5+1 incredible Greek islands near Santorini (that might be better)

There’s more to Greece than Santorini! These Greek islands close to Santorini could be a great addition to your itinerary in Greece. 

Santorini is only one of the hundreds of islands in Greece

There’s no doubt that Santorini is a popular island. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world.

Santorini and Greek island hopping

In a nutshell, the island of Santorini in the Cyclades is famous for its stunning sunset views, the out-of-this-world volcano, the abundance of wineries, and picturesque beaches.

Overall, Santorini is regarded as a romantic island. It is one of the most popular destinations in Greece for weddings and honeymoon trips.

Indeed, the volcano and the black sand landscapes are unique – but can also get very hot! I loved visiting Santorini during the off-season when temperatures weren’t too high.

Here’s a relaxed 4-day Santorini itinerary, which will help you plan your days on the popular island.

Santorini island hopping in the Aegean Sea

Santorini island is definitely worth visiting once in your life. However, there are another 119 inhabited islands to explore in my beautiful country (what a cliche, eh?)

Sunset in Santorini Greece

The Greek islands are grouped in six island chains, plus two large standalone islands. Most of these chains are in the Aegean Sea. This introduction to the Greek island groups will help you place them on the map.

Islands in the Cyclades chain are geographically close to Santorini. This means that you can visit Santorini, and then take a quick ferry trip to one or two nearby islands.

Note that there are no direct flights between the Cyclades – you’d always have to connect in Athens. Not to mention that very few of the Cyclades have airports.

Here are five of the best islands you can visit near Santorini, plus one bonus Greek island outside the Cyclades which you’re sure to love.

1. Mykonos – The best-known island close to Santorini

Strictly speaking, Mykonos is further away from Santorini than some other islands. However, the Mykonos – Santorini combination is extremely popular, especially among first-time visitors.

Church in Santorini Greece

There are many direct ferry routes between Santorini and Mykonos. The fastest ferry covers the distance in about 2 hours. You can check out routes and book your tickets on Ferryscanner.

What to do in Mykonos

Mykonos is known for its nightlife, stunning golden sandy beaches, maze-like Chora, windmills, shopping and overall cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Mykonos is close to Santorini in Greece

The legendary Mykonos beach parties have been going on for decades. Jet-setters from around the world have made Mykonos their standard summer destination.

Mykonos has some seriously amazing beaches. However, most of them are covered with beach bars, sunbeds and umbrellas from side to side. This includes the popular Psarou, Ornos, Paradise and Super Paradise beach.

Mykonos and Santorini are close to each other

If, like me, you like wild, natural beaches, you will need to have your own transportation and be prepared to drive a fair amount. Or, take an incredible kayak trip, and explore the lovely coastline.

Should I go to Mykonos?

You’ve probably heard this before, and it’s true – Mykonos can get very crowded and expensive.

Many people return every summer to enjoy the lively atmosphere and luxurious hotels. However, some travellers might be disappointed.

I’m the first to admit that Mykonos is not my style at all. That said, I was lucky to visit Mykonos without the crowds in summer 2020. Most of the beaches were really quiet, and I had a blast!

I also took an unforgettable trip to Ancient Delos, one of my favourite ancient sites in Greece. A small boat runs between the two islands several times a day.

Delos is close to Santorini in Greece

If you are after quieter or more authentic destinations, Mykonos might not be for you. However, there are plenty of other islands near Santorini that you could consider.

2. Naxos – Best Greek island for authenticity

Naxos is the biggest of the Cyclades and one of my favourite Greek islands. While there is a lot of tourist infrastructure, Naxos has largely kept its authentic character.

Several direct ferries connect Naxos and Santorini, and the ferry ride takes about 2 hours.

Naxos in Greece is close to Santorini

With its rich history, diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches and delicious food, Naxos is one of the most rewarding destinations in Greece.

If you like hiking and exploring, allow for several days in Naxos, as there are plenty of hiking trails.

What to do in Naxos Greece

The first thing you will notice in Naxos is the stunning Chora or Naxos Town, which is also the island’s port. Wander around the narrow alleys and explore the Cycladic architecture and white-washed houses.

A popular Naxos landmark is the Venetian Castle, which was built in the 13th century AD, on the ruins of ancient settlements. In addition, you should visit the Portara Gate, which is a great place to watch the sunset from.

Sunset at the Portara - Ancient entrance in Naxos near Santorini

Apart from Chora, Naxos has several beautiful villages, like Filoti, Melanes and Apeiranthos village. They have mostly kept their mountain character and traditional architecture, and it doesn’t really feel like you are on an island.

In terms of history and archaeology, Naxos won’t disappoint. Apart from the medieval castle, there are plenty of ancient ruins around the island. Don’t miss the temple of Demeter and the famous Kouroi statues.

Naxos has some of the best beaches in Greece

Another reason to visit Naxos are its fantastic beaches. Whether you like natural beaches or you prefer to have loungers and umbrellas, Naxos has it all.

Beautiful sandy Naxos beach

My favourite beaches in Naxos were Plaka and Mikro Aliko, but there are so many more that are worth exploring!

There’s more food to try than the Naxos graviera cheese

Last but not least… food! In my experience, Naxos has some of the most incredible food in the Cyclades.

Their awarded potatoes, locally grown vegetables, delicious cheeses and local meat dishes are well-known all over Greece. Don’t leave without trying the Naxos graviera cheese.

Here is some more information about Naxos.

3. Ios – One of the best Greek islands for golden sandy beaches

Does the name “Ios” bring up images of young, slightly (or not so slightly) intoxicated party crowds? If so, chances are that your memories go back in time, a couple of decades ago.

It might be time to re-discover this beautiful island. I last visited in 2020 and consider Ios a top Greek holiday destination!

Beach in Ios island near Santorini Greece

Ios is the closest island to Santorini, being under an hour away on the local ferry. It could even be an option for a day trip if you are really pushed for time.

In my opinion though, give it a few days and you won’t regret it. I stayed in Ios for a week, and could have easily spent a month!

Ios is not just a party island

Ios indeed has a vibrant party scene. However, this is mostly around the main town, Chora, the famous Mylopotas beach, and a couple of clubs.

The charming little island has much to offer in terms of rugged, beautiful beaches and lovely nature.

Octopus hanging out in the sun

Like most of the Cyclades islands, Ios has some cool hiking trails. I loved hiking to the lighthouse, on the Koumpara peninsula, where we went for sunset.

I actually enjoyed this location more than some of the crowded sunset spots in Santorini. But that’s just me!

Sunset in Ios Greece

When it comes to the iconic blue-domed, white-washed houses and churches, Ios has literally hundreds. Walk all the way up the hill from Chora, and you will discover a few.

Finally, don’t miss Paleokastro, the ruins of a Venetian castle where a lovely small church has been built. The views are just fantastic!

Church in Ios island Greece

Ios has some seriously incredible beaches

From all the islands near Santorini, Ios might is the one with the nicest sandy beaches. The most famous beach in Ios is Milopotas, a long sandy beach with some loungers and plenty of water sports.

My favourite wild beaches in Ios include Kalamos, Psathi and Lorentzena. These were great to spend several hours on and relax without the crowds.

I also liked Manganari on the south, a group of sandy coves around a shallow lagoon with a few loungers here and there.

Here’s more information on what to do in Ios.

4. Milos – A Greek island with incredible landscapes

In the past decade, the popularity of Milos has been on the rise. Its incredible landscapes, its rugged, virgin beaches and its natural beauty make it one of the most picturesque Greek destinations.

Milos and Santorini are only 2 hours away on the fast ferry. Here are some tips on how to get to Milos from Athens, Santorini and other islands.

Milos Greece - The views from the castle in Plaka

View from the Venetian Castle in Plaka town Milos

Allow plenty of time for this wonderful island, especially if you like exploring by land. Milos has one of the longest dirt road networks in the Cyclades, and a 4WD or quad is recommended.

Here’s more information on how to get around Milos Greece.

Milos has some pretty amazing landscapes

Milos was created after a volcanic eruption, which happened about 90,000 years ago. Over the millennia, the volcanic ash helped shaped the colourful rocks and unique landscapes that you will see when you visit Milos.

Its soil is rich in minerals, which explains the island’s unique mining tradition, from ancient times to today. I found the Milos Mining Museum to be one of the most interesting museums in the Cyclades.

Explore the wild beaches in Milos

Some of the beaches you will see on the volcanic island are really other-worldly. As an example, Sarakiniko beach looks like the moon.

Vanessa on Sarakiniko beach Milos

Kleftiko beach has some massive, jagged rocks and unique underwater caves. You can get here by boat trip or a relatively unknown hike. Read my experiences hiking to Kleftiko Bay in Milos for more.

Hiking to Kleftiko beach in Milos Greece

All in all, Milos has several memorable beaches, and you should visit as many as you can.

This is the stunning Fyriplaka which is absolutely worth visiting, even on a day with strong winds! Here’s some more information on the best beaches in Milos.

Colourful landscape at Fyriplaka beach Milos Greece

If you only have a couple of days in Milos, I warmly recommend taking a sailing tour around the island. You will see the pretty coastline, explore the secret coves, and have a blast. It was one of my highlights in Milos.

The food in Milos is just lovely

There are a few restaurants in Milos to which I would love to go back to. Some of my favourites are O! Hamos!, Medusa in Mandrakia and the rather non-descript but amazing Bakalikon Galanis.

Greek food in Milos island

The list is getting longer every time I return, so watch this space! Our Amazon book on Milos and Kimolos lists a few more restaurants you can try.

And here’s my ultimate guide to Greek food, with 50 Greek dishes you should try when you are here.

Stay in one of the quaint fishermen’s houses in Milos

Finally, another unique feature of the beautiful island are the fishermen’s traditional boat garages by the sea, called syrmata. You can see them in many coastal villages, of which the most popular is Klima.

Sunset over Klima village in Milos

Not surprisingly, a few of them have been transformed into seasonal accommodation for visitors. Absolutely beats all-inclusive hotels!

If Milos sounds interesting, here are some more reasons to visit Milos in Greece, including some information on its rich history. Also, here’s an article on the best time to visit Milos and Kimolos.

5. Sikinos – The most amazing sunset views at a winery

You might not have heard of Sikinos. It’s a small, arid, quiet island located between Ios and the upcoming Folegandros, about an hour or two from Santorini. So why would anyone want to go there?

Islands near Santorini - Sikinos

In all honesty, Sikinos is not for everyone. It’s not for people who want to fill their time with activities, or for people who are after luxurious hotels. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of Santorini in so many ways.

And this is exactly why, from all the islands near Santorini, Sikinos has become one of my favourite Greek islands.

There is so little to do, that you have no choice but to take it easy. Relax on the few beaches, go for long swims, read a book, talk to the locals and other visitors.

What is there to do in Sikinos?

My number one thing to do in Sikinos was visiting Manalis winery for sunset. Now, Santorini has well over a dozen wineries, some of which produce world-famous wine. And there are plenty of well-organized, top-rated winery tours.

So why am I insisting on this particular one on a random Greek island you’ve never heard of?

Sunset over the Aegean in Sikinos Greece

Well, this single meal was one of my best meals on the Greek islands, ever. Great food, fine wine and an extraordinary setting. I would make a special trip to Sikinos just to watch the sunset from Manalis winery again.

(In case you are wondering, no, I’m not affiliated with them and yes, we did pay for our meal!)

At night, go all the way up to the mountain to see the stars. If you have a car, park at the Episkopi parking lot and turn your lights off. In my experience, few places in Greece are as magical, and I’ve been to many!

Sikinos - Islands near Santorini

If you make it to this small island with the crystal clear emerald waters, try to spend at least 2 or 3 days. Forget about wild nightlife, and consider getting up early to catch the sunrise.

Intrigued? Good 🙂 Here’s what to do in Sikinos.

Bonus: Crete – A Real Greek Experience for explorers

Including Crete in a list of islands near Santorini might sound strange, as it’s not in the Cyclades. However, the fast ferries can take you there in less than 2 hours.

Matala beach, Crete, Greece

Now, Crete is my favourite place in the world. It’s Greece’s largest island and one of Europe’s biggest. It would take you several weeks (or perhaps a lifetime!) to see it properly, and it doesn’t compare to any other island near Santorini or elsewhere.

What’s so special about Crete?

It’s impossible to summarize Crete in a few lines. Nevertheless, some of the highlights in Crete include the following:

Cities

The biggest cities in Crete are Heraklion and Chania, with direct flights from abroad. There is lots of history and sightseeing, a good mix of tavernas and souvenir shops.

The other two big towns in Crete, Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos, are also worth visiting.

History

There are several archaeological and historical sites in Crete. Some of the most popular are Knossos, Festos, Gortyna, Matala and Spinalonga.

In addition to that, you will see signs of the Venetian and Ottoman rule all around Crete. Also, don’t miss the fantastic archaeological museum in Heraklion.

A view of Chania in Crete

Nature

Crete is a paradise for nature lovers! Apart from the famous Samaria gorge, there are dozens more gorges, mountains, caves and rivers.

Beaches

Some of the most famous beaches in Crete include Balos, Elafonisi, Preveli, Vai and Falassarna, but there are hundreds more. Some of my personal favourites include natural beaches like Kedrodassos, Lentas and Triopetra.

Best Iislands near Santorini for beaches - Crete

Food

Cretan food is unique, partly because most of the produce is local. Vegetables, meat, cheese, rusks, olive oil, raki, you name it. In my opinion, Crete has the best food – and some of the best restaurants – in Greece!

People

Crete has some wonderful, hospitable, crazy people!

Should I go to Crete for a couple of days?

If you are in Santorini and only have a couple of days to spare on a nearby island, my advice is, skip Crete, as you won’t do it justice.

However, if you have a week or more, by all means consider it. In fact, you could fly to Crete from your country of residence, and maybe hop to Santorini for a couple of days. Who knows, Crete might become your next top Greek destination!

Book your ferry tickets to the Greek islands

Wherever you decide to go, you will need to book ferry tickets. I use Ferryscanner to compare routes and book ferry tickets.

You might be able to find some of those tickets last minute, or even at the port. However, I suggest that you book them at least a week or two in advance.

Greek island hopping on the ferries

The combinations Santorini – Crete, Santorini – Mykonos and Santorini – Milos are increasingly popular, and you don’t want to risk not finding a seat at your ferry of choice.

For more information on ferries and not only, have a look at this article on island hopping in the Cyclades. You will discover a few other Greek islands which you may have never heard of before 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions about islands near Santorini

Here are a few questions about the islands in Greece that visitors ask:

Can you island hop from Santorini?

Island hopping is a great way to see more Greek islands near Santorini. It is very easy to island hop in Greece – you only need to know the ferry routes.

Where can you go by ferry from Santorini?

During high season, there are direct ferry routes from Santorini to many of the Cyclades islands. Apart from the islands mentioned above, you can easily visit Tinos, Syros, Paros, Sifnos, Amorgos, Folegandros and Kimolos.

Which islands are near to Santorini?

The islands that are geographically closer to Santorini are Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros and Anafi island. Many of the Cyclades islands are directly connected with Santorini.

Which Greek island can you visit on a day trip from Santorini?

You can easily visit the tiny Thirassia island on a day trip from Santorini. You might also be able to do a day trip from Santorini to Ios, but check ferry timetables as they are not always convenient.

How do you get from Santorini to other islands?

The easiest way to get from Santorini to other islands is on the extensive network of ferries in Greece.

Which Greek island should I go to?

This is the million dollar question, and it comes down to what you like. If you want something very different to Santorini, consider Naxos, Ios, Sikinos or even Tinos.

A beach in the Cyclades close to Santorini

These are some of the best Greek islands for me, but everyone is different! That said, if I only had to choose one of the Cyclades, I’d probably say Naxos, just because it’s so diverse and amazing. 

However, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the Greek islands. You will often find that the last one you visited has become your new favourite!

Your opinion please!

I’d love to hear your views on any islands you have visited before or after Santorini. Please leave your comments below!

Here are a few more Greek island guides you may find useful:

Islands near Santorni - CreteHello! I am Vanessa, a travel writer from Athens, Greece. I enjoy travelling, exploring, snorkelling and tasting all the delicious Greek dishes 🙂 In this blog, I’m sharing my local knowledge and personal views about Greece. You can get in touch through the Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.


 

6 thoughts on “5+1 incredible Greek islands near Santorini (that might be better)”

  1. It’s no secret that Santorini is a great Greek destination to visit. However, there are other nearby islands, like Sikinos, that are also worth visiting. You can’t go wrong with any of them!

    Reply
    • Glad you agree! Sikinos has become one of my favourites – hope to be able to explore more islands in summer 2021 😀

      Reply
  2. Hi there
    I. On a europe vacation with my husband and ending in santorini from august 6 to 13, 2022
    But we want to see one more week of Greece till august 20, 2021
    Cyclades are beautiful what do you recommend
    I perder no flying
    Boat to islands would be great I heard Zakinthos is amazing

    Reply
    • Hi Liliana, unfortunately it would be hard and very time consuming to reach Zakynthos without flying. I haven’t been recently myself, so I have no opinion unfortunately.
      Since you have a full week, I warmly recommend Naxos, a fantastic diverse island, which is easy to reach from Santorini. It is a gorgeous island with fantastic beaches and great food, one of my favourites!

      Reply
  3. What are the best islands to visit from Santorini, if we DO NOT want a party place but quieter beaches, good food and interesting places to visit? Want to visit in October this year for a week or so.. thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Tony, none of these islands are party places in October, as it’s the shoulder season. I would suggest Naxos which has more to do, fantastic beaches and beautiful villages. Here is a longer article with things to do in Naxos. It would be best to rent a car. Crete is also great, and the weather might be a bit warmer as it’s a little more to the south. Eitherway, if you are after beaches, visit as early in October as you can, as the weather changes gradually and you might get some rain.

      Reply

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