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Allocating time between Nafplio, Naxos, and Athens

My husband and I will be flying from Houston mid-September. After a brief visit with friends in southern Italy (Calabria region), we will be connecting through FCO to ATH. We will have 11 nights in Greece. We are looking forward to a mix of local culture, food/wine, and visiting ancient sites, and beautiful scenery.
Looks like we will arrive in ATH at 6:20pm. Our plan is to rent a car and drive to Nafplio (4N).
Then drive back to ATH to fly to Naxos (5N).
Then Athens (2N) before connecting back through FCO (1N near FCO).
I would be grateful for opinions regarding the balance of time between the three locations in Greece.

Posted by
8606 posts

I would take one night from Naxos and give it to Athens. I assume you already have bought your flights? Flying back to the US from Athens would be so much better. You have chosen a great itinerary!

Posted by
9144 posts

Unless you have been to Athens before, you may want to consider at least one additional night there.

Posted by
81 posts

Thank you both for your replies. I will give consideration to swapping out a night in Naxos for an additional night in Athens. Unfortunately, the round trip fare from Houston to Rome was far less expensive than an open jaw itinerary, otherwise I would definitely chosen to fly home from Athens!

Posted by
50 posts

I've stayed in Athens a couple of times and personally never enjoyed the city. The history is of course important to see, but I really don't care for the city itself outside of the historical sites. If I were taking this trip, I wouldn't change your allocation. Nafplio and Naxos are great and I'd spend as much time in those and as little time in Athens as possible. But that's my very subjective opinion and I understand that others may think me a barbarian for having this point of view.

Posted by
81 posts

I appreciate the comments and various personal opinions. I know I might be splitting hairs a bit, but the options I am weighing are:
1. Stick with original plan of 5N Naxos and 2N Athen, but get an early enough flight to Athens to have a reasonably full day (earliest flight looks to arrive ATH at 11:45am) to provide 1-1/2 days of Athens sightseeing.
2. Subtract a night from Naxos, but leave late enough to allow a full last day on the Island. With 3 nights in Athens, that's 2 full days for sightseeing.
3. Take a night from Naxos, leaving on the early flight, giving 2-1/2 days for Athens, perhaps including a day trip to Delphi.
Thoughts about fine tuning?
Thanks in advance!

Posted by
2952 posts

Alexandra, I have just returned from a Greece visit (my 13th since 1999) to these 3 exact destinations, two of which I've visited on every trip, and the 3rd, Nafplio, about 9 of the 13 trips. So I believe I've found the most effective way to maximize time on-site,enjoying, while minimizing transit time and avoiding backtracking. NOTE: since it involves domestic flights it would have been helpful to have exact dates because the most suitable Naxos flights even this far in advance may be sold out (one reason Naxos is such an enjoyable island is that its airfield cannot accommodate jumbo jets, just v. modern turbo models seating 40).

I recommend altering your sequence, doing Naxos first, then flying back to ATH, renting a car for visit to Nafplio area, then returning for final days in Athens. This exact sequence is what we did from June 3rd thru June 17. Here's the way it would work:

DAY 1 -- Arrive ATH noonish; 1st available flight is then 1600 - arr 1640 (3-3:40) Airport is VERY close to port town & its adjoining beach area, Ag. Giorgios (St. George). I recommend the latter, rather than farther-out beach areas, which are great for swims but in eve in Sept are more closed-down. St. G. is serene by night, but also just a 15 minute stroll from beach to the lively town seafront crescent of cafes, tavernas, shops etc. Believe me, I've stayed in many areas, and have found this the most enjoyable. With luck, you can be in swimsuits and having a dip shortly after 4 pm! Sun goes down about 7:30 -- enough time for you to walk to the famous Arch on the harbor islet for the obligatory foto thru the arch! A good start to your stay. I can recommend hotels.

DAY 2-3-4 -- Allow one morning just to explore/enjoy the fascinating Port Town, climb up to its Kastro (Castle) see the amazing tiny museum with world's top collection of pre-Minoan statues, walk the winding maze-like lanes... then take bus near ferry pier to visit gorgeous PLAKA beach to swim. One day, rent a car to zoom around the island's highlights: hillside villages, ruins, marble mountains, more (or you can hire a guide for this)

DAY 5 - FLY in AM back to ATH (Here's where I wish you'd given dates; on a few dates there's still seats on the 10 am flight arr 11:15; otherwise you'll have to get up early for the 7:25 - arr 8:10. book NOW). Get rental car (I highly recommend Athens Car Rental), drive to NAFPLIO...2.5 hours if you go nonstop. En route, after crossing Corinth Canal, I highly recommend short stop at ANCIENT NEMEA -- just off the big intercity highway.... a "Sacred Games Site" runner-up to Olympia; a real thrill you can see in 45 minutes. I STRONGLY recommend Hotel Agammemnon both for location nd value, if you can snag one of the rooms directly on the seafront with water-view balcony.

DAY 6 - 7 -- 1st day to explore this glorious Old TOWN, 2nd to visit Nearby sites; for the BEST overall guide to Nafplio & area, use and believe every word; its creator is THE best, and totally noncommmercial. Day 1, walk old town, go to Acronafplia, walk around point at waters edge, swim @ cute tny town beach? Day 2 - on such a short trip, don't attempt Mycenae, instead visit nearby TIRYNS, then drive up back of PALAMIDI fortress (or taxi); walk down the 999 steps.?

DAY 8 - Leave early, no need to backtrack -- instead drive across "thumb" of Pelops to EPIDAURUS; don't spend hours on acres of ruins, it's mainly about the stunning Theatre. Then you can drive up the coastal Road to Isthmus and stop by the Original bridge to see & photo the Narrow, Deeeeep canal. Then hop onto the big intercity highway to return to airport by 2 pm or so... taxi @ flat-fee €38 to Athens hotel. If not exhausted, u could go up on Acropolis @ 5 pm... NO crowds, beautiful golden late-day light.

DAY 9 - 10 - 11 -- Enjoy the cultural and landmark riches of Athens. I dont recommend a one-day bus tour to delphi -- too rushed.

Posted by
81 posts

Janet, thank you so very much for your detailed comments and advice! I love your descriptions of ways to spend our time throughout the trip. Our exact dates in Greece are arriving September 10, departing September 21. A limiting factor on the sequence of locations is our incoming timeframe from Calabria. On the 10th we will fly from Lamezia airport and connect through Rome to Athens. We can arrive in Athens at 1:25pm, but the next flight to Naxos isn't until 4:15pm (and that would be a lot of flights for one day!). I think our time would be better spent hiring a car and getting to Nafplios right away, do you agree?

Posted by
2952 posts

The key details changes my advice completely .... that's why I fret when people want specific advice, but based on vague info. The reason I didnt favor your first plan was that-- arriving 6:20 -- you'd be driving to Nafplio in the dark -- which is never easy on an unknown route, and besides, once the big highway gets out of the industrial section and goes along the sea, it's such an enjoyable ride, why miss the day view ...when you exit the big highway heading down to Nafplio, that smaller (and low-traffic) road is a delight, going thru orchards and olive groves, gently rolling, hills on either side, a joy.

However, despite landing 1:25 in a small airport, fast processing since u come from EU, and Athens Car Rental efficiency (they meet you outisde exit door with your car ready to go -- we had a shiny new white Nissan automatic for €44 per day), even so, the earliest you'll pull out of the airport is about 2 pm -- it takes about 1 hour to get to the Corinth crossing, and about 15 minutes past that to the NEMEA exit. It's important to check that NEMEA is open past 3 pm -- some of the smaller sites run 8:30 - 3 after high season, to save costs - the official site says open til 19:30 until sept 15. So worth a quickie stop; just see the FAB stadium (hero's tunnel) and the temple ruins... the museum is quick joy just for architecture (U Cal Berkeley is site sponsor -- $$$ helps!). Another 45+ minutes to Nafplio ... parking is on the wide-open pier by seafront.

After 3+ days in Nafplio, you could time your return to Airport to get a plane to Naxos... DO go immediately to Aegean Air website to see availability- -- and BOOK SOON -- as this site will show things fill up way ahead! In St. George/Ag Giorgios beach, places I like because theyre right on the sand or just off ... Villa Naxia, at far end of beach is upscale, lovely, hard to book (not on; contact direct), also Studios Kalergis; 3 floors all balconies face the water, Hotel Palatia... upper floors have lovely balcony views. Again, book Promptly for return flight to ATH or your only alternative is a 5-6 hr ferry ride. If that's your choice, don't lose a day woth a 9:45-3pm sailing, do the "sunset sail" of BLUE STAR; 6 pm - 11:45, book a "rserved economy" seat, numbered seat indoors (request loction in side sections by window), and sit on deck until sunset, then come in.

If only in ATHENS 2 nights, be close to Acropolis --- don't fall for chain hotels even if you have loads of Starwood points or such, you have to taxi to sights ... I'd recommend Hotels SOUTH of Acropolis, right near Acropolis Museum and the lovely pedestrian promenade winding around south edge of the Historic area.... Hotel Phillipos and its upscale sister, Hotel Herodion ... the latter had a wonderful acropolis-view rooftop restaurant for your final night's dinner.