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6 days in Athens, or a few days in Athens and a few days in Hydra?

My wife and I are appending a week in Athens due to some business travel I have while in Germany this December (2018).
We have a week to spend and we're thinking Athens might be a nice place to get maximum daylight and warmth rather than spend it in Germany which we have done in the past. Neither of us have been to Greece so the idea is a week in Athens
So indulge me please while I wonder aloud: we'll have basically 6 days in Athens is that too much time? We're not sure. We enjoy culture, like to walk and sight-see and enjoy museums, food, drink, etc. and part of me says "keep it simple just spend a week in Athens and let it wash over us. But, after watching the Rick Steves' program on Athens he mentions Hydra and it looks wonderful! I suppose we could do a day trip there but that seems like too short a time. I also don't want to give Athens "short shrift" so I'm trying to find some balance. Some of our options seem to be:
-4 days in Athens and 2 in Hydra
-3 days in Athens and 3 in Hydra
-5 days Athens, day trip to Hydra
-6 days Athens, skip Hydra
Any thoughts are very welcome here! Thank you.
If anyone can offer us advice we're all ears.

Posted by
3551 posts

4 Athens and 2 Hydra. Hydra is an R&R island, pretty and restful.

Posted by
15075 posts

If it were another time of year, I'd definitely encourage you to spend a couple of days on Hydra, but in December I don't know what is open. On a warm sunny day, it's lovely to hike along the coast to a beach and relax for a while. But on a cold December day when it could be cloudy or even rainy, it would not be pleasant at all.

There is plenty to see and do in Athens. Plan for poor weather days (indoor sights, there are many!) and take each day as it comes. Rain or shine, watch the changing of the guard on Sunday morning. The ceremony starts about 10.45, get there earlier for a good spot.

The RS guide book is very good, especially the self-guided walking tours and tips for sight-seeing.

Posted by
2747 posts

In the summer I did 3 nights on Hydra and I think it was a bit too long for me. But it is definitely worth seeing, and I do think a day trip is too short. You want to be there for the evening and early morning. So I would do 1 or 2 nights there and the rest in Athens. Hydra is relaxing, nice cafes, pretty streets for wandering. In December you won't be laying on the beach, but you may be able to enjoy hiking more than I was in 90+ degrees in August!
If you have the budget, my ideal would be to keep a hotel in Athens for the full 6 nights but actually spend one night and a full day in Hydra (yes, double paying hotels for one night). Hydra somewhere in the middle of the week. That saves you time and packing/unpacking (just throw one days worth of stuff in a backpack and you're off, everything else can stay at the Athens hotel).

Posted by
1023 posts

I am with acraven. Consider Nafplio. Its on the mainland but is located on the sea so it feels like an island. The old town and harbour area might just be the prettiest city in Greece. Nafplio is the weekend get away destination for Athenians. You can easily do 2 or three days there.
Nafplio and Peloponnese http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/

Posted by
34 posts

Thanks everyone for the recommendations! They are all very helpful and thoughtful.
I think we'll keep things simple yet flexible: book 6 nights lodging in Athens and plan to spend an overnight in Hydra if weather seems suitable to so. I agree with some of the posters: even if we end up double booking the night in Athens while in Hydra, lodging is not expensive and having the flexibility to go if weather is good or stay put in Athens if cold/rainy seems like a smart plan.
I had not considered Nafplio this trip (we don't want to spend the whole time rushing around in buses or on boats) but I will add it to the mix! If we find ourselves a looking to leave Athens, it gives us another solid choice besides Hydra or even Delphii.
We're looking forward to some good food, drink and amazing history!

Posted by
2905 posts

Nafplio is NOT rushing around on busses.... from a central athens hotel its 20 minutes max (+ €12-13 taxi fare) to Kifissou bus station, where Nafplio express busses leave hourly on half-hour for 2.5 hour trip (€13 1=way), on Greece's Most modern divided highway. Modern spic & span busses, all reserved seats, upholstered, footrests, heating & a/c, taken by all ages/classes of people since most of greece has no train service. Ask for a seat on LH side for view of sea most of the way. NO stops until after Corinth Canal (a 15 minute "rest stop" here at highway connection depot). then shortly afterwards, turn off the big highway rolling south thru valley of Citrus orchards and olive groves, little villages and hilltop ruins, straight to Old town Nafplio, right by the sea. Many hotels, you can just walk a few hundred yards to... others are a 3-4€ taxi. In winter, Nafplio is lively, a 'hip" and savvy local population + Athenians, thus plenty of tavernas with good fare, plus nightlife & chic shops... museums, ruins, seaside cafes (with plastic sides so u can still sit outdoors for sunsets) lots to do. A lovely "get-away"... and your Athens hotel is used to guest leaving for 2-3 days on tours, they'll store your big suitcases in luggage room while you're gone, u can just take a knapsack or large shoulder bag. And Nafplio has plenty to do/see even if chilly or rainy. This NONcommercial website http://www.visitnafplio.com has lots of photos AND good video clips including this one, filmed in February - https://vimeo.com/9186703

By contrast, Hydra is more of a hassle to get to... going to Piraeus ... many of ferries in Midwinter are enclosed-seating only, and can be bumpy if sea kicks up... at least as much time or more en route compared to above, and by contrast, nothing much to look at. The R. Steves raves about Hydra are all based on warm weather, and you might be disappointed in windy rainy weather. Do not spin dreams based on summertime photos.

Posted by
2905 posts

PS: if as you say, history is an attraction for you, Nafplio is the center of THE most historic area in all of Greece next to Athens, while Hydra is not a history destination. Nafplio's arch. museum, on its marble-paved central square, is in the former Venetian arsenal, 1 floor, small but superb. It has a splendid short video that puts all the Mycenaean history into vivid focus... well-curated displays include one true "Show-stopper" --- the ONLY Iliad-era ancient armor ever discovered. Achilles' fighting-suit, 4000 years old ... thrilling.

Posted by
1023 posts

Well said Janet. I was trying to reconcile "don't want to spend the whole time rushing around in buses or on boats)" with choosing Hydra in the winter over Nafplio.

Posted by
34 posts

Janet, thanks again for your post.

You have convinced me to reconsider Nafplio and place it on par or above as compared to Hydra. I guess I was under the impression that Hydra was a "quick 90 minute boat ride" and Nafplio was a 2+ hour bus ride but you have me rethinking my itinerary. I should give it more or of a look. It might actually be more to our liking.

Thanks everyone... great feedback!

Posted by
34 posts

Hi stanbc, yes... I was probably being naive about the "rushing around" and thus I am benefiting from your (and Janet's) past experience and wisdom. Hopefully you understand that we're trying to do a balanced itinerary where we are able to do a good amount of relaxed sightseeing (while enjoying local taverna style food and drink and absorbing the local culture) with a few pre-planned options in case we feel we want to explore outside of Athens. Who knows... we may stay put in Athens but if we do venture out, you folks have given us invaluable insight on that. I'm grateful for that. Cheers.

Posted by
1801 posts

Now I haven’t been to hydra but in December I would definitely think nafplio would be preferable. Athens is great. We spent three nights and could easily have spent four but with six nights I would think some variety would be nice. Nafplio is much smaller and has a very different feel than Athens. And it is by the sea as well.

Beth

Posted by
2905 posts

Well, I hope one of the RS webmasters doesn't see this but - much as I admire his guidebook and believe his trips are well-planned, the RS recommends re islands seem to promote Hydra and Only Hydra. . It has a pretty pretty harbor in summer ... but for history, landscapes, beaches, antiquities, hikes etc etc... there are many many other isles that check more boxes. One reason for the emphasis on Hydra may stem from fact that those who book the RS tours (which are on the mainland) may arrive a day early or stay a day at the end of a tour, and Hydra is an easy island to tack on, before or after. Also, RS broadcast or print research has not covered any other Greek isles since before Greece left the drachma for the Euro ... and that's a long while! By contrast, RS seems fond of Turkey with newer programs about it ... altho lately, because of political ups & downs there, tourism has been affected.

Posted by
178 posts

I'll chime in to say we LOVED Nafphilo. We spent 2 days in Nafphilo and 2 in Athens. 6 days in Athens does sound like too much. Maybe 2 in Nafphilio,3 in Athens, and a day that's in between with travel.

Posted by
2747 posts

I answered earlier about Hydra but I’ll chime in on Nafplio now, too. We spent 3 nights there and it’s beautiful. The long waterfront does make it feel connected to the sea - like an island. You can sit at cafes and relax, there are beaches you can visit in town. In December I’d bet there’s more to do than on Hydra. There’s definitely more history in town - and the ruins of Mycenae are less than a half hour away, which I consider one of the top historic sights in Greece. I had a car, but I’d bet there are busses or even a taxi might be reasonable. So - Hydra for a day if you want relaxing, slow pace. Nafplio for 2 days instead if you want more history and a bigger, more active town.

Posted by
976 posts

I also agree Nafplio would be a far better choice. I've been to Nafplio and Hydra and while Hydra has one of Greece's prettiest harbor with the village tumbling down to the waterfront it's more of a day trip experience. Obviously you could spend a few days there but there's only so much you can do on the island.

As stated by Janet Nafplio is a perfect place to base yourself. Not only is it one of Greece's loveliest town it's location is prime for exploring the World Class archeological sites a short distance away.

As for Athens, it's a favorite of mine and I always spend at least 2 days there, usually after my return from other parts of Greece. Lots to do, see and experience with wonderful tourist and non-tourist areas.

Split your time between Athens & Nafplio.

Posted by
5269 posts

Not to pile on, but I'll give Nafplio a plug also, vs. Hydra. Easier to get to, more to see and do especially in winter. Give Athens 3-4 days and Nafplio the rest. Even if the weather's bad, you're in a town with indoor options.

Posted by
2905 posts

Lia has a GREAT idea -- Aegina -- (tho I'd say do it as a daytrip) ... for people who feel that they haven't Really been to Greece unless they've taken a ferry to an Island. You can get there in an hour, rent a car & drive all over the place (including to the BEST-preserved ancient temple of ANY greek island), have a nice lunch in a cozy taverna, then be back in Athens for dinner.

The KEY aspect is to take a "conventional" (open-deck) ferry, not a hydrofoil, outbound. Hydrofoils (while more frequent have enclosed cabins, salt-frosted windows, NO view. On a "regular" ferry you can sit out on deck, enjoying the sea-scape: Giant Cruise ships, freighters, speedboats, maybe even a sailing vessel (or a dolphin!) and the approach to an island port town. This photo album - https://www.flickr.com/photos/36264706@N03/sets/72157621604646139/detail/ - was a June daytrip, so lots of flowers & beaches, but also shows the port, the temple AND the vistas at sea. Here's the deal:

• Take GREEN LINE metro to Piraeus (30 mins - ?1.8E?). Monastiraki station handiest (also, Beware of pickpockets)
• Get tix at any seafront agency. In Dec, reg. ferries sail @ 8:20 am, 9:15 and 12: 15.
* At port either rent a car or check taxi line for costs for a 1-way trip BACK from various destinations, & get cards from drivers; then check bus timetable at bus stop; then u have option of taking bus to a destination like the temple of Aphaia... and phoning a taxi for onward journey, and/or return to port. Article mentions good places for a meal, depending.
• Before leaving port town, check inbound ferries -- take a hydrofoil back. I think last one i about 17:00 (5 pm).