We have ten days to spend on our own (Oct 2-12) between the end of our RS Greece tour and the beginning of our RS Turkey tour. It will be our first trip and I could use some suggestions for maybe 2-3 places and sights, especially islands. I believe that Hydra is the only island we'll see on the tour (primarily focused on mainland ancient sites). Primary interests are scenery/nature, historical sites, culture. Least favorites include nightlife, big cities, shopping. Active 70's couple. Thank you!
Will you have any time in Athens pre-tour? It's well worth another 2 days. The tour is somewhat strenuous, so you may enjoy a little R&R on Naxos, which has beautiful sandy beaches (which you won't see on the tour). If you get there in time you could take a one-day tour to Mikonos and Delos by ferry. The tours end around the beginning of October. There are also day tours to other parts of the island. I took one that went to a couple of historical sites, a couple villages, and artisans' workshops. Then it's a half-day ferry ride to Crete. Or you could spend the whole time on Crete, especially if you rent a car for part of the time. I loved 5 leisurely days in charming Chania and 2 nights in Heraklion, mostly for the archaeology museum and a visit to ancient Knossos ruins.
I went to Santorini between Naxos and Crete. It was too touristy and very crowded in mid October.
Chani...Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. This will give me a start of places to explore. I also appreciate your advice for extra days in Athens. I think we go a few days before the tour. Gads, I sure hope we can handle the strenuous part of the tour! We're pretty intrepid, but 70+-year olds have issues. The day tour you took was on which island? Did you do this from Athens? I'll check out your other recommendations as well. I'm currently finalizing an upcoming multi-week trek in northern Spain but I know I need to start nailing down places in Greece. Thanks!
The excursion Chani was referring to was from Naxos to Delos plus a few hours in Mykonos. There are two boats doing this excursion Alaxander and Naxos Star. There is no guide just transportation. You can wander the Delos site on your own but as I recall there were guided tours that you can join at the main gate. These Excursions can be purchased at any travel agent in Naxos town.
Here is what the excursion is like
Day trip to Delos and Mykonos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157637922138466
Thank you, Stan, for more info on the Delos/Mykonos trip. Your pictures are great and informative. Unfortunately, we won't get to Naxos until 2 Oct. It sounds like the boats stop running. Darn. I like island hopping that Chani proposed.
Many people recommend the town of Nafplio just about 2 hours from Athens easily reached by bus or car if you want to rent one.
While it's on the mainland you will have more than enough to keep you busy although 10 days may be more than needed but you will stay busy visiting areas near by.
It's Old Town is lovely albeit geared toward tourism but still definitely a good option.
There are numerous world class archeological and historic sites near by and close to some nice beaches.
Here's the best website for Nafplio filled with everything you need to know about the town and nearby areas:
If you want a more island adventure there are several you can combine especially in the Cyclades that are fairly close and not long of a ferry ride or a quick flight.
Combine Sifnos/Milos (two very pretty islands)
Naxos/Paros (two of the more Cyclades Islands)
Other options but more research on your part will be needed.
Ten extra days is wonderful, and gives you lots of options.
I agree with Tommy's suggestion of spending some time in Nafplio on the Peloponnese Peninsula. We spent 5 nights there last May and loved every minute. There are so many wonderful archaeological sites, such as the Byzantine ruins of Mystras (my favorite), Epidaurus, and Mycenae, and many more.
Since the only island you are visiting is Hydra, you might want to visit another island. So one option could be 5 nights in Nafplio and 5 nights on Naxos. Or you could add Santorini to the itinerary, too. So perhaps 3 nights in Nafplio, 4 nights on Naxos, and 3 nights on Santorini.
I haven't been to Crete but it's a large island with plenty to see and do so you call spend all 10 nights on Crete.
Thank you, Tommy and kmkwoo, for your thoughtful suggestions. We stay overnight in Nafplio 2 nights on the tour. I must do some more research...and quickly!
The tour is a fly-by through the Peloponnese, but I can see not wanting to overlap. I would do Crete myself, if you just do one island (it is a big one, no need to pair it with anything), but then I might be more willing to see Santorini in October, whereas I'd skip it in most other months. In that case, you could pair with Naxos.
There's always the mainland if you want to drive--Meteora, Mount Olympia, fly out of Thessaloniki. I think northern Greece would be a really interesting historical bridge between the Turkey and Greece tours, and there is no shortage of natural beauty anywhere in the country. You could do the Sporades if heading north.
Thank you, Valadelphia. It looks like Chani's advice might be good for Naxos and Crete. I'd like to see Santorini but Chani said it was touristy even in mid-October. We'd mostly be interested in the scenery.
Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands and there are numerous places that don't get lots of tourists so you should be able find some areas that are more "Greek" than touristy.
If you decide on Crete spend your entire remaining time there as it's filled with wonders from ancient all the way to "modern" times.
You'll have plenty of things to do, see and experience to fill all your time and still just scratch the surface of the island.
I know that Santorini is "touristy" and crowded but that's for a good reason. It is absolutely beautiful! And very unique with the small villages on the rim of the volcano overlooking the caldera. And white-washed buildings with blue domed roofs. Even with crowds, I personally think it is still worth visiting. We spent 3 nights there, and one day we rented a car to tour the island. We visited the Akrotiri archaeological site, the lighthouse, the red sand beach, and the black sand beach at Perissa. It was one of the best days of our trip. The caldera is stunning but the rest of the island is very interesting, too.
And I think October would be a good time to visit even though it is still crowded but certainly not as crowded as the summer months.
Obviously, you should do what interests you the most. I just wanted to add my 2 cents about Santorini. You will enjoy whatever you decide to do. There are no bad choices! All these places that we have mentioned are beautiful, interesting and well worth visiting.
Are you planning to return to Athens at the end of 10 days, and then fly to Istanbul? If you don't already have those tickets and are open to more of an adventure, you could visit a couple of Greek islands on your way to the Turkish coast. Several islands have regular ferries to Turkey (Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Rhodes) -- you'd have to check October schedules to make sure. Then make your way to Istanbul via plane or bus.
Hi kmkwoo...thank you so much for your two cents! We plan to spend a day and 2 nights there, crowds or not. We want to see at least a little bit!
Thanks for trying to add to our adventure, Charlene! We need to get to Istanbul in time for our next Rick Steves tour. I don't think we have much more time to wander, despite wishing we could do so!
You will have a wonderful time in Greece! I would recommend visiting Santorini and Naxos. Santorini is amazingly beautiful- be sure to stay in a place where you will have direct caldera views. Perhaps include Paros as well. Blue Star ferries easily connect these three wonderful islands. Nice to stay within the Cycladic island group.
Hello kernk, Thank you for you post and suggestions. As a matter of fact, we are staying on Naxos for 5 nights, Santorini for 2 nights and Crete for 6 nights. Everyone was very helpful as I was very confused at where to start. I was able to quickly narrow things down.
Sounds wonderful! Happy planning!
Good plan, Kay. Be sure to build in some down time. You'll want to slow your pace after the first tour, and get some rest before the second. A car would be a good idea in Crete, especially for rural areas, but you'll want to see the museum in Heraklion, and I understand that Chania is a wonderful city (haven't been myself).
Thank you, Dick, from my hometown. After the tour, we've planned 5 nights on Naxos, 2 nights on Santorini, 1 night Heraklion, 5 nights Chania. We'll have a car in Crete. To date, our self-guided travels mean that each day is very full. Checking those boxes, you know! I hope that Naxos will be a little bit restful!
It looks like you have planned a great itinerary! We did the Greece tour last April and then spent 4 nights in Mykonos and 4 nights in Santorini after. While I wouldn’t recommend Mykonos ( my friend really wanted to go there), I would even recommend 3 nights in Santorini. We rented a car for one day and drive around the island to go to Akrotiri, check out the different beaches and then early dinner at Metaxi Mas before watching the sunset in Pyrgos. You will definitely want some downtime in between both tours. Both are very strenuous and you will want time to rest in between. We actually had a spa day in Mykonos and got massages, it was wonderful!
Thanks for your thoughts, Claudette. I would have liked to spend more nights on Santorini but we needed the time on Crete. I'm beginning to get rather nervous about the Greece and Turkey tours. While I think we can handle them, it's a little unnerving to think of how strenuous they might be! Fingers crossed!
You have a very good plan! Two nights on Santorini is enough. We spent two weeks in Chania and I know you will be happy with this choice too.
You will return to Greece and then you can visit beautiful Napflion. My Greek friends told us Chania and Napflion are the two most beautiful cities in Greece.
I have never seen so many so many awesome
sites as in Greece! Enjoy your time time. Your travel dates are perfect.