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9/16/16 through 10/3/16 Itenirary help/recommendations

We are a group of four Americans (Aged 47, 45, 28, 27) that have a pretty strong sense of adventure (we're a majority of ER nurses). We have a fair amount of travel experience among us; from backpacking Asia to traveling through Brazil and Honduras to taking cruises. This will be our first trip to Greece. We are planning to drive through the mainland and then head to a few of the islands to end our trip. We arrive in Athens @ 0920 on 9/16 and plan to spend the 16th and 17th in Athens getting acclimated and seeing a few sights. From there we are "looking" at the following schedule:

  • 9/18 Drive to Corinth Canal, Mycenae and overnight in Mystra
  • 9/19 Visit Mystra, lunch in Kalamata via Artemis and then drive to overnight in Olympia.
  • 9/20 Visit Olympia, drive to Kyllini, catch ferry to Zakynthos.
  • 9/21 Visit Zakynthos
  • 9/22 Ferry to mainland, drive to Meteora via Arta/Metsovo (yes we know it is about a six hour road trip).
  • 9/23 Visit Meteora
  • 9/24 Visit Delphi, drive to Athens, catch 1930 flight to Santorini
  • 9/25 Visit Santorini
  • 9/26 Visit Santorini
  • 9/27 Ferry to Naxos
  • 9/28 Visit Naxos
  • 9/29 Ferry to Mykonos
  • 9/30 Visit Mykonos
  • 10/1 Ferry to Rafina
  • 10/2 Visit Rafina
  • 10/3 Leave Athens @ 1330

We are pretty much confident self travelers but are looking for any and all recommendations and/or tips for our itinerary. Currently the only things that are set in stone are our flights. Constructive criticism is of course welcome and if you know of a quaint little village somewhere in the mainland that should be part of our road trip than please recommend!

Posted by
2950 posts

Two things from me:

  1. Eliminate one island (I suggest Mykonos). Spend more time in one place instead of spreading yourselves so thin.

  2. Upon arrival fly directly to Santorini. Save all your mainland exploration, including Athens, for the end of your trip. This eliminates the possibility of a last-minute ferry cancellation that makes getting to the airport stressful and puts the onus of "shoulda-woulda-coulda" on your memories of Greece.

Posted by
1015 posts

While Greece appears to be small on the map every location change essentially takes a minimum of half a day and sometimes most of the day. While your plan can work it will be exhausting and at the end you will have nothing much more than a drive by experience Bottom line your plan has too many hops and minimal quality time.

Here is what I would do. After a transatlantic flight you will be tired, I can understand why you want to rest for two days in Athens to get over jet lag. If your flight gets in before 2pm in the afternoon I would suggest you load up on Coffee and adrenaline, rent your car and drive to Nafplio. It is two hours of driving. Spend those two recovery nights in Nafplio. It is a charming seaside town with a beautiful waterfront promenade, old town and Venetian era Castles. It is perfect for getting over jet lag.

Nafplio and Peloponnese http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/

I suggest you drop Athens on arrival is because it is a foreign experience. It is hot noisy, dusty and full of hustle and bustle. It is not the place to have your first Greek experience while jet lagged.

Nafplio is also centrally located for day trips to the treasure trove of nearby antiquities like Mycenaea, Tiyrns, Epidavros and Corinth.
I would propose you spend three nights in Nafplio for these sites.
If your flight gets arrives in the morning you will have time and energy to do a stop at Corinth to visit the canal and one of Ancient Corinth or ancient Nemia a small version of Olympia with a stadium, temple and a museum. Images of these sites are in the attached album.

Now head to Mystras. It will be about a two hour drive. It takes at least 4 hours to do the site properly. If you get out early enough you can do Mystras and then drive to Olympia. Overnight there.

Visit Olympia.
Here is the major change I am proposing. Since you will be visiting several islands later in the trip, consider dropping Zakynthos. While ferry hopping sounds great it is actually a huge waste of time. The hops from Santorini to Naxos to Mykonos will prove that to you. In my opinion the time you save here can give you an opportunity to explore Greece in a more in depth way.

After Olympia drive to Patras and cross the Gulf of Corinth and go to Delphi. Time your arrival for late afternoon. Find a hotel and then visit the museum. That will prime you for the site next morning. Get to the site at opening which will give you two hours before the tour buses arrive. By then you will be at the top which will give you an extra hour before the crowds are a problem. Depart Delphi and drive to Meteora.
Time your arrival around 5pm. By then all the tour buses will be gone. You will be able to drive up to the monasteries and get photos to your hearts content and have an opportunity to have the place essentially to yourselves. Find a hotel in the village of Kastraki nestled at the foot of the mountains. Next morning visit the monasteries. There are only a few of them open each day so you evening scouting trip will allow you to plan where you want to go. Once the tour buses arrive the place is just jammed. We counted 30 tour buses in the parking lot of one of the monasteries.

Olympia Delphi Meteora https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/se
We chose to spend a second night in Kastraki and depart the next morning but you may wish to head to Athens then. It is a 4 to 5 hour drive to the airport but it is all on major split lane highways (tolls)

Fly to Santorini.

follow your plan for Santoirni Naxos and Mykonos. Fly or ferry back to Athens and do Athens at the end of your trip. You will be fully acclimatized to Greece by then and Athens makes a great end of trip experience. You can easily spend three nights in Athens and you won't have time to visit all of these sites.
Athens http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632121475515/
More Island thoughts next post.

Posted by
1015 posts

I tend to be long winded and ran out of space. Excellent thought by Lee. Santorini is even better to get over jet lag than Nafplio. You will need two hours to catch the connecting flight to Santorini. While I suggested you drop Zakynthos I was also going to suggest as Lee did that you drop one of the three islands. While the trip from Santoirni to Naxos is only a two hour ferry ride you have to check out of your hotel get to the ferry port (which is probably a minimum of an hour process) then the ferry ride then check in to Naxos hotel, at best you will arrive Naxos in the late afternoon and you will have used up most of the day. So your two nights on Naxos becomes a day and a half. I too suggest you drop Mykonos. It is much like Naxos just more crowded and twice as expensive,
I would suggest you use your two nights on Mykonos and add one day to each of Santorini and Naxos or even add them both to Naxos.
By the way Santorini will be expensive but it is the one place I suggest you stretch your budget and get a caldera view hotel. The view is spectacular. Be sure the hotel has a Caldera view. Many have sea view and that is not necessarily a Caldera view.
Here are images of Santorini and Naxos. You won't be able to see all of this in either Santorini or Naxos in three days let alone two days.
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
Hope this gives you pause to reconsider your plan.
It s going to be a great trip

Posted by
1313 posts

Overall I'm with Lee and stanbr in thinking that what you have at the moment is very ambitious verging on the impossible. Having said that you may have already factored in the fact you will spend most of the holiday travelling and may be happy with that. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

Even if that is the case though I would at least amend by knocking out the additional night in Rafina. We go through Rafina at least once a year and it is a nice little place with several good restaurants. There just isn't enough there though to warrant two nights. You can walk around the whole place in an hour.

On your original plan I would add the extra night to your Delphi visit. The time you have left for that looks to me to be particularly short.

Hope you have a great time whatever you decide.

Alan

Posted by
5262 posts

Lee and Stanbr and Alan all know a lot more about Greece than I do, but I agree with them about:

-- Seeing Nafplio, a good base for the Argolid sites and a beautiful historic city in itself.

-- Skipping one or more of the islands in favor of more time on others. I haven't been to any you're considering, but from what I've heard (on other threads as well as this one) I'd skip Mykonos.

-- Trying to spend a night in Delphi so you can have the shrine to yourselves (and a few others of course) in the morning. Also the sunset and sunrise over the valley to the Gulf of Corinth is spectacular, easily viewed from most any hotel because Delphi is on a steep slope.

-- Saving Athens for last if you can. It's worth several days and will tire you out (in a good way). Regardless, try to be in Athens the night before your flight home. You don't want to be stuck on an island or racing back from Piraeus to the airport on your departure day.

As ER staff you might be interested in the display of medical instruments at the shrine of Aesclapius (botched spelling I know) at Epidavros (where the theater is). The demigod associated with healing, and the cadeuceus (more botched spelling, the stick with the snakes, you know the one). A short distance from Nafplio.

Have a great trip! The Greeks are wonderful people who deserve better than the economic and political hand they're trying to play now.

Posted by
9 posts

First, THANK YOU! We have actually decided to alter our trip and fly direct to Santorini on the front end of our trip - which makes perfect sense. I do understand the logic behind dropping Zakynthos from the plan but thanks to the popularity of images of Shipwreck Beach we have two members of the group that have put "Put my feet in the sand on Shipwreck Beach" on their must do bucket lists. As we get the trip revamped I will post again and ask for opinions. We do know that our plan is aggressive, it is just so hard to say "We will skip that part of Greece".
As for a few other things recommended to us. We are avoiding getting a room on the caldera in Santorini - we are firm believers in paying less and staying on the road for the longest amount of time possible and find find that we don't typically spend enough time in our room to warrant an expense for a view (this is of course 100% opinion and we do understand the recommendation - we are just more of the hostel type).
We were staying in Rafina at the end of the trip because it was near the airport and would give us a place to get it together before we left - that will probably change when we change the plan for our trip.
Again, THANK YOU for all the great advice!!

Posted by
2893 posts

Why not ask your 2 adamant group members to do some research... go on Trip advisor and ask for opinions about Shipwreck beach??? THat forum has MANY UK people who visit Zakynthos regularly, and have the real story on it. In the fall, undoubtedly it will be less crowded but it takes a full day to visit it and the trip/tour is quite expensive.

Posted by
1015 posts

My memory isn't as good as it used to be but I thought I saw a post on TA indicating that the beach is now restricted in order to stop the deterioration of the ship. Best check that our before you get there.

Posted by
111 posts

With all due respect, I do not like this at all.

I have not read previous replies so not sure if any evolution has occurred but .....

You trip is 17 days. You have five islands plus a lot of mainland stuff. For 17 days, I would visit three or four islands alone, without including any mainland activities.
In my opinion, you have way too much driving and unrealistic connection goals. For instance, awaking in Meteora, visiting Delphi and still making it to Athens for a 5:30 flight? That is nearly six hours of driving alone. If you leave at 8 am and attempt to arrive at Athens airport at 4, the plan is to see all of Delphi in two hours?
I would recommend choosing either Meteora or Mystras as they are the major outliers. If you're visiting all those other islands later on, there seems to be little reason to go all the way out to Zakynthos. (Why Zakynthos? Because of the shipwreck beach? Not worth it; you'll find countless better beaches on your own and it's well out of your way).
I would recommend that you save your Athens time until the very end. Thus, land, get your car and get going. This way, after you do your driving portion you can drop the car and fly to the islands. With your way, when are you going to pick up the car? Is it all the way back at the airport? If not, will you be able to drop it at the airport prior to flight to islands? If you hold Athens until end, you'll have an easy time of getting to airport for 1330 flight.
Suggest trimming to no more than three islands on that portion.
As painful as it might sound, I would probably skip Meteora on this trip and just make it a great Peloponnese adventure. Include Nafplio or Monemvasia in its place, for example.