There’s more to Greece than Santorini! These Greek islands near 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.
In a nutshell, the island of Santorini in the Cyclades is famous for its stunning sunset views, the other-wordly volcano, the abundance of wineries, 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.
Visit Santorini, but go to another island too
Santorini island is absolutely worth visiting once in your life. However, there are more than another hundred inhabited islands to explore in my beautiful country. (What a cliche, eh?)
The Greek islands are grouped in six island chains, plus two large standalone islands. This introduction to the Greek island groups will help you place them on the map.
Most of the islands near Santorini are also in the Cyclades islands. This means that you can take a quick ferry trip from Santorini to one of them.
Note that there are no direct flights between the Cyclades – you’d always have to connect in Athens. Not to mention that not all Cyclades islands 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.
On a side note, check out my article “Is Greece expensive?“, where I’ve listed all our costs travelling around the Cyclades for a month!
1. Mykonos – The best known island near Santorini
Strictly speaking, Mykonos is further away 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 Santorini Mykonos. The fastest ferry covers the distance in about 2 hours. You can check out routes and book your tickets on Ferryscanner.
Differences between Santorini Mykonos
Unlike Santorini, Mykonos 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.
The beaches in Mykonos are incredible indeed. Just note that if you like wild, natural beaches you will definitely need to have your own transportation. Many of the Mykonos beaches are covered with loungers and umbrellas from side to side.
Islands like Mykonos are really not my style, as they can get too busy. I was lucky to visit Mykonos without the crowds in summer 2020. Most of the loungers weren’t there, and I had a blast!
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, 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 islands near Santorini and one of my favourite Greek islands. While Naxos has lots of tourist infrastructure, it has largely kept its authentic character.
You can easily reach Naxos from Santorini. There are several direct ferries which will get you there in about 2 hours.
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 several days in Naxos as there is lots to do.
What to do 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.
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.
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 the Cyclades
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!
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 fantastic 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 Greek holiday destination. I re-visited in 2020 and had an absolute blast!
Among the islands near Santorini, Ios is the closest, 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
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, beautiful beaches and lovely nature.
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!
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!
Ios has some seriously incredible beaches
From all the islands near Santorini, Ios might be the one with the best 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, and rightly so. Its incredible landscapes of rugged, virgin beaches and wild nature make it one of the most picturesque Greek destinations.
View from the Venetian Castle in Plaka town Milos
Allow plenty of time for Milos, 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 how to get around Milos Greece.
Milos has some pretty amazing landscapes
Just like Santorini, Milos is a volcanic island, created after an eruption about 90,000 years ago. This explains the colourful rocks and unique landscapes that you will see when you visit the island.
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 beaches in Milos
Some of the beaches you will see in Milos are really other-worldly. As an example, Sarakiniko beach looks like the moon.
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.
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!
If you only have a couple of days in Milos, I warmly recommend taking a sailing tour around the island. You will see many of the island’s beaches and secret coves, and have a blast. It was one of my highlights in Milos.
Food in Milos is amazing
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! Our Amazon book on Milos and Kimolos lists a few more restaurants you can try.
Stay in one of the quaint fishermen’s houses in Milos
Finally, another unique feature of the wild Greek 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.
Not surprisingly, a few of them have been transformed into seasonal accommodation for visitors. Absolutely beats all-inclusive hotels!
5. 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?
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.
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. So why am I insisting on this particular one on a random Greek island?
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!
If you make it to this small island, it’s best to spend 2 or 3 days to explore, relax and unwind. Forget about nightlife, and consider getting up early to catch the sunrise. Here’s what to do in Sikinos.
Bonus: 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 2 hours.
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.
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 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. 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, you will see signs of the Venetian and Ottoman rule all around 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 beches in Crete 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. In my opinion, Crete has the best food in Greece!
People – Crete has some wonderful, hospitable, crazy people!
Should I go to Crete for a couple of days?
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!
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 and book ferry tickets – you can use the form right below.
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.
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.
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, as long as you know the ferry routes.
Here is an article about island hopping in Greece on a budget.
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. Many of the Cyclades islands are directly connected with Santorini.
Which Greek island does day trips to Santorini?
In theory, you could do a day trip from Ios to Santorini on the ferries as the trip takes just under an hour. In practice, however, the ferries might not run at convenient times. It’s best to spend at least 3 days in Santorini in order to be able to explore.
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! This always comes down to what you like. If you want something very different to Santorini you could consider Naxos, Ios, Sikinos or even Tinos.
These are some of the best Greek islands for me, but everyone is different! That said, if I had to choose one island, I’d probably say Naxos, just because it’s so diverse and amazing.
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!
Hello! I am a travel writer from Athens, Greece. I enjoy travelling, exploring, snorkelling and cooking. In this blog, I’m 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!