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Crete & Santorini or Naxos &Santorini in September

Crete & Santorini or Naxos &Santorini in September

Dec 28th, 2018, 02:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Crete & Santorini or Naxos &Santorini in September

We are looking for an advice on a 2-week long Greece itinerary in September. It will be our first trip to Greece. We are a couple in our 50s. We hope to enjoy great views, food, local culture, some history, and spend some time on the beach (although beach is not the main reason of our trip).
This is our preliminary itinerary:
  1. Flying from US to Crete or Naxos via Athenes.
  2. Spend 5-6 nights on Crete (Heraklion side of the island) or Naxos (staying near St. George beach and doing day trips around the island or to other island in close proximity to Naxos).
  3. Ferry to Santorini and staying for 3-4 nights there
  4. Flying from Santorini to Athenes and spend 2 nights there before our flight back to US.
Should we go to Crete or Naxos?

Thanks in advance.

dimasmel is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 03:00 PM
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No immediate answer, just questions ... (1) A lot of people when they say 2 weeks, mean include 3 weekends - which I hope u are doing, because it does take a day to get there (when u count 7+ hours "clock time" change)... if u come back to N America on a Sunday, because of clock-change you Can do it in 1 day & go to worknext day (tho you'll be a zombie of course).

(2) CRETE - why have you chosen east of Heraklion?? The area does have Knossos, & the Herak. Museum is splendid .... but the whole beach stretch for about 50 KM east of Heraklion is built-up as "Resorts" for mainly UK holidayers ... not "local culture" ... Elounda is an upscale resort area but there again, not local culture or history (unless you are determined to visit the former leper-colony Island, Spinalonga). Is there something I am missing? On other hand, Western Crete has the most beautiful Old Town in Crete (and 2nd only to Nafplio as most beautiful Old Town in Greece)... plus W. Crete AND S. coast on West has stunning landscapes. beaches, mts., and its share of ancient history (Phaistos, Gortyn etc).

(3) BEACHES - When you list spending some time on beaches, hope u are not including Santorini in y our beach agenda, because it is, about the Famous View... Not a beach destination (black grit mainly). I would limit to 3 nights.

(4) Both CRETE and NAXOS are excellent experiences worth 5 days or so... hikes, villages, beaches, history. We can't choose for you without knowing more about you & your preferences.
travelerjan is online now  
Dec 28th, 2018, 04:06 PM
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Should be wonderful! Just a few thoughts:

Like travelerjan, I’m a bit surprised by your choice to stay on the Heraklion side of Crete, but even so, you might want to wait to visit Crete until you can give it at least a week, if not more. For that reason alone, I think it might make more sense for you to go to Naxos, which IMO fits better with a 5 or 6 night timeframe. Just something to consider.

I’m not sure why you would try to route through Athens if your goal is either Crete OR Naxos. When looking for flights, specify the airport that you want for your starting location within Greece (whether Crete or Naxos) and, using the multi-city option, the city from which you wish to depart (which sounds like Athens) and then see what your options are. Just as example, I wanted to start in Crete (Chania, in my case) and found a flight routed through Vienna (with just a few hour layer) that suited my needs and budget much better than anything routed through Athens.

Finally, are you sure 2 nights is sufficient for your interest in Athens? I wanted MUCH more time there – but of course it depends on what you want to see and experience.

If you haven’t already seen it, you might find some useful information in my (long!) trip report. Crete, Santorini, and Naxos are near the end; Athens was my last stop.
With Gratitude for a Glorious Solo Month in Greece

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 07:52 PM
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Yes , you don't have to limit yourself to connections through Athens. Other major European gateways may provide connections to Heraklion or Chania. You might find a better route through Frankfurt, for instance. It's good advice to let an on-line agency find the combinations for you rather than struggling to sort out the schedules yourself. But if you want to island-hop, www.skyscanner.com displays budget airlines that don't show up on sites oriented to the trans-Atlantic flyer.
Southam is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 10:43 PM
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We've stayed in Chania on Crete and also stayed on Naxos. I'd say either would be good, it's your trip so pick whichever one appeals to you most. A couple of things to consider though - Santorini is closer to Naxos than Crete so quicker to reach. And Naxos is much smaller so more manageable than Crete. Crete is a big island, you could spend the whole holiday there if you wanted.

To help you decide check guidebooks, from the library or bookshop, look at images online and read some forums like Fodors or Trip Advisor. If you visit Naxos this time, you can visit Crete next time! From Naxos to Santorini, or the other way round, there will be catamarans or ferries. Catamarans are quicker but more expensive. We've done both and I'd opt for the ferry if we went again. You can get up on deck for fresh air and the views of Santorini from the water are quite amazing.

KayF is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 10:44 PM
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Just a few thoughts:

1. The suggestion to connect through a city other than Athens applies only should you decide on Crete or fly into/out of Santorini. The runway at Naxos Airport is far too short for jets, so flights are from Athens on small turboprops.
2. Personally I like Athens as a connection to the islands. The modern airport, built in time for the 2004 Olympics, is efficient and small by international standards, so getting between international and domestic flights is easy. There are far more flights to the islands from there than from any other European city.
3. This summer there will be ferries twice each week from Rethymnon, near Chania, so it is possible to get to Santorini from there without going to Heraklion. Otherwise you can start in Chania and make your way to Heraklion for the ferry to Santorini.

Last edited by Heimdall; Dec 28th, 2018 at 11:05 PM. Reason: Correction
Heimdall is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 10:46 PM
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I think a lot depends on traveling style. I guess coming from far away it's tempting to check as many places as possible on a faster pace, but on my opinion it's better to chose quality over quantity. Personally I would save Crete for a future trip, allowing more time there, because it is a very large island and I know that even if I was focusing only on a small part of the island, I would be tempted to drive/bus it around a lot without allowing time to immerse on what the place has to offer.
On the other hand, if you manage to avoid side trips to other islands, while you could spend much more and not seen it all, 5 days will give you a better understanding on Naxos. Naxos is a quite diverse island with plenty to see or do or not do at all-just relax. And distances are smaller.
mariha2912 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2018, 04:26 AM
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I think Naxos fits better with your plans mainly because it will eliminate the need for a mid trip flight. You can fly into Santorini (whether you connect in Athens or elsewhere) and then ferry to Naxos. From Naxos you could ferry to Athens whereas ferrying from Crete or Santorini to Athens is a pretty long trip. But I think you'd have enough time to add in Paros. That is one of the classic 'first trips to Greek' itineraries (Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Athens) and there is a good reason for that. I would actually split the time almost evenly between the four. In Santorini I suggest you make time for at least one trip to one of the inland villages (Emporio is my favorite), Only takes a few hours but most tourists stick to the caldera rim villages.

Here's my photos - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f320347206

Here's my trip report from my first trip to Greece which included what I have suggested above - https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/from-santorini-to-the-peloponnese-isabels-photos-and-trip-report-801531/

isabel is offline  
Dec 29th, 2018, 07:44 AM
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Thanks a lot Everyone for the responses! We are flying from Minneapolis using miles. That put some limits on our ability to fly in Crete or Santorini via Vienna, Frankfurt, or Dublin, which would be great of course.
From your reports it feels like Crete can be a trip by itself. We want to limit the number of stops during this trip to no more than 3-4 and reduce the amount of time spent on moving between places, packing/unpacking.
Hypothetically, we can fly in Chania from Athenes but I am not sure if we could a find ferry from Chania to Santorini in the second part of September.
From what I read it feels like Naxos would be easier to manage.
One person suggested to split our two weeks (actually it will be only 13 nights in Greece) evenly between Naxos, Paros, Santorini, and Athenes. Is Paros so much different than Naxos to justify additional stop?

Thanks a lot for your recommendations!

dimasmel is offline  
Dec 29th, 2018, 08:36 AM
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>>> I am not sure if we could a find ferry from Chania to Santorini in the second part of September.
A trivial way to solve this issue is to move to Iraklio and leave early morning on a morning ferry to Santorini from Iraklio. Chania to Iraklio, if taking an hourly bus, is less than 3 hours trip. Iraklio is a large modern city teaming with cruise passengers. Chania core is an ancient Venetian pedestrian city without a mega cruise ship port. There is no comparison between the two.

This also allows a visit to Knossos and possibility visit the Archaeological Museum in Iraklio with outstanding Minoan collection (usually open till 8pm at that time of the year. There is a combo ticket covering both at discount) to address your other objectives
>>> local culture, some history
One usual warning about Knossos is that it is hot with little shade. I visited there at the 8 am opening, but even so, it was very hot. I drank a lot of water.

>>> reduce the amount of time spent on moving between places, packing/unpacking.
This part depends totally on individual. One can make packing a 20-minutes exercise or a three-hour exercise.
greg is offline  
Dec 29th, 2018, 08:40 AM
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Dimitry, every island is different, but if you are trying to limit your stops, going just to Santorini and Naxos will work fine. I happen to prefer Paros, staying on Antiparos, but Naxos has more fans on this board. Interesting, though, that Travel + Leisure readers have voted Paros the best island, not just in Greece, but in all of Europe for 2018:
Heimdall is offline  
Dec 29th, 2018, 10:07 AM
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There won’t be a ferry from Chania, but the Golden Star ferry I mentioned in an earlier post runs from nearby Rethymnon to Santorini until October 12th. There is also a Sea Jets ferry scheduled to run from Rethymnon to Santorini into October, but I would ignore that for the time being. In either case you won’t have to buy ferry tickets for that time of year until you get to Greece.
Heimdall is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2019, 10:02 AM
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Weather in the second part of September

Hi again,
Due to some logistical issues we will need to delay our trip to Naxos/Santorini/Athenes until September 15th. What is the weather there in the second part of September: day time air and water temperature?


dimasmel is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2019, 10:49 AM
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I thought you said in the original post you were going in September? There are all sorts of weather websites where you can look up averages, but none will tell you what the weather will actually be when you are there. From experience it will still be warm, possibly even hot on some days when wind is light. It could be windy on some days, calm on others. Sea water retains its summer temperatures well into Autumn, so September is a very good time for swimming.

This is probably as good a website as any:
Naxos Weather in September / Sea Water Temperature / September Weather Averages
Heimdall is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2019, 11:32 AM
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I go to Greece every October from early, mid to late in the month. For the most part the weather has been sunny, mild and not much rain, so I would assume September will be even nicer. The Aegean was still warm enough in October to take a dip. There is no guarantee for the weather but I would think you'll love Greece in the 2nd half of September.

I've been to Naxos and it's one of my favorite islands but there are many others that I list as favorites including Amorgos, Chios, Sifnos and Tinos turned out to be a gem of an island.

You may want to consider eliminating one island to avoid having to pack up for each trip and not spend too much time getting from island to island.

Athens, Naxos & Santorini sound good . . . you'll get the over-the-top Santorini and the more laid back Naxos (I haven't been to Santorini, however). Athens is Athens . . . a city of millions but I always stay there at least 2 days on my trip to Greece, usually at the end of the trip.
crazyh is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2019, 08:07 AM
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We were in Greece late September and it was beautiful though a little too hot in some areas. We stayed through first week of October which was perfect.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jan 10th, 2019, 06:58 AM
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i think you should stay to Crete
chrisrizos is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 06:33 AM
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Hello i am totaly new here, i see that some of you have already visit Crete i ll be there in 15 days i have never been in Greece it will be more a business trip than holiday .Could you please any of those have visit Crete leave a post with some suggetions for where to stay,eat,going out etc? Thanks.
jennygreen is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 12:29 PM
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Hello again,
Our initial plan had to be revised. We will be traveling to Vienna (Austria) first, spend 3 days there , and then flying to Santorini non-stop from Vienna.
We plan to spend 3 nights on Santorini and then go to Naxos. We have up to a week to stay there. The idea is to relax and explore the island. We may also do day trips to nearby lslands. We will skip Athenes and fly back to US from Mykonos. It turns out there is a good flight out of Mykonos, better than from Athenes. We will save Athenes for our next trip to Greece.
I have two questions:
1. How many days do we need at Naxos to unwind, explore the island, and have a good time on the island before it gets too boring. Is one week too much?
2. Is it safe to go to Mykenos by ferry and fly out of Mykonos airport on the same evening around 7 pm. Is ferry service reliable?

Thanks a lot in.

dimasmel is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 06:16 PM
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  1. How much time is sufficient / too much for Naxos really depends on what YOU want to see and experience. A week would have been too much for me (see my trip report, linked in above); it wouldn't be nearly enough for others.
  2. I wouldn't trust the weather to permit getting from Mykonos to Athens before a major flight. If anything went wrong and I didn't make my flight, the cost, for me, would be prohibitive. YMMV.
kja is offline  

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