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30 Days in Greece in May 2018 - First time

Hello, I'd like some ideas for an itinerary and any helpful suggestions in general about traveling in Greece.

What makes more sense starting out in Athens/Peloponnese and ending on the Greek Islands, or vice versa? Does the weather play a role in this? I'd be there from beginning to end of May.
Here's some info about myself and my preferences: I am an older woman traveling solo. However, I'm physically fit and have a lot of energy.
I like to slow travel - spending enough time in each destination to really get a good feel for it. So I like staying put in one place at least 4 nights, longer in the bigger cities or places with lots to see and do. I am a seasoned traveler. I've been doing this kind of travel continuously for almost 3 years now (since I retired) - staying up to 2 - 3 months in some places at times.
I like staying in walkable places where everything I need is within 5-10 minute walk. I also like hiking and could go for short scenic hikes of up to 2 hours moderate level.
I won't be renting a car so public transportation would have to do for me.
I get easily sea sick so I'd have to fly the longer distances and perhaps take a high speed boat for no more than 1 or 2 hours. So cruising is out for me.
I don't usually go for large group tours, but would be amenable to day trips on small tours to some of the sights. That said I wouldn't be opposed to a 3-4 day guided tour if it looks like the best option, as long as the cost is reasonable.
I'm looking for most scenic, historic/archeological, charming and picturesque places. I like chilling on beautiful beaches but don't plan on going swimming.
Some of my ideas are visiting Athens, sights in the Peloponnese such as Mycenae, Nafplio and Epidavios, and the Greek Islands of Santorini and Crete. I know the latter is very big. So maybe a week there? And a week in Oia/Fira? Or if that's too long for Santorini, perhaps I could squeeze in another pretty island not far from Santorini for 3-4 days? But again I'm going for a slow, relaxed pace.
I am on a budget so I like to stay in Airbnb's, small hotels, or family guesthouses that are very reasonable in price. I'd appreciate your ideas.

Posted by
10531 posts

I would end in Athens to simplify your departure for home.

As for the rest of it, I suggest you check some travel books to see what fits your interests and budget.

The food is fabulous and the people even nicer


Posted by
4 posts

Hi, we spent 3 weeks in Greece last summer (2 of those weeks with Rick Steves tour group) and 1 on our own. In Athens, please make plans to dine at Mani Mani (10 Falirou street) and just a 5 minute walk from our Rick Steves hotel in the heart of the city.. It is really excellent/local. Plan a day trip to Delphi which is spectacular...about 1 to 1.5 hours from Athens. Also, the village is quiet (which is nice after Athens), and food's nice for an overnight stay. For an island, we took a boat to Hydra (1 hour, I think) from Athens port...I have trouble with sea sickness as well, but had no problems on this short trip on a very large boat. Hydra is just lovely for long walks, great food and lovely beaches (no cars, no motorcycles).

Posted by
1220 posts

Hi Katcandu2

We are doing something similar, but from June-July (we have kids, so need to wait for summer break). We are very thrifty and try to avoid tourist centers as much as possible, visiting these very early or late in the day and trying to find things off the beaten path as much as possible. We are not interested in luxury or "fine" anything ;p, and we are very do-it-yourselfers. But we have done tours that provide some practical advantage. Its a balance. Comfortable thrift :)

We are starting with a week in the Peloponnese, which we decided on literally bc the only connecting flight to Crete departed too soon after we arrive in Athens for us to make the plane. We are spending a bit less time in several places than you want, but staying 3 nights in most. We also plan to rent cars (Pelopnnese and Crete), which means we need less time in commuting, but your slower pace could account for the extra time of public transport.

Nafplio - 3 nights (surrounding ruins, and town itself)
Arcadia - 2 nights (Olympia, villages, and hiking)
Kardamyli - 1 night (beach, a hike)
Monemvasia - 1 night
Athens airport (near) - 1 night (arriving late, and just for sleep, for an early flight to Crete)

Chania - 3 nights (will drive to locations in NW Crete, but I believe these are also all accessible by bus)
Loutro - 3 nights (we decided to NOT hike Samaria Gorge but Imbros instead, as well as other activities around Loutro, so picked Loutro over Sougia, for example)
Plakia (nearby, not in) - 3 nights (interested in ruins near Matala, which we'll see en route to Herak. on the last day, as well as the beach and river near Plakia)
Heraklion - 1 night (depart early next morning for Santorini. Will possibly visit ruins here but depends on mood)

Santorini - 3 nights (this is where we are doing our one "tour" which is on a boat)

Naxos - 4 nights

Athens - 2 nights (arriving from Naxos for the first night late = 1 full day in Athens for Acropolis and Acropolis museum. Depart after second night early in the morning)

We are fling to Crete from Athens. We are ferrying between islands, including from Naxos to Athens (4 hrs), BUT, you can fly from Naxos to Athens (or from most islands); we just opted for the ferry when we ran the price/time/itinerary algorithm ;).

I read A LOT about each place before making all these decisions, but I crammed the studying into one week as I was anxious about finding lodging and getting it cheap[er], which can be more challenging for 5 people. I got a lot of advice here, and read the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet. I too am an experienced traveler but found planning Greece a new challenge as it is SO big and there is SO much I wanted to do. It was a painful process of focusing on what we wanted this time, elimination, and thinking about what we might do in the future.

Good luck,

Posted by
25620 posts

You'll mostly be dependent on buses to move around, so before finalizing lodgings, it would be a good idea to seek information on travel time between your mainland and Crete stops. You may find that what looks like a day-trip, isn't. It can be especially difficult to get to two or more small towns in one day.

Based on my limited experience on two trips to Greece, I don't think weather needs to be a significant planning factor. There are places on the mainland I'd suggest that you put at the end of your trip, but they not in areas you plan to visit. The Ionian islands (including Corfu) are generally wetter in the spring than the rest of Greece and probably somewhat cooler, but you aren't going there.

I think you won't have budget issues in Greece except in Santorini, where I believe you're going to have difficulty finding a good-value place for a full week in May. However, that might be far enough from peak season that you'll be OK. Me, I'd opt for maybe 3 nights on Santorini and 4 on Naxos or some other less tourist island. However, I haven't been to Greece recently.

Posted by
31 posts

We just did the RS tour in Sept.17 We had the time of our life. It was our first tour and we met some of the greatest people. With that being said after the tour we spent a week in Santorini. As someone else mentioned if you don't have reservations it may be difficult. We stayed in a really nice boutique hotel but we booked it a year in advance. The Kamiri beach area is nice and quiet and may find some cheaper accommodations. We arrived 4 days before our tour and enjoyed Athens. We went to the other cities you mentioned as well. Our favorites were Hydra, Monomvasia and Napflio. Naxos is another nice place to visit more quiet than Mykonos, which has a reputation for being a party place. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

Posted by
61 posts

Hey katcandu2 ~ I'll try to avoid TMI, so I'll make only two basic recommendations, focusing on your desire for "scenic, historic/archeological, charming, and picturesque places" -- which is exactly what my wife and I like.

(1) Naxos is a terrific island in all those respects and would be cheaper than Santorini or Mykonos. (Props to frequent posters "janet" and "stanbr" for getting me there last summer.) Naxos has both a charming, historic, scenic, and picturesque main town, on the water, that's easily walkable, as well several such villages both inland and on other shores, and the island has outstanding natural scenery. I highly recommend the Plaza Beach hotel: reasonably-priced, excellent service, good views from some rooms, excellent pool, good beach, reasonably-priced buffet-style restaurant, a few minutes' walk from several excellent restaurants that are on the beach, and a 20-minute bus ride (bus stops right at the hotel) from the main town -- so you avoid town crowds and noise but have easy access. Santorini is a marvel, and I recommend that you see it, but you could take a ferry from Naxos in the morning, spend several hours, and then take a ferry back in the evening -- even if that meant missing the famous Santorini sunset. Everybody says that the Santorini sunsets are unique, but I think that seeing the island without a sunset would give you 98.6% of the scenic wonder that there is to have there.

(2) The small city of Agios Nikolaos in Crete. More interesting and charming than any of the other main cities on the north shore (Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion), it's a great place to walk around and it has several great beaches, the best of which, IMHO, is Kitroplateia (tell Sven, who rents the umbrellas, that the old American couple -- the guy with the beard and the tall beautiful woman with red hair -- sent you). The Sgouros Hotel, which is basically right on the beach, is good, and there are several excellent restaurants and bars as well. Also, you can get to Knossos, which is a must-see on Crete, easily from "Ag Nik".

Have a great trip!

Posted by
3260 posts

Jonathan, thanks for the compliment, "Stanbr" and I cannot help ourselves in praising Naxos. I am sure that the hotel where you stayed was delightful! Do note, OP is planning to be in Greece from May 1 - 30, and if Naxos is on her itinerary any time before the last week in May... Plaka Beach (where the Plaza beach hotel is located) will be very quiet, and many things not open yet. If she's there before May 15, I definitely would suggest staying at St. George (Ag Giorgios) beach, adjacent to the port town.... You may like more isolation, and you have a spouse to share it with. She is traveling solo, and also stated she likes to stay in "places where there's lots to see and do." However, couples who are traveling more in the high season will certainly benefit from your lodging tip!

Posted by
546 posts

We have booked about 11 days on a small less touristed little island in the Sporades called Alonnosis. Take a look at that. Unlike many of the Greek Islands it seems to be covered in trees and green vegetation. We are looking forward to this stay very much. And it sounds like the kind of place that would suit you well.