A Month in Greece-Mid April to Mid May 2015

We're just starting to plan a trip to Greece for next spring, and are in need of some advice. We are pretty much locked in to mid April, but could possibly stretch to starting 3rd week April, returning 3rd week of May. We are two young at heart seniors, fairly adventurous and well traveled. We would not consider a tour, as we prefer to travel independently.

We will want to start with a week in Athens--I think there is plenty to keep us busy there, as we are "slow travelers"! We are thinking of 5-6 days on Rhodes, hopefully basing ourselves in the old town area. We really don't want to be in a secluded locale, as we enjoying walking to a restaurant for dinner, drinks, etc.

We are NOT beach people, so we aren't concerned about cold ocean water, etc in April. We certainly don't mind an occasional dip in a pool if it's hot, but I'm guessing it won't be too hot in April/May. We much prefer exploring an interesting town or village, having some great Greek and seafood meals, and seeing the ancient ruins. A great museum is always a hit, and I love to shop for interesting local goods, anything from grocery stores to artisan art/crafts. We enjoy sampling new beer and wine ;} We're not too hard to please.

SO--where to next? After Athens and Rhodes, we'll still have 2+ weeks to explore Greece! What other islands would likely be a good fit for us? We've looked at Santorini, but GOOD GRIEF, it's expensive!! Our max budget for lodging (preferably an apartment or guesthouse with a small kitchen) is about 150 E a night. We are not adverse to renting a car to make exploring an island easier.

Logistically, what makes the most sense? I'm guessing we will fly in and out of Athens.
Thanks in advance for any advice, for some reason I'm a bit overwhelmed by Greece!

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1212 posts

I'm assuming you are going through the other postings on the Greece forum. Be sure to see the links I put in my answer to ridge.ranger. His question is about Crete, but the links talk about all the islands (and more).

We are going to top off the RS Istanbul tour 10/5 - 10/11 with about 3.5 weeks in Greece. By inclination and age (66 and 68), we are also slow travelers. We live out in the desert, so we also prefer being in town on our trips.

But for this trip, I picked up the pace a bit. After Istanbul we will have 5 nights in Athens in an apartment, 4 nights in Fira on Santorini (prices lower for many lodgings right about when we arrive), 5 nights and a whole day on Crete (overnight ferry to Piraeus), 3 nights on Hydra, 3 nights in Nafplio, 2 nights in Delphi and back to Athens for 1 night before heading home.

I've been to Greece before but it was a very long time ago and I only went to Athens and Crete. My husband has never been, so the faster pace is really for both of us.

Many people avoid Crete because it is "sooooo" far, but if you are going to Rhodes that probably wouldn't an issue for you. I could see you doing a week there and one in the Peloponnese to round out your trip.

Those links I mentioned as well as Rick's Greece, Athens & the Peloponnese might help with your decision-making.

Posted by Lee
Oregon
1877 posts

The later in the year you go the better your chances are for stable weather. Keep in mind that Greek Easter is the weekend of April 12 so demand for accomodations, travel reservations, and services will be very high then.

Since you'll already be in Rhodes it makes the most sense for you to stick to the islands on the east side of the Aegean Sea. I suggest an itinerary that includes Samos so you can take the daytrip across into Turkey to visit Ephesus, a "must" for anyone interested in ruins and Greek history. After returning to Samos you can take a ferry back to Athens, stopping at Ikaria on the way. Samos also has an airport in case you'd prefer to fly back to Athens. Greek Island Ferry Schedules: http://www.gtp.gr You will not see schedules for next April/May until sometime after the first of the year.

Santorini doesn't have to be expensive. That's a misconception, although there are certainly plenty of expensive hotels there. Rooms start at €25/night, and in April and early May you'll find lots of options with the famous caldera view that come in under your €150 cap. Regardless of which islands you end up choosing you can use the filter system at http://www.booking.com to search for affordable accomodations with the services, amenities and facilities you require.

Lo's suggestion of Crete is a good one as long as you take the time it requires for exploration. Crete is huge. A minimum of a week with a rental car will just barely scratch the surface.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3056 posts

If you are not adverse to renting a car, then I would spend a week or so driving to Delphi and the Peloponnese. That can include sites like Olympia, Nafplio, Myceanae and Epidavros. You can likely also fit in Mystras if you like Byzantine history/architecture. Monemvasia is well worth it but it's a bit more remote. Same for Metamora. Nafplio is a good base for some of these sites and is worth 2-3 nights easy.

Honestly, I like Athens better than most here, but a full week (7days) is a bit much. There are more charming places in Greece to kick back and relax. Maybe scale that back to only 5 days. And you may need a night before your departure home since flights can be too early to drive/fly back from somewhere else.

Car rental requires an International Drivers Permit in Greece (from AAA). Driving is pretty easy outside Athens and roads are well marked in English. I highly recommend the CDW.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2962 posts

I have not traveled extensively in Greece, but have been to Athens (3 days was enough for us... but it was July and Hot) from there we took the bus to Nafplio and we loved it there. It was on the water and it was beautiful. Just big enough to be enjoyable, yet small enough to be laid back. We stayed at the Acropolis View in Athens and the Aetoma in Nafplio. Both were a good value and our first view of the Acropolis was from the rooftop garden at night and it was stunning. My grandson has some Greek heritage and loves Greek history so it was at his request that we went there. We had spent the previous week in Istanbul so it was a nice addition to our trip.

Posted by Carol
Martinez, CA, USA
749 posts

Agree with Douglas. If you're not locked in to islands only, a 2 week tour of the Peloponnese sounds like it would suit you. In 2012 we did a similar trip visiting some islands then spending 2 weeks in the Peloponnese and ending with 3 nights in Athens. Over a 13 night period we stayed in Loutraki (near Corinth), Nafplio, Monemvasia, Kardamili, Ancient Olympia, and Delfoi before going to Athens. These towns allowed us to do day trips to visit other sites on the way from the previous town or to visit them as day trips. This was really a great itinerary and a great trip, full of spectacular scenery, historical sites, ruins, ancient churches, beautiful small towns, and great food.

Also, are you locked into Rhodes? We considered going there during our Greece trip but it was so far out of the way. We visited Rhodes when we made a return trip to Turkey last year. It's a much easier and shorter trip from Turkey. If you consider changing your mind, Santorini has beautiful scenery, ruins, and a great archaeological museum. Naxos is a quiet island with an interesting old town and many interesting villages. From there you can take a day trip to the open air museum archaeoligical island of Delos. On our 2012 trip we spent 4 nights on Santorini, 5 on Naxos, and 2 on Hydra before picking up a rental car at Pireaus to begin our Peloponnese trip. We flew into Athens then took a local flight to Santorini, then used ferries for the other islands and to return to the mainland. We did this trip on a budget and it was one of our most enjoyable and interesting trips (but aren't they all?)!

Good luck in deciding!

Posted by Diana
The World!
17 posts

WOW! Thank you all for the great information. I'm feeling a bit less overwhelmed, thanks to you all.

I'm thinking this trip will be challenging to plan, much like our month in mainland China last year. I'm pretty sure I spent more than a months worth of hours researching and planning China--but I love that part of traveling!

Alan--thanks so much for your PM, I'm enjoying your website, and the other link you sent is a wealth of information--very helpful.

I'm sure I'll be back with many more questions.

Thanks again!
Diana

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
1065 posts

Diana, one more option is the island of Lesvos, and specifically the Hotel Votsala. We've been there several times and absolutely love it. They have a Spring Week Programme for early April, and some Easter activities planned beginning April 17. Go to the Votsala website, and click on "spring" or "Easter" in small type in the left-hand column. Either event would be a very memorable experience with some of the most hospitable people you will ever meet, and some of the best food in Greece. And best of all, very inexpensive.

If you enjoy ruins, you could easily take a day trip from Lesvos to the ruins at Pergamon, or even spend a few more days in Turkey and also see Ephesus. From Ephesus, you could ferry to Samos for a few days, then fly back to Athens. Or, after Ephesus you could take a bus through Turkey down to Marmaris, then ferry across to Rhodes, spend your time there, then fly to Athens. The Mediterranean coast of Turkey is filled with ruins, and gorgeous scenery.

There are so many options in Greece (and now I've added Turkey to the mix!) that it can be overwhelming, but there are many experienced travelers on this site who would be happy to help. These are two of my favorite places in the world and I always enjoy introducing others to them.

By the way, I would recommend saving your Athens exploration to the end of the trip, as it's always wise to get back to Athens a couple of days before your flight home. So if you did choose to visit Lesvos (or Rhodes), I would fly directly to the island upon arriving in Athens. Allow yourself a couple of hours between arrival in Athens and departure to the island. It makes for a long travel day but it's so nice to wake up on an island on your first day of vacation.

Posted by Diana
The World!
17 posts

Thanks Charlene!

For some reason, I haven't thought of leaving our Athens visit until the end of our trip--that does make sense.

We spent 2 weeks in Turkey in 2012--what a wonderful country. Ephesus was definitely the highlight, we were just awestruck! If the ruins in Greece are anything like Ephesus--we are in for a treat.

For now, we are researching several "sets" of islands, trying to choose 3-4 that appeal to us the most. Hopefully, we can come up with an itinerary that makes logistical sense AND works with the ferry schedule. We would also consider flying between some islands--it that works better than the ferry and is not cost prohibitive.

Thanks again!

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
1065 posts

If you're still considering Rhodes, and looking for other islands to visit, you could focus on the Dodecanese chain. You could island-hop by ferry, stopping at various islands along the way. At that time of year, advance reservations would not be needed. These are all lovely little islands, where you will see very few tourists and can enjoy wonderful food and lodging at very low cost. The Lonely Planet Greek Islands guidebook has a good Dodecanese itinerary.

We used the Blue Star Ferries to move up and down the Dodecanese. These big ferries make runs to and from Athens to the Dodecanese a few times a week. Schedules are usually announced well in advance, making it easy to plan trips. There are other ferries as well (ie. the Dodecanese Express) but their schedules are more subject to change.

Some of the islands you could explore: picturesque Symi is very near Rhodes ... you could visit on a day trip from Rhodes. Tilos is a little further. It's a quiet little island where Brits like to go birding.

One of our favorites is Nisyros; it's a tiny island with an active (but not erupting) volcano, and you can walk around inside the crater. Absolutely fascinating. There is steam erupting from fumaroles, and the ground felt warm and soft in several places. The volcano is the main attraction on the island; there's a good museum explaining how the island was formed. You can rent a car and drive around the island (it has one road, so you can't get lost). There's a lovely little yacht harbor and a Cycladic-looking village. It would be a good place for a couple of nights.

We enjoyed the island of Leros. It has a meticulously maintained WWII cemetery where mostly British and Canadian soldiers are buried, who were killed trying to protect the island from a German invasion. It's hard to imagine the war extending to this little island.

Patmos is a lovely island, with the monastery of St. John, and the Cave of the Apocalypse where he wrote the book of Revelation.

There are several other islands as well. And at the end, you could fly back to Athens from Patmos or Leros.

Have fun planning!

Posted by George
Philadelphia
655 posts

Diana.....We too are 'slow seniors' and would make just one or two notes. Consider arrival in Greece and continuing immediately on to the island you select using local air which can be very reasonable. Four nights at most at the end of your trip to explore Athens. We traveled mid April to mid May and loved it but be sensitive to the orthodox Easter because it is a holiday widely observed by Greek families which makes flights, ferries, and highways very crowded. That said, if you are comfortably located somewhere and can stay put for the holiday, the parades and events are interesting to observe. Finally, we feel a trip to Greece has to include Santorini - it is one of the most beautiful places in the world - it works well with Naxos. Have a great trip.