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A little planning help for Greece?

Hello people of the RS Greece Forum! I am a veteran RS poster, but first-timer here. Wonder if I can seek some guidance from you Greco-philes? I will be traveling solo and taking the RS Greece Tour from June 5 to 18, my first time in Greece. You may know that the Greece Tour includes Athens, Delphi, Mountains near Lagkadia, Kardamyli, Monemvasia, Nafplio, Hydra and back to Athens.

I will be arriving in Athens from Portugal on May 30, so have 5+ days to schedule then, and can stay another 5-6 days following the tour too. I have not yet scheduled my return flight from Athens to the US, but probably will do so very soon for June 24 or 25.
So, I would value your guidance for planning my own time. As they say, it's all Greek to me -- maybe you've heard that before. (:->)))

  1. During the time May 30 to June 5, I figure I would partly stay in or close to Athens. Are there any special places, maybe small towns or villages, for day trips from Athens? I hope to go to Meteora during this time, thinking of taking a morning train to Kalabaka, go to Meteora for the sunset hours, stay the night in Kalabaka, go to Meteora again in the morning, then take an afternoon train back to Athens. Is that a good plan, or something better?

  2. From June 18 on, I would love to visit 2 or even 3 islands, but there are so many choices! Suggestions so far have been: (1) Santorini, staying in affordable lodging near Oia; (2) Naxos, with a day excursion to Santorini from there; (3) Crete, and a few others. I love natural beauty, history, cuisine and wine, and traditional small towns, love to walk but not really into hanging on the beach, kayaking or boating, biking or real hiking. Can you give any guidance for the best experience for 4 or 5 days, without really breaking the bank? Also, how to best get from one island to another.

  3. Finally, any special recommended hotels or B & Bs in central Athens, not elegant but not too sparse or remote either. Definitely private bathroom. The Tour will be staying at the Acropolis Select, which I can reserve for just over $US 100 per night. That's not too bad, but I see that there are others listed with quite lower prices, and equivalent reviews. Do you have any "best choices" or "best streets or areas" to recommend?

Thanks so much, I am doing my planning in the next few days, so I would really appreciate your ideas!

Posted by
3142 posts

Larry, you don't want a Little planning help, you want a LOT! So I'm going to give the same advice I always hand out to people who want mucho info fast -- run, do not walk to your nearest public library. Carmel is a highly-educated community so I'm sure it has a well-stocked library with a looong travel shelf. Pull out 5-6 Greece guidebooks & take them home and browse and compare. RS Guide doesn't cover islands, but others do, very well. And unlike lots of online websites (which can be promotional and just give highlights and "eye candy"), guides sometimes give downsides, and details that help you decide. I particularly like ROUGH GUIDE which is very detailed, and also CANDID. Another (which isn't being updated, but lib. copies still good) GREEK ISLAND-HOPPING, gives excellent advice on which islands work together, good ferry links. Even when you get advice on this forum I strongly urge you to use guide books, it will enrich your experience. You can get a RG used on Amazon for $5-6 ... AND pull out sections relevent to y our trip, "bind" the spine with Duct tape, and you've got a handful of pocket-size Guidettes. People who've tried this thank me!

As for query #2, quick answer is with just 5-6 days limit yourself to TWO:

• FLY to Santorini; if you act NOW you may get "promotional price" from Aegean Air - go to website & click "special offers"
• For "affordable" room near OIA, go to booking.com & filter for FIROSTEPHANI June 18-19, and sort starting w. lowest prices -- there are lots of hotels w nice views for under $100, AND there's a handy bus-stop to Oia on the main road, just steps from the inland side of the rimside hotels. Right now, my fave budget gem, Villa Fotini, just yards away from the rimside view, still has space for well under $100,AND includes breakfast, use of next-door pool, and free transfer to/from ferry; what's not to love?? Gaby Apts,, some rooms have caldera view, also still has space (no pool tho, and JUne can be HOT).

• After 2 days, take the 3:15pm BLLUE STAR ferry (2+hrs) to NAXOS -- look for a beach-area room on St. George Beach (Ag Giorgios)... you have nice beach views, AND adjacent to port town attractions, cafes nightlife. Go to booking.com for St. George -- anything "8" or better is fine, and a fraction of the price of Santorini. Naxos Town is fascinating!! All the history, architecture etc you want .. plus scores of authentic cafes, tavernas. If you want small villages, just grab a bus and go up to the hilltop towns of Filoti, Aspiranto -- a round-trip bus to Apollon at top of island is a bargain whiz-by tour!

as for Query #3 -- For ATHENS hotels, use this clever booking.com "sort" -- http://tinyurl.com/heq6edp -- it shows you all available hotels based on Distance from Acropolis! Put in your dates, and LOOK at GOOGLE Map, and try to choose hotels closer than Acropolis Select, with an "8" rating or better. Stay away from anything more than 1-2 streets N of Ermou... and anything South of Singrou. A budget favorite, Attalos, is a large hotel w. good reviews, right by Monastiraki Square. Personally I prefer hotels close to S. Side of Acropolis ... less traffic, near to the lovely pedestrian promenade. My Fave budget Gem -- Nestled right NEXT to Acropolis, to East -- for 1st 2 days of your time, has a double with pvt bath/ Balcony for $133, free cancellation/no deposit required. Another good one on S. part, longer walk to Acrop. is Acropolis view. But do not Dither!! Rooms may disappear even by time you read this.

Posted by
2020 posts

Larry --
At the end of your trip, you will need to return to Athens at least one night before your flight home. So I suggest you reverse the order of your itinerary. Upon arrival in Athens on May 30, fly directly to an island (probably Santorini) for a few days, then ferry to Naxos for a few days, then ferry or fly back to Athens to meet up with your tour group.

After your tour, you can spend time on the mainland, visiting Meteora and other places near Athens. You might want to include a day trip to the island of Aegina for a final island experience.

Posted by
15365 posts

Take a look at the Hera Hotel. That's where I'm staying for 4 nights pre-tour. It was less than the Acropolis Select, very close to it, and good reviews on tripadvisor.

I like Charlene's idea of relaxing on an island before the tour, then staying in Athens afterward. That also allows you to decide if there are sights you want to spend more time at and you'll already be very familiar with the city. I would have much preferred to be in Athens for several days post-tour, but hotel prices increase significantly from April to May. Athens last also means being close to the airport for your flight home.

Have you been to Thessaloniki? If I'd thought about it before I booked my flights, I would have considered adding it to my trip.

Posted by
2446 posts

Thanks to all 3 of you who made recommendations to help me with my planning for the days before and after my RS Greece Tour in June. I certainly took all your comments and ideas into account, and have been busy booking things over the past several days. I did consider going to the islands first, but in the end decided I really wanted my visit to begin with the Athens area, and to have the islands be something of a "dessert" at the end of a long trip.
Janet, I certainly do plenty of research before any trip, using books, web sites, and word of mouth, and also value the input of RS travelers with personal experience. I had been using the DK guide to the islands, but thanks for suggesting the Rough Guide. I ordered that through Amazon.com, was amazed that it arrived in 1.5 days, and certainly it has a lot more information and detail. In the end, here are my plans, almost 100% booked:
1. Arrive in Athens and start with 3 nights in the burbs, at Coco-Mat Hotel Nafsika, a relaxing spot very near the end of the Athens Metro Line. That will enable me to get to know a quieter non-urban area outside Athens, and also to go into Athens or even to Pireus and Aegina during those days. Then the next nights at the Athinas Street Inn in Athens, great reviews and price. I figure I will stay near and visit the Acropolis during the RS Tour, so that was not so important these initial nights. During this time, I will also go to Meteora and take sunset and morning tours of the mountainous monasteries.
2. After the RS Tours, fly to Santorini. I have an air reservation, not a truly special deal that was only available for a 5:45 am flight, not my cup of tea. Thanks to Janet and other reviews, I did book a nice and inexpensive room at Villa Fontini.
3. Then, ferry to Naxos, where I will spend 3 nights in a penthouse apartment at Santa Katerina Studios and Apartments in Naxos Town, near the beach, also very reasonable with great reviews.
All that is not yet booked is the ferry from Santorini to Naxos, which I guess I can arrange in Athens, and the flight from Naxos back to Athens. So far, the only schedules are early morning and early evening. I really want to travel more in the middle of the day, and hope more flights will be posted on different airlines. But maybe not.
Thanks for all your help with this, Larry

Posted by
3037 posts

The Athinas Street Inn is only 1/2 block from Omonia Square, which is notorious for the nighttime shenanigans of Junkies and Prostitutes. Daytime problems would be rare, but be hyper aware of your surroundings if you're out at night.

Posted by
3142 posts

Wow you are a true Rickhead! I had to go to Google to decipher ETBD ... Europe through the Back Door.

Alas, However, a hotel near Omonia is NOT a Back-Door Experience but more a Back-Alley situation ... Not quaint, not picturesque. If you insist on keeping your Athinas St. Hotel booking (and BTW, unless u chose the rock-bottom price, you can cancel any Greek hotel booking up to 14 days before, without any penalty), at least come back to the RS Forum and tell us how you liked the neighborhood (!). If you are doing it for the price, tell us what your desired budget is, and we can recommend places just as convenient, and nicer outside the window.

Posted by
145 posts

I would recommend driving to Meteora and then staying in that region of Epirus for its incredible mountains. Spectacular with ancient stone bridges, a gorge almost as deep as the Grand Canyon, small villages or the city of Ioannina or the spectacular coastline and beaches up and down from Parga. You'll have a great four days up there and few other tourists, if any. For your post-RS tour I would recommend picking one island and touring only that and since you mention Crete there's your winner. You can easily enjoy six days on Crete while barely scratching the surface. We visited the western section of Chania and it's wonderful. My advice would be to find a place to stay in the old town. From Chania you can enjoy the town and take an out-and-back trip through Samaria Gorge. Or, backpack with your stuff down the gorge and spend a night in the hotel by the beach on the south shore. The area beyond Chania is spectacular and features many world-class beaches like Elafonissi and Balos. It would be possible to try to blitz it and include both Santorini and Crete but those are long ferry trips and will eat into your time. Flights are wise but the airports are a hassle.

Posted by
145 posts

Your Athens hotel looks perfectly acceptable to me. We stayed a couple blocks away at the Evripides Hotel and it was very good. The neighborhood is terrific for fun restaurants, small squares filled with them just a few blocks to the south of your hotel. About 800 meters SSW of your hotel is a great little district of restaurants and bars.