that you must have an International Drivers License. If you don’t have it, you can easily get one in a very short period of time.
Then there are the famous Cyclades sunsets, some of the best I have ever seen! Last but not least is the wonderful Greek people.. They are such a warm and hospitable people and our experience around the Cyclades Islands was incredible thanks in large part to them. Greeks always have a smile to give you!
So make sure you’re open to meeting as many locals as you can when travelling through the Greek Islands.