My wife and I would like to travel to Greece in June 2017 and we are looking at the Rick Steves Athens and Heart of Greece tour. This would be our first time to Greece. We have enjoyed two great Rick Steves tours to Paris and Italy. The itinerary for the Greece tour does not include any Greek islands. Should we consider traveling to Greek islands instead?
Quick Question. How many days you have. Personally I believe Athens for 3 days is a great destination and I am sure Rick has done a great job. If you have +1 day I would propably do a one day cruise to some islands close by like Aigina or Hydra. If you have more look for Mykonons - more like a party place or Santorini - a more romantic one. Athens in Summer is quite hot and is pitty not to get a little touch by the aegean.
Does the tour no longer include Hydra? I loved this tour and I especially enjoyed our time in Hydra.
That really depends on what you want to see. I suspect the tour will include sites like Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi and Meteora. These are major sites and well worth doing. If ancient history is your thing then by all means take the tour. Or you could rent a car and do it yourself. This will probably take more time than the tour but it gives you the flexibility to do it at your own pace and to stop where you want to.
Olympia Delphi Meteora https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645469717811/
If relaxing on a Greek island is what you really want then add an island to your trip and do it yourself. It is easy to get to the islands by ferry or if time is an issue Aegean airlines has seat sales so you can just book a 45 minute flight to your chosen island. DIY is simple in Greece.
Think about what you really want to do and see and come back to us so we can be more specific with our responses.
I did the Athens and Heart of Greece tour and it was fantastic (great guide: Collin.) You do spend a full day on the tiny island of Hydra (or did when I took the tour.) I have not taken a tour of other Greek Islands but found the sights chosen by RS to be great. Yes, I would have liked to have gone to Meteora and a few of the other islands and am considering a return to Greece to visit those destinations. However, as (IMHO) a wonderful introduction to Greece with some great history (and not just ancient), landscapes, food etc., Athens and the Heart of Greece was wonderful. Only you could know, after the fact of course, whether the islands (aside from Hydra) were "better" than visiting the Peloponnese for you. But to answer your original question: I would definitely consider traveling to the Greek Islands instead of taking the Athens and Heart of Greece Tour, I consider many possibilities before I travel.
Could you add on days on either one end or the other? We took this tour 3 years ago and I would go again in a heartbeat. David was our guide and he was a master, but all the guides seem to excel and the local guides were excellent as well. It may depend on what kind of experience you want -relaxing beach or an overview of Greece as a country. The magic of seeing Delphi in the evening, the birthplace of the Olympics, the masterful architecture that made the Agora cool in the heat of the day, the small towns of Greece that reflect the ebb and flow of the country....I could go on, but this tour really covers a lot of territory.
Thanks for all the helpful replies. I'm sure the Heart of Greece Tour would be fantastic. We do like to travel with tours which reduces the stress of arranging travel and finding lodging--the tour leaders and guides with Rick Steves tours have been terrific and we do enjoy getting to know our travel mates. We also have been on Road Scholar tours as well but not to Europe. I found a Road Scholar tour to Athens and then to Cyclades islands by small ship. Any advice would be welcome.
Imshep51, we have also been on this tour and it is quite a wonderful experience. Before meeting our guide (David-fantastic!) and the tour group in Athens, my husband and I spent several days enjoying the island of Santorini. We, too, had time with the tour on the island of Hydra. Some of our tour mates left Athens after the tour ended to spend time on some of the other Greek islands-best of both worlds for an introduction to Greece.
As far as I know, the tour still includes a visit to Hydra, which is an island. If you want to visit other Greek Islands, it's very easy to do. For example, I took the RS Greece tour a few years ago, and then travelled to Naxos and Santorini on my own for a week or so. You could do the islands either before or after the tour.
The mainland coastline can be just as beautiful as any island coastline. If your goal for an island experience is a nice town on a nice beach, then the tour will give you that at coastal stops like Kardamyli and Nafplion, as well as on Hydra. If your goal includes more white "sugar cube" architecture and views of those towns from the boat, then the Cyclades provide that.
Thanks for all the great advice. Booked RS Greece tour for June.
I'm booked on the RS tour of Greece in May, after reading this post I can't wait to get on the plane!!
I shouldn't knock people with different tastes or expectations, but frankly, I'd be shocked if you didn't LOVE the Athens and Heart of Greece Tour. It was amazing.