There’s no denying the beauty of Santorini and Mykonos, but there’s a lot more to the Greek Islands than these two popular slips of sand, as Natasha Dragun discovers.
Most trips to Greece will involve a visit to Santorini, where dreamy sunsets are glimpsed over whitewashed, cliff-hugging villages and bougainvillea drapes over blue-domes churches. From 2020, getting here will is even easier, with Qatar launching direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Santorini.
DO Aside from postcard-perfect towns, Santorini is known for its beaches, some of which come with black and red sand. And then there are the wineries: grapes are grown in distinctive ‘baskets’ low to the ground, with the volcanic soil giving them delicious, mineral-driven flavour.
SLEEP New Andronis Arcadia sits just outside the chaotic streets of Oia, the island’s main tourist town, which means you can stroll in at sunset then leave the crowds behind at your pool villa. Nearby, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa is an all-suite, all-villa retreat with an ocean-inspired spa and jaw-dropping Aegean views.
EAT There are dozens of rooftop restaurants and bars in Oia, perfect for watching the day disappear into Santorini’s caldera. For a leisurely lunch, stroll downhill to Amoudi Bay, where sea-urchin salad, grilled octopus and mezze plates are served at waterside tables.
A two-hour ferry ride from Santorini lies horseshoe-shaped Milos, a luminous slip of sand with a fascinating history (Venus de Milo was found here, wedged into a wall), superb seafood and one of the most spectacular coastlines in the Aegean.
DO If you only have a day here, spend it on a boat. A handful of yachts circumnavigate the island, taking in tiny fishing villages painted in candy colours as well as spectacular geological rock formations, sandy beaches and coastal caves, some of which you can swim through. Additional days should also be spent on boats: jump aboard the ferry to Kimolos (it takes 30 minutes to get to the island), where you can hire scooters to explore pretty coves or simply stroll to the hilltop town with its beautiful citadel ruins.
SLEEP Salt Suites & Executive Rooms is like a white dream hugging the hamlet of Pollonia. Accommodations are individual in design, but all come with sea views.
EAT Near the port town of Adamas, family-run taverna O! Hamos grows and produces almost everything on the menu: the owners’ farm supplies meat and vegetables, and the delicious cheeses are all house-made.
Around 50 kilometres northwest of Santorini, Folegandros has many of its bigger sister’s attractions – dramatic clifftop villages laced with bougainvillea, charming churches – but comes minus the crowds.
DO Sun-baked and treeless, Folegandros is a dramatic destination for hikes, with its extensive network of trails leading to scenic lookouts and hidden beaches like Hohlidia and Vardia. Climb the path to hilltop Panagia church for incredible views over the island.
SLEEP From above, the 44 rooms and suites at Anemi look like white sugar cubes dropped into the middle of the desert. Some accommodations come with private plunge pools; for everyone else, the main swimming area is a popular hangout during the heat of the day.
EAT In the main town of Chora, restaurants spill into gardens and squares, making the most of the island’s balmy summer weather. Blue Cuisine is particularly popular for its focus on local produce.
Paros enjoys a pretty perfect Aegean perch, within easy reach of Mykonos, Santorini and Naxos. Plus, it comes with blissful beaches, trendy bars, restaurants, wineries and walking trails.
DO When not hopping between sandy coves like Kolymbithres and Santa Maria, head to the town of Parikia, where you can explore atmospheric alleys and the historic church, Panagia Ekatontapiliani, also known as the ‘Church of 100 Doors’.
SLEEP The islands are home to some of Europe’s most luxurious villas, and the travel experts at Five Star Greece can find you the perfect place to idle. Their portfolio covers Paros, with bespoke options provided upon consultation.
EAT It’s not cheap, but Anna Restaurant is well worth the outlay. Panoramic vistas aside, this establishment serves some of the best magireftá (casserole recipes) you’ll ever taste.
This article originally appeared in volume 36 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Main image: Folegandros is known for its hilltop Panagia church © Shutterstock