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14 day itinerary suggestions--first timers 4 women in 50s

HI Gang!
My girlfriends and I are planning a 14-day trip to Greece in September 2024. We would like to create a trip where we visit the "off the beaten path" areas of Greece--so not Santorini or other popular tourist areas. We will have or can get a rental car, and prefer vacation rentals vs hotels. We like outdoor activities, cultural events, and sites and learning about the culture, eating, drinking, and hanging with the locals. We like to be active like exploring, hiking, etc., but also enjoy some relaxing time at the beach or in quiet areas.

Our plan is to arrive and leave from Athens, but also open to other suggestions.

Would welcome any and all suggestions!
Thank you in advance.

Posted by
4567 posts

You are in for such a treat! I would either explore the Peloponnese, or head north. My first trip was a loop through the Peloponnese (recommend the Bradt Guide for both regions)--Nafplio, Kardamyli, and Stemnitsa, finishing in Athens. My trip was only ten days, and with fourteen I would have ventured further south in the Mani or made my way to the west coast. Great hiking in Kardamyli and Stemnitsa areas. Tons of ancient sites of course. Gobsmacking scenery and great drives. Even though there are so many top sights in this region, we sometimes had them to ourselves (this was in May, September may be similar).
The follow-up trip that I immediately planned but have not taken yet (thanks pandemic) was to fly into Thessaliniki, do a loop to the south to take in the Pelion peninsula and then up to Meteora, maybe Mt Olympos. Vergina looks interesting.
The first one is truly power packed and I did not find it "over-touristed" even in Kardamyli, but the north might be more what you are looking for. Greece's mainland seems underappreciated. You really can't go wrong.

Posted by
7 posts

I can confirm -- Vergina is incredible. My wife and I visited Greece in 2021 and road-tripped around most of the country and went to most of the major archaeological sites and museums, and The Archaeological Site of Aigai in Vergina was probably the most awe-inspiring stop on the trip (at least in terms of historical value). It was so beautiful and humbling, and so special to see the tombs still in their original places, and all of the artifacts on site were found there as well. Highly recommend. We practically had the place to ourselves in late September. In fact, other than Athens, most of our trip was devoid of crowds in late September/early October.

Given how much of an impact the ancient Greeks have had on modern society, I think it's worth seeing as many of the major sites as you can -- I absolutely loved soaking up the history and art at Delphi, Ancient Olympia, The Acropolis Museum, etc! But you really can't go wrong with any part of Greece. We adored our time there, including the major touristy sites and cities.

A couple of our other favorite, less busy stops were:
Metsovo - a beautiful mountain town with a different feel from a lot of other parts of Greece, and has a bit of a unique wine history.
Epidavros - the most amazing ancient amphitheater with unbelievable acoustics, and it's enormous!
Nafplion - beautiful, coastal town with stunning old-town architecture and forts/castles. We were also here when a travelling market came through, which was so cool!

Posted by
4567 posts

Sounds like I should keep Vergina on my short list if we make it to the north next year! I'll add Metsovo too. Feel free to add any others.

Posted by
1388 posts

Great suggestions, the Peloponnese is magnificent. You might want to consider a trip North to visit Meteora. Not so ancient but the Monasteries in the mountains are stunning.
Don't miss the opportunity to sleep inside the walls of a fortified village at Monevassia.

Here are some images of the Peloponnese and Meteora to give you an idea of what it is like.
Delphi and Meteora

Corinth Area.
Peloponnese, Mani and Monemvassia.
Peloponnese Battle Castles

Posted by
4293 posts

I can also say Vergina was a real treat. In addition to the museums/tombs, I really liked the look of the town. I had a delightful meal there when nothing was open and they took me to the kitchen to show me what they were serving a group in the back. I nodded yes to it all and they filled my plate! Charlie P, it was the same in May, 2023 - so few people there.

Kastraki is a gorgeous small village at the base of Meteora. Stay in Boutique Guesthouse Plakias for the best Greek hospitality. I didn’t make it to Metsovo but I stayed in Ioannina (I thought it was just going to be a transition stop but a worthwhile stop on its own) and Monodendri for the Vikos Gorge - definitely off the beaten path for Americans and delightful. These are all easy to do from Thessaloniki, but having a car is best. But none of this area is hard driving if mountains don’t bother you. Some jaw-dropping scenery.

Posted by
4567 posts

TexasTravelMom, Have you been to the Peloponnese? I am wondering a bit about the driving comparison. My husband is the driver, but that drive into Kardamyli every day had me holding on, lol. But hiking the gorge would be worth it I imagine.
I hope Cathy comes back, but I have gotten some great tips and inspiration for my own potential return to Greece!

Posted by
4293 posts

Valadelphia, I didn’t get that far - just as far as Nafplio and then up to Delphi and then to Meteora. So the road up to Monodendri was curvy and mountainous but always 2 lanes and not much traffic. I am a slow goer, don’t look over the edge, and pull over when I can to let people pass (or to look at scenery). And road surfaces were fine. If you (your husband) has driven other mountain roads, these would be fine.

Posted by
4567 posts

Thanks very much, that is helpful! If we managed the drive to Zatouna (Stemnitsa area), where there were some pretty crazy roads, I think we'd be fine in the north.

Posted by
1172 posts

I'm another who would recommend the Peloponnese.

It offers everything an island does and a lot more.

A lot easier to drive to than flying/ferry to an island.

It's filled with history and archeological sites, mountains, coastline, out of the way villages, back roads, and so much more.

Fourteen days will give you just a "taste" of what the Peloponnese has to offer but if you plan properly and have a good route/destinations researched you can see a lot of what most people miss by only thinking that Greece is just about islands.

If you are interested you can read my trip report of last fall (late Sept/early) October with also a link to my photos.

It's from another travel forum but should be OK here.