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4 or 5 nights in Greece - Suggestions?

My daughter and I will be traveling to Europe with her best friend and mother in early September 2020. This will be their first trip to Europe so we have a loose itinerary of 4 or 5 nights in Greece, 4 nights in Paris and 2 nights in London. With only 4 or 5 nights in Greece, I'm seeking advice on how best to spend these 4 or 5 nights? Spend 2 or 3 nights on one island, possibly Santorini or Crete, then 2 nights in Athens? Paris and London will be a lot of walking and sight seeing, so perhaps we might want to be more relaxed in Greece? We are open to suggestions!

Posted by
21319 posts

I wouldn't go to Greece for just 4 or 5 nights--too much travel time (including multiple flights/ferries) and not enough being-there time. If Greece is a must, that's where I'd spend the entire trip. Crete is a very large island and I'd definitely want to spend more thsn 3 nights there.

Two nights in London, presumably at the beginning of the trip, would mean just one non-jetlagged day. It takes time to settle into a huge city like London. I can't imagine putting together a sightseeing plan for a brief visit like that.

I think a combination of London + Paris or a single-country trip to England or France would fit better with the time you have available.

Posted by
5721 posts

Acraven has already written my response! I would look to scrap Greece and find some closer beaches. However, if Greece is a must, drop either London or Paris. As you are planning much longer in Paris, it looks as though London should be dropped. Your first day or two will be lost to jet lag.

EasyJet have direct flights from London to Crete and from Paris to Corfu. Both these islands are far nicer, have plenty to see and are more genuine than the Disneyfied Santorini. You don’t have time for Athens and you will get plenty of history in London/Paris.

Posted by
6031 posts

I will offer a contrary opinion to the other posters...well except the customkilt remark.

What you are proposing is certainly whirlwind and a bunch of travel, and I can't argue that just limiting to Paris/London, and maybe a spot in between would be a good option...but if your heart is set on it, then you really need to limit Greece to one locale.

I would look at just Athens, with maybe a day trip or overnight nearby. You could look at the Saronic Gulf islands (Hydra) or a town like Nafplio. The Islands would chew up too much time.

Posted by
1795 posts

We now tend to travel to one country at a time but that wasn’t so when we were in our twenties. I remember taking the over night train from Paris to Rome and how absolutely amazed we were.

So I do think there is something special about experiencing the differences between European countries in one trip.

But you do have to be practical too. I would only go to one place in Greece-either Athens or an island you can fly directly too. I also think that you ought to move at least one night to London from Greece (which will work if you only go to one place) and then try to find one more night for London, especially if arriving there and will be jet lagged. So 4 nights London, 4 nights Paris, 4 nights, Chania, Crete (for example). You can take the train from London to Paris, and then fly to Greece. I would base where in Greece on where you can fly nonstop from Paris. You will only get a taste of each place but if you spend three full days in each, it will be a satisfying taste.

Posted by
21863 posts

The logistics of making that schedule work is frightening. An enormous amount of time lost just to traveling. What do you anticipate your flight schedule -- into London, home from Athens???

Posted by
2341 posts

Greece - 3 nights in Athens, 2 in Nafplio. I know that our predilection on this chat board is to say "3-4 night minimum", but some really want to do that quick experience. As such, i think the overall plan is OK.

Is there any way of adding 2-3 days to this trip?

Posted by
2930 posts

I would add a night to London so then you have 3 or 4 nights in Athens, and more than a sliver of London. Although your entire trip is just a taste. There is a lot to see and savor in Athens and it is quite a contrast to London and Paris. In other words, just enjoy Athens and should you get bored, which would surprise me, take a day trip.

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks for all of your advice. Our friends are on limited time and funds, and this is their first and possibly only trip to Europe, so Paris and Greece was on their bucket list. We added London and will end our trip there because my daughter's friend's company has an office in London and she is hoping to extend a few more days by working there after our trip. My daughter and I may stay a few extra days in London. I totally hear what everyone is saying... my husband and I spent 3 weeks in Italy this summer, including Naples and Rome, so perhaps we might just spend a day in Athens to see the Acropolis, and then spend the rest of the time on one island, as suggested. I really want to visit Santorini, but I've read on other posts that there is not enough to do there to warrant 3 nights. What islands are near Santorini that one could suggest so that we could easily do a day trip to Santorini?

Posted by
847 posts

So you have a total of about 11 nights? As you can see from the varried answers you are getting, there is no one right way to plan this. But I agree that they way you have it planned is probably going to result in too much hopping around.

So I would ask your daughter and her friend and mother what their priorities are. Do they really want just a 'taste' of the three countries? Is Greece the priority and you are just adding on Paris and London cause they are 'on the way'. Have you looked into logistics - where you can fly to/from, etc.

I would definitely reconsider two nights in London for a first trip. I've done numerous 2 night London stays, but I've been there many times, seen all the 'must sees' and am just stopping over on my way somewhere else. I don't try to sight see at all, just take walks in my favorite neighborhoods. Someone who has not been there would be very frustrated being in London and not getting to at least look at the major sites.

So if all three countries are a priority, and you don't mind wasting half (or more) of a day flying between places then I'd do this.
Fly into either London or Paris and spend 3-4 nights. Then pick one place in Greece (you said relaxation, so pick one island that you can fly in/out of) and just go there for a few days. Fly from there to whichever of London or Paris you didn't start with and finish there for 3-4 days and fly home. There are cheap intra European flights from both London and Paris to various places in Greece, much easier than starting there which requires multi leg connections from the US and usually starting in Athens. So your transatlantic flights would be 'multi-city': your home airport to London, Paris to home airport. Then you'd book separate flights on Easy Jet, Ryan Air, etc. from London to Greek island, Greek island to Paris. This gives you 3-4 nights on the Greek island. If it were me I'd actually try really hard to add at least two days to the trip. (No additional places, just an extra day in the places you are already going).

If Greece is not a priority then I'd just combine London and Paris (and train between them, therefore NO mid trip flights, much less stressful). Plenty of day trip options from both of them.

Posted by
11292 posts

Since you said they have limited funds, have they priced out all the flying they are proposing? Many people who haven't been to Europe have heard of budget airlines, but don't understand how much tickets you can actually get will cost. The days of flights for €1 are over, and even when they were valid, the extra charges will shock someone who isn't used to paying for everything a la carte (seat selection, more than one carry-on, checking a bag, speedy boarding, etc). Plus, some destination pairs will require connections, taking much of a day in total transit.

The Eurostar between Paris and London isn't cheap either. For both the trains and the planes, the key is early booking; prices on these routes only go up as you get closer to travel.

Speaking of which, since you said they have limited time, flying to Greece from the US often isn't simple or quick. There are few nonstops from North America, and if you can't get one of these, you're looking at connections in Europe, which usually get you to Greece late the first day. Look into all these logistical and financial issues before you get too attached to any particular itinerary.

I'm not saying you can't do what you propose - just be aware of what you're getting into, when you can still make easy changes to your plans if necessary.

Posted by
173 posts

The ferry from Athens to Santorini is about 4.5-5 hours and this is the Seajet which is the fast jet. You will be losing tons of time, so you must fly. I would recommend maybe doing 3 nights in Athens and 2 nights in Santorini. I must say Santorini is beautiful and must see. I've been to London a few times and it deserves more than 2 nights. if you are set on doing Greece, then go for it. It's about a 3 hour flight from Paris to Athens so there is a lot of travel time in between that you will be losing days.....

Posted by
11450 posts

Inter European flights seem very cheap to me - we do them all the time ! If you book well in advance you can get good deals .

I’d fly into Paris - spend 3-4 nights - then fly to Mykonos ( which is not my favourite island , but has direct flights in from London and Paris ) most first timers love Mykonos , a lot , it’s not the cheapest island ( it can be pricey but no more than London or Paris ) - from Mykonos you can take a 1.5 hr ferry to Naxos ( one of my favourite islands ) or just day trip to Delos to see the ruins .

Fly back direct to London -

Note - I consistently find hotels in London more pricy than Paris or Greece . So keeping your friends time there shorter than longer .

Greece can be super cheap / but Mykonos and Santorini are not cheap ! On Mykonos I can suggest booking the Hotel Zephyrs- it’s a very good value - right across from a lovely beach - walk to Paradise beach ( which your girls will want to do as it’s a) a nice beach b) a party beach lol - the walk there is easy enough ( we are mid fifties and not in shape at all ) and the views as you descent to beach are breathtaking. The hotel beach is Paraguay - small but lovely .

In Paris there are many hotels in central areas that you can get a double room ( you’ll need two ) for under 150 euros a night.

This trip would be easier if you eliminate one place for sure - your trip is very short .
But remember the flight over costs the same whether you spend 1 week or 4 - so it’s on the ground costs you can manage . On an island like Naxos you can stay in a nice place for 50-75 euros for a double and eat for 10-15 euros for dinner - so if Greece is a priority and budget is tight I’d cut a day off London or Paris - actually I would do neither - I’d add time to the trip/ it’s just so short for a “ once I a lifetime “ visit to another continent! Two weeks is fine for one or two places max to me

Posted by
8856 posts

Do you and your friends want an enjoyable trip, or one they simply survive?

Posted by
2901 posts

Do Paris & London... to try 3 countries is lunacy. . If you have 4-5 days in each wonderful capital, you will have glorious memories -- of famous places, of wonderful foods, of wandering down amazing cozy lanes in London, of magical walks in Paris. Cramming a 3rd country into a 12-day trip means your major memories will be airports & t axi cabs. You and the other mom know this, you are grown-ups ... and you are paying the bills. Put your foot down (feet down?). You can relax in london & Paris if you aren't rush-rush-rush. 2 years ago a friend & I had 5 days in london.... one morning we just sat in folding chairs (£1 for s long as u like) in Green Park and looked at clouds, and birds & people. We meandered thru squares ... we lingered over used-book treasures in the bookstore row on Charing-Cross Road ... We saw a darling musical at 1/4 the price of Broadway. You cannot do this is a 2-day tour-a-thon. Much as I love Greece it for another trip.

Posted by
15060 posts

I just returned from a trip to Greece. Going to or from Santorini is a long process because there are so many people going there - and I was there at the tail end of the season! There are two ways to get there, fly or ferry. I used the ferry both ways, from Crete and then on to Naxos. It's about an hour's drive from the ferry pier to Fira, maybe half an hour longer to Oia - the 2 main cities on the island. You should be at the ferry pier at least 30 minutes before sailing time, more for the airport. Add all that to the actually flying/sailing time. I don't know how long the journey is from Piraeus (the port) to Athens center. From the airport, it's an hour by train or bus, maybe 15 minutes less by taxi. I'm not saying don't go, I am trying to give you an idea of how long, realistically, it will take you to go to/from Santorini.

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions, although I have to say some comments could have been put a little more gently. Nonetheless, I appreciate all the candid feedback, which helped us to realize that Greece will not work for this trip. So now our revised itinerary looks something like this:
4 nights Paris, 4 nights touring south of France, then 4 nights London. Depending on what our south of France visits look like, we may do 5 nights in Paris and 3 nights south of France. So now, on to the France travel blogs to get ideas there!

Posted by
21319 posts

The two most common destinations in southern France for American tourists are the Riviera (for which Nice is the transportation hub) and Provence (large towns include Arles, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence). Folks traveling to those areas normally want to see at least a few of the picturesque smaller places as well, which takes time. It takes much longer to get to Nice than to Avignon by train, a factor you may want to consider as you develop that part of your itinerary. I wouldn't recommend heading to the Riviera if you have only three nights. For a trip of my own, I wouldn't travel to Provence or especially to the Riviera from Paris for less than five nights due to a combination of time in transit and the many places I'd want to see once there. However, I'm retired and prefer slow travel.