Greece contains some of the most beautiful islands in the world, making it an excellent couples’ holiday destination. While it can be extra romantic to stove away on one of the country’s farflung, little visited islands, it can also be nice, especially for a first trip, to visit some of the more famous Greek Islands. If you’ve only got a week, than Santorini, Mykonos and Paros are an excellent pairing that bring together some of the best romantic places and romantic things to do in the Greek Islands. Get ready to be seduced by white-washed houses, blue-domed churches, flower laden laneways, turquoise waters and spectacular views below!
The Romantic Cycladic Islands
If it’s your first trip to Greece and you would like to visit some islands and are traveling through Athens (see our articles on the capital here), then than these three islands are a great combination. They are easy to get to and each provide you with a different experience of Greece. Ever romantic Santorini wows visitors with its soaring views, laid back Paros offers you a more authentic taste of Greece and Mykonos excels at relaxation and fun. Logistically speaking, these three islands have good ferry links year round to Athens and to each other. Alternatively, you can also fly directly in (or out) of Santorini and Mykonos making it easy to island hop and not necessarily go through or back to the capital city.
Santorini is often considered the most romantic Greek island thanks to its stunning location, beautifully-set restaurants and expansive views. A volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC scattered the island into sections and created its unique morphology. As such the island’s towns are dramatically clinging to its heights, an awe-inspiring position found little elsewhere in Greece or anywhere around the globe. However, its uniqueness has put it on the map and made the island quite crowded in high season. Nevertheless, if you can’t visit in May or September when it’s less busy, there are still ways in which to soak up its supreme romance!
Take a Magical Sunset Cruise
The best way to admire Santorini’s breathtaking setting is by the water (plus you escape the crowds!). If you arrive by ferry you’ll get your first glimpses of the island’s cliffs, yet you can enjoy its full breadth by taking a cruise with Cap’t Ted’s Santorini Sailing. The company has some of Santorini’s best cruise offerings as well as options for different budgets. We got to experience the semi-private sunset cruise on their Horizon boat. With a maximum of 18 passengers, the tour visits the Red and White Beaches on the south side of the island, the volcanic islands in the centre of the Caldera where you stop in a private bay for swimming and snorkelling. A copious meal, unlimited drinks and gorgeous sunset views are also included! A memorable and very romantic experience!
Enjoy the Views away from the Crowd
The island’s main town, Fira (also spelt Thera/Thira), has an abundance of idyllic restaurants and bars overlooking the bay. If you amble a little north and up the hill you can get even nicer views, and including Fira town and the cliffs while at the same time get away from the masses in town. Here you’ll find several cafés with clifftop terraces like Irini and Volkan on the Rocks, one of the island’s craft beer producers. Come late afternoon when you can savor the golden light and stay for the stunning sunsets.
Take a Romantic Hike
An alternative romantic thing to do in Santorini is the leisurely hike between Fira and Oia. If you get an early start, you’ll be able to beat the heat and arrive in Oia in time for lunch. A lovely pathway takes you past the seaside villages, churches, lookout points and simply stunning views the whole way. You don’t actually have to go the whole way, but if you do, you’ll definitely deserve a copious feast when you arrive in pretty Oia.
Dine in a Hidden Courtyard
Smaller than Fira, Oia is slightly less trodden and has a little more of a chic side. While it’s nice to eat at the restaurants along the cliff, you can have a better meal if you weave your way through the village’s laneways in search of Candouni. This friendly family-run establishment is located in a beautiful flower laden courtyard, providing both an alluring setting and excellent quality ingredients, including many from the family’s farm and olive grove.
Discover an Ancient City
History buffs won’t want to miss Akrotiri, an impressive archaeological site in the south of the island. One of the most important remains of the Minoan civilisation and dating back to the Bronze Age, the portuary settlement was destroyed by that tragic 16th-century BC volcanic eruption. The site is very well intact and features some frescoes and other clues into the culture of this pre-Greek people. It’s also not far from the Red Beach, which some people like to visit, although it’s has had some landslides in the past years so visit with caution!
Wander an Authentic Village
The south of the island is also home to the more authentic village of Pyrgos. Less visited the Fira and Oia, you can wander the village’s almost tourist-free alleyways, passing domed churches, picturesque corners and grazing donkeys. Climb up to the ruined medieval castle for the best views and discreet places for some smooching. When you need a break you’ll find severa top cute cafés around town.
Sample Santorini’s Wines
A surprising fact about Santorini is that the island produces its own wine and thus there are vineyards to visit as well as wine tasting experiences. There are some vineyards not far from Pyrgos, like popular SantoWines, the island’s wine cooperative which sports a large terrace where you can do tastings or the more offbeat Estate Argyros, opened in 1903. If you don’t have time to make it out to one of these, right in Fira you can do a unique tasting in the cellars of the garden restaurant of Pelican Kipos (ask when you arrive if there is a tasting that night or send them an email to set one up in advance).
Laid back Paros, with its whitewashed houses, narrow streets, colorful bougainvillea flowers and crystal blue waters, has managed to retain its authenticity and thus provides a good balance to visiting more touristy Santorini and Mykonos. In addition to its local charm, the island is a direct ferry-ride over from Athens and is on the ferry link between the Santorini and Mykonos. Here are our favorite romantic things to do in Paros.
Get Lost in Parikiá
Amble the tiny lanes of the main town Parikiá in the early morning, this is the perfect romantic time to explore the city. Climbing the hill in Parikiá in search of the remains of its 17th-century Venetian castle and the beautiful Agia Anna church which sits overlooking the bay.
Amble through Adorable Naoussa
Smaller than Parikiá, Naoussa is a lovely fishing village which is easily accessible by bus from the main town if you don’t have a car. You can meander through its lovely whitewashed lanes, before browsing the trendy little shops or having lunch in the picturesque port of Naoussa to the backdrop of gently rocking fishing boats.
Cuddle in a Rocky Nock on a Gorgeous Beach
From Naoussa you can take a little ferry boat over to Kolymbithres beach. This rare beach is set within curvaceous granite rock formations which face the most gorgeous turquoise waters. Come early to make sure you get a cool cubby hole within the rocks where you can snuggle with your sweetheart.
Head Inland to a Mountain Town
During your stay try to spend a morning in the mountain village of Lefkes. Once the capital of the island, it has pretty neoclassical buildings, cafés with stunning vistas over the valley and tiny laneways to have all to yourself with your sweetheart.
Journey over to Tiny Antiparos
Time permitting you may want to jump on the ferry to Paros’ sister island Antiparos. The smaller island has its own unique charms and has become increasingly chic with stars like Tom Hanks buying up villas on the island. You can wander the island, grab a drink or bite and hop back over to the main island. Or if you want a more excluded romantic holiday, consider staying on the island!
Indulge on a Fish Feast in Piso Livadi
If you seeking the freshest catches of the day, then make your way to the tiny fishing village of Piso Livadi, conveniently located on the way to popular Golden Beach. We recommend Halaris Fish Tavern where you may meet the friendly Manolis. Say you were recommended by us and he will take great care of you!
Dine on Local Specialities with a Stylish View
For a romantic splurge, enjoy a refined dinner at Seven Senses, the classy restaurant of the Calme Boutique Hotel. The menu strives to enliven all your senses with its modern Greek cuisine using herbs and vegetables from the hotel’s own garden. The restaurant also boasts a terrace with fabulous views.
Enjoy Sunset Cocktails in Parikiá
Parikiá has some great romantic bars located along the water south of the port. Bebop has a lovely romantic ambiance with a terrace on an upper level overlooking the bay – the perfect place to watch the sunset! Or you can simply pick up a bottle of local wine and snacks and find a private place on the nice beach found north of the fishing boats.
One of the most glamorous Greek islands, Mykonos is more known for its posh party scene than its romance, that said the island provides a varied array of activities that are well matched for romance. From lounging on great beaches to cuddling in cozy hangouts and from lunching at quaint tavernas to gazing at stunning sunsets, here are some romantic things to do in Mykonos. A note of caution, it’s a little trickier to get around Mykonos without a car (or other means of transportation), so you may want to consider renting one for your stay or at least for a day or two. Some of the below suggestions are accessible by public transportation, but not all.
Wander the backstreets of Mykonos Town
Like with popular tourist destinations, all it takes is veering off the main streets to discover more authentic local character and life. This is also true with Mykonos and the backstreets rising towards the hill are oozing with charm. You’ll even find some abandoned windmills with more more personality than the famous ones above Little Venice, there’s also a nice sunset from this lesser visited vantage point. Dusk is a lovely time, as is dawn, when you’ll have even the popular streets virtually to yourselves.
Relax on an Offbeat Beach
If you can make it to the north of the island, you’ll be treated to some excellent lesser-visited beaches. One of these is the Agios Sostis Beach, an expansive beach with no beach clubs and fewer beach-goers than many other beaches on the south coast. All you need is your beach towel and vendors will likely come by for snacks (and lunch can be enjoyed below).
Lunch at a Legendary Tavern
Agios Sostis Beach is also just below one of the island’s best eateries, Kikis tavern. A local institution, for decades they’ve been serving up wood-fire grilled fish, meat and vegetables along with creative fresh salads. They only do lunch and it’s popular, so try to come early. But don’t worry if you have to wait, the view is spectacular and they usually give out free glasses of wine for those waiting.
Have a Bite or Drink at a Hideaway Café
Mykonos does still have some secrets and if you’d like to relax at a chill café with a few of the sea and be away from pumping music or crowds, than make your way to Baba Houlakia. Located only four kilometers from bustling Mykonos Town, the boutique hotel and café feel a world away. It sits above the more local Agios Stefanos Beach, so you can come here for a swim then enjoy a light lunch or drink on their terrace overlooking the sea and the the properties own private chapel! It’s also on the way to the next stop. You can read more on staying at the hotel at the end of the section.
Admire an Spectacular 360° Panorama
A winding road takes you up, up and up to one of the highest points of the island and to the Armenistis Lighthouse. Built at the end of the 19th century, the lighthouse has one of the best views of Mykonos, the sparkling Aegean sea and the surrounding islands. Plus there are rarely too many people, so you can have a magical moment with your love and snap some great holiday memories.
Amble Archeological Ruins & Empty Beaches
If you really want to get away from the crowds on the main island than spend the day discovering some of the smaller nearby islands with Mykonos Cruises. The company offers a range of private and semi-private charter on a beautiful fleet of boats. We loved their full-day excursion to Delos and Rhenia islands. The itinerary first visits Delos, home to one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites. You then move on to an isolated bay on Rhenia, uninhabited island home to incredibly sublime beaches. After a nice lunch you can swim or be boated over to a secret beach where you can take in this splendid place with practically nobody around! It’s a true highlight of a trip to Mykonos!
Hang at a Chic Yet Chill Beach Club
Uber popular and party central Paradise Beach might not be the best ambiance for a romantic day at the beach on Mykonos. Instead, enjoy the comforts of a beach club combined with a relaxed cool vibe, great food and no crowds at Alemagou. Found on the north coast, lesser known Ftelia beach, the beach club has great thatched roof sunbeds for two, sofa lounge areas, an excellent restaurant and a funky shop. You don’t even have to head back to town early as the beats pick up at the end of the day with DJs getting your feet up dancing in the sand as the sun is setting in the distance.
Chic Drinks and Views in Little Venice
Little Venice, an attractive section of Mykonos Town lined with historic townhouses on a small bay against the sea, is a must for any visit to Mykonos. The area is actually super romantic in the late afternoon or in the evening when you admire the sunset or twinking night lights. Scarpa has a great terrace with loungy seating, Galleraki has a cool little second floor terrace overlooking the area or for a lively evening atmosphere, end your evening at stylish Caprice.
Where to Stay in Mykonos
There’s nothing romantic about crowds and so if you’re looking for a relaxed romantic getaway while still taking in the beauty of Mykonos, than Baba Houlakia could be the perfect option. Within easy reach of town and the airport, yet far removed from the mayhem found in many places on the island, this recently opened boutique hotel has eight rooms, including five suites, two double rooms and one duplex room. The interiors feature a chic yet mellow decor and excellent amenities. Some rooms have their own terrace or you can relax on the shady hammocks or sunning lounge chairs facing the sea. The hotel also has a cafe serving drinks and light meals and the water is steps away, so you don’t actually have to leave this peaceful oasis! Read more about this unique hideaway in my longer article here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and wish you a great romantic getaway to the Greek Isles! If you have any other suggestions, feel free to add them below! καλές διακοπές! Happy Holidays!
A special thank you to Zekya Ulmer for helping me with the research and for some of these photos as well as Banu and Stefanos for sharing some of the more secret sides of Mykonos!
Traveling via Athens?
If you are starting and ending your trip in Athens than you might be interested in our articles on the Greek capital:
- An Amazing Intro to Ancient Greece on the Alternative Athens Mythology Tour
- A Tasty Discovery of Greek Food with Athens Food on Foot
- A Luxury Stay with Stunning Views of Athens at the St-George Lycabettus Lifestyle Hotel
- The Coco-Mat Hotel: the Coolest & Most Comfortable Sleep in Athens