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Athens, The Peloponnese, and Islands in 2 week

My husband and I will be taking our "honeymoon" (3 years late) to Greece in early October. In addition to books and websites, I've spent the last few weeks reading your posts here, trying to come up with our itinerary. I haven't been able to plan the daily activities or research transportation to these destinations beyond what I've read here. That's Step 2 once the destination and timelines are ironed out. I'll be utilizing the many recommendations you've all provided previously, and will follow up with questions if needed.

We live in the U.S., Midwest part of the country. I am 28 years old, my husband is 33. He is an architect, I am an interior designer. We also have a vineyard he planted that we operate ourselves. I studied abroad in Rome, we've each been to Europe a couple times. This is our first time to Greece. We likely won't be spending an extended amount of time in Greece again in the foreseeable future. We're looking for the best architectural history, ancient sites and ruins. A couple museums (we prefer a limited amount of time in them, would rather be out and about). A vineyard and / or olive grove. Possibly a cooking class, or olive oil tasting. We don't hike, but we do like to bike if that's an option on the islands. Besides that, we just want to experience Greece! The people, the culture, the food, the views...!

Here is the itinerary I've come up with. Because I can't cross the ocean without stopping in Rome, we'll be flying into Rome and spending the first day and night there. From what I've read here, many of the regular contributors recommend flying to the islands first to recover from jet lag. I like that idea, but in my mind it makes more sense to learn about Greece and see the ancient sites before heading off to the "vacation" part of the trip. That's what seems logical to me-- however, I don't want to sabotage our trip because something seems logical to me, but actually isn't. I'm open to flipping the mainland with the islands.

(Oct 7th, arrive in Rome. Sleep in Rome)
Day 1 (Oct 8th): Arrive in Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 2: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 3: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 4: Rent a car, drive to Ancient Corinth in the morning. (Time to visit Ancient Nemea for the afternoon before sites close?) (sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 5: Nafplio, side-trip to Epidavros (sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 6: Wake in Nafplio, day trip to Mycenae (and / or Argos). (Return rental car, sleep in Anthens)
Day 7: Travel to Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 8: Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 9: Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 10: Ferry (?) to Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 11: Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 12: Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 13: Ferry (?) to Mykonos (sleep in Mykonos)
Day 14 (Oct 21): Return to Athens, continue to Rome
(Oct 21, arrive in Rome, sleep in Rome. Oct 22, leave for the U.S.)

My husband kind of has his heart set on Olympia. I'm hoping everything that Nafpilo and the adjoining side trips offer will satisfy him. If not, would you skip one of the islands to include Olympia? Or maybe replace Day 4 - 6 with just seeing a few of those sites on the way to and from Olympia? Or would you leave this as is, without Olympia? I know it's up to us, but I'm curious what your recommendation would be.

What about my island plan? We don't NEED to see Santorini or Mykonos. Naxos has rave reviews on here, but others have commented "Santorini is a must see for first time-ers." I've also read a day trip to Mykonos might be very doable this time of year (Full Disclosure: I mostly want to go to Mykonos because I've dreamt about it since listening to the Fleet Foxes song named after this island in college). I guess we're open to any expert advice when it comes to the islands.

I appreciate your time and input!

Posted by
2951 posts

Santorini is a fantastic study for the unique cavehouse architecture. There are also some award-winning wineries there and 2 amazing archaeological sites. No daytrip from Santorini to Mykonos will be possible. The same ferry you'd take there is the one you'd have to catch for the return to Santorini, and it turns around within 20 minutes of its arrival.

As much as you've romanticized Mykonos you can't really enjoy it if you are there for only one night. Save it for another time.

Posted by
1317 posts

Melissa

In terms of a logical arrangement I would consider going to the Peloponnese first. There's a direct train from the airport to Corinth which takes just over an hour. (For comparison the metro to central Athens takes 40 minutes.)

The train timetable is here

http://www.trainose.gr/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/%CE%94%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%BC%CE%BF%CE%BB%CF%8C%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%91%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%B4%CF%81%CF%8C%CE%BC%CE%B9%CE%BF-%CE%9A%CE%B9%CE%AC%CF%84%CE%BF.pdf?8ca0bf

You can pick up a hire car in Corinth and return it there on your way back. This saves driving in Athens, which is murder, and from Athens to Corinth. Eurental have an office at the Corinth Canal and, according to there site, one at the railway station as well.

http://www.eurentals.gr/en/

I've never used them so don't know what their cars or service are like, but they would be a place to start.

On the way back from the Peloponnese there are trains either to the airport or into central Athens. If it were me I would probably go to the airport and do the island leg, leaving Athens for the end. On your current plan you are in Mykonos on the morning of your flight to Rome. You only need the ferry to break down and you're scuppered. Being nearer the airport at the end is safer.

Just thoughts really. Have a great trip.

Cheers

Alan

Posted by
7 posts

Lee, those are excellent suggestions! We'll definitely be adding these items to our itinerary. I understand your point about spending 1 day in Mykonos.

Alan, thanks for the logistical tips. That helps! You've got a good point about being in Athens the day we fly out. I think we're going to be rearranging that part of our trip based on your tip and the other recommendations I've read here.

Posted by
1104 posts

I haven't been to the islands, but would skip Mykonos as I've heard it's really a party island. Olympia I have been to and while it is fun to see it isn't really close to anything else your going to do you have to decide how far out of your way you want to go.

Posted by
975 posts

I would agree about skipping Mykonos for just one day. It's really not worth the effort and time to get there and besides it's about on par with Santorini for tourism . . . too much, too expensive and too touristy.

I would spend more time on Naxos which is one of the best of the Greek Islands with an excellent combination of Old & New World Greece, spectacular road through the mountains, lovely interior villages, beaches, archeological/historic sights, centuries-old Byzantine Churches, great food, courteous people and a more laid back and family-oriented atmosphere.

Olympia is spectacular but is way out of the way with the time you have in Nafplio. You can add Epidavrous to Nafplio and Tyrns plus Ancient Corinth for wonderful ancient history. You can also do a day trips to Hydra/Spetses from Nafplio.

Don't try to cram too much into the time you have . . . quality is far more important than quantity!

Posted by
5267 posts

I think Alan has a good plan for the Peleponnese -- airport to Corinth and then Nafplio. Olympia is a long drive out of your way and will cost you at least one island. Athens is definitely worth a few days at the end, so you'll be near the airport. I can't help you with the islands.

Posted by
1022 posts

You have basically a good plan. I would tweak it like this.
When you arrive from Rome don't go into Athens. Either rent a car and drive to Corinth and visit Ancient Nemia, hopefully that will give your husband a taste of an ancient games site. Also visit Ancient Corinth then head south to Nafplio. It is a lovely town that feels like an island.
Nafplio and Peloponnese http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/

Better yet why not fly direct from Rome to Santoirni. I just did a dummy booking and both Iberia and Vueling have direct flights from FCO to Santorini in early October.
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/

Then ferry to Naxos. It will be slowing down in early October but there are enough tourists around to give it a buzz in the evening.
I would stay at St George beach because it is part of Naxos town so you get a beach holiday with all the activities of town.
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/

Go back to Athens and do your Nafplio portion of the trip then the last three nights in Athens so you are close to the airport the days before your return flight to Rome.
Athens http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632121475515/

I too would skip Mykonos and add that day to one of the other destinations.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you so much for the wonderful insight everyone! I've adjusted our itinerary accordingly. Please see my revisions here.

Day 1 (Oct 7th): Arrive in Rome, fly straight to Santorini, (sleep in Santorini)
Day 2: Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 3: Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 4: Wake in Santorini. Travel to Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 5: Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 6: Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 7: Wake in Naxos. Ferry to Athens. Train to Corinth. Rent a car in Corinth, drive toward Nafpilo. (Time to visit Ancient Nemea for the afternoon before sites close?) (sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 8: Nafplio, side-trip to Epidavros (sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 9: Wake in Nafplio, day trip to Argos and Mycenae. Continue to Delphi (Sleep in Delphi)
Day 10: Day in Delphi. Return car to Corinth. Train to Athens. (Sleep in Athens)
Day 11: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 12: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 13: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 14: Wake in Athens. Travel to Rome (Sleep in Rome)
Day 15: Rome (Sleep in Rome)
Day 16 (Oct 22) Wake in Rome. Leave for U.S.

I'm curious if Day 7 looks to transit heavy? I'd appreciate feedback on if that looks doable. I did swap out the day trip to Mykonos for a day trip to Delphi. The history sounds very interesting, and it seems like an excellent site of Greek history/mythology my husband would like to see (since Olympia doesn't fit our schedule, and learning Sparta isn't worth the visit either).

I feel pretty good about this schedule, but I'd still love feedback on the timing of my Nafpilo/Delphi leg (or anything else you have comments on!). I think we'd be comfortable arriving in Athens Day 11 instead of 10 if you see something else I should allow more time for. Again, thank you for your time and advice!

Posted by
2902 posts

Your schedule looks miles better than when you started ... we'll get there, together! There are 2 ways to really simplify your “transit-heavy” day of Friday Oct 14:

(1) Ferry version - Pick up Car at Ferry Dock in Piraeus NOT Corinth. I've done that Corinth train, and the station is way out in the middle of nowhere & you have to taxi to get to the city or to the Corinth bus terminals (there are 2) ... oh well, forget it!!
You would just have to rent from an agency that can have pick-up/drop-off in either Pireaus or the airport. If you get car at Blue Star ferry pier you do not have to drive in Athens city traffic at all — It is VERY simple to get directly on the “intercity” highway; see this map http://euro-map.com/karty-grecii/peloponnes/podrobnaya-turisticheskaya-karta-peloponnesa.jpg (click to enlarge, then use side-sliders to locate Pireaus). You can see that the Big Green Intercity Highway begins directly at port area and in about 5 KM you hang a left onto the Westbound Highway …. and you’re Off! straight along the seaside, not a single stop or turn until After you cross Corinth Canal. When you get back from Delphi - you can also avoid city traffic by driving “Big GReen” to drop car at Airport, then take the x95 express bus (€6 each) direct to Syntagma Square.

(2) Flight Version — Have you considered flying from Naxos?? Its €87 by air vs €37 for Reserved seating Blue Star ferry — but also just 45 minutes air vs 5 hours ferry — and you already will have a good “ferry experience” going 2.5 hours from Santorini-Naxos. Time is SO precious when you want to see so much in only 11 Days in Greece!! The plane leaves Naxos 14:00 (2pm) arriving ATH 2:45. (The ONLY flight of day; do not dither). And picking up car from Airport is the easiest of all. This agency is recommended by a Greece expert who’s rented there for 15 years: http://www.athens-carrental.com/index.php

Incidentally, if you take either the plane OR Blue Star ferry, you will NOT be able to visit Nemea enroute to Nafplio. Blue star goes 9:45 - arrives 3 pm, which is about when Nemea site closes. AND, as a vineyard owner, you want to see IMHO the Best red-wine vineyards in Greece, around Nemea. Thus, I suggest that you add that extra day to Nafplio area … with this possible scenario:

Day 7 (Oct 14) Drive straight to Nafplio, have time to roam the town a bit, and find a seat at seaside for the 7 pm sunset.
DAY 8 - Drive straight to NEMEA.. then afterwards, visit a vineyard !!! Ancient Nemea is surrounded by vineyards, I can give u links to a "wine trail" And there's a Bottling plant right on the main street of Nemea village. Buy some Nemean red! On way back, stop at Mycenae 1 pm (tour busses will be leaving)… Argos? not much to see — most of the treasures are bured under homes, and Argo-ites refuse to move for excavation. I think there's a small theatre ruin...

Day 9 - Explore Nafplio (architecture!! ruins!!) check this superb NONcommercial website: http://www.visitnafplio.com
Day 10 - Up Early, drive straight east to Epidaurus (visit theatre mainly) then up Coast Road to Corinth Canal, then on to Delphi, by 4 or 5 pm. Visit museum if still open
Day 11 - Ruins at 8 am , then back to Athens area, return car at airport by 2pm.

BTW if you really want to get most from architecture, ancient ruins & u are not using tours or licensed guides, I strongly urge taking a GOOD guidebook such as Rough Guide to Greece -- not relying on random googling of links on I-phone or I-pad (Except DO download R Steves' good Free step-by-step guide to Acrop & N.A.M. Museum).

Posted by
1022 posts

You are correct day 7 is a problem. The first ferry from Naxos to Piraeus is at 9:30 am gets in at 3pm. Now you have to get to the train station ( the suggestion to take the train to Corinth was based on the assumption that you will be arriving at the airport. From Piraeus that suggestion probably is no longer valid) you will need to rent the car from the port. You will not have any time to visit Nemia. Your husband isn't going to like this option.
i just checked flights from Naxos to Athens but there is only one flight with seats left the 6:40 pm departure. that is worse than the ferry.
so rent the car at Piraeus port, travel to Nafplio. Skip Argos and stop at Nemia on the way to Delphi and return the car to Athens rental agency. Apparently is isn't a horrible drive into Athens but i would probably choose to return the car to Piraeus or the airport.

Posted by
7 posts

I appreciate all the detailed suggestions! It's too bad there aren't any flights left from Naxos to Piraeus. We definitely would have preferred that (especially since my poor husband will be going through Dramamine like water on these ferry's), but it'll work. I've worked the suggested logistics into my schedule. Janet, I love getting to visit and taste what sounds like some excellent red wine! (I'm still taking olive grove/oil tasting suggestions if there are any!) These adjustment do shorten Athens by 1 day, but I think we can accept that. So, here we go, Version 3!

Day 1 (Oct 7th): Arrive in Rome, fly straight to Santorini, (sleep in Santorini)
Day 2: Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 3: Santorini (sleep in Santorini)
Day 4: Wake in Santorini. Ferry to Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 5: Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 6: Naxos (sleep in Naxos)
Day 7: Wake in Naxos. 9:30am ferry to Piraeus. Arrive 3pm, rent a car from Blue Star Ferry pier. Drive straight to Nafpilo for the evening (Sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 8: Wake in Nafplio, drive to Ancient Nemea first thing in the morning. Explore Nemea. Vineyard! Mycenae on way back to Nafpilo (sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 9: Nafplio (Sleep in Nafpilo)
Day 10: Leave early for Epidaurus. Continue up Coast Road to Corinth Canal, to Delphi by 4 or 5 pm, possibly visit museum. (Sleep in Delphi)
Day 11: Delphi ruins at 8am. Drive to Athens, return car to airport by 2pm (sleep in Athens)
Day 12: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 13: Athens (sleep in Athens)
Day 14: Wake in Athens. Travel to Rome (Sleep in Rome)
Day 15: Rome (Sleep in Rome)
Day 16 (Oct 22) Wake in Rome. Leave for U.S.

Just to make sure I'm following your instructions correctly -- It sounds like I can rent a car at Blue Star ferry pier in Piraeus, take that car to Nafpilo and Delphi, return directly to the airport in Athens, then bus into Athens, correct? That sounds great! Just want to verify that I'm not misinterpreting that. I've started googling car rental there in Piraeus, but I'd welcome any links or recommendations for car rentals.

I'm feeling more confident about this schedule, so I'm going to start booking transportation and hotels this weekend. I'm stil interested in tips or feedback in the meantime! Thank you!

Posted by
4535 posts

Your latest itinerary seems much more reasonable, especially with the car rental logistics. As to where to return the car, I would check to see if it is more expensive to return to the airport and if not, return it there. It will be easier and less stress to return at the airport coming from Delphi.

On driving, be sure all drivers have an International Drivers Permit (AAA issues them in the US) as they are legally required in Greece and most rental agencies do check. Roads are good and well marked for the most part, but be cautious and always stay near the far right as the middle of the road is for passing (its not marked but that's how it works).

Posted by
1022 posts

At the risk of driving you crazy I noted the comment about your husband and the affects of the 5 hour ferry trip on the 13th. So I am looking for a way to help your husband on the ferry ride from Naxos to Piraeus.

Paros new airport just opened this week and that means the larger brand new Dash Q 400 aircraft are now flying out of Paros. They have twice the capacity of the Dash 8 100 previously on that route. All that to say there are seats available on the 12, 13, and 14 of October and for two on the go lite (cabin baggage) fare is only 79 euros. Thats right that is the fare for both of you.

The blue star ferry departs Naxos at 9:30 and arrives Paros 10:15. But here is the problem on the 13th your chosen day to travel the Paros Athens flight is at 9:20. On the 12th and 14th it is at 11:40.

So if you want to cut out 4 hours of ferry time for your husband you could take the ferry to Paros on th 12 and cut a night from Naxos so you can catch the 9:20 flight on the 13th. There is a later Blue star to Paros that day so you can still have most of the 12 on Naxos.
This change, buys you a half day of extra time on your getting to Nafplio drive on the 13th. Better yet you will be renting the car at the airport and will be off to Nafplio by 11. This gives you the opportunity to stop at Nemia and Ancient Corinth and do the wine thing on the way to Nafplio. This means you now have a free day in Nafplio. Personally I might be tempted to use that day for a long day trip to Sparti to visit Mystras the last city of the Byzantine empire .
I am pretty sure I already posted this album but if you want to see what Mystras is like go to the end of page 1. Mystras is the section right before the end of page 1.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/

If you are risk takers there is probably a good chance that you could catch the 9:30 blue star on the 12th or the 14 and still make that flight but I wouldn't want to be the one making that recommendation.

Posted by
7 posts

Stanbr- can you provide a link to the flight info you've found? I went to Sky Scanner, searching flights from Paros to Athens, and all I came up with was an 11:35am flight, and 5pm flight. (For $212 total).

Also, I've never heard of "go lite (cabbin baggage)". Does that mean it's 79 euro for 2 tickets and carry on baggage? We will have larger baggage with us that would need to be checked. Is that an available option with this flight you've suggested?

I'd like to look into this option a bit more. Thanks!

Posted by
31524 posts

Melissa,

I'd like to second the information that Douglas posted about the International Driver's Permit for Greece and EACH driver must have one. These are used in conjunction with your home D.L., so you'll have to take those as well.

Regarding flight to Paros, check the Olympic Air website, as I believe they're the only one operating to Paros at the moment. I'm pleased to see that they'll be using Q-400 aircraft (I always enjoy flying on those).

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks, Ken! I will be looking up the flight through the link you shared.
We were aware of the driving requirements through reading past threads. However, I do appreciate everyone that continues to share and point out tips like this!

Janet commented on using tours or licensed guides. I haven't dug much into that detail yet. I will in the next week or two. Is there much of an option for guides at the ruins (Delphi, Nemea, Mycenea, etc)? I assume there will be options in Athens. Again, I welcome any recommendations as I start to research these guides. Thanks!

Posted by
1022 posts

Sorry Melissa I was away for the long weekend. The flights are still available on all three days. I was under the impression that these great fares were go lie (ie cabin bagas only) however thye are in fact flex fares which allows one 23kg bag for each seat plus cabin bags.
You shouod google Aegean Airlines website. They are a good airline and very professional.
Here is the link to my search for October 12.
https://e-ticket.aegeanair.com/A3Responsive/dyn/air/booking/;jsessionid=xhdMOnbdVQj_g-Wdzca1Sa0uoz6H2JEhhrUH3eOjp0zfofK

Or just Ageans site.
https://en.aegeanair.com/plan/book-a-flight/

Posted by
2902 posts

Melissa, some guide commentary: In high season, at some major sites, (I think of Knossos) -- you'll sometimes find licensed guides outside the entrance who will collect a group of 6 - 10 and charge you each 10-15E. Probably not in October. Of course, if there's a group tour going thru a site, you can "lurk" to hear their guide ... this applies to all ancient sites. It's mainly worthwhile if it's a school or college group, I find their guides dispense information, not stale stand-up comedy.

NEMEA - No guides on hand, but not needed ... it WILL add to your enjoyment if you spend a little time on the internet at the UC Berkley site-- http://nemeangames.org -- that shows excavation work, AND the "revived Nemean Games" -- some good videos... And in the small museum, there are knowledgeable people around to ask, and the exhibits have good signage.

DELPHI - No guides outside "on spec" ever, because the vast majority of visitors come by bus in group tours. With some Homework & internet print-outs you can D-I-Y, which I've done, because i'm a Greece buff. if that interests you I can provide a ton of links. Otherwise, there's a highly-recommended local guide who will meet you at the site -- http://www.delphi-guide.gr -- I think usually there's a 2-hour mnimum & costs around €50-60 for a group... if there are others with u (or that you collect), you can split the costs.

MYCENAE - The museum is easy to appreciate without narrative... if you arrive in AM, and expect bus-tour throngs, do the museum FIRST, because the groups do it last, & you'll have it at empty-time. As far as ruins go, a guide will really help if you have not read up on things.

Melissa, since u are posting on R Steves forum, I'm assuming u have his guidebook. He doesnt do islands, but is quite good on other places you list. IN Mycenae - Epidaurus - Delphi he gives good basic step-by-step approach & the highlights of each. I already mentioned his VERY good step-by-step of Acropolis and the Ancient Agora & the Nat. Arch Museum, also available for free download to a listening device.