Greece: Santorini and Paros or Samos

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Jul 8th, 2011, 12:54 PM
  #1
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Greece: Santorini and Paros or Samos

My husband and I will be traveling to Greece next June for our 10th wedding anniversary. Neither of us have ever been to Greece. We are thinking of flying into Athens from the US, staying overnight and then flying to Santorini for 5 nights. From Santorini, we plan to take the ferry to Paros and stay for 4 nights. From Paros, we'll return to Athens and stay 2 nights before returning to the US. We want to have a relaxing vacation and be able to experience the culture (food, architecture, people) at a nice, slow pace. There seems to be plenty to see and do in Santorini and Paros. I do wonder if I should skip Paros and instead go to Samos. I'm hoping I'll be able to get feedback on this itinerary. Specifically, I have the following questions:

1. Should we visit Samos instead of Paros? We are definitely going to Santorini, and I wonder if I should see a different part of the Greek Islands (not another island within the Cyclades). Paros seems to have so much to offer, and we would not have to travel far from Santorini. I've heard Samos is breathtaking, but it is considerably more travel by ferry.

2. Should we fly from Athens to Santorini first? Or should we fly from Athens to Paros first? Which island is best to start and end our trip with?

For our honeymoon several years ago, we stayed in Cancun for 3 nights and tiny Isla Mujeres for 10 nights. We absolutely loved taking our time exploring the island, laying on the beach, eating the food. It was not rushed at all, and we are looking to replicate that trip in that sense with our anniversary trip to Greece. Maybe we should visit Santorini only and not go to Paros or Samos? Looking forward to responses! Thank you.
cvilletravel is offline  
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Jul 8th, 2011, 01:08 PM
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You should get some very good advice here, and I can only give a partial response. Of the three, I have only been to Santorini, so all I can do is validate that it is an excellent choice. I have a retired travel agent friend who has been the length and breadth of Greece and keeps going back to Samos. Thats his favourite but I know little about Paros. Good luck.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 01:15 PM
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1. I don't think you'll be missing anything significant by sticking with Paros unless, of course, you want to take the daytrip excursion from Samos to Ephesus. This would be a good reason to go to Samos since Ephesus is such a spectacular archaeological site. Otherwise you'll find plenty to see and do on Paros, and you can take a daytrip excursion from Paros to Delos, which includes a stopover in Mykonos Town for a couple of hours. You can also take the frequent little local shuttle ferry from Paros to Antiparos for a few hours.

If you choose Santorini and Samos you'll have to take a ferry from Santorini to Mykonos to make that connection by ferry, or fly back to Athens for a connecting flight to Samos. Or if you fly to Samos first you'll have to take the ferry to Mykonos and maybe have to spend the night before you can catch a highspeed ferry to Santorini. That, or fly back to Athens for a connecting flight to Santorini. In either case you'll waste a significant amount of time in transit.

2. Don't spend your first night in Athens, save all that for the end. I know you'll be exhausted from the long flight but if you can make a good connection (2-3 hours) when you first arrive it's best to tough it out. Best-case scenario: fly to Paros so you can take the Blue Star car ferry from Paros to Santorini and enjoy the entry into the calder from the deck of an open ferry, not the enclosed highspeed catamaran. Then fly back to Athens from Santorini for your last nights there. You'll have a better experience if you go to 2 islands instead of just one.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 02:35 PM
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I agree with Brotherlee, and about the sequence (start w. paros). The only caveat: Paros is served only by Olympic, and there are only 2-3 flights per day to Paros; this year it's been 6 am, 1:30 pm and 3 pm. You would need a minimum of 2 hours after your international flight arrives, to get thru the lines, claim bags, hit the ATM machines, and check in at Olympic in timely fashion. Therefore, when booking an international flight, it would be smart to check the Olympic schedule first, and choose a flight from USA that arrives early enough for an easy connection. Also, Olympic planes are not that large (50+ passengers) and flights fill up, so once your dates are firm, do not dally about booking flights... in all cases, get flights booked before booking hotels. PS: Also keep timing in mind when selecting homebound flights; you must check in 2 hrs ahead, and transport from Central Athens to Airport is about 1 hour. So for a Sane day of departure, try not to have a flight that leaves before 9 or 10 am earliest.

Oh, and congratulations on approaching the 10th in a celebratory mood! and on choosing Greece as the place to celebrate in!
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Jul 8th, 2011, 03:07 PM
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For a 4 night stay, Samos would simply require too much time and effort to make it worthwhile. Paros is very different from Santorini, so the two islands, although both in the Cyclades, offer a real contrast.

Traverjan has her facts slightly wrong about the aircraft flying into Paros. I have used that flight many times. The Dash 8-100 flying to Paros is a twin engined turboprop, and holds only about 30 passengers, fewer on the return to Athens. If you are nervous about flying on small aircraft or landing on short runways you would be better advised to fly to Santorini first, then take the ferry to Paros and another ferry from there back to Athens.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 05:45 PM
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Heimdall, it is as you say with a few exceptions.... which can be a curiosum...
Even though Olympic is selling let's say 30 seats, and you believe that you have booked the last one... it can happen that they put a bigger plane without prior notice, without increasing the number of seats that they are selling....
you sit in a plane with many free seats all around you, even though you booked the last one, wondering what happened...
I was told that this is a last moment thing, when they are short on planes....But my worst experience was a Milan _ geneva flight with an Alitalia 9 seated plane. ( never ever again..) so i would take the Dash with great pleasure compared to that...
But you are right, it can be a bit scary if you are used to huge aircrafts...
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Jul 8th, 2011, 06:46 PM
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I was once on a larger one, once on a smaller one, and didn't know which was the "regular." And then this May I flew Olympic to Milos, and it was a larger one (50 or so), so I wrongly assumed this was the fleet norm for these mandated island flights.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 07:48 PM
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Hi cvilletravel,
An exciting trip to be sure. Although you'll get different opinions, I think you should stay with your stopover in Athens first. Traveling from the US is exhausting and staying a night in Athens will get you grounded. I always pay homage to the great Acropolis before going off to the islands. Then you will be slightly refreshed to really take in the beauty of the Cyclades. I would ferry first to Paros and relax, lots to do and see as desired, and it get into the feel of the islands. We love the ferries and they are part of the island experience. Then be sure to ferry from Paros to Santorini, The arrival is breathtaking.. I would save Sanotrini for last as you'll be relaxed and it is the most romantic place on earth. By then you will really be in the anniversary groove. Save the final two days for Athens to visit everything you can - you'll be up to walking around and have more interst in the museums then. Have a wonderful trip. Cheers!
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Jul 8th, 2011, 09:16 PM
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I'm following this thread too!
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Jul 9th, 2011, 12:02 AM
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Clauser, the Dash 8 has several configurations, but the Dash 8-100 that flies into Paros, without exception, is the 37 seat variation. This is because Paros has one of the shortest runways in Greece. As a matter of fact, due to weight restrictions Olympic Air isn't able to fill all 37 seats on flights to/from Paros. On return flights to Athens the plane takes about 18-20 passengers — any more and the plane couldn't safely take off. Therefore, even when the flight is completely sold out there are still empty seats.

Two years ago a larger ATR-42 bound for Naxos lined up for landing on the Paros runway, and an incident was narrowly averted: http://avherald.com/h?article=424227c0

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Jul 9th, 2011, 07:07 AM
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Fascinating article, Heimdall! Pilot must have had a "brain freeze."
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Jul 9th, 2011, 07:08 AM
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Thank you for all the very helpful responses. Based on your feedback, my husband and I have decided to skip Samos for this trip and have also decided to visit Paros first and then Santorini. I will look into flights and times. Depending on when we arrive in Athens, I will determine whether we fly directly to Paros that same day or stay the first night in Athens. If I decide to forego the first night in Athens, is it best to split the time 5 nights in Paros and 5 nights in Santorini, with the last two nights in Athens? Or should I stick with 4 nights in Paros and have 6 nights in Santorini, with the last two nights in Athens? Thank you again!
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Jul 9th, 2011, 07:19 AM
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Now that should get some differing opinions! ;-) Personally my split would be 6 nights on Paros, 3 nights on Santorini, and 3 nights in Athens.
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Jul 9th, 2011, 07:21 AM
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This may be a little off topic but I see reference to scary flights or airplanes. I don't understand this.
I have been flying as a passenger for over 50 years in every size and many types of aircraft. Only one has been scary because it was erie being in a jumbo jet out of Mexico City in a violent storm with a full crew but only a half dozen passengers rattling around the lurching airplane.
Either you trust the pilot or you don't. What else is scary?
Cheers,
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Jul 9th, 2011, 07:49 AM
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Hi Michael,

As you know, I've flown many times into Paros, and enjoy the Dash 8-100 — better than the old Dornier that it replaced. Nevertheless, many people are uncomfortable flying on small turboprops, which is why I pointed it out. For the record, as far as I know Paros Airport has a perfect safety record.
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Jul 9th, 2011, 09:17 AM
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I go with Heimdall's split, 6 Paros, 3 Santorini & 3 Athens.
I also agree it's the right thing to tell people these are small planes. I have done a number of internal flights on different small planes & remember the look on a few people's faces when they realised it wasn't a large jet they were getting on! Better to know in advance.
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Jul 10th, 2011, 12:40 AM
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Sorry to sidetrack,the weighting towards Paros v Santorini suggests that Paros has more to offer than Santorini (a favourite on this site). Is this correct?
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Jul 10th, 2011, 02:09 AM
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Steve, I found the beaches are much better on Paros than Santorini and Paros is cheaper overall. However nothing can compare to the view of the sunset on Santorini's caldera.
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Jul 10th, 2011, 02:44 AM
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Hi stevelyon,

No that's not really correct. It's difficult to advise on a split between islands without knowing your interests. That's why I wrote there will be differing opinions.

The reason I gave more weighting to Paros is because one has an opportunity to take day trips to other islands while there, and because of its many beautiful beaches. Antiparos is only 30 minutes away, and Naxos an hour by conventional ferry. Excursion boats from Paros go to Delos/Mykonos and Iraklia/Koufonissi. I would highly recommend an Antiparos round-island boat trip, which takes a full day. To do a few of those things, along with visiting Lefkes, Ekatontopiliani Church in Parikia, the stalactite cave on Antiparos, etc. would take more than a few days.

Santorini also has lots to do, and could easily justify 6 nights as well. I hope brotherleelove will join in to give some ideas of what to do on his favorite island.
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Jul 10th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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stevelyon, Santorini is simply more famous. its Caldera views are on all the calendars, and all the cruise brochures, and the posters in travel agency windows. It has more up-market luxury hotels than most other isles, and thus is chosen as the primary island for trips by honeymooners and/or others celebrating anniversaries, special birthdays etc. It is also a stop for all major cruise lines, which can only stop at certain islands because they require deeper water. Therefore there are many more people with Santorini experiences to report than people who visit lesser- known islands. To decide which islands appeal most to YOU requires doing your own research, and thinking about your interests and priorities.

One way to start is with a good online overview like this: http://www.greek-islands.us/ -- it is a profusely illustrated site by a youngish Greek schoolmaster who is enthusiastic about history, landscapes, beaches, food AND nightlife.

Then I'd advise moving on to some guidebooks that are candid about the plusses & drawbacks of the islands that attract you. Two of the more straightforward guides in this regard are Rough Guide to Greece, and Greek Island-Hopping. You can browse them in a large bookstore like Barnes & Noble or borrow from your local library. Doesn't matter if it's the latest edition -- what you are looking for is an honest assessment of noteworthy features (and flaws, if any) of each destination.
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