I’m going to start out this post by attempting to answer a question I’ve been asked countless times since returning home from Greece.
Which vacation was better? The Amalfi Coast or the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos?
Both are D R E A M travel destinations and considered two of the most beautiful places in the world. Folks aren’t lying when they rave about the breathtaking views in Positano and the charming whitewashed towns perched atop Santorini’s famous cliffs. Oh and don’t get me started on the food… If you’re able to travel to either place you should consider yourself very lucky!
Don’t hate me for this answer, but you truly can’t go wrong with one or the other. I had an amazing time on my trips to the Amalfi Coast and Greece. I would return to both in a heartbeat and do the same itineraries all over again!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way… I’m going to attempt to compare and contrast two perfect travel destinations. While the Amalfi Coast and Greek islands are beyond magical and sure to give you memories that will last a lifetime, both have some differences that are worth pointing out. If you’re trying to decide where to visit (for real tho– you can’t go wrong with either one!) I hope this will help make your decision easier.
PS I visited both during the same timeframe (May 23-June 3) over back-to-back years. Italy in 2018 and Greece in 2019!
Highlights | Amalfi Coast, Italy
+ Incredible clifftop and town views. The views in Positano will literally take your breath away. It’s the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been. The views in town of Oia, Santorini are very similar, but if I haddddddd to choose I’d say I was more in awe by the views of the Amalfi Coast. This very well could be because I visited the Amalfi Coast before visiting Greece. Maybe if the trips had been flip flopped I’d be saying Santorini? The Amalfi Coast is definitely way may colorful and lush. In Greece the land is a bit more dry! There’s not as much green and the towns are whitewashed. Still gorgeous, but just different from the pastels and lemon trees you’ll see everywhere in Italy.
+ Very romantic. The Amalfi Coast is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations for a reason! It’s so romantic and charming. The cobblestone streets and cozy restaurants– ahh it’s like a movie!
+ Delicious food (Italian + seafood). I personally prefer Italian food so I’ll admit that I liked the food better on our Amalfi Coast trip. I could eat pasta and pizza everyday for the rest of my life and be happy! Every meal we had here was amazing.
+ Lots of options for excursions (boats, wine tours, cute towns, Pompeii, hiking) There’s so much to do on the Amalfi Coast! You could spend one day taking a boat tour out to Capri, the next hopping from winery to winery and the following exploring town and shopping. The historic ruins of Pompeii aren’t too far away and there’s also an amazing hike called the “Path of the Gods’ that connects all the towns of the coast.
+ Each Amalfi Coast town has it’s own unique traits. There is so much more to the Amalfi Coast than Positano! You could spend one day exploring Ravello, another exploring Amalfi, Praiano or Sorrento and a third on the island of Capri! It’s very easy to get from one town to the next, whereas in Greece you have to take a ferry or even switch hotels to experience a different vibe.
+ High-end shopping + luxury atmosphere. The Amalfi Coast definitely has a distinct air of exclusivity. The towns just ooze sophistication and beauty. It’s hard to describe, but I remember feeling really special and blessed to just physically be there. There were many moments where I had to stop and take it all in!
+ Can fly there direct from the U.S. (Naples or Rome airport). It’s not as difficult as you may think to get to the Amalfi Coast. Coming from the U.S. you can fly directly to Naples or Rome and from there take a train to either Salerno or Sorrento.
Highlights | Santorini & Mykonos, Greece
+ Gorgeous sunsets. Just imagine an artist taking every shade of orange, pink, yellow, red and purple and brushing them across the sky. We were treated to the most beautiful colors at sunset every single night in Greece! It was a feast for the eyes and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
+ Incredible clifftop views over the Caldera (Santorini). Similar to the Amalfi Coast, Santorini is also known for gorgeous cliffside towns that look out across sparkling turquoise water below. Oia is like a whitewashed version of Positano, except dotted with its famous blue domes.
+ Romantic atmosphere (Santorini). Looking for rest, relaxation and romance? Santorini is the perfect place for couples and very popular for honeymooners. The charming towns are perfect for wandering and it doesn’t get more romantic than a candlelit dinner at sunset with a view.
+ More hotel options. Finding a hotel that fit our budget and preferences was 10x easier to do in Greece compared to our Amalfi Coast trip. We noticed that Mykonos and Santorini had a larger range of both affordable and luxury hotels to choose from and the accommodations were much larger. Our Amalfi Coast hotel was significantly most expensive than the hotels we stayed at in Santorini, yet our room was much smaller and didn’t include amenities like a private plunge pool and terrace like we had in Greece.
+ Delicious food (Mediterranean + seafood). If you love souvlaki, feta cheese and fresh fish you’ll be in heaven in Greece! We ate so much delicious seafood and drank a lot of local wine on this trip!
+ Easier to enjoy on a budget. Overall I’d say that the Greek islands are easier to do on a budget, simply because there are more options for hotels and restaurants. Don’t get me wrong– we did spend a pretty penny at a few meals and there were restaurants with expensive prices, but it wasn’t like Positano where every bill and hotel invoice felt like a gut punch. I remember actually feeling relieved that it was cloudy and had been raining the day we were supposed to take a sunset boat tour in Positano (we were able to cancel for a refund) because at that point I was starting to get scared to look at my credit card bill LOL.
+ Lots of options for excursions (boats, wine tours, ATV rentals, hiking). Looking for a vacation that combines sun and sand with adventure? Greece is perfect because there are a lot of options to get out and explore. Santorini is the best place to take a day boat tour (high recommend!) and there are a few different cute towns with their own unique charm that you can explore. Renting ATVs and getting around on your own is very popular in Santorini! In Mykonos there’s lots to do as well. You can rent a car and explore the island’s countless beaches or spend the day wandering around the adorable lanes of Little Venice getting your shop on.
+ Stunning beaches + beach clubs (Mykonos). If you’re a beach person and prefer to spend your vacations laying out on the sand while being served cocktails, then Mykonos is the place for you. I talked all about the island’s famous beach clubs in my guide! Basically what you do is rent your own chair or cabana for the day and indulge in all the sun, sand, food and drinks. There are many clubs in Mykonos each with a different vibe and aesthetic! All serve food and drinks– some even host parties with famous singers and DJs!
+ Great shopping (Mykonos). I’m normally not one to shop on vacation, but I couldn’t resist in Mykonos! There was an incredible mix of home decor, clothing, shoe and jewelry stores. Many designer brands had a presence (Gucci, Rolex, etc.) but there were also so many unique boutiques and cute shops with handmade items!
+ Nightlife is big. There’s a big party scene in Mykonos! You can indulge or as much or as little of this as you want. A few of the beach clubs are known for having a party scene both during the day and at night, plus there are bars and clubs that stay open late in town!
+ Relaxed and laid back bohemian vibes (Mykonos). The vibes were so chill and cool in Mykonos! Almost a little hipster. From the decor of the restaurants to the way local dresses– the atmosphere was very free-spirited!
+ Very easy to get around in a rental vehicle (Mykonos). Unlike the Amalfi Coast, it’s very easy to rent a car on the Greek islands. We had one for the entire time we were in Mykonos and it was the best decision! You drive on the same side of the road as in the U.S. and there was parking everywhere.
Things To Consider | Amalfi Coast, Italy
+ Very expensive. There’s really no sugarcoating it. The Amalfi Coast is hands down no joke the most expensive place I’ve ever been in my entire life. I didn’t think I could be shocked by prices after 6+ years living in overpriced Manhattan, but there were many moments in Positano where my jaw dropped looking at our bill. It was common to see drinks priced over 20 Euros and I don’t think we paid under 150 Euros for a dinner for two in Positano. Want to hire a taxi? A 10 minute one way drive will cost you 30 Euros. It was totally worth it though!
+ Not as many hotel options. And they’re crazy expensive! Even the non-luxury 2-3 star accommodations are pricey compared to other similar destinations.
+ It can feel very congested when crowded, especially in Positano. The towns of the Amalfi Coast are quite small and can feel even smaller when exploring the areas where most of the hotels, shops and restaurants are concentrated.
+ Lots of hills and stairs. Get ready for a workout! The towns of the Amalfi Coast are built into the tall cliffs so be prepared to do a lot of walking up and down hills and stairs. Most towns only have a few roads that are open to cars! When our hotel shuttle would drop us off in Positano it would be on the main road towards the edge of town and from there we’d have to walk at least 5-15 minutes to get to whatever restaurant, bar, shop or beach we were heading.
+ Roads are incredibly narrow and renting a car is not advised. Many travel guides and hotels will discourage you from renting a vehicle because the roads are just so tricky. There’s really only one road that runs along the coastline (literally right on the cliffside) but it’s one lane on each side and sooooo curvy. It’s not impossible to rent a car or vehicle. We saw people that had cars, but parking is tricky and you can run into traffic.
+ Beaches in the Amalfi Coast aren’t like what we think of in the U.S. Many are small rock beaches nestled into tall cliffs or are man-made cement platforms built out into the sea. You aren’t going to find wide sprawling tan sandy beaches here!
+ The vibes and decor are very traditional and “old world.” I wouldn’t consider this a negative at all– it honestly adds to the charm, but if you’re looking for a destination where the hotels and restaurants have a chic and contemporary aesthetic the Amalfi Coast probably isn’t the best place to visit. Many of the restaurants were very cozy (like you’re sitting right up against another couple.)
+ Very American and Asian tourist heavy + mostly honeymooners. This was definitely a plus in terms of communication (everyone spoke English,) but we were always very aware that we were tourists. The only time we encountered actual Italians vacationing was when we went to not-as-well-known Ischia! Also literally EVERYONE was on their honeymoon. It makes sense because the Amalfi Coast is probably the most romantic beautiful place on Earth, but expect to see couples everywhere! We didn’t notice many groups of friends or families during our time in Positano/Praiano/Ravello, however in Mykonos and Santorini the crowd was mixed and seemed a little more kid and baby-friendly.
Things To Consider | Santorini and Mykonos
+ You can’t fly there direct from the U.S. To get to the Greek islands from the states you’ll have to take at least two to three flights. You can read more about what airline and routine we took in my Santorini Travel Guide here.
+ Vibes aren’t as ultra-exclusive/luxury. While everywhere on the Amalfi Coast just oozed sophistication and luxury, the vibes in both Santorini and Mykonos were a little more laid back and casual. For example, it was very common to see gals wearing a cocktail dress, heels and holding a designer bag at dinner in Positano. In Mykonos and Santorini? Folks weren’t as label-heavy and I didn’t feel the same pressure I felt in Italy to dress up. This aspect definitely isn’t a negative! I think it all depends on what you’re looking for in a trip. If you’re planning a one-in-a-lifetime honeymoon maybe you’d rather opt for the fancier location? But if you want to just lay in the sun all day and throw on flats for dinner, then the casual vibes might be right up your alley.
+ Cruise ship crowds. The towns of Oia and Thira in Santorini and Mykonos Town get crazy crowded at certain points of the day when there’s a cruise ship docked at the port. There was at least one to two every single day when we were in both Santorini and Mykonos. When travelers would get off the boat to come to the island for excursions the towns would get mobbed and feel similar to walking in Times Square. I’m used to this because of where I live (thanks NYC) so it didn’t take away from my experience, but I could see how it would frustrate folks staying on the island and hoping to explore in a calm environment. PS I don’t remember seeing a single cruise ship in Positano! I think since the ports are smaller, it’s much harder for larger ships to dock…
+ You don’t always feel like you’re in Greece. One thing I loved about the Amalfi Coast is despite the tourist crowds, I always knew I was in Italy. Greece was extraordinary, but there were some moments (especially in Mykonos) where I felt like I could’ve been on any beautiful sunny island in the world.
+ To get a full experience you’ll want to visit more than one island. You can see more about the differences between Santorini and Mykonos in my travel guide here. Both are quite difference and have unique things to offer! Santorini is perfect if you’re looking for gorgeous views and to experience the water on a boat. Mykonos is all about beaches and has more options for restaurants and shopping!
+ Popular destination for families and young people, not just honeymooners. Again, this isn’t necessarily a downside depending on what you’re looking for in a trip. Santorini was definitely more honeymooner-heavy, but in Mykonos the crowd was so mixed! We saw group of friends, families and couples.
Oye. I know that was a lot, but I think there are three main points your decision is going to come down to.
Greece wins for being more budget-friendly. We spent significantly less in Greece than we did in the Amalfi Coast.
Your Travel Companion(s)
If I was planning my honeymoon I would choose the Amalfi Coast over Greece. The vibes were ultra romantic and everything just felt so…. Special? Dreamy? Magical? Not to say Santorini or Mykonos didn’t have this too, but there was just something about the Amalfi Coast that just took my breath away.
Traveling with friends or planning a family trip? I think Greece would make more sense. It wasn’t so honeymooner-heavy and I felt like there were more options for group activities.
How you want to spend most of your time
If you want to spend your trip in your swimsuit laying in the sun then head to Greece. The hotels in Santorini all have gorgeous pools with views and taking a boat tour is a very popular excursion (and easy to do on a budget if you join a semi-private tour.) The small rocky beaches on the Amalfi Coast pale in comparison to the gorgeous sandy shores of Mykonos.
I personally felt more motivation to get out and explore on our Amalfi Coast trip. We really didn’t spend a lot of time relaxing because we just felt like there was so much to do and see and eat.
^^ Don’t forget to pin this for later reference!
Want to read more about my trips? All of my travel guides are linked below!
Amalfi Coast 7 Day Itinerary
Positano Restaurant Recommendations
Positano Bar + View Recommendations
Ravello + Amalfi Day Trip
Ischia Travel Guide
Santorini Travel Guide
Mykonos Travel Guide