Greece: Island hopping in the Cyclades – Santorini, Milos and Paros

With the Seajets ferry in 2.5 hours from Santorini to Milos

Santorini or Mykonos? Or rather Amorgos and Milos? Why choose one of the Greek islands when you can have them all?? Well, maybe not all, but two, three, four can be wonderfully combined in a vacation in Greece. Quickly it is decided for us: We make a Greece island hopping. That sounds like a vacation by the sea with high Kurzweil factor. And still very relaxing.

Some of the most beautiful Greek islands have an airport, which can be reached from various cities in Germany in about three hours. Island hopping in Greece is ideal if you only want to spend a few vacation days on the Cyclades islands. We have just under three weeks and decide on the slower way to get there: by ferry from Piraeus. Island vacation plus mini cruise.

Island hopping Greece – by ship from paradise to paradise

Six o'clock in the morning check-in on the ship, just under seven hours we will be at sea. On board there is a lot of space on the sun deck, several restaurants as well as a business lounge (absolutely affordable) with comfortable armchairs and service at your seat. The Greek coffee comes black and strong, a real pick-me-up. Offer and quality of the food on the ferry are otherwise rather average, only the prices are significantly higher than on the Greek mainland. If you want, you can watch movies on the on-board program via app – but the best one is on outside: the sea.

Deep blue, inky blue, turquoise, cobalt blue … and umpteen shades in between. Behind us only a white stripe, which the ship plows into the water. Looking at the sea has something calming, almost meditative. Again and again we pass small Greek islands, most of them uninhabited.

Ferry off Santorini

Caldera view of Santorini

First destination of our Cyclades round trip: Santorini. Before that the Blue Star Ferry docks in Paros and Naxos to bring other island hoppers in and out. to get off. So we already get a first impression of our "last" island.

Island hopping Greece: by ferry from Piraeus to Santorini

The small port of Santorini seems to explode for a moment as the ferry docks. Everything is scurrying and shouting in confusion: cab drivers, harbor landlords, tour sellers, car rental companies – everyone wants to do their business. After a few minutes everything sorts itself out.

We want to go to the south of the island, which is less crowded than Oia and Thira. Unfortunately also worse to reach by bus. The cab driver knows this of course and charges us 25 Euro for seven kilometers to our small hotel in Vlychada. A colorful, family-run house, very clean and well-kept. In the restaurant the mom still cooks herself, we feel comfortable and welcome from the first minute on.

With a glass of wine on the house, we get plenty of vacation tips for the Cyclades island. Michael, who takes care of the guests, circled as good as all the places that can be found on the map …😃
Not all are actual sights, but the way he inspires us for his Santorini – simply touching. The family organizes a rental car in no time, we don't have to worry about anything. At nine o'clock sharp the keys are on the table, the next morning the car is picked up again. That is true luxury for us.

Oia, Santorini

Island hopping Greece: from Santorini to Milos

Five days on Santorini are enough to explore the Cyclades island extensively – without rushing. So there is enough time in between for a few hours with a book at the pool.

For the crossing from Santorini to Milos we decide to take the Sea-Jet ferry – twice as expensive as the big ships, but also much faster. Unfortunately this one has no outside deck, through the windows you can't really see much either, they are blinded by the spray. The air conditioner is on full blast.

Two and a half hours later we are deep-frozen in Adamas, the port of Milos. In contrast to the hustle and bustle on Santorini there is a relaxed hustle and bustle here. Everything is close together and easy to reach on foot. If you want to go to the beach, you can rent a quad bike. They are more popular on the island than cars.

Sarakiniko Beach on Milos

Boathouses at Klima, Milos

Beach taverna on Milos

Apart from the famous moon beach, Milos presents itself most beautifully from the water. For example, a sailing trip around the island – including swimming stops. The most beautiful photo motives: Sarakiniko Beach, the colorful boat houses at Klima and the bay of Kleftiko.

If you can do without chic boutiques and nightlife, you will love Milos. Small fishing villages or rustic mountain villages like Plaka with cobblestone streets look partly like fallen out of time – and yet are anything but old-fashioned. Wlan in the cafe? You can find it almost everywhere. Freshly caught fish creatively prepared as if by a star chef? To be had at the pier of Pollonia.

Milos is not as small as it seems at first sight. But most of the action takes place around the harbor town of Adamas. The southwest of the island is difficult to access, you can only get there with an off-road vehicle. Smaller quads are not suitable for this.

Island hopping from Milos to Paros

From Milos to Paros the Hellenic Seaways takes about 5 hours. The ferry is a bit late, so we sweeten the wait with frappe, like the Greeks drink it: black, bitter, with ice cubes and cold frothed milk.

This time we can choose the best places on the sun deck. What probably also has to do with the diesel smell, which presses in the rear part of the chimney downwards. No matter, the view makes up for it.

Short mooring maneuvers in the harbors of the Cyclades islands Andimilos, Sifnos and Serifos, each looks different and I wish to be able to stay a few days everywhere.

We dock on Paros just in time for sunset. In the sun the sea appears like liquid gold. And from the shore road the smell of fried fish is wafting across.

Parikia, Paros

old harbor of Naousa, Paros

Parikia, Paros

Old harbor of Naousa on Paros

Our hotel on Paros: Anemoi Resort near Naousa

Most tourists either stay in the island's capital Parikia, the casual Mediterranean place where the big ferries from and to Piraeus dock. Or in the fishing village Naoussa, which presents itself cosmopolitan and very chic.

The best time to visit Paros is the low season (May-June or September-October), locals tell us. Then it is still or already nice and warm, but not yet overcrowded and the prices are low. For a double room in a good hotel we rarely pay more than 30-40 Euro per night. Even sunshades and sunbeds on the beach cost only half outside of high summer. Or nothing at all, like for example at Kolymbythres Beach. The only thing expected is to order a beer or a coffee in the beach taverna – it is even served to the deckchair. But it is also worth to eat there, the grilled sardines are delicious.

Our hotel is located just outside of Naoussa on a hill overlooking the sea. Cycladic style apartments are grouped around the large pool.

Since we spend more than one week on Paros, we take a rental car. In the low season it is more practical, because the buses run less often. This independence is worth the 25 Euro daily rent, so we can also visit remote places, restaurants and beaches.

We love places where the locals meet. Where to eat and drink authentically and really well, we have compiled in the article Eat like a local – our best restaurant tips for Paros.

We like Parikia and Naoussa equally well, each place in its own way, and so we commute back and forth alternately. Have breakfast in the morning in Parikia at Cafe Symposium and enjoy a drink in the evening at the old harbor of Naoussa, where the lights dance in the water.

This must be what the jet-set life feels like.

Island hopping Greece: Info about travel, ferries, costs and route

Which are the most beautiful Greek islands in the Cyclades??

Depends on what you are looking for? You will find party and jet set on Mykonos rather than on Milos. If you're chasing photo opportunities (and don't mind ten thousand other elbows), Santorini, with its postcard-blue domes atop snow-white houses, fits the bill. We personally liked Paros the best, just ahead of Milos.

Athens airport – transfer to the port of Piraeus:

Aegaen Airlines flies nonstop e.g. from Stuttgart to Athens, from there you can take the express bus X96 directly to the port in Piraeus. In the arrival area just follow the signs to the bus, the station is right at the exit, the ticket office as well (return price: 12 Euro/person, as of May 2020).

According to the timetable, the buses leave several times an hour, but you should not rely on them (we had to wait just under an hour). So you better allow plenty of time to get to the port in Piraeus.

Our tip: In Piraeus (e.g. Hotel Achillion, 300 m from the port) and catch the first ferry the next morning. Saves stress in case of flight delays.

Most ships to the Cyclades islands leave from Piraeus. For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that there are two more ports in Athens with ferry connections: Rafina and Lavrio. With public transport, however, these are more cumbersome to reach.

Island hopping Greece: ferry from Piraeus to the Cyclades:

There are several shipping companies that serve the Cyclades, we were with Blue Star and Sea Jet on the road. Ferry tickets are available in the travel agencies at the port, but depending on the travel period we recommend to book online in advance. Unfortunately it is not possible to print the tickets yourself, you have to take the voucher to the office of the shipping company (directly at the pier) and pick them up there. The offices open at 6 a.m., one hour before departure you should be at the ship to be on the safe side.

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