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13 days in Greece - Itinerary advice

Hello all, first time in Greece. My travel partner and I will be coming on flights from different countries and meeting at the airport in Athens. Will be in Greece 7 - 19 October. Although the recommendations are to go to the islands first, she prefers to save that for the end. Priorities are Athens, Meteora, Peloponnese, and Santorini. Here is a rough outline of an itinerary. Athens - 2 nights, rent car and start driving, Nafplio - 1 night, Monemvasia - 1 night, Olympia - 1 night, Zakynthos - 2 nights, Delphi - 1 night, Meteora - 2 nights, return to Athens, drop off rental, and fly to Santorini - 2 nights, return to Athens and fly out on the 19th. Interested more in outdoor activities (such as hiking) than being indoors. Will this plan work, or should we "thin out" the itinerary?

Posted by
1957 posts

Generally speaking, your itinerary consists above all of seeing the maximum amount of things in the minimum amount of time. In the Peloponnese this will lead you to get up very early in the morning, to spend a large part of your days driving and will leave you very little time for outdoor activities or visits, and certainly not enough time for hiking.

Travel times by car in the Peloponnese are much longer than those given by navigation applications like Google Maps, without taking into account the landscapes or villages on the route which will make you want to stop for an hour or two, and also because you'll need time for lunch.

The advice to save Athens for the end of the trip concerns mainly people who want to start their trip on an island.

In your case you could spend one first night in Athens and go to Nafplio the next day
Keep the 2nd night in Athens at the end of your stay when you return from Santorini, this will give you a safety margin to take your return flight home.

So in my opinion, if the goal of your stay is to check boxes and be able to say "I did it" it's possible, but if you really want to enjoy your vacation you will have to remove one or two places.

I would remove the Meteors and Zakynthos

Ideally you should spend 2 nights in Nafplio if you want to see the city and visit Mycena and Epidaurus

As an alternative to Zakynthos, after Monemvasia, you could go to Kythira island, an authentic island preserved from mass tourism (and a superb island for hiking), and stay there for 3 nights

Kythira island can be reached from Neapoli or only from Gythio on Wednesdays.

We stayed there almost a week last spring.

If you are going to an island you will need to ask the car rental company if you can take the ferry with the car. Most accept it, some charge an additional insurance fee.

Posted by
1172 posts

I also agree you are trying to do to much in the time you have.

1 night in each location isn't really recommended as you'll waste time getting from one location to another so if you are lucky you might have 1/2 day in each location.

The Peloponnese is a spectacular part of Greece that most people overlook.

It would take weeks to fully explore but 10 days there and 3 in Athens it would give you a wonderful experience of the Peloponnese.

Another option is 3 days in Athens and the rest split between 2 islands that are on the same ferry run.

You need to do more research to see what's involved with getting from one location to another and trim down your number of locations.

I know you want to do and see as much as possible but you don't want to waste time traveling and ruin the amount of time on where you are.

Quality is more important than quantity.

Posted by
4 posts

Like a subsequent poster stated, I have never struggled so much to come up with an itinerary! After reading four guidebooks, endless blogs online, and an assortment of YouTube videos, my list of places we wanted to see kept growing. But the reality is that it is unrealistic to try to cram in a lot of sites in a limited period of time. As was mentioned, "Quality over quantity.'

I appreciate all of the thoughtful, honest critiques of my initial itinerary. Having taken all of your comments into consideration, I have decided to cut out Monemvasia and Zakynthos, possibly even Santorini. What I have now is an 11-day itinerary (out of the 13 days we have) that covers Nafplio, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, and Athens. That will give us some flexibility to pursue other locations that catch our attention along the way.

Posted by
1172 posts

As a an alternative to Olympia you might want to consider Messini which is a remarkable and less known site than Olympia.

It's easier to reach from Nafplio, closer and less travel time.

I haven't been to Olympia so can't compare them but from most people who have been to both all consider Messini superior as it's less commercialized, less touristed and in a beautiful, rural area.

Many of the original structures are still standing, it's well laid out, good signage, neat and with on-going work.

I was there last fall and it is indeed one of the best archeological sites I've been to in Greece.

Do some research on it and it may convince you this would be a better option.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for that suggestion! I’ll check out Messini. Overall, the thought of less-touristy sounds appealing.

Posted by
1172 posts

You can check out my photos of my trip to the Peloponnese including Messini.

It's a little more than half way down. Click on a photo to get a caption.

I think you'll agree that Messini is a spectacular site and I highly recommend going!

Posted by
993 posts

Nafplio, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, and Athens, is a good itinerary. 5 places in 13 nights of travel on the mainland will work. I stayed in 5 places too, although a different 5 places. I didn't make time for Olympia but it looks more appealing than Messini. Messini was not a site of ancient olympics. I spent 3 nights in Nafplio. Although if you are skipping most of the museums maybe you only need 1 or 2 nighs. In Nafplio be sure to make time to climb up to the Palamidi Venetian fortress. It was well worth it. The archaeology in Nafplio museum with the Dendra Panoply was worthwhile too.

Posted by
211 posts

With all due respect, I can't like this.

There are many long drives followed by short stays at complex and fascinating places.

Take your medicine. Frankly, myself, seeing your preferences above, I would cut out Santorini. It is by far the most distant geographical outlier and you can trim multiple flights. After visiting Greece, you will certainly endeavor to return and you can visit Santorini when it is more convenient.

Further, two nights on Zakynthos is really one full day. Which is great but then you're back on the ferry the next day.

If you must go to an island, I would consider changing to Lefkada because you can drive onto it. Magnificent beaches; some of the most scenic in the world.

I would make a few changes. This is just me, but I have vast experience going to all of these places. I would go directly to Nafplio, via Corinth, 2 nights (minimum - consider three; you'll be back and you need time for Mycenae and Epidaurus, maybe Argos), Monemvasia, via Mystras, 2 nights, Olympia (long drive; you'll arrive in the afternoon, visit ancient site) 1 night, Drive to Lefkada (mind you, again, a 4-hour drive - consider cutting off a portion of that after visiting Ancient Olympia, like Patras or Nafpaktos) At least 2 nights. Meteora 2 nights, Delphi 1 night, Athens 2 nights.

Well, that's 13 nights, so you night need to trim somewhere. Either way, you are looking at a lot of driving.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks all, for your constructive criticism and worthwhile suggestions! It has really helped me to trim the list of places so that we can enjoy more time in each place with less time spent driving. After taking into account the comments shared from all of you who are more knowledgeable and experienced with Greece travel, I believe that I have a more sensible plan: 2 nights in Athens, 2 nights in Nafplio, 2 nights left open for flexibility, 2 nights in Kalabaka (Meteora), 3 nights in Santorini, and 1 night back in Athens. Perhaps this "taste of Greece" will whet our appetite for future visits with more focus on specific destinations.

Posted by
2557 posts

If you are going to go to Santorini, start there. Fly there your first day and spend 3 nights. Fly back and rent a car to drive to Nafplio. Spend 3 nights in Naplio. Then go to Delphi for one night and then Meteora for 2. Then back to Athens. You then can spend three nights together in Athens which is much more efficient.

Posted by
3335 posts

From my experience (13 trips to greece, 9 of them with newcomers along, and advising hundreds of newbie visitors with less than 2 weeks to spend), I agree that Beth's itinerary recommendation is the most do-able. Less is more, really.

• ZAKYNTHOS - A common "wish-list" based on an internet photo of "shipwreck beach" -- overpromoted, overcrowded, NOT white sand but pointy rocks, now CLOSED as unsafe And getting there will eat up precious days.
• NAFPLIO/PELOPONNESE - Much wiser 3 nights Nafplio with day-ventures...this area is Epicenter of top Classical sites - Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nemea (amazing "Sacred Games" site right off highway!) TIryns (a wow! just outside town). Olympia is tooo far for your short stay.
•  SANTORINI 1st vs Last - I think you need to reason w your partner -- its a BIG time-waster to stay in Athens 2x ... an hour+ just to get into central Ath, & an hour back -- TWICE?.. and you don't have time to waste a single hour. also car rental easiest when u r alreay at airport. Also if u arrive Greece on a Fr or Sat & zip to Santorini, the weekends have fewest cruise ships with their annoying crowds.

Posted by
1652 posts

Last year (May 2022) I planned an awesome trip to Greece with Janet's help. I agree with Janet that Beth's itinerary is the best, the most doable and the most enjoyable. Less is always more! With your current itinerary, you will be spending way too much time in cars and planes.

Also want to add that although Santorini is "touristy" and crowded, it is awesome. The views of the caldera are stunning and so unique. We spent 3 nights there which was perfect for us. You can rent a car for a day to explore the rest of the island. If you really want to see Santorini, you should. It's worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. And hopefully in October the crowds won't be too bad.