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Santorini+Naxos+Athens = WOW...just WOW!!!!

Santorini+Naxos+Athens = WOW...just WOW!!!!

Jun 15th, 2019, 03:26 AM
  #1  
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Santorini+Naxos+Athens = WOW...just WOW!!!!

I'm not sure what I'm doing, but here is my original thread (I hope it posts correctly):

Santorini + Naxos + Athens - not sure where to spend an extra day

Thanks to everyone who gave advice in that thread. It was all very helpful.

I will start out by saying that we LOVED GREECE!. Beautiful country. Beautiful people.

I'll begin with the preliminaries:

We live in Buffalo, New York but departed from Toronto. It's only a 2 hour drive from home and we got a direct flight on AirTransat for under $700. Flying from our home airport included a layover and an additional $800 - $900. We drove up on Saturday for a Sunday flight. We could have left home early in the morning on day of departure but we decided to spend the night near the Toronto airport. This way we could sleep in a bit and not worry about possible border problems. I had heard good and bad things about AirTransat, but I have nothing but good to say about them. I would definitely fly with them again.

We were a group of five adults traveling together. Me, my husband, his sister, her boyfriend, and a close friend to all of us. We have all traveled together before, so all went well.

Our flight left Toronto at 2:10 p,m.and we arrived in Athens at 7:10 a.m. We had a flight to Santorini at 11:10 a.m. It all went without a hitch. Our driver was waiting for us at the Santorini airport and he took us on a hair-raising ride to our villa. It wasn't his driving so much I was worried about. He was quite professional. I saw many buses and other vehicles/scooters decide that stop signs were optional along the way. A representative and bag handler met us at the top of the stairs and brought us to our villa.

Aqua Vista Hotels (Villa Dakoronia) ran our villa. Valentini was the person I communicated with and she was absolutely wonderful! It was a lovely villa. The first floor had a queen bedroom, living room/kitchen area, and a bathroom. The upstairs had a small bedroom and another bathroom (plus an upper balcony). The upstairs area was a bit tight, and the stairway was hard to navigate. Your best bet was to climb down backwards. It had an outdoor pool and patio area that overlooked the caldera. One person had to sleep on the futon and said it was not the most comfortable. The views were amazing. It was located on the main pathway between a small church and the Irini Cafe just outside of Fira. I really, really wanted to stay in Imerovigli but it didn't work out.

Santorini was truly beautiful. I am dealing with major jet lag even though it has been 4 days since returning home, so I will end for now. I will share my thoughts about the island tomorrow.

Villa Dakoronia | | In Santorini
BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 05:12 AM
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Santorini was stunning!!!! OMG the views....the pictures you've seen don't do it justice. Those of you who warned of the cruise ship crowds were right. There are a lot of people filling up the narrow pathways. I checked the cruise ship register that someone mentioned in my original post, but it wasn't accurate. There were a LOT of ships in port every single day. We found the best way to deal with it was to visit the villages very early in the morning. Our first day we walked into Fira early. We were able to do some shopping and walking around very easily. But around 10:30-11:00 a.m. it started getting crowded. And then more crowded. So we left and went back to our villa to swim and read and look at the views. The next day we did the same thing. We took the first bus to Oia, walked around, and got out by lunch time and back to the villa. We ventured back into Fira at night after 6:00 and it was, once again, easier to navigate. Enjoyable, actually. So you can make it work. Do it the right way and don't let the naysayers keep you from visiting. I'm so glad we did. Those views will be forged in my mind forever.

We never made it down to Amoudi Bay, as much as I wanted to. The day we were in Oia it was very breezy and a bit cool. We saw it from up top, but decided not to go down as we wanted away from the crowds. If we were staying in that village we probably would have gone down later in the afternoon for a late lunch or early dinner when it would be warmer and sunnier. We returned to our villa and decided to walk the path to Imerovigli. It was a pefect day to do so. The sun was out, there was a breeze, the views magnificent, and barely anyone walking along the caldera. A couple was walking toward us from the opposite direction and asked if we were going to Imerovigli and told us that the trail was closed due to all the recent rains. Someone else came along and confirmed it. Sigh. I really wanted to spend some time there. We turned around and had lunch and drinks at Volkan on the Rocks instead.

The bus ride to Oia was beautiful but on a twisting road with drop offs. I'm glad I sat on the other side of the bus. I don't handle drop offs very well. The station in Fira is chaotic. Buses back up whether there's people standing behind it or not. Get out of the way! When we returned a few hours later there were throngs of people everywhere. Seriously, go everywhere early or late. We walked through crowded Fira and picked up a few groceries. On the way back to our villa we encountered a very long, winding line of people up and down the alleyways. It was difficult to navigate. We couldn't figure out why until we passed the cable car entrance. Hundreds of people waiting to go down to the port to get back to their ships.

On our 3rd full day (last day) we took a tour of the rest of the island. We booked a private tour with Santorini Tours. We visited the archaeological site of Akrotiri, the village of Megalochori, a monastery, Red Beach, and Venetsanos winery. It was a great way to see and learn about the rest of the island. Venetsanos winery is located in a beautiful spot overlooking the port. We did a wine tasting and had something to eat. Our guide was Phillipe. He was very knowledgeable and shared lots of stories with us. My only complaint (and it's a small one) is that he and the driver kept encouraging us to get dropped off in a town (don't remember which one) to have lunch and then take the bus back. I got the feeling they didn't want to drive all the way back into Fira to drop us off. It was our last day and we wanted to get back to our villa and enjoy the views before heading out for an early dinner. We didn't want to wait around for a bus. I'm glad we took the tour instead of bothering with a car rental. The island is chaotic and stop signs seem to be optional. We witnessed some crazy driving.

We found ourselves going to Irini's Cafe and Volkan on The Rocks a few times. They are both on the caldera near where we were staying. Both have fabulous views. If you go to Volkan, you have a choice of two views. One side faces the port, but if you sit on the other side you see Oia and Skaros Rock. Amazing views. Although both places are withing walking distance from town, they were never too crowded.

We were being picked up for our transfer to the ferry dock at 1:30 p.m. We packed up early and left our bags at the property and had a final stop at Volkan's for an early lunch and last look at the views before heading out. The road down to the docks is a long and winding one. We were lucky as there wasn't much traffic and we got down there with no problem. A little while later we saw cars and buses backing up on the road. We were told that sometimes it gets so bad that you see people hopping off of buses with their luggage and running down to the port so they don't miss their ferry. Seriously, there is very little room at the bottom for all those vehicles. It's total mayhem when the trucks arrive to get on the ferries, and the buses and other vehicles are trying to drop off people. Vehicles backing up, people trying to get out of the way. It's quite the process to watch!!! We waited inside the air conditioned building. Eventually it started filling up with people pushing and shoving. Some groups traveling together were really obnoxious. It's a HUGE ferry......you will get on it! Anyhow, thanks to those of you who recommended Blue Star. The ferry was huge, comfortable, and clean.

There are huge divets (?) on the floor and you have to be careful. My friend went down hard (just scraped her knee, thankfully). Before she knew what happened two strapping guys had her standing up and on her way. It was a bit nerve wracking watching your luggage get chucked up onto a rack with hundreds of other suitcases. We left our stuff and headed up to the outside deck. We enjoyed seeing Santorini from the water and the views of other islands as we sailed on to Naxos. It was a seamless ride and it was nice to be out on the water. When we docked, they workers hustled to make sure everyone got the right suitcase.

The people of Santorini were very kind and accommodating. Perhaps we were lucky as we were there early on in the season. We noticed that the Greeks are some of the hardest working and most efficient people I've ever met. As chaotic as it seems, they just make it work. We found this out even more so as our vacation continued. We were sad to leave, but Naxos was next on our agenda.

Last edited by BuffaloGirl; Jun 15th, 2019 at 05:16 AM.
BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 08:52 AM
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Thanks for sharing. Iím enjoying and looking forward to more. Did the cruise ship crowds extend to your sightseeing day or were they mostly concentrated along the caldera? Santorini is on my list but Iíve been put off by what I read about the crowds.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 09:00 AM
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There were buses of tourists at some spots, but our guide seemed to know how to time it so that we arrived earlier or later. I'm sure he was well versed in the cruise ship schedules, etc. We stayed right on the caldera and although some tourists walked by, there weren't as many as I thought there would be. Maybe it is worse in the summer, or maybe we were just lucky. They sure did fill up the villages, though. That's why I suggest visiting early morning, or after 6:00 p.m. They were quite pleasant then.
BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 09:24 AM
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I'm the same with Santorini. Would love to go someday but prefer to avoid the crowds. Definitely on my list.
Wanderfulvoyage is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 09:37 AM
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I'm trying to upload some pictures but getting nowhere. Will keep trying. It really is beautiful there.
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Jun 15th, 2019, 10:01 AM
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Both times I’ve been to Santorini, once in May and once in June, I stayed on the caldera in Oia. It was nice to walk around Oia first thing in the morning, and I can even describe it as peaceful. Likewise, after sunset when the crowds get on their buses back to Fira it becomes quieter again.

During the day when it is busy you can enjoy the view from the balcony of your hotel room or go elsewhere on the island to avoid the cruisers. There are lots of places that aren’t crowded, including the site at Ancient Thera.
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Jun 16th, 2019, 03:38 AM
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Jun 16th, 2019, 05:36 AM
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As I mentioned above, we enjoyed the ferry boat ride to Naxos. We sat outside for the trip and loved seeing Santorini from the water and passing by the islands. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day. As Naxos came into view, you could see large mountains, blue water, the famous portara, and a beautiful port. When we arrived our villa owner was waiting for us. Our rental car arrived and off we were. We decided to stay outside of town in a villa on a hill, toward the end of Plaka Beach and close to Mikri Vigla. I'm glad we did. After the crowds of Santorini, and our upcoming stay in Athens, we wanted some quiet, relaxing down time.

The Naxos port town was busy and lively. We were looking forward to spending time there. Anyhow, it's a good thing the villa owner met us in town, because it was quite a trip up to the villa. It was situated about 5 miles outside of Naxos Town. Off a main road, onto a dirt road, to another dirt road. Up a dirt road through farmer fields. The road was so narrow that if a car was approaching, one of us was backing up. It wound through some very tall sugar cane/bamboo type rods, and potato fields. Hang a right and you start climbing upwards, now looking down over said potato fields (no barrier, just drop off). Turn left toward the chapel, then right and climb yet higher, then left onto a very steep hill. We were in the last villa at the top. It was brand new and quite beautiful. It was surrounded by two other villas that were also new (and owned by the same owner as ours). Above us were several structures that were just shells. It was a bit eerie. Oh, the view from here was phenomenal! It overlooked the Aegean Sea and Paros (and the southern end of Plaka Beach). It had a beautiful outside area with a pool. The name is Aigli Villa master suite.

https://www.naxosaiglivillas.com/

We enjoyed having coffee early in the morning on the deck and enjoying the peace and quiet (well, except for some far off roosters). On the day of arrival, the guys took a little ride toward Mikri Vigla and found a small market. It didn't have much, but enough to get by for the night. We arrived in port around 5:30 p.m. and by the time we got our car, and followed the owner to the villa, we just wanted to settle in, unpack, and not worry about finding a restaurant. The guys brought back some wine and cheese. They then found a small family owned bakery and picked up some fresh bread and meat and cheese pies. We made many trips to that bakery during our stay. So we enjoyed dinner out on the patio. It had been a long day. It was a great way to end it.

The next morning I took a ride into town with the guys and we went to Spar grocery store. We picked up a few items and more wine, then drove past the beaches of Agios Georgios, Maragos, Agia Anna, Agios Prokopios, Plaka. All just beautiful. Water like I've never seen. A full on view of Paros. There is a dusty road that follows along the beaches with tavernas on one side and sunbeds with umbrellas on the beach side. It was quite dusty after a vehicle drove by. If we had beached along here, we would have chosen to go to the very end of the dirt road on Plaka. At the very end there are high sand dunes and they somewhat separate the sunbeds from the road. We stopped to have a drink and walked over to the beach. It was really, really, beautiful, but the sunbeds all seemed pretty full there.

We ended up finding a beach that was nearly deserted, with sunbeds and a taverna, and that became our beach. Mikri Vigla. (Not Orkos, but Mikri Vigli on the south side of the rocky promontory with boulders). The road ended here, so no traffic whipping up dust. The beach was long and beautiful. It went on forever with hardly a soul on it. Sunbeds cost 3 euro per person. The taverna had very inexpensive beer and wine and decent bathrooms. The first time we went (just me and hubby - others stayed by the pool), I ordered a beer for my husband and a rose' wine for myself. This big, burly guy was working. I ordered, and he repeated to me in a very loud, booming voice...."One beer? One rose' wine? OK." The wine came from a box and served in a paper cup. It was 2 euro and I gotta tell you, it wasn't bad. It was dry and cold. He filled the cup half way maybe, gave me the beer. I tipped him. The next afternoon we went back. He remembered me. This time the gang was all there. My friend and I went to order, and this time ordered two beers and 3 rose wines. He looked at me and said loudly, "2 beers? 3 rose' wines? OK." This time our wine paper cups were spilling over the edges. I tipped him again and we kept this going every time we went to the beach. The beers were large bottles and also 2 eruo each (maybe less....can't remember).

Enough about the beach. Day 2 we ventured into Naxos Town. It's very lively with restaurants and cafes and shops along the waterfront overlooking the sail boats and fisherman's boats. We walked out to the Apollo Temple (portara). The water was beautiful and the views from the portara were stunning. Looking back over the town, the mountains and the water was just breathtaking. The portara is huge. We walked up, up, up to the castle. As we passed by a church the bells started to ring. I just about jumped outta my shoes as I wasn't expecting it and was pretty much standing right under the bells. A man walked by and told us that a new cafe opened up nearby with views of the island, so we found it and stopped for something to drink. I believe it was called Terrase Cafe. It has an elevator if you don't want to make the steep climb. On the way down, we wound through the narrow alleyways of the old town, past the shops and back out to the waterfront. We had lunch on the waterfront (name escapes me). An older Greek man was trying to convince us to eat there. He took us across to the physical shop and insisted on showing us the kitchen and how clean it was and how fresh the food was. OK. So we ate there. Very good. Then we headed back and some sat by the pool and my hubby and I went back to the beach. It got quite windy after a while, so we went back and swam in the pool. Another great day.

I would post more pics, but I'm not sure how I even managed to post the one above. Anyhow, more on Naxos later.

Last edited by BuffaloGirl; Jun 16th, 2019 at 05:39 AM.
BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 16th, 2019, 06:02 AM
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The photo of Santorini looks stunning, although Naxos sounds great too. Seems like you were able to have a Greek island experience on Naxos too.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2019, 07:02 AM
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Sunset from our Naxos villa.

BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 16th, 2019, 07:21 AM
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Thank you for taking time to share your experiences. I am enjoying it very much.
Sassafrass is online now  
Jun 17th, 2019, 06:02 AM
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Day three on Naxos. We wanted to see some of the villages and the interior of the island. We had a small car for five people. It was good enough to get us to the beach or town, but not to tour around on unknown roads. It would have been way to uncomfortable. I knew it would be when I rented the car, so we hired a guide in advance. We were so happy that we did. We hired Nicolas Lagiere of Naxos Discovery Tours. That day ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Nicolas is a young man (looks like he's 20 years old, but he isn't). He was extremely polite, and his knowledge of the island and its' people far exceeded anything we could have learned on our own. He is enthusiastic and his love for Naxos shows in every answer. He knew of hidden gems, and could answer anything about the flora and fauna as well.

Nicolas will customize your tour any way you'd like, but we let him decide for us. We could visit the beaches and Naxos Town on our own. We wanted to see the real Naxos beyond the beaches. We went through the countryside of Sagri to the Temple of Demeter. The countryside is beautiful with sweeping views of fields and mountains. The temple is very interesting (Nicolas has all the details). There were a few buses there, but they soon left and we were the only ones standing there. It felt almost magical. The Village of Halki is a traditional village full of beautiful ancient Venetian mansions and very colorful architecture. It is an historical ancient capital of the island. We also toured the kitron distillery (citron). We did a tasting and bought a bottle. It's the only place in the world you can purchase it (well, they do have a store in the port town). I wish we could have spent more time in Halki. On to Apiranthos (the marble village). Very beautiful village. We really enjoyed the ride between villages. The views were incredible around every turn and, of course, ancient churches and chapels, as well as windmills and farms, dotted the landscape. We ended the tour at the famous Rotonda Restaurant. The views were incredible, the food quite good (as well as the wine). It was a great way to end the tour. I can't recommend Naxos Discovery Tours enough.

Day 4: We had to go to the car rental place to sign something. I screwed up the rental dates and needed the car for one more day. So three of us took a ride (along the beach route) and took care of it and on the way back we stopped on Plaka beach to take some pictures, walk a bit, then had a drink. Back to the villa for lunch then back to our favorite Mikri Villa Beach. Day 5 we spent the morning in Naxos Town walking a bit and had lunch, then one more afternoon at the beach.

The only restaurant I would not recommend is Kontos near Mikri Vigla. It has a beautiful view of the sand dunes, water, and Paros. But the food..... Two people ordered rabbit and said it was good. Two of us ordered chicken chops. I'm pretty sure they were chicken necks with spiny bones sticking out. It came with some bland potatoes. One of the guys ordered octopus with pasta. This man will eat anything. He has one of the most incredible appetites I've every seen. He'll finish his meal and yours if you let him. He never turns down food. He took one bite and shoved the plate away. My SIL and I shared our bony chicken necks and potatoes with him.

Some nights we were lazy so we just made a salad or sandwiches or had lunch leftovers. We were often tired from the sun or sightseeing and just wanted to chill on the pool deck and watch the sunset. As you can see from my picture above, the sunsets were worth it. The bakery we liked near Mikri Vigli was called Arto Viglismata Bakery. It was spotless, family run, and the food was good.

The people of Naxos were very warm and welcoming. Always helpful. The service top notch. The food is soooo fresh in both the restaurants and the stores. They have beautiful fruits and vegetables. Most locally grown with no chemical help. The wines are inexpensive and delicious. What I couldn't believe is how they drive!!! I've seen crazy driving in other places, yet it never ceases to amaze me when I go somewhere new. Those motorbikes...they are everywhere. They are like ants. Laws don't seem to apply. We watched people on bikes pass us with babies, air conditioners, dogs, refrigerators (ok, refrigerator is a stretch). Pretty much anything and everything. No one wears helmets. And they will pass you every which way. One day my husband slowed down to make a left hand turn and just as he started turning a bike passed us on the left. We missed him by the hair of his chinny chin chin. Scared the crap out of us. We all gasped at the same time.

We LOVED Naxos. We all agreed we would return there in a heartbeat. But Athens is next.
BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 06:40 AM
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Temple of Demeter

BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 04:08 PM
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Just want to say that I really appreciate the details in your description of Naxos. It sounds like the island offers a good amount of things to see and do. Iíve thought about a trip to Greece that includes the mainland and one island, and Naxos may be it if I want to avoid the crowds of Santorini.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 05:00 PM
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There are so many islands to choose from and so many opinions. I can't compare Naxos to anywhere else as I haven't been to any other islands (except for Santorini.....and it's not a fair comparison). Ask one hundred people and you may get one hundred answers. Either way, for a first trip we liked Naxos a lot. And it was super easy to get to from Santorini.
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Jun 17th, 2019, 05:07 PM
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Plaka Beach



BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 05:17 PM
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I've not yet been to Greece. This report is very enticing.
Leely2 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 05:21 PM
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BuffaloGirl is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 05:23 PM
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Look out.....I've obviously figured out how to post pictures!!!
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