Athens Santorini and Paros are some of the most popular destinations in Greece. Their iconic landscapes and historic sites make them some of the most photographed places in the world.
This Athens, Santorini and Paros itinerary ensures you make the absolute most out of your visit to these two islands and one of the worlds great cities. It covers how to get around, where to stay, top things to see and do and even where to eat and drink.
Your Athens Santorini Crete Itinerary
How long in each?
There really is no right or wrong answer to this. The best answer, of course, is to stay as long as you can and hopefully, that’s a long time! But most of us have limited time and it needs to be spent wisely.
Fly straight to Santorini direct or from Athens. Spend 2 nights in Santorini, ferry to Paros for 3 nights and ferry or fly to Athens for the remaining two.
Do two days in Athens first, fly to Santorini for 3 nights, ferry to Paros for 4 and fly to Athens for your remaining night.
Athens 3 nights, overnight in Meteora, fly to Santorini for 4 nights, ferry to Paros for 5 nights, fly to Athens 1 day ( near airport – see paragraph at the end of this article).
PLANNING A TRIP TO GREECE?
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When to visit Greece
The best times to visit Greece are April-June and September-October. The weather is mild and most places have few crowds. High season is late June to early September, and prices will reflect that as will the crowds, the number of cruise ships and accommodation availability.
Summer is still great, especially for beach time and in some of the lesser-known spots. The water is warm, there are blue skies every day and a fun holiday atmosphere.
Easter is an especially wonderful time to visit Greece as it becomes very festive with parades, parties, and on many islands bonfires, fireworks and other activities and traditions. There are many festivals throughout the year that can vary from place to place and can be quite fascinating to witness.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: March to June and September/October
Athens 2 or 3 days
Athens is the capital of Greece and home to some of the most iconic and important historical sites and monuments in the world.
It’s one of the oldest cities in the world and considered one of the most fascinating. You could easily spend a month in Athens and only scratch the surface so be sure to allow at least a few days here, and always make sure your last night in Greece is back on the mainland before your flight home, even if its at an airport hotel or close by.
There are several ways to get to Athens which cover air, sea, rail, driving and even on foot!
Apart from the many things you can do in Athens including great shopping, incredible food, and all the ancient sites there is also great nightlife with a plethora of bars, tavernas, and clubs to choose from. There are a lot of new hotels and rooftop restaurants many with incredible Acropolis views.
How to get to Athens
Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, commonly initialised as AIA, is the largest international airport in Greece. It is usually serviced by Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Qatar and Air China are the best choices for people flying from Asia, the Middle East or Oceania and budget airline Scoot also now fly into Athens. Aegean Airlines codeshares with Etihad.
From the US & Canada, choices include American, Delta, United, and Air Canada and most European carriers have several flights a day in summer including Turkish Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, and Ryan Air.
To get to the city centre you can catch the Metro, a Taxi or the bus or, our book a private transfers. Only 2Euro more than a cab!
You can also arrive by Ferry from some towns in Turkey, Albania, Italy and Croatia.
It’s also possible to now arrive by train. You can either catch the Eurostar to Bari in Europe and then a ferry across to Greece or travel down through Greece via Paris, Munich, Belgrade & Thessaloniki. More information is available here.
Arriving overland is also a fun and fascinating way to arrive. Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria and Turkey and it can be a lot of fun and incredibly interesting to arrive by car or bus and to continue to explore Greece by road.
For further reading check out our comprehensive article on Driving in Greece.
Where to stay in Athens
* We recommend hotels and apartments on Booking.com in Greece instead of Airbnb’s and Vrbos. Greek hotels are not like everywhere else – they all include amazing big breakfasts, many have kitchenettes and family rooms and the Greek service and hospitality is legendary. This is all part of the full ‘Greek Experience’ that people miss out on if they self-cater.
Plus, no cleaning or cooking! Most rooms also have free cancellation, which in recent years has been very important. (please book via our links to help support this site)
For couples: Zillers Hotel has only 10 rooms and amazing Acropolis views from some rooms and the lovely rooftop bar and restaurant and it’s right on Mitropolous dining street, or The Foundry Suites in Psiri are uber-cool – once an industrial foundry and also with a lovely rooftop bar and garden with amazing views.
We also love Athenian Residences in Psyri ( our favourite neighbourhood) which have a very romantic vibe, and a swimming pool!
Solo: I love to stay at Ergon House when I’m on my own. It’s across from Zillers and part of the famous Ergon food emporiums. They have even let me use my room until my 6 pm International flight at no extra charge!
Where to eat in Athens
Breakfast: If you are staying in a hotel breakfast ( and usually a very delicious one) is likely to be included in your hotel tariff. Otherwise, the Brunch Factory does incredible meals for breakfast and lunch.
Lunch: Nikitas in Psiri for cheap and cheerful homecooked meals or Kostas for amazing Gyros. Cafe Melina is one of the prettiest spots in the Plaka or Gyros Pou Gyrevis for fantastic Gyros near the Acropolis Museum.
Dinner: Maiandros or Athinaikon in Monastiraki/Syntagma. We also love Yiasemi in Plaka ( the much-photographed steps) or Lithos Taverna in Psiri does my favourite Moussaka. And book yourself at least one night at an amazing Michelin Starred and/or Rooftop restaurant, for a truly unforgettable night!
Drinks: enjoy Sunset drinks at the Grand Bretagne Rooftop bar, 360 Cocktail Bar, A fo Athens Roof top bar ( be sure to book this as its small) MS Roof Garden or Thea Terrace. The Clumsies is one of Europes most famous bars as is Brettos. We also love to catch some jazz at The Speakeasy or a quite drink at Drunk Sinatra.
If it’s lively nightlife you are after the whole of Kolokotroni Street and Agias Irinis Square is where you find the best of Athens bar and club scene.
Further reading: 11 of the Best Rooftop Restaurants in Athens
Things to do in Athens
- wander down Ermou Pedestrian Street
- Visit Syntagma Square and see Parliament House and the Changing of the Greek Presidential Guard – the Evzones
- wander through Plaka and the many cafes, shops and galleries
- stop by the Monastiraki flea market
- walk into the Athens Central Food Market
- Visit the Acropolis either as early or as late as possible. Read our Full Guide on how to do this and the Acropolis Museum.
- Visit the Acropolis Museum
- Catch the Red Hop on Hop off bus to visit various ancient sites and points of interest
- Stroll through the National Gardens and see the Temple of Zeus
- have coffee or a drink in the Plaka
- Take in an open air concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- Spend time before, during or instead of a concert in the lively area of Psiri including a visit to the colourful and very kooky Little Kook!
- If you are spending 3 or 4 days in Athens ( or longer) you could do one of the many amazing day trips that are possible. These include visiting ancient sites like Delphi and Cape Sounion, extraordinary marvels like Meteora, the fascinating Peloponnese peninsula – archaeology, mythology, wineries!, or even a trip out to the beautiful Saronic Islands. Read all about our suggested day trips.
Santorini – 2 to 4 days
Santorini is a bucket list destination for most people and for good reason.
Despite the cruise ships and the crowds, it remains one of those places that not only meets your expectations but probably exceeds it. The views truly are the stuff of legends and it is little wonder it is so popular with honeymooners.
It can get a bit crazy when the cruise ships come in each day so a room with a pool and terrace makes for a great escape for an afternoon siesta and sundowners. When you re-emerge for dinner most of the tourists will have floated away!
We love to stay in Oia which is considered the most picturesque village, although a lot of people also enjoyed Imerovigli which is about a 20 minute walk along the nice flat footpath that runs along the Caldera seam.
There are a surprising amount of things to do on Santorini with beaches, wineries, hot springs, great shopping and some of the worlds most iconic and photographed sunsets.
How to get to Santorini
You can travel from Athens to Santorini by ferry or by plane. Return to Athens from Meteora either on your overnight tour, by driving or by train.
There are also many ferries each day, year round.
Most service either the Western or Eastern Cyclades Islands and on to Athens whilst some come from Crete. Book ferry tickets HERE.
Need transport for Santorini?
Book Ferry tickets HERE
Book Hire Car HERE
Book Airport Shuttle Bus HERE
Book Private Airport Pickup HERE
Book helicopter transfers for Santorini HERE
Where to stay in Santorini :
For couples: Ducato Di Oia ( adults only) suites in Oia or Above Blue Suites in Imerovigli for more isolation and at a lower price point. Canaves Oia Epitome is one of the most iconic luxury hotels in Europe and is incredibly romantic. Aspa Villas are great value for money and most rooms have hot tubs.
In Oia we have had a great stay with our family at Armeni Village and Myst Boutique Hotel is also worth checking out. If you want to be right near a beach then Crystal Blue in Kamari is great or Damma Luxury Villas have a wonderful 4 bedroom beachfront villa that can sleep 8.
Solo: Kivotos in Imerovigli for a splurge or Abelonas Retreat on a tight budget. For something a bit different stay at Pyrgos 1870 winery or in the authentic medieval village of Pyrgos at Aroma Cavas Apartments or Skyfall Suites (adults only).
Where to eat in Santorini
Lunch: Lefkes Taverna in Oia is hard to beat for food or service. It often books out well in advance. Some of the Wineries such as Santos are great for lunch but be sure to book head there too. Other spots we love are Aeolos Taverna in Akrotiri or Akro Beach Bar at Black Beach.
Dinner: Santorini Mou in Oia or Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna in Ammoudi Bay are wonderful. For stunning clifftop views check out Lycabettus, Lauda and Strogoli for special occassions and Melitini, Thalami and Pelekanos for traditional meals.
You also MUST book a sunset dinner cruise on the Caldera for one of the nights.
Things to do in Santorini
- check into your hotel and explore your local area. If cruise ships are in you may want to rest up and explore at night when it is less crowded and cooler.
- explore the maze of streets in Oia including Panagia Platsani Church
- visit famous Atlantis Books for a unique bookshop experience
- check out the many upmarket boutiques and jewellery shops in Oia
- walk down to Oia Castle
- a half day tour of the island
- tour the world renowned wineries with a sommelier
- do wine tasting AND a cooking class
- swim at Black Beach, Red Beach and Kamari Beaches
- visit authentic Pyrgos village and see what Santorini is like for long time locals
- do a sunset fishing trip with dinner and drinks
- attend a ‘traditional’ Greek wedding!
- have a professional photographic session done – hard to beat the backdrop
- or do a ‘Flying Dress’ photography session – the hottest thing on Instagram!
Paros – 3 to 5 days
Paros is a beautiful Cycladic island and one of our personal favourites – we keep going back every year!
It’s become very popular in the past 5 years but for good reason. It’s got great beaches, excellent restaurants, fantastic shopping, a bit of history and a fabulous bar and nightlife scene that is a lot more affordable that nearby Mykonos. Many people say it’s the quintessential island as it has something for everyone and ticks every box.
The island is the perfect size too – you can do a full loop as a day trip, but it’s not so small you run out of things to do or places to explore.
How to get to Paros
Paros has a small domestic airport with year-round flights, especially during the tourist season.
Parikia is the Port town where there are regular connections with Athens and the other Cyclades islands.
TIP : The Airport is quite isolated. We usually hire a car here or it pays to book a private transfer in advance.
Transport for Paros
Book Ferry tickets HERE
Book Hire Car HERE
Book Private Airport or Port Pickup HERE
Papadakis Hotel, Naoussa
Where to stay in Paros
There are two main towns in Paros – Parikia, the port town, and Naoussa, the more expensive but more upmarket and lively town in the north. Both are great places to base yourself with good beaches within walking distance or by little ferries, and great tavernas. The bulk of the shopping and nightlife is in Naoussa.
There are also a number of lovely seaside villages that are worth a few days (or weeks) such as Piso Livadi and Aliki and the interior medieval village of Lefkas as well.
In Naoussa we love to stay at Paliomylos Spa Hotel. It’s a stylish, Cycladic hotel with exceptional service as hundreds of our readers can also attest to. We’ve also enjoyed staying at Hotel Papadakis.
If you are happy to splurge and are looking for an adults-only experience then Lilly Residence and Parian Boutique Hotel are both stunning while great cheap and cheerful options include Irini Rooms and Hotel Iris.
For a fully-self contained luxury Villa check in to Watching the Ships Roll in, high in the hills above the Port with incredible sunsets and a private pool.
For families and groups:
If you are after a fully self-contained house that can sleep at least 6 people then you can rent both a one-bedroom and two-bedroom house at Villa Helena right near Piperi Beach. Other family/group friendly places with two and three bedroom apartments include Zoumis Studios.
If you’re look for a private, luxury Villa then Whitestone Dream can be your own slice of paradise, located on a hill above Naoussa. It can sleep 10 people. In the medieval village of Kostas you can book Lunar Power, a big luxury villa with a huge pool and big views, while in the south of the island Passion Project is near Aliki, one of the nicest villages on the island with a lovely calm beach and great food.
Argonauta Hotel in Parikia is gorgeous and means you can happily spend your entire time without a car – very Chic and located in one of the small cobblestones alleys near the Port. If you’d like to be right near the beach then check our Grozos Rooms which are cheap, very cheerful and only a short stroll into the old town.
Where to eat and drink in Paros
Breakfast: There are some amazing bakeries on Paros. One of our first stops every visit is to Tserki before heading out to Naoussa and there we also find ourselves regularly at Ragoussis. There’s another Ragoussis in Parikia now too, as well as one outside Naoussa on the road from Parikia.
Lunch: We think the best Souvlakia in Naoussa is at Souvlakia Kargas while Sousouro and Cafe Carino are excellent coffee shops. In Parikia head north and the seaside tavernas of Koralli ( get the mussels!) and Tango Mar on the beach, which is also a very affordable beach club with sunbeds included in your food and beverage bill.
Elsewhere on the island we have had amazing lunches at To Balcony tou Aki in Aliki and Markakis in Piso Livadi while the Gyros at Mylos Grill outside Marpissa is probably the best on the island. Also check out To Dixty and O Katsoynas in Santa Maria – great spots for long lazy lunches after a swim.
It’s also great to spend the day ( or at least a few hours) at a good seaside taverna with sunbeds and umbrellas who bring your lunch to you. Aspro at Ambelas, Faragas at Faragas Beach and Punda Coast all do this well although we especially love the taverna and everything about Monastiri Beach west of Naoussa.
Dinner: The Old Harbour in Naoussa is one of the most popular dining precincts in Greece where you will find hundreds of tables lined around the harbour belonging to excellent tavernas such as Mario, Sigi Ikthios and Tsachpines. On the other side of the Old Harbour to the east is a pebbly beach with more tavernas and bars such as Statheros and Taverna Glafkos.
In Parikia Dionysos Garden Restaurant is truly lovely as is Distrato and Mana Mana further along the alley. There are also excellent tavernas along the waterfront that are lively at night such as Mira and Brizoladiko Steak House.
For something special we love Siparos, about 10 minutes past Naoussa with amazing sunsets and ohja!Oyster Bar in Naoussa itself.
Drinks: There’s no shortage of bars on Paros either with Naoussa somewhat of a giant open-air bar after dinner. We always end up at Agosta on our visits but Barbarossa and Linardo are very popular and much photographed. Fotis All Day Bar and Come Back on the back beach are also very popular.
Things to do in Paros
Paros is the perfect island to relax and do very little other than eat, drink, sleep,shop and swim – the perfect Greek Island itinerary! But if you do want to get out and about and take in a few experiences these are our suggestions:
- Do a loop of the island in a car, buggy or scooter or catch the public bus. This takes between 6-8 hours depending on how many stops you make.
- Hang out at one of the many beaches and beach clubs – *TIP – there’s a little ferry that can take you to 3 (sometimes 4) beaches from Naoussa and another in Parikia that takes you to Krios and Marcello:
- Santa Maria
- Golden Beach
- The medieval village of Lefkas
- The Church of 100 Doors in Parikia
- A day trip to Mykonos and/or Sacred Delos – you can do this on the public ferries too
- the Frankish Castle
- A day trip to Anti-paros Island
- a sailing trip to the Small Cyclades
- self-drive boat rental
- A Cooking Class
- the Parian Quarries – this is where the marble for the Venus de Milo came from!
The Church of 100 Doors
Shopping in Parikia
Your last night in Greece
We always recommend spending your last night in Greece where your flight home departs from. So if that’s from Athens then spend the last night there.
Either add one last night on and spend it in one of the airport hotels or surrounds ( there are a surprising number of choices here) or do all your Athens days together at the end, which is what we often do.
Every year ferries are cancelled and flights are delayed due to bad weather, especially the Meltemi wind, or industrial strikes. Don’t get caught out!
The Athenian Riviera
Don’t forget Travel Insurance!
It’s important to make sure you are covered for medical expenses ( some countries may include this in health insurance) but also for lost baggage, flight and ferry delays and cancellations, theft, and emergencies, including something that happens back home while you are away.
This can save you tens of thousands of dollars, or even more.