Best things to do in Santorini and Mykonos for perfect Greece holidays

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If you’re looking for the perfect Greece holidays in combination with Greek islands, Santorini and Mykonos should be at the top of your list. Perfectly placed for island-hopping, a holiday that includes both of these Cycladic islands will give you scenery, culture and a taste of the infamous nightlife too, if that’s your scene.

Santorini Holidays

Head to Santorini for the first part of your trip, and search out some of the beautiful beaches to relax on. Santorini is known as one of the more glamorous Greek islands, and it is indeed extremely pretty.

Find the black volcanic beaches at Kamari for picturesque coastal towns and unusual ruins. Or the famous Red Beach near Akrotiri if you’re looking for a photogenic place to sun worship for a few hours.

Red Beach Santorini, Greece holidays
Red Beach Santorini, Greece holidays by Bryce Edwards

If you’re visiting in the summer and indulging in some sunbathing, a word of advice: pay for a sunbed. The black sand gets extremely hot!

As with most tourist beaches, there is no shortage of ‘Looky Looky’ men and women plying their wares, but a polite “No thanks” is usually sufficient if you’re not interested in their goodies.

Black beach in Kamari, Santorini, Greece holidays
Black volcanic beach in Kamari, Santorini, Greece holidays by Stan Zurek

Discover Santorini History

For a real feel of the island, Akrotiri is where you’ll find remnants of an ancient culture that survived only because of advanced architectural techniques.

The island was decimated by a volcanic eruption of the same ferocity as Pompeii around 3,500 years ago, but there are fascinating remains and some amazing art and pottery still in existence that show how sophisticated the island was even back then.

Prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece holidays
Prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece holidays by Klearchos Kapoutsis

If you’re visiting Perissa, the food and hospitality at the Magic Bus is highly recommended. At the end of Perissa beach, the bar/restaurant is famous for its friendly staff, gorgeous décor and delicious food.

Perissa beach, Santorini, Greece holidays
Perissa beach, Santorini, Greece holidays by Norbert Nagel

The main city, Fira, looks exactly like a Greek island should look – fantastic sea views, beautiful, pristine whitewashed buildings, and for archaeology enthusiasts there’s the Museum of Prehistoric Thera which is full of fascinating Minoan artefacts.

Fira, Santorini, Greece holidays
Fira, Santorini, Greece holidays by Daniel Dudek-Corrigan

There is no shortage of shops and cafes to explore at your leisure, and Fira is best explored at a leisurely pace in the afternoon, while avoiding the daily influx of cruise ship visitors.

For one of the best views on the island, try the Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar, which is situated on the Caldera next to Archipelagos Restaurant.

Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar, Santorini, Greece holidays
Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar, Santorini, Greece holidays by paliakameni.com

Santorini Hotels

There is a plethora of nice places to stay in Santorini. In Perissa the Anastasia Princess is a favourite, rated highly for its location at the beach and cleanliness and comfort.

Anastasia Princess, Perrisa, Santorini, Greece holidays
Anastasia Princess, Perrisa, Santorini, Greece holidays

The Enigma apartments in Fira are also highly rated, and boast lovely accommodation in a fantastic central location.

Enigma Apartments, Fira, Santorini, Greece holidays
Enigma Apartments, Fira, Santorini, Greece holidays

Mykonos Holidays

Once you’ve chilled out and enjoyed the delicious calm of Santorini, you can hop over to Mykonos to liven things up a little. The ferries run regularly or you can even take the fast boat. Ready-made tours are also on offer from tour operators.

Since the 50’s, Mykonos is one of the most popular Mediterranean islands. Chora is its capital, the busiest and most popular spot on the island. Visitors are impressed immediately, thanks to its excellent location and architecture.

Houses in Chora, Mykonos, Greece holidays
Houses in Chora, Mykonos, Greece holidays by Bernard Gagnon

Despite the rapid development, the island still maintains its characteristic elements of the Cycladic islands. White houses, labyrinthine streets, centuries-old windmills on the hills, in combination with red domes and bell towers, countless churches, the harbor full of colourful fleet of fishing boats.

Mykonos’ reputation as a gay party island has faded in recent years, possibly due to a concerted effort by the island’s tourism department to reposition Mykonos as a family destination. That said, the island, and especially its nightlife, is still lively and gay-friendly.

Mykonos church, Greece holidays
Mykonos church, Greece holidays by büys

The atmosphere of Mykonos

The atmosphere of Mykonos is glamorous and ever-so-slightly Bohemian. You might find the beaches eerily empty before midday due to many of the island’s visitors sleeping off the night before, so if you’re an early bird, you have the perfect opportunity to bag a decent space on the sand before lunch.

There’s plenty to see in Chora, including the pretty Matoyianni Street and two museums, Maritime and Folklore, although the Folklore museum’s opening times can be hit and miss.

Elia Beach, Mykonos, Greece holidays
Elia Beach, Mykonos, Greece holidays by Mike

Little Venice is another picturesque spot, which looks as it sounds and is the ideal place to wander with your camera on a balmy day. The water’s edge restaurants and bars are gorgeous, but be prepared to part with a fair number of your Euros if you eat at any of them. However, the amazing sunsets are worth every penny.

For slightly less expensive eating options, you could try M-eating in the town centre for contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, or Karavaki Restaurant at Agios Eleftherios, which boasts some spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and fantastic Greek food.

Little Venice, Mykonos, Greece holidays
Little Venice, Mykonos, Greece holidays by Julia Maudlin

For retail therapy, you’ll find a lovely selection of fashion and jewellery, as well as the ubiquitous tourist shops. Like Santorini, though, Mykonos is a haven for cruise ships and Chora can become extremely busy between 10am and 5pm.

The nightlife of Mykonos

The nightlife of Mykonos deserves a special mention – Paradise Beach is the island’s main party beach, and is also great for water sports during the day.

Mykonos with cruise ship, Greece holidays
Mykonos with cruise ship, Greece holidays by Richard Martin

Little Venice, while pricey, is a popular place to start off an evening’s entertainment, and then if you’re up for a night of clubbing, you can expect to find a lively atmosphere at Cavo Paradiso (close to Paradise Beach) or Space nightclub in Chora. For a more laid back evening’s entertainment, there’s also the Piano Bar in Little Venice.

For a more gay-centric night out, the drag acts at Pierros are legendary. Lola Bar near Little Venice is a chic bar complete with rather plush furniture, and down on the harbour front you’ll find Jacky O and Babylon, both great party venues, with Jacky O having a reputation as being quite ‘hands-on’.

There’s also an annual gay festival, XLsior in Santorini and also Mykonos in August, which takes place around the indoor bars and beach venues and features top international DJs, cabaret and more!

Mykonos Hotels

The Carbonaki Hotel is highly recommended for its family feel and well-developed eco-policies, but it’s also clean, well-placed and very comfortable.

Carbonaki Hotel, Mykonos, Greece holidays
Carbonaki Hotel, Mykonos, Greece

Santorini, Greece holidays
Santorini, Greece holidays by Maggie Meng

Island-hopping between Santorini and Mykonos is the perfect combination of lively and laid back, and promises a holiday that offers culture, scenery and a fabulous selection of cocktails on the beach…

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