5 Incredible Greek Islands Near Santorini That Might Even Be Better

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

There’s no doubt that Santorini is a popular island. And while it’s absolutely worth visiting once in your life, there are another couple of hundred islands to explore in our beautiful country!  Here’s 5 of the best, plus one bonus island you’re sure to love.

Mykonos – The best known island near Santorini

Strictly speaking, Mykonos is further from Santorini than some other islands. However, the Mykonos – Santorini combination is extremely popular, especially among foreign travellers. There are many direct ferry routes between the two, with the fastest ferries covering the distance in about three hours.

Church in Santorini Greece

But how are these two islands different?

In a nutshell, Santorini is famous for its sunsets, views to the volcano, wineries, pretty villages and picturesque beaches. Overall, Santorini is regarded as a romantic island, and is a popular wedding destination.

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.

Mykonos, on the other hand, is known for its nightlife, stunning sandy beaches, maze-like Chora, windmills and shopping. 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 Greece summer 2020

The beaches in Mykonos are incredible indeed. Just note that if you like wild, natural beaches you won’t have too many options. Many of them are covered with loungers and umbrellas from side to side.

I was lucky to visit Mykonos without the crowds in summer 2020. Most of the loungers weren’t there, and I had a blast!

Kitesurfing in Mykonos - Islands near Santorini Greece

One thing that these two islands have in common, apart from being famous, is that they can get very crowded and expensive. Although many visitors return time and again, some people might be disappointed.

If you are after more quiet or authentic destinations, there are plenty of islands near Santorini that you could consider. In fact, if great beaches are a must, you could even drop Santorini altogether and visit another island instead.

Here are some islands near Santorini that I like and would return in a heartbeat.

Naxos – Best Greek island for authenticity

Naxos is the biggest of the Cyclades islands near Santorini and has largely kept its authentic character. With its rich history, varied landscape, gorgeous beaches and delicious food, Naxos is one of the top destinations in Greece.

A tree on the beach in Naxos Greece

The first thing you will notice in Naxos is the stunning Chora, the main town, which is also the island’s port. The Venetian Castle of Naxos was built in the 13th century AD, on the ruins of ancient settlements.

Today, you can wander around the narrow alleys and explore the quaint town with the pretty, white-washed houses. In addition, the Portara Gate is a popular Naxos landmark and a great place to watch the sunset from.

Sunset at the Portara Naxos

Apart from Chora, Naxos has several inland villages, like Apiranthos, Filoti and Melanes, which have mostly kept their traditional mountain character. If it wasn’t for the beautiful views to the sea, you would probably not realize you are on an island.

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

Beautiful sandy Naxos beach

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.

Last but not least… food! In my experience, Naxos has some of the best food in the Cyclades. Their awarded potatoes, locally grown vegetables, delicious cheeses and local meat dishes are well-known all over Greece.

You can easily reach Naxos from Santorini. There are several direct ferries which will get you there in a couple of hours. Here is some more information about Naxos.

Ios – One of the best Greek islands for fantastic beaches

Does the name “Ios” bring up images of young, 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 Greek holiday destination.

Beach in Ios - Islands near Santorini Greece

It’s true that Ios 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 beaches and lovely nature.

My favourite wild beaches in Ios include Kalamos, Psathi and Lorentzena. I also like Manganari on the south, a group of sandy coves around a shallow lagoon with a few loungers here and there. The landscapes are simply delightful! Watersports are also available on the island, most notably on Milopotas beach.

Octopus hanging out in the sun

Like most of the Cyclades, 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.

Sunset in Ios Greece

Finally, 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. In addition, 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

Among the islands near Santorini, Ios is the closest, being under an hour away on the slow 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! Here’s what to do in Ios.

Milos – A Greek island with incredible landscapes

In the past decade, the popularity of Milos has been on the rise, and rightly so. Its incredible landscapes of rugged, virgin beaches and wild nature make it one of the most picturesque Greek destinations.

Milos Greece - The views from the castle in Plaka

View from the Venetian Castle in Plaka Milos

Just like Santorini, Milos is a volcanic island, created after an eruption. This explains the colourful rocks everywhere, but also 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.

Some of the beaches and landscapes you will see in Milos are really otherworldly. 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!

Colourful landscape at Fyriplaka beach Milos Greece

Another feature of Milos 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. Not surprisingly, a few of them have been transformed into seasonal accommodation for visitors.

Finally – the food! 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. The list is getting longer every time I return, so watch this space!

Greek food in Milos island

Milos and Santorini are only a couple of hours away on the ferry, so they can be easily combined in the same trip. Here are some tips on how to get to Milos from Athens, Santorini and other Greek islands.

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

Here are some more reasons to visit Milos in Greece and an article on the best time to visit Milos and Kimolos.

Sikinos – The most amazing sunset views at a winery

You might not have heard of Sikinos. It’s a small, arid 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 five-star restaurants. 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.

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. So why am I insisting on this particular one on a random Greek island?

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 absolutely 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 Episkope 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, here’s what to do in Sikinos.

Crete – A Real Greek Experience if you like exploring

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 two 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 Greek island near Santorini or elsewhere.

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

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

History – There are several archaeological and historical sites in Crete. Some of the most popular are Knossos, Festos, Gortyna, Matala and Spinalonga. In addition, you will see signs of the Venetian and Ottoman rule all around Crete.

A view of Chania in Crete

Nature – Apart from the famous Samaria gorge, there are dozens more gorges, mountains, caves and rivers. Crete is paradise if you like nature!

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

Food – Cretan food is unique, partly due to the fact that most of the produce is local. Vegetables, meat, cheese, rusks, olive oil, you name it. Crete has the best food in Greece, if my slightly biased opinion means anything.

People – Crete has some wonderful, hospitable, crazy people!

Best Iislands near Santorini for beaches - Crete

If you only have a couple of days to spare on an island near Santorini, 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!

Do you have a favourite island near Santorini?

I’d love to hear your views on islands near Santorini – do you have any favourites? Please leave your comments below.

Hi, I’m Vanessa!

Islands near Santorni - CreteHello! I am a travel writer from Athens, Greece. I enjoy travelling, exploring, snorkelling and cooking. I also love sharing my local knowledge and personal views about Greece. I’ve written literally hundreds of blog posts and answers in online groups and forums, and have hopefully helped out quite a few visitors and expats!

You can get in touch through the Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.

2 thoughts on “5 Incredible Greek Islands Near Santorini That Might Even 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!

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


Leave a Comment