Why you should skip Santorini and head to this Greek island instead.

Disclaimer — I LOVE Santorini. I have been three times and there is nowhere that compares to those Caldera sunsets. But, in Summer, it is crowded. Very. Crowded. You have to hustle to get a spot to watch the sunset. You have to shuffle along the narrow, cobblestone laneways. You have to part the pedestrian traffic just to enter a shop. 

None of this is very conducive to a relaxing holiday.

So, what to do when you want a taste of Greek Island bliss? When you want all the tourist offerings without the suffocating crowds? Visit one of Santorini’s (more affordable) neighbouring Cycladic Islands, Naxos!

We took the 90-minute high speed Seajets ferry to Naxos. A Greek ferry is an experience all of its own — absolute chaos which somehow works — but allow plenty of time. 

The port in Santorini is accessed by an awfully narrow, winding road so you need a taxi or bus and nerves of steel! I couldn’t look when the tour coaches crossed to the wrong side of the road to navigate the hairpin bends.

Exploring Naxos. Image: Supplied.


When you arrive at Santorini Port, you need to look out for your ferry and queue. The queue is mostly in the full sun so have a bottle of water handy. Once the ferry docks, it stays in port for the shortest possible time so join the throng and board. There is a bit of jostling, pushing and shoving so be prepared for that. In one of those "this would never happen in Australia" moments, cars leave the ferry and board the ferry alongside pedestrians! 

There were steel shelves labelled "Naxos" and "Mykonos". That’s where we put our bags (cue more jostling, pushing and shoving!) 

We then followed the throng again up the stairs to the seating area.

In another "this would never happen in Australia" moment, the ferry departed before many of us had even stowed our bags!


It is a bit survival of the fittest but it works and it's all part of the experience. The ferry itself was enormous and the ride was very smooth.

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Once we arrived in Naxos, there was chaos again. Searing heat and not enough taxis. 

We had pre-booked our accommodation but not a transfer (a mistake on our part). Luckily, a taxi driver realised that my husband and I and another couple were staying close together so he could transport all four of us at once. Tetris was played and bungee luggage cables affixed so as to secure all our luggage in the boot and off we went.

Less than fifteen minutes later and we were at our pre-booked accommodation, Angel Suites, Agia Anna. Greeted at reception by Angel (the owner), nothing was too much trouble. Angel gave us an iPad with Greek and English information about the hotel and Naxos. 

He showed us to our room and helped haul our heavy cases up the staircase. The room was renovated and air-conditioned (win!) and Angel was clearly very proud of it.


I was a little concerned that Angel warned us that we may run out of electricity for an hour or so later! 

"Don’t worry!" he assured us. "Oh, and the WiFi signal is not always working. Don’t worry!" (Note – the power did go out on day two but only for a couple of hours and we found a seaside bar to while away the time in.)

Image: Supplied.


The balcony looked across the lane to the beach. Angel explained that the umbrellas and lounges were free as long as we ate or drank from his brother’s restaurant, Byammo, which was downstairs. 

Five minutes later, we were in our bathers and laying on said lounges ordering "Mythos" (a Greek beer). After the stone beaches of Santorini where shoes were required to enter and exit the water, we were thrilled to see a beautiful, sandy beach. 

Clearly, we had not spent too much time researching this location as the sand was a happy surprise!

Agia Anna is lined with sun lounges. If you don't sit on lounges with a restaurant affiliation, they cost about $15-25 per pair. The closer the row is to the water, the higher the daily rate. Each pair of lounges has an accompanying beach umbrella, too. 

Cue four days of lounging and lolling. Interspersed with eating, drinking, reading and snoozing! Now, that’s relaxation!

Come 7pm or so and the heat of the sun dissipated. Rather than eat downstairs where we would have breakfast (included in our room rate), we decided to go for a stroll. 

Imagine our delight when we realised that some of the restaurants clear away the lounges on the beach to make way for truly magical extensions of their restaurants. There are rows of tables and chairs on the sand where you sit and watch the sunset. Add in fairly lights and balmy evenings with no humidity. Sublime! 


Image: Supplied.

We ate at a different restaurant every night and the ambience did not disappoint. The price was amazing too — a three course dinner on the sand including wine and beer averaged $100 for the two of us. Amazing!

We spent four blissful days in Agia Anna and never felt the need to move although we did go into Chora ("Town" in Greek) one morning as we felt that we should explore a bit of Naxos. Also, we had spied what we thought was a giant ruin when we arrived at Chora Port so we did want to have a closer look.


The giant ruin is the Portara ("Big Door" in Greek). This magnificent archway was built in 522BC as the entrance gateway to the unfinished Roman Temple dedicated to Apollo.

Chora Old Town (called "Kastro") was a lovely town reminiscent of a much quieter Mykonos Town — narrow, cobblestone lanes, tumbling cerise bougainvillea, white-washed buildings and plenty of shops. It is also car free! 

Guarded by its Venetian castle high on the hilltop, it was a lovely wander. And you get rewarded for the many steps up to the Castle by then being able to stroll down to the New Town ("Neo Chorio") for lunch!

We loved our uber relaxing time in Naxos but all good things must come to an end! 

Naxos Airport was a short 10-minute drive away from Agia Anna. As for the tiny airport and the teeny, tiny plane to Athens, well that is a story for another day!

Feature Image: Supplied/Instagram @explore_naxos. 

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