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A few itinerary questions

We think we'd like to have 6 nights in Greece (after that we are going to Italy. don't know yet what time flight to Italy will be - haven't booked). We are going to Greece primarily to see some historical sites - our daughter is very interested in mythology and seeing ancient sites that have relevance to that. Flight from California will arrive Athens 6:30 p.m. on a Sunday in early June. Tentative plan is to spend say 2 nights in Athens, then thinking for the other 4 nights renting a car to see Delphi and Mycenae. Thought about Olympia too but maybe too rushed? Questions:

  1. Which order should we do it - from Athens to Dephi and then to Mycenae or reverse?

  2. Thinking we won't get to Delphi til close to evening - so thinking of spending 2 nights there - does that seem good? Should we stay in Galaxadi or right in Delphi?

  3. Near Mycenae thinking of staying in Napflio/Napflion - again thinking 2 nights?

  4. For car rental - if we get the car in the city, ok to return at airport on our way back from either Delphi or Mycenae rather than going back into the city? Will we regret having to drive it out of and into the city? Just saw another thread making me concerned - though we have driven in Boston, NYC and San Francisco. But what would the alternative be if we've spent our most of 2 days in Athens and then want to rent a car?

OR should we get car at airport when we first land, go to Napflio/Mycenae or Delphi first and at the end of those two, return car (to airport or to city?) and then spend our last 2 days in Athens before the flight to Italy?

One thing that could possibly affect the decision whether to do the nights in Athens first or last: the 6th (last) night will be our daughter's 18th birthday so not sure where it would be best to be to celebrate, but she's pretty low key - a nice dinner or something would be great (she and I are vegetarian, husband is not and enjoys meat).

Thanks.

Posted by
2414 posts

First -- when u say daughter interested in Mythology, we don't know whether she's a college student who's taken some course sin classics & archeology, or a 9-year-old who's read "Percy Jackson" and thinks she'll see statues everywhere of Hercules, Ares, and Minerva. For the former, Greece can be the thrill of a lifetime... for the latter -- she must be prepared that nothing is like the fantasy books, and some prep will be needed if she's to appreciate essentially ruins in a beautiful setting.

Next of all, no driving right when you arrive, you will jet-lagged to the max... instead, get ye to a nearby hotel, have a bite to eat & crash. There's a nice hotel right on a beach, about 25 minutes away by FREE shuttle... Avra Hotel in Rafina (the only rule is, you must sign up for free shuttle at same time u book the room, so they can plan). Then return to the airport refreshed, AM of day 2, pick up your rental car and Off you Go! Heres a scenario that can work:

DAY 2 - Pick up car around 9 (athenscarrental.com gets VERY good reviews & I've used it 2x). They bring your car right outside the Airport building, & return to same place (NOTE: you do know tht yu need a Intl Driving Permit to rent -- get it at local AAA in 20 mins). Your drive to Delphi avoids city entirely -- for complete route in advance use https://www.viamichelin.com/ route planner -s hows mapl also step by step PLUS est. time & Cost in petrol &tolls. Takes about 3.5 hours... you'd arrive mid-afternon, when most pesky bus-tour groups are leaving. U might visit museum first (very well signaged), good prep. the Site is open until 8 pm in June usually, and sunset is not until 9, so you actually can see museum & site same day. You have a choice (1) if interested in doing "homework" in advance, u can use good websites to study & print out, & D-I-Y or (2) if u don't want to, & have the €€ there are several excellent licensed guides in Delphi who can meet u onsite... usually 2 hr minimum @ €60 per hour. Your choice. When u arrive, pop into 1 of several hotels right on the main street get room for the night... At Hotel PAN the back rooms have stunnin balcony views down mountain to the sea (we were on the main floor an hawks circled BELOW us). If u time it right u can enjoy a light meal on a terrace right by the same downhill view & sunset. Don't miss the "Athena Tholos" round temple down the road from the main site.... and enjoy Greece's BEST water, right from the tap; it comes straight from snow-melt atop Mt Parnassus.

DAY 3 - Drive back down mountain to Elefsina (at this fork; LEFT goes to Airport and RIGHT goes across Corinth Canal on modern highway toward your ancient landmarks --- NEMEA, MYCENAE, and EPIDAURUS. Here is a good online map -- http://euro-map.com/karty-grecii/peloponnes/podrobnaya-turisticheskaya-karta-peloponnesa.jpg -- click & it gets huuuge, use side-slides to navigate. It makes everything clear. Just after Corinth Canal about 10-15 mi, an exit just on Right takes you to NEMEA "Ancient Games Site" the runner-up to Olympia. Great short stop ruins, temple columns and FAB stadium, where u can run from starting-blocks 2200 years old (in July, athletes from over the world will gather there for the 4th Revived Nemean Games!! https://nemeangames.org Go Under big highway, head South toward Nafplio, great place for a night or 2. If you're up for 2 ancient sights in 1 day, you can turn off this road to Mycenae (MIKINES on map, that's how the Greeks spell it). Here is where advice depends on knowing if daughter is 9 or 19! If you get to Nafplio -- the most Beautiful Old Town in Greece -- you can check into a hotel, take a deep breath & head for a waterside cafe for IMHO the most gorgeous sunset in Greece. Here's a photo album of its beauties (PLUS pix of Nemea, Mycenae, Epidaurus). (Continued On Reply #2)

Posted by
2414 posts

REPLY #2 (I haAATE this Rick Steves word-max software);
Whoops apology! --- The age of daughter was buried in last paragraph, so in my rush to answer I overlooked it ... yes, her birthday is one additional reason to do Athens last ... if you can get a room at a hotel like HERODION (just steps away from Acropolis Museum, south of Acropolis, right by a pedestrianized promenade, it has a lovely rooftop restaurant looking up at Parthenon.

DAY 4 -- Explore Old Town a bit (you can drive up the back of the Palamidi Fortress if you want to take amazing photos), then head EAST across the "thumb" of the Peloponnese (see map for clarity) to EPIDAURUS. Many acres of ruins rubble, but really just stop to experience THE most amazing, acoustically perfect ancient amphitheatre in the world... look it, I can't take the wording to describe it here. Intead of having to backtrack you can head to the shore & up the shore road (I did this last June) to ISTHMIA, where you meet the Big intercit y hiway again. U cn stop for 30 minutes if you wish, to stand on the Old Bridge & see the Canal (so deep So Skinny) -- it can't be seen from the big highway. Then head back to AIRPORT (NOTE -- Remember to turn LEFT/NORTH at ELefsina, to avoid the truck-traffic hell of Athens). Drop car at airport (2 PM?), get taxi (daytime flat-rate €38 to an Athens hotel closed to Acropolis.

DAY 5 & 6 -- Athens sightseeing. If you want to D-I-Y Acropolis, this Rick Steves sights has terrific FREE download audios for your phone, to do step-by-step descript of Acropolis & Parthenon and Ancient Agora AND the amazing Nat. Arch. Museum. No audio guide to Acropolis Museum, but with some advance prep u can enjoy it very well. If you want a group tour of Acropolis or more, check the offerings of Athens Walks --- they have one in the AM, and ALSO one in late Afternoon, when crowds have gone.

Posted by
12 posts

Yes, daughter is turning 18 and she's read a ton about mythology, it's fascinated her since she was very young.

Thanks so much, this is really helpful! . The only thing I'm trying to figure out is how much time we will have to see Delphi and Mycenae with your suggested plan. So it sounds like you're saying on Day 2 we'd get to Delphi around mid-afternoon (2 pm maybe? need to have lunch somewhere on the way there or maybe when we arrive) and could see the site that afternoon and evening - is that enough time? I think I've seen people say they spent a whole day there and there are several parts. But maybe could do some of it first thing the next morning if we haven't seen everything.

Then you suggest day 3 stopping at NEMEA - how long should we plan to spend there? And then how long should we plan to spend at Mycenae? Just want to give these sites their due and not feel rushed.

This all sounds great, so thanks so much for the advice!

Posted by
741 posts

Great stuff from Jan.
We have done this trip essentially as Jan suggests. Experience says
Do rent the car from the airport.

For Delphi arrive in the mid afternoon. Wander around the village and find a hotel on walk up basis. Make sure it has views down the mountainside. Its like there is a river of olive trees all the way down to the Gulf.
The tour bus crowds will begin to leave in the afternoon so you can get into the museum. Its a good idea to do the museum first so you have an idea about the site. In the early evening head down to the lower site. It is open 24/7. You should have it pretty much to yourselves.
Next morning get to the gated site early you will have the site pretty much to yourselves. The tour buses arrive around 10 but by then you will be at the top of the site and you will have another hour before the crowds reach you Now is the time to leave.
Do stay in Nafplio. Its a beautiful city and there are other ancient sites in the area. Mycenaea is in the area as well.

Do spend the last couple of night sin Athens. What a way to clebrate a birthday. It is so easy to get vegetarian food everywhere in Greece.
Have a great time.

Perhaps you will enjoy these photos.
Delphi and Meteora https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157698930270992

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

Corinth area sights https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157711755443483

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks for the thoughts Stan, those are great ideas on how to see Delphi over the late afternoon and early morning. I'm too nervous to wait til the day and just walk in and find a hotel, I would have to have one booked in advance. Do you recommend any in particular that have the view you mention? I know Janet recommended Hotel Pan and that sounds nice.

Thanks for the link to your article ssoulioudis but when I click on it, it doesn't open - seems the end of it is missing.

Posted by
2414 posts

I chose Hotel Pan because we took the KTEL bus to Delphi and didn't have to worry about parking ... but u can trust Stanbr, he is just as careful as I am, about choosing a room with a view!

Posted by
12 posts

Hi - I have a question about the hours of the museum in Delphi. Ideally we will follow the plan Janet and Stan outlined but we've run into a glitch with our flights to Athens (trying to use miles and only managed to get two of us to Athens by the first night at 6:30 pm - the third person is on a wait list. We might have to make plans a little later on day 2 and not pick up car til early afternoon if the third person has to arrive that day). When I look up the Delphi museum, it says it is only open til 15:30 and same for the site. Is that right even in summer? It doesn't mention dates so I am not sure but that seems very early to close?

Posted by
2414 posts

In summer at least a couple of years ago, the Delphi Museum was open in early June until 8 (of course they start chasing you out at about 7:30). I think y ou have to google SUMMER HOURS DELPHI MUSEUM.

Sorry u are having trouble getting everyone to Greece at the same time for FREE.... but not as sorry as the rest of us are, for not having those travel miles, and having to use actual money. Have u considered paying, in order to get that last member of your party to arrive earlier?

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks, Janet, I did now search for summer hours and looks like open til 7 p.m. After a lot of searching and phone calls we managed to get the third person on the same flight as the others. It's true, we are lucky to have miles - we have a credit card that we use that gives us miles so that's the reason. Without them, we might not be able to afford to go at all so we are grateful that we do.

Posted by
2414 posts

Glad to hear both news items.... I too have a credit card that can build miles, but my income is so small and my lifestyle so frugal that I would have to spend more than my annual income, to accumulate enough miles to get to Greece. So I scrimp.... and now go only every 3 years. 2019 may have been my Grand Finale, but while we live, we hope!

Posted by
12 posts

I just typed a reply, tried to edit and it disappeared. Maybe it will reappear - if so, sorry if this is repeating. Airline changed flights so now we arrive at 10 a.m. instead of 6:30 pm. Thus decided to rent car as soon as we land and drive to Delphi that day, otherwise that day feels wasted. So... wondering if we can do this:

Day 1: arrive Athens 10 a.m. - rent car - drive to Delphi - arrive by 3:30 pm? (figuring 2 hours to get through customs, get a bite to eat and pick up rental car?) See Museum and lower site - SLEEP DELPHI

Day 2: See main site of Delphi early - leave by 11 - drive and see Nemea and Mycenae (enough time to see both in this day?) and sleep in Napflio.

Day 3: See a little of Napflio (we don't need to spend a lot of time here as focus is on the ancient sites), drive to Epidavros and see it, then drive to Athens airport and drop off car, taxi into Athens. Sleep in Athens.

Day 4: Sight See in Athens all day - Sleep in Athens.

Day 5: Sight See in Athens in morning - fly to Italy in afternoon or evening.

Main concern is Day 2 - do we have enough time to do what I have there? Thanks.

Posted by
12 posts

P.S. not going to try to edit so adding one more thought: Janet you said 3.5 hours from Athens airport to Delphi - Google maps right now says 2 hours and 19 minutes - Is it really more like 3.5 hours?

P.P.S. we could add a night to Greece somewhere - worried 1.5 days is not enough for Athens too. The date we go to Italy is not set yet.

Posted by
1079 posts

We saw Nemea and Mycenae in one day but not without some frustrations. We were at each about 2 hours and honestly it should have been longer. We had to rush people (there were 7 of us) out of both sites. You need to look at driving times and just as important the hours of the sites.

We were in Athens for 3 nights but half of our group had to go back after 2. We went to the Acropolis and Agora the first partial day. Then we saw most of the other sites on the ticket we had bought the next day. We spent 2 hours in the Archeology Museums (took metro) and then collapsed. My sturdy brother in law who had been to Greece several times then took my son in law (who was one of those leaving) to the Acropolis Museum before we all went to dinner. The rest of us went the next day. We went with our son who also had to leave to the stadium at 7 am before his noon flight.

So in my experience you can see a lot in a day and a half. However, I was there 2.5 days and would have liked another day.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks a lot BethFL, this is helpful - I will go try to look at the hours of Nemea and Mycenae also. This will be mid-June so hopefully they are open fairly long hours. I'm taking about really doing Delphi in the morning of that day too so it does seem a lot.

With Athens, depending on what time we get there after driving from Epidavros, returning rental car and taxi into Athens, we might have time to see something short that first afternoon in Athens, adding to our day and a half? But we might be too tired to do anything but dinner so I have to allow for that possibility.

Posted by
2414 posts

If you want to see Mycenae, it really is THE challenging site of the list... and frankly many people don't get that much from it ... if you are mainly about the Physical look of an Iliad-era FOrtress, you might consider TIRYNS . It's just about 3 miles outside Nafplio, right on the road, you pass it on LH Side on your way into town. It doesn't have the "Lion Gate" or the "Beehive Tomb" but it does have Awesome huge walls, boulders the size of volkswagens .... and NO crowds whatever, any day. You can climb he path to the top for a great view, ponder how in the world they built it, find the secret archways.... and be on your way in 40 minutes or so. Just a thought.

Posted by
1079 posts

There were 7 of us and 3 were reading all the signs in Mycenae. I was not one of them. Still I was very impressed with the Lion gates and even more more by the Beehive tomb. We got there just before a tour group and had it all to ourselves for about 10 minutes. The other thing I really enjoyed was climbing down to the bottom of the cistern. Best hint I had that I will pass on if you go is to bring a head lamp. I bought something for like $6 on Amazon that allowed me to have use of both hands (as opposed to using the flashlight on my cell phone). I also used it on the roof top deck of our air bnb in Athens when the motion activated light required walking towards it in the dark!