Adventure awaits on this thrilling itinerary through the Cyclades. Spend just over a week exploring Naxos and Ios by hiking through the hills, diving in the sea, and paddling over the Aegean waves to secluded beaches. Top it all off with an exciting bike ride in and around Athens, where you'll see all the sights.

Highlights

  • Hike to ancient sites in Naxos
  • Scuba dive off of Naxos
  • Canoe across Mylopotas Bay
  • Take a sunset bike ride around Athens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner Athens
Day 2 Ferry to Naxos Naxos
Day 3 Ancient Naxos Guided Hike Naxos
Day 4 Scuba Diving in Naxos Naxos
Day 5 Ferry to Ios Ios
Day 6 Canoe Trip in Mylopotas Bay Ios
Day 7 Return to Athens, Afternoon Bike Ride Athens
Day 8 Depart Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

In the evening, you'll sit down to enjoy either a welcome dinner with views of the Acropolis or wine tasting in a bar in downtown Athens.

Day 2: Ferry to Naxos

Looking back from the Portara
Looking back from the Portara

Time to ferry over to bustling Naxos after breakfast. With an active main town where you can shop and admire the Venetian architecture, a historic Kastro (castle) area, and expansive beaches, the island offers opportunities for both laidback relaxation, as well as water or land activities. The rest of the day is yours to unwind as you choose. Try out some of these options:

  • Hike up to the summit of Mount Zas, the mythological childhood home of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, and the highest point in the Cyclades.
  • Head inland to the town of Chalki, home to the island's oldest market and a petite, shady square perfect for whiling away the afternoon. Stop at the kitron distillery to sample the local liqueur and learn about its distillation process over the years.
  • Visit the Temple of Demeter at Sangri on your way. Multiple deities of fertility were worshipped here, particularly the goddess Demeter. The temple was constructed in 530 BC, during the tyranny of Lygdamis, and represents a precursor of classical Athenian architecture. 
  • Stroll to the Portara, the entrance to the Temple of Apollo. Construction on the temple began in the sixth century BCE but was never finished, but the still-standing entranceway has become one of the hallmarks of the island. You can find it on the islet of Palatia, just over a causeway from the heart of Naxos Town (Chora).

For dinner, wander up the hill through the streets of the Kastro neighborhood to pick out your favorite of the area's tavernas, where you can sample the island's fresh produce in its best forms.

Day 3: Ancient Naxos Guided Hike

Kouros in the shade
Kouros in the shade

After breakfast, head to the village of Myli, where you'll pick up an old footpath that leads to the island's ancient aqueduct. Hike up to the nearby quarry, where you'll find two large kouros, unfinished statues of ancient Greek gods, lying on the ground. Originally intended to hold up a temple roof, these giant statues were abandoned by their ancient sculptors when they discovered faults in the marble, but they're no less impressive for that today.

Pass the statues along with olive groves, orchards, and a shady riverside. You'll visit the Catholic church of Theoskepasti, also known as Agios Mamas, the island's oldest chapel, along with Episkopi, the summer residence of the Catholic archbishop, on this 2.5-hour guided hike.

Stop in Mesi Potamia on your way back to town to take a break at a taverna under the trees on the river bank. Spend your afternoon exploring the town along with its neighboring riverside settlements at Ano Potamia and Kato Potamia, connected by a walking path, or return to town for a well-deserved beach break.

Day 4: Scuba Diving in Naxos

Explore underwater
Explore underwater

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to breathe underwater? If you want to find out but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into a certification course, try it out in Naxos. You'll learn the basics of diving under the direct supervision of a PADI-certified professional, including what the equipment feels like in the water and underwater breathing.

After your lesson, you'll get to try out the real thing! There are several dive sites around Naxos available for your exploration depending on your preferences and the weather on the day. Most of them are roughly 30-60 minutes from the base, and include small rocky islands, reefs, and caves.

Or, if you're already a certified diver, join your guide and spend the day taking the plunge at some of the best dive sites around Naxos.

In the afternoon, enjoy the sea from the surface at St. George beach, a Blue Flag beach and one of the most popular on Naxos. Its location is protected from the winds, making its warm, shallow water perfect for families or anyone in search of a laidback sun bath.

Day 5: Ferry to Ios

The port at Ios
The port at Ios

Your next island awaits after breakfast! Ferry over to Ios, where lazy afternoons on the beach ease into a booming nighttime scene, with nightlife venues to suit your every possible interest. 

Mylopotas beach is the most popular choice for daytime, with its proximity to town and plentiful facilities. If you're in search of solitude, head out to the farther Manganari beach, a secluded, shallow bay known as one of the most scenic beaches on the island with its dark golden sands. 

In the evenings, don't miss Far Out Village at the far end of Mylopotas, a four-part beach club, campground, hotel, and spa, and one of the biggest hotspots on the island. It's the perfect place to meet some new friends and see where the evening goes.

Day 6: Canoe Trip in Mylopotas Bay

Paddle over the surf
Paddle over the surf

Set out across the surf in Mylopotas Bay. This half-day canoe trip departs from Mylopotas beach and will take you out to a cove and flat rocks perfect for catching some sun as you make your way across the waters of the bay. Enjoy a barbecue lunch that you can choose to share with the local moray eel and try out scuba diving with a trained instructor, or stick to swimming and snorkeling.

From there, paddle out to Kolistani beach, which is only accessible by sea. You'll have plenty of time to continue your frolicking on its sands before you paddle back.

Day 7: Return to Athens, Afternoon Bike Ride

Ride along shaded streets
Ride along shaded streets

Return to Athens in the morning.

Greet the city with a bike ride accessible to riders of all levels. You'll wheel past many of the highlights of the city over the course of three hours, complete with a coffee break at a cafe and ideal golden hour lighting for the perfect snapshot.

Your guide will tell you about all the spots you pass, starting with a spin through the National Gardens and a stop to watch the famous changing of the guards at the Parliament. You'll pass the Panathenaic Stadium and Zappeion exhibition hall next, followed by the Greek and Roman agora and ancient cemetery of Keramikos. The new Acropolis museum is along the route as well, accompanied by views of the Parthenon, Plaka neighborhood, and Cycladic architecture of Anafiotika.

You may have to walk your bike at some points, but it's all accompanied by insider tips on the best spots to eat and drink in Athens and plenty of breaks to take in the views.

Day 8: Depart Athens

Wave to the city
Wave to the city

Time to say farewell to Greece. Enjoy your final Athenian breakfast and sneak in some last-minute exploring before your transfer to the airport.

Map

Map of Active Cyclades: Naxos & Ios - 8 Days
Map of Active Cyclades: Naxos & Ios - 8 Days