I’m traveling to Greece for the first time, and I’m so fortunate to be staying for about 9 weeks (peak season, unfortunately, I’m an educator and it’s summer!). I have ample time planned in Athens, and the Peloponnese (with rental car). Here’s where I need some help and suggestions. I have 5 weeks saved for the islands and I’m still trying to figure out how to spend them. I’m not sure if I’d like to cover just a few islands and soak them in a bit deeper with longer stays…or to travel at a quicker pace covering several islands in each main area (the Cyclades, Ionians, Crete-Rhodes Dodecanese, Eastern Islands) I’m an easy traveler and enjoy diversity. I crave spending time with locals and interacting with families – home stays at times, I enjoy the water and I’m an avid diver, I like hiking and exploring. Also, want to perhaps relax a bit – food/wine tasting welcomed). I’m excited about the trip and my ideas are racing all over. Do you have some ideas and suggestions to share? A rough sketch itinerary for Greece? Thanks so much!

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You’d have to check the schedule for your specific dates but I think Santorini then Milos then Paros then Naxos and Athens would probably be the best order. 3 days in each sounds great. Or a small tweak: 2 days in Milos and then 4 days in Santorini (splitting time between 2 of the 4 caldera towns) or even 4 days in Paros (splitting time between Naousa and Parikia).

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Yes, I would agree that 8 or 9 days is too long for Naxos – unless you’re happy sitting at the beach for several of those days. But if you’re looking to be semi-active and explore then you’d be best to add Paros and spend 4/5 days on each. Crete, on the other hand, would be perfect for an 8/9 day road trip. Start in Heraklion (where the ferry arrives from Santorini) head east and then south and finally ending up in the western town of Chania where you can fly up home from.
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Yes, I would agree that 8 or 9 days is too long for Naxos – unless you’re happy sitting at the beach for several of those days. But if you’re looking to be semi-active and explore then you’d be best to add Paros and spend 4/5 days on each. Crete, on the other hand, would be perfect for an 8/9 day road trip. Start in Heraklion (where the ferry arrives from Santorini) head east and then south and finally ending up in the western town of Chania where you can fly up home from.
The only ferry from Kusadasi to Greece goes to the Greek island of Samos. It’s a great island and certainly worth a few days. From Samos, there are usually direct ferries to Mykonos and Syros. These are very different islands that have a very different vibe – but both appealing in their own way. From Mykonos there will be direct flights to Western Europe (most likely Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, and London) though not every flight flies every day so requires some planning. Santorini would be another ferry ride from Mykonos. And Crete farther still. So you wouldn’t have time to get to either island.
Between Nydri and the next main tourism centre is the little port and beach of Mikros Gialos (small bay) that is a great little base for individual travellers for a day or three. The port village of Vasiliki on the southern underbelly of Lefkada is a haven for windsurfers: see this page or this one for more information. The little village is very pretty and is a good base for general holiday-making (as are the two other places). From Vasiliki there is a regular local ferry that runs to Fiskardo on Kefallonia (via Ithaca/Ithaki). 

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