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advice on Greece trip with family

I have been reading these forums and saw what great advice people have received and thought I would see if I could get some too.

We are planning a trip to Greece next year with our three children and my daughter's husband (ages 21, 25, 27, and 33). My husband and I have been to Europe a half dozen times, mostly recently last summer to Italy, but never to Greece. Both the 25 year old and 27 year old have traveled extensively in Europe as students (but never to Greece). The 21 year old and 33 year have never been out of the country.

We will have two weeks. I was thinking of flying directly from Athens to Santorini. That would get us there early evening on first day (a very long day but seems better than going to Athens first) I am thinking four nights there which would be three full days. On the afternoon of fourth day would take ferry to Naxos (leaves 3:30 pm). Spend evening, one full day, and two nights there. Then take ferry at 9:30 am on Saturday to Athens. It arrives at 3:00 pm. Take taxi to bus station to take 5:00pm bus to Nafplio. Spend four nights (three full days) there. Then take bus to Athens for last three nights (2.5 days).

We had thought of driving to Nafplio but don't want to coordinate two cars in a foreign country. We have been told that a van which would hold all of us is not a good idea on Greek roads.

I had dropped Hydra in favor of Naxos because of children's desire to see picture perfect greek beaches as well as fact on ferry route from Santorini. I also saw that ferry to Hydra was fast ferry and we took one from Naples to Sorrento last summer and not much different from being on an airplane.

My original intention was to stay in port town of naxos and just visit beaches for day to get that Greek beach experience but now have seen gorgeous hiking and am wondering about taking off a day from Santorini and adding it to Naxos. That would give us evening, two full days, and part of a third day in Santorini but we will be somewhat jet lagged (I will be in Greece earlier for a conference so one person will not be). My daughter suggested dropping Nafplio and spending more time on the islands but I am quite enchanted with Nafplio and think it would be a good place for a group. I am a bit leery of Santorini because of how touristed it is but have also heard it is quite beautiful.

We plan to rent houses or flats in Santorini, Nafplio, and Athens and stay in hotels in Naxos. There really aren't any rentals in port town large enough and hotels are inexpensive enough there. We will stay central so that people can do things without always having to coordinate.

I would be interested in whether it makes sense a) to spend one day less on Santorini and one more on Naxos b) whether it really is too much to try to go four places in two weeks in Greece. (It is 13 nights and 12 days in Greece, although we could go back on Sunday instead of Saturday and extend one day).

Beth

Posted by
2416 posts

Beth, you've been reading and pondering, and learning.... and your instincts are right.

SEQUENCE anD TIME -- Good choices. You WILL want more time in Naxos ... it is the largest island in the Cyclades, whereas Santorini is 12 miles long ... and most people go there mainly for the Famous Caldera View. Believe me, I've taken newcomers to Santorini 6 times, and your shortened time-frame is just about right ... and the extra day will be so welcome on Naxos.I would actually recommend taking the MORNING Champion ferry on your departure day -- it has decks so you can see the Santorini cliff view, and it gets you to Naxos by noon. For the last destination before Athens Nafplio is great -- because it's surrounded by water (and has super beaches nearby, 15 minutes by bus) it can feel like an island, but no worries about getting back to mainland. . DO book your homebound flight for Sunday & get that precious extra day!

LODGINGS - (1) SANTORINI -If you've read any of my postings, you know that on Santorini, I love Firostephani, especially for a mixed group llike yours. It has the terrific caldera views like Oia, and is within walking distance of all the shops, cafes, night life of Fira -- but the crowds of Neither! No cruisers, no bus tours. (2) NAXOS -- No need to stay in the PORT town... but staying right adjacent, on St. George Beach, gives you the easy stroll to town attractions, with the seaview of a beach lodging. There are not whole villas to rent on ANY beach (by the time Naxos acquired villas, all the beachfront was full... so they are all inland & require car rental). There are many modest hotels with beach views that have "studios" and 1-bedroom Studios (these have a BR + big main room with 2 daybeds, kitchenette corner, and balconies w. tables) ... you could get adjacent units and have both communal time and privacy. (3) NAFPLIO has some good airbnbs and homeawy rentals in Old Town, since you're getting an early start... again, its a great destination for a mixed group .. plenty of culture, night life for the kids, and oh, those seafront sunsets!

DRIVING -- I hear you, about not wanting to "caravan" 2 cars on unfamiliar route to Nafplio. A compromise may be, once yo get there & have a day to explore the town,you might rent 2 smallish cars, 3 people in each, to do the surrounding sight-see (Mycenae, Epidaurus, etc etc).

Rather than try to do all your backgrounding while on the trip, on those teeny phone screens, I always recommend getting a copyof ROUGH GUIDE to GREECE. It tells in DETAIL what you need to know about each destination, with maps background etc. PLUS sections on language, history, culture, Excellent phrase section. And, it's like a Big Turkey for family dinner -- you carve it up and there's some for everyone! You don't bring the book -- you carefully pull out just the sections you want & bind with duct tape and presto! little "guide-ettes" Some things much easier to read on paper, still. (PS: u don't need the very latest editions because u don't want it for hotel & restaurant price -- you want it for landmarks and place-info... and those don't change much... you can get use copies on Amazon or other online sources).

Posted by
1099 posts

Thank you for your thoughts! I was thinking already of staying in Firostephani--I just couldn't remember how to spell it!

As far as the ferry to leave Santorini on, I don't see the Champion ferry you mention. I did see Sea Jets. I agree the timing is better in the morning but what do you know of these ferries? I had thought of Blue Star because people said they were huge and people don't get sea sick on them. I have been sick on boats before--going snorkeling in Florida.

I had also thought of renting a car once in Nafplio. Do you think that is something that should be done before we leave on the trip?

And if we extended by one day, where would you spend it? I had thought of one more day in the islands but that would mean traveling on Sunday rather than Saturday by ferry and bus. We took a hike last summer from Amalfi Italy to a near by town on a Sunday, intending to return by bus. We could not find a single place open that sold tickets and could not find a schedule and ended up walking back to town down 1600 steps to the pain of my calves for the next two days! I was supposing that Sunday in Greece might be limited in traveling options too.

Beth

Posted by
2416 posts

Beth, we cannot advise well without key facts ... for one thing you do not say WHEN you are coming -- if you have already decided on exact dates, please share. F0r Example - if you're going in mid-late June, Naxos hotel location advice would be different from late July/early August (most crowded time). As for not finding ferries for 2018, Most ferry lines except Blue Star will NOT be showing ferries yet for summer 2018. The patterns of service for 2017 should give an idea -- If you use gtp.gr, just put in the Month and leave the day at "any" and you'll see the service pattern. I just put in 6/2017 and ChampionJet2 dep Santorini at 10:45 daily. As for taking BLue Star ferry on a Sunday back to Athens, it's perfectly fine, as long as you purchase "reserved economy" seats & do it a few days ahead. Sunday ferries fill up, especially in High season, but "reserved economy" seats allow you to sit on deck as long as you wish, then go inside to reserved seats later. These ferries hold from 1200-1800 passengers; tickets are sold in every port.

Actually, I want you to re-think the idea of renting a van. Whoever warned you off (and I'm always suspicious of findings that start "we have been told") may be referring to a very different situation -- driving in Crete, for example, which is full of mountains, gorges and hairpin turns. Your party would NOT be driving in mountains ... far from it!! Going to Nafplio, you would be driving on THE most modern and LEvel Road in all of Greece (multi-lane, divided highway, nonstop from Airport until after Corinth Canal) ... and when you get off the highway for the 30-35 minute drive down a smaller road to Nafplio, it is low traffic, and LEVEL, through a lovely valley of citrus orchards and olive groves. One May we even did it in a rainstorm, smiling & laughing. Now let's look at budget figures and another factor to weigh ... minimizing transit time & stress, to maximize enjoyment time.

FERRY & BUS & 2 NAFPLIO CARS: Blue-star Res. Economy €38 x6 = €152. 2 taxis to Bus Station (4:30bus) = €30 Round-trip Bus tickets for 6 = €180, plus2 €6 taxis to/from Nafplio Hotel = €24 1-day local Car Rental x 2 = €80. Local busses $30 Total $496.. The Naxos - Nafplio trip is a day-long ordeal (leave hotel 9 AM ferry 9:45; arrive Nafplio Hotel 7pm++). I have done this, I know.

VAN RENTAL. A 7-passenger Diesel Automatic-shift from a highly-rated agency at the airport - iINCLUDING all insurance $125 per day x 4 = $500. https://www.athens-carrental.com/site/vehicle/automatic-long-diesel-minivans/en .

PLANE & MINI-VAN OPTION - 6 Aegean tickets Naxos-ATH in AM (Promotional fare €40-- buy in spring) = €240. Van Rental @ Airport for 4 days 12noon - 12noon = €500. Gas & tolls for to/from $30 x2 =€60 Gas for other 2 days $10. Total = €810.

Yes, the total € is more ... but instead of arriving at sunset exhausted, you arrive at 3 pm, chipper and ready for adventure! Then you are able to experience MUCH more of the wonderful Argolid valley ... the Sacred Games Site of NEMEA (runner-up to Olympia) is just off the road near corinth Canal ... what a thrill! in a 45 minute stop ... The Nemea Vineyards near-by, sample & buy. & go to Several beaches around Nafplio, & drive up Palamidi. the Option on Departing Nafplio, to drive to Epidaurus en route & then up the scenic coast road & make quick stop at Corinth Canal. I didn't have to do a ton of research to give you this information -- because I have I've done BOTH versions of this Naxos - Nafplio - Athens adventure, and know both the costs & time, and the energy factors. Each time I've done it with 3-4 Newcomers to Greece & they all voted Nafplio their Favorite! (Naxos was runner-up). You have plenty of time to plan & discuss and decide ... just be sure you decide on the basis of full information. Happy planning to you!

Posted by
11432 posts

Oh , you will need and want more time on Naxos.. it would be heartbreaking to only have one full day there..

The beaches are beautiful.. the people are so friendly and less jaded by tourism than they are on some popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini.. and the prices will surprise and delight you after Santorini..lol

Posted by
1099 posts

Yes, you are right---the dates do matter!! We are planning to arrive on Sunday May 27 (leaving states on May 26) and fly home either Saturday June 9 or Sunday June 10. The timing is pretty set as I will be in Greece already for a conference with work. But I am thinking that this would be good timing--summer enough without the crush of the crowds--although I have been told by a Turkish friend that the sea will still be too chilly for swimming. I have been using the schedule for 2017 to try to figure out what might be possible in 2018.

Can you go on deck with the Champion Jet2 ferry?

The anti driving a van in Greece came from talking to my brother-in-law who has been to Greece a number of times. To be fair, we were at that time talking of taking ferry to Hydra and then to Ermiomi about 1.5 hours away from Nafplio, and then returning car to Athens. My brother in law has driven in Greece but to Delphi and monasteries north of Athens. I don't think he has driven to Nafplio.

I had considered flying from Naxos but found no flights on Saturday June 3 (it would be Saturday June 2 in 2018). There are flights on Sunday so if we added a day (come back to States on Sunday instead of Saturday) that could work. Prices were much higher than what you than the promotional rate you were suggested, more like 150 Euros instead of 40. Is there a particular website you would suggest looking for such rates in the spring?

Frankly, I am sensitive to the energy aspect of traveling, especially with a group.

How difficult is it to get in and out of the airport with a rental car? I know driving in Athens is to be avoided and the airport is quite a ways out but what about traffic and being able to follow signs?

Another option would be to fly from Naxos and then take a bus to Nafplio.

And I too am thinking Nafplio will be a favorite, which is why I want to keep it on the itinerary!

Thanks so much for the help!

Beth

Posted by
2416 posts

OK -- re your many topics:
• CHAMPION -- YES, (unlike seajets) there's a nice back deck, for parting view. That's why "stanbr" and other Naxophiles now do recommend it. Otherwise you sorta "hang around" that day until 2 pm, then go down to pier for 3:30 Blue Star, don't arrive until 5:30.
• DATES -- PERFECT. We "vets" always recommend Mid-May - Mid-June. Everything's open, nothing's crowded (except a couple of Cruise-destination isles). Rain's over but greenery still lush. Greeks are relaxed at start of season, plenty of time to be sociable. And again "I have been told" ... consider the source. People from Turkey, Egypt, S. Florida etc think water that's under 80°F is too chilly. I'm from PA,I personally find water wonderful any time after May 15. Another vital fact you haven't shared -- where r u from? Unless from Florida, you'll find the water splendid ... and refreshing!

• DRIVING - Consider the source: your brother drove only in the MOUNTAINS. I have done them by bus — but this is far different. Believe me I have done the exact route you contemplate, at least 6 times, by bus & by car & by van. Peaks & hairpin turns NO. Instead, level and slow curves.

• FLIGHTS - You cannot guess 2018 flight schedule by looking at 2017. Used to be only 1x day... now that Naxos (alas) is better known, about 3x day ... 1st one quite early in AM. The planes to Naxos are Small (40-50 passengers) because they're turbojets ... that's why naxos is so blessedly crowd-free. The reason you saw no flights on Saturday 2017 is that flights are SOLD OUT & they don't show fully-booked flights.
• PROMOTIONAL RATES - These Promotional rates show up starting in January and disappear as high season nears. At this point, June 2017 tardy-planners have no choice, & must pay higher rates. How do you get them? You go on AEGEAN website and "register" — https://en.aegeanair.com/milesandbonus/member/enroll/ It used to be just signing up for a "Newsletter" ... it's actually an e-mail alert every few days.So “Register” & see if you start getting e-mails; if not, contact Aegean & ask for alerts Early in year, announced for different destinations every week or so, but not after 1st of March. You just have to be alert and act ASAP when u see the promotion for your destination.

• ENERGY - ??? What kind? Fuel for planes? Cars? I do not own a car, so am guilt-free. Yes, busses are best for the earth, but If 6 people go in 1 car, that reduces energy expenditure by a factor of 6. People who feel guilt about airplanes should not go to Europe, he he. Too late!

• DRIVING from AIRPORT -- You go directly from car lot onto that Modern highway, totally bypasses Athens & you do not have one single stop, until you exit, way AFTER the Corinth Canal... which is about 2/3 of the 100 mile trip. All signs are duplicated ... first sign is in Greek and 100 yards later, in English. No problemo. Just to show you how easy it is, here is my favorite online map -http://euro-map.com/karty-grecii/peloponnes/podrobnaya-turisticheskaya-karta-peloponnesa.jpg Click & it gets huuuge. As u can see it shows road all the way from airport to Nafplio, with KM markings. If you want step-by-step guidance, use https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Routes - it shows map, word directions, est. time AND cost (gas/tolls). Don’t depend just on GPS - it sometimes mixes up greek name. Use paper map as cross-check.

That's it for this round of questions ... Next??

Posted by
1099 posts

I am from Florida!!! But I am not going to Greece to swim. Even here I will sit on the beach and not go in if the air and water are not warm enough. I love just being by the water.

I didn't realize where my brother-in-law went was mountainous, although now it all makes sense. He talked about how beautiful it was but I really haven't looked into it because you can't do everything.

The information on airline promotional rates is so helpful. Do they do promotional rates going from Athens to Santorini as well? And I never thought of flights being totally sold out and not listed.

Energy? I meant ours not the earth's! My husband and I have traveled enough that I think we will be OK regardless of how we do this but I am for simplifying things because we are traveling with a group, some of which are not experienced travelers.

Only one more question for now. One of the posters said to stay in St. George not Naxos town. Is St. George a town? I thought it was the name of the beach which Naxos town was near. Or is it both a town and a beach?

Beth

Posted by
743 posts

Janet has been doing such a great job here I hesitate to butt in but I will.

Championjet 2 is a large car carrying fast ferry and can carry 1,000 passangers. It is stable and for the time we were in Naxos last summer it was right on time. It has an open deck at the back. While its not too much fun outside mid voyage 40 KM per hour is pretty windy the ferry has to travel slowly in the caldera so you will get a good 20 minutes slowly cruising out of Santorini on that deck. Bonus is it will be the first ferry from Santoirni to get to Naxos in the day.

Flights. Naxos is now serviced by Sky Express and Aegean so there is more choice. I have been signed up on Aegeans web site for years and snagged promotional fares from Naxos to Athens early in the year for 4 for 100euros taxes included. Bargain of the year. We also got sale price on a flight from Athens to Crete on a discounted price. Once you see one of those promotions move fast.
Frankly over the years we have realized that time is a much more precious commodity than money. Spending 5 hours on a ferry from Naxos to Athens isn't my idea of a good use of time. Even if you have to pay full fare we always fly back to Athens so you can start your first Nafplio day sooner.

How long for Naxos?
I would take a day from Santoirni and add it to Naxos. I might even take a day from Athens and add it to Naxos and I certainly would fly back on the Sunday to add an additional day to Naxos. You won't regret adding that time to Naxos.

St George beach is part of Naxos town. It is about a 10 minute stroll to all the action of the town waterfront promenade old market and Kastro. You get a beach vacation with the benefit of all the activities of town. Oh yes and St George is quiet at night for sleeping. Greece can be particularly noisy late at night. St George is quiet.

We Canadians have a saying "come on in the water its fine once you get used to it." It our way of wanting to share the experience with friends and relatives. In fact it is true, the water will be cold in late May but there will be lots of people in the water. St George is shallow so it warms up more quickly than any other beach.

Flickr seems to be having a problem today and my photos are not coming up. Regardless sometime in the next few hours these hyperlinks will be working.
St George Beach Hotels Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632162394787/
St George Beach Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632113170279/
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
And I add this 2016 album of Naxos because it starts with images from the rear deck of Championjet at Santorini

Naxos 2016 https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157671589993576

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

Posted by
1099 posts

Your pictures are amazing!! I wish I was going this year instead of next! But I guess that gives me lots of time to dream and figure things out which is half the fun.

I have been convinced by all of you to try to fly back from Naxos. I was leery of that long day of ferrying and bus riding but didn't understand how the flights worked very well. Thank you for enlightening me.

I also agree early ferry and one less day in Santorini is the way to go. I don't want to give up a day in Athens since we will only be there two but maybe we should just go back to work jet lagged and stay an extra day!

I will have to talk to my husband about driving again---he drove in Spain about five years ago. I personally would rather figure out public transportation and/or navigate and have yet to drive in Europe. But I can see that the information we got from his brother is not altogether accurate for what we are planning to do so time to reevaluate.

And thanks also, for explaining St. George and Naxos town!

Beth

Posted by
2416 posts

Glad that my esteemed Canadian co-contributor could add the needed reassurance to convince you , Beth. And arent his photos stunning?? I've given up organizing mine & just post his links (tho I do try to give him a credit line each time).

Flying/driving really does make that Naxos - Nafplio link doable & more enjoyable, not least because it enables that easy quick stop-in at Nemea (Iook at that map -- opposite the SOUTH exit to Nafplio also is the NORTH exit just 5 mi or so to Nemea). I remember, also, one ennnndless day of Ferry-Taxi-Bus -- when my companions turned so surly I had to keep dispensing chocolates to stave off mutiny.

Regarding driving: It's good to have 2 drivers; and they both will need to stop at an AAA office (15 mins) to get an International Driving Permit. And if your husband's not keen on taking the wheel at first? How about that 33-year-old? Is he the son-in-law? Let him share the job. I'm just guessing that maybe the 2 of you are picking up (mostly) the tab for this... so fair is fair. Whatever happens, all your destinations are great choices, it's win-win.

Posted by
1099 posts

You guys are just great!

So now I have enthusiastically been looking for modest priced hotels on Naxos. What has surprised me is that many things are already sold out more than a year ahead of time on the big websites like booking,com. I have tried following links to individual hotels but no better luck.

Any suggestions on how to find places? Or specific places you have liked? I have looked a bit with air bnb and vacation by owner but we really need two bathrooms for six adults (one bathroom would be more stress than taking the ferry!) and that isn't common in central locations. So was thinking of three hotel rooms.

Beth

Posted by
748 posts

I'll add my opinion of Naxos . . . fantastic. A great combination of Old & New World Greece with the road from Naxos Town to Appollonas one of the most spectacular I've ever been on. There are buses on the island which are very good but a car rental is the best option if you really want to see Naxos, and in fact any other island or the mainland.

Having traveled to Greece on a regular basis I've found any time you can get a flight to a destination is worth the money. In fact time IS money and if you can save time by flying then go for it.

Unless you are going to a nearby island like Aegina or Hydra a flight is your best option as long as there is an airport on the island/mainland you are heading for.

Sometimes a ferry is your only option and while it's a nice experience on a ferry the further away you have to go the more time you waste bobbing up and down on a boat. Nothing wrong with a ferry but if you can get to a destination via a flight it's worth it.

Sometimes it's better to limit the destinations rather than spreading yourself out to thin. It takes time to get from Point A to Point B and even though areas look close on a map it takes times to get to a port/airport, wait for the boat/ferry, the time it takes to get there and time to get to your accommodations, unpack and so forth.

I would devote more time to Naxos because it's one of Greece's nicest islands with a wonderful combination of Old and New World Greece.

Did you say when you would be in Greece? That would make a world of difference as far as costs, tourism and weather.

Posted by
1099 posts

We will be in Greece the last week in May and first week in June 2017.

Beth

Posted by
743 posts

The big booking sites show no availability if you are looking too far ahead. Use them for research but contact the hotels directly you are interested in in the fall. The hotels will be taking bookings but the big booking sites will be showing no availability.
You are definitely too far in advance right now. We are taking our kids to Greece this summer. We are staying at Diogenes Studios on St George beach. Beach front, modest studios. You can book several rooms on the same floor. Sigma studios happens to be a relative who has their rooms in the same building. This would be qa good starting place but as I said don't bother them until after this years season is over.

Posted by
1099 posts

Thanks! I wondered if that might be the case. I was just looking to see what kinds of rooms there were but I must admit was unnerved by the nothing available.

Beth

Posted by
2416 posts

Come back in the fall and we'll give you a list of places you'll like ... on Naxos AND Santorini. In Nafplio, you may be able to score an Airbnb in Old Town for 3-4 nights, since you'll be starting way in advance. Keep fingers x'd for me that I'll be at St. George back at that time ... it may be my Last Hurrah in Greece. Then I'll have to get m Graecophile friends to come see me in Philly!.

Posted by
1099 posts

Thanks again for all the help. I will come back in the fall. And I hope you enjoy your trip to Greece. I am amazed by how often some of you have gone. Greece must truly steal your hearts.

Beth