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First time trip to Greece

Hello,
My husband and I are travelling to Greece mid September for 10 nights. He loves history so we want to catch the sights but we also enjoy good food and wine. Athens and Santorini are on the list. What else should we add to our itinerary? Delphi trip? Crete? Is there substantial savings if I book everything myself? What about Fantasy Travel?

Posted by
5543 posts

Mid September should still be good weather and it will be less busy than August. From Athens you could do a side trip to the Corinthian Canal.

Why do all Americans want to visit Santorini? (sorry - I assume using this site you are American?!) To us Europeans, it would not be top of our list of islands to visit as these days it has been ruined by too many cruise liners visiting with swarms of people disembarking each day and development. There are hundreds of more truly Greek islands than this facsimile.

I would go to Crete as you obviously enjoy history and the island has much to offer.

Greek wine is in my opinion better than Greek food, but if possible, go for it meze-style and order several dishes and share.

I have always booked everything myself on line which seems to be the way of getting the best prices.

Posted by
2788 posts

Do you have RS Greece Guide Book yet? If so, great. If not I would suggest you get one as soon as possible. It can be ordered elsewhere on this web site. It sure came in handy in our planning for our trip to Greece last year.
Hope you enjoy Greece as much as we did.

Posted by
16883 posts

Accommodations are a primary travel expense but small hotels and pensions that you book yourself can be cheap in Greece, whether in advance or as you go, especially in comparison to Western Europe. At http://www.ricksteves.com/europe/greece, see a preview of destinations covered in Rick's Greece guidebook. You could have a very good mix of historical sites, landscapes, and beaches by sticking to the Peloponnese and not even voyaging to an island. If you try that direction, then rent a car upon departing Athens. Food and wine options will be similar at most destinations; Greece has less regional variety than France or Italy, for instance.

Posted by
4535 posts

A trip to Delphi is highly recommended (much more so in my opinion than the Corinthian Canal). It has great ruins, a very nice museum and wonderful vistas. And it is easy to get to by either public bus, organized daytrip tours or by driving. If you do rent a car, also consider visiting Nafplio and the nearby sites of Myceanae and Epidavros (and you can stop off at the canal and in Corinth). But that would be an extra couple of days.

Do invest in some guidebooks, which will give you many more specific details. Athens in September should be pretty decent compared to the heat of summer. But you only need about 3 days there at most. That leaves an extra day for Delphi and 5-6 days for islands.

Posted by
33 posts

Thanks! This helps a lot. I purchased Lonely Planet's guidebook and guess will have to get Rick Steve's also (or check my local library). I don't think we want to rent a car so will check public transit. I'm glad to hear you say 3 days in Athens. I was wondering about that.

Posted by
31471 posts

To answer your last question, I used Fantasy Tours to set up all my arrangements to Naxos and Santorini and they were exceptional. I was very pleased with the service and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them! I saw the Pelopponese with a RS tour and numerous historic locations were covered on that, including Delphi and Olympia.

I wouldn't bother with Crete this time, as it's large and you wouldn't be able to see much there after spending time in Athens, Santorini and perhaps Delphi. Another town you might really enjoy is Nafplion. As I recall, there's some kind of historic site close to there.

Posted by
33 posts

Thanks! Do you recommend Naxos over Mykonos? Someone told me Mykonos is mostly resorts.

Posted by
5543 posts

Personally, I would recommend any Greek island over Mykonos or Santorini if you want to see more of the "real" Greece.

Posted by
2864 posts

When someone says "why Naxos" I always think of the many posts by other friends who have THE best photos and descriptions of the Island we all love so much; here's a typical thread, which includes MANY pictures: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g580192-i9822-k8344633-Naxos_vs_Santorini-Naxos_Town_Naxos_Cyclades.html#65446069 ... in addition, my friend "Stanbr" as 2-3 other photo albums that are worth a thousand words: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645113682278/ (aweek in Naxos 2014) and http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/ (a trip around Naxos -- all the mountain villages and hidden gems).

If you love ancient history, it's everywhere in NAXOS ... a Temple of Apollo on an inland hill ... Kouros (statues) lying around in orchards... A teeny museum with the World's Best Collection of the mysterious pre-Minoan marble figurines (ranging from 3" high to 3 FEET high). Even in the Town courtyard, when re-doing the paving, they discovered a Mycenaean graveyard about 3,500 yrs old; with grave-goods lying in situ (they just built a shelter w glass-block floor so u can look straight down at it). Naxos has major permanent population so even off-season, the port town will be buzzing, plenty of good food. Here's a recent discussion of best tavernas: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189431-i1324-k8400737-Best_Eats_in_Naxos-Naxos_Cyclades.html

In the hilltowns, there's a September wine festival (ask at the Naxian-products shop on the seafront promenade). For lodging, go direct, no need for agency. I recommend u stay at St. George (Ag. Giorgios) beach directly adjacent to Naxos town ... u get best of both worlds; sea view, beach at your feet, plus just a 10-minute walk to all the cafes, restaurants sights of port town. Places (HALF the price of Santorini) right on sands include Hotel Asteria, Villa Naxia, Studios Kalergis, for upscale pool hotel, Naxos Resort beach Hotel (tho farther back from sands & farther walk to town).

Naxos has excellent bus system, easy to get around to beaches or inland, OR a good 7 hour around-island tour for about ?€20-25? or car rental for about €30 for D-I-Y whirl around the place.

As for how to divide your time (which you didn't ask but I'll weigh in anyway) with only 10 days, time-efficiency matters – and because you can't spend your precious time, you must spend $$ (domestic flights vs long ferry rides). I highly recommend that you use a transatlantic flight that goes Nonstop from N. America (Air Canada, Delta from NY, USAir from philly) because these are only ones that arrive 9-10 AM; all others arrive after 12. Then get soonest (allow 2 hrs between) Aegean/Olympic flight to Santorini.. noonish? (u can often get a "promotional" price fare if you sign up for Aegean e-mail alerts). Then spent night 1-2-3 in SANTORINI (yes,not long, but this island is 12 mi long, Naxos is largest isle in Cyclades).. day 4 take 3:30 Blue Star ferry (2 hrs) to NAXOS .. Stay nights 4-5-6-7 Naxos, take day 8 mid-day flight to ATH (50 mins vs 5 hrs), late-day day 8 go up Acropolis for Sunset, ATHENS nights 8-9-10 ... new Acropolis Museum, the rest of ancient landmarks, a speed-walk visit to Nat. Arch Museum. Rick steves website has great free download DIY tour of Acropolis + museums, or in his Guidebook.

Posted by
33 posts

This is perfect! A travel agent cautioned against trying to fly to Santorini upon arrival in Athens (Air Canada or Canadian, whatever it's called). We arrive 10 am Tuesday. I will check flights. Do you think we will have any problem? I really appreciate the tips on where to stay and how long!! I think Naxos is the ticket. I want to see the real Greece.

Posted by
2934 posts

SANTORINI:
The most beautiful and romantic village is Oia but the nightlife is limited to a few mellow bars and cafes. It's on the north end of the island, 7 miles from Fira. Fira is the island's social/commercial center with the best nightlife on the island but staying there also means dealing with masses of people every day all day. Firostefani is a 'suburb' of Fira and a lot quieter, just a short 15-minute stroll from Fira's main square. Imerovigli is the quietest of the clifftop villages with the best overall views but there are only a small handful of shops and restaurants there. Fira is 1.5 miles downhill so it means walking back uphill, having a rental vehicle or taking public transport to return to your hotel if you stay there. Kamari and Perissa are the two beach resort villages and there are plenty of shops, galleries, bars and restaurants there but no views of the caldera. You get the sunrise instead of a sunset at the beaches. Akrotiri is at the southernmost tip of the island and is VERY quiet. The downside is that you'll need a rental to get around the island. There's a bus and there are taxis, of course, but you won't be able to come and go at will if you use them exclusively. Also, taxis get expensive if you use them to explore the island. The upside to Akrotiri is that your husband can walk to the archaeological dig there.

This map will help you orient yourselves: http://www.santorini-web.com/map.pdf

Posted by
2864 posts

Hi again labgirl!
A good friend from Canada ("stanbr" on many of these forums; look him up!!) always takes that Air Canada flight that gets in at 10 AM -- I take a similar flight, USAir from Philadelphia ... these are virtually NEVER late, even if by chance htey're delayed a hour or more takng off from N. America ... Why? because they have all that time over the Atlantic to make up any lost time. By contrast, if one changes in Europe in mid-morning, many opportunities for Delay.

Furthermore, if you plan to fly domestic to Santorini, that is THE island with the most flights per-day. AND if you go to Aegean air website and sign up for their e-mail "newsletter" (really just an alert), you'll get notification of "promotional discount" fares about 4 months before your arrival date -- you may get a flight for as little as ?70E. I would advise allowing 2+ hrs from touchdown to domestic flight departure. In September, it will take u less than 1 hour (maybe 45 minutes) to disembark, claim luggage, grab some Euros (or Drachmas????) from ATMs, and roll your bag to the other end of the SAME building to check in for Aegean/Olympic (they are now the same company. Ryan Air also flys to Santorini but usually at midnight or Dawln NOTE: There is usually a flight somewhere between 12:30 - 14:30 --- BUT ...if you are arriving ATH on a Sat it is harder to get space on these flights, because that's a popular arrival day for folks who must work 5 days a week! Here's a good website to check for all 3 flight schedules. http://reservations.airtickets.com/airtickets/com/search.do?sid=3&xid=1429896126945 ... if you see a flight that works for you, I advise to jump on it -- since u are short on time, you must make up for that with $$. Alas.

Brotherleelove is THE reigning expert on Santorini accommodations, especially in Oia. He's stated very clearly plusses/minusses of all the island locations. Myself, as a budgeteer AND island explorer, after a few stays in Fira, have found Firostephani to be a great "happy medium." NO crowds (because tour groups don't stop there) yet easy 15-minute walk to shops, cafes, nightlife of Fira ... either along the Rim Path, or the more level "hidden" flagstone lane paralleling the main road. There's also a handy bus stop on the main road near the hotels, to get up to Oia, and down to Akrotiri. Some hotels I know about here are Sunset Hotel, Blue Dolphin, Mylos, Gaby Apartments, Agnadema Apts (all w. great views, no pool) ... my own sweet super-budget favorite, Villa Fotini, is just about 75 feet off the rim path, family-run, 12 spotless rooms w balcony, breakfast, free shuttle to ferry, AND pool-use privilege at next-door hotel... what's not to love!?! PLUS a wonderful taverna only steps away, Aktaion, longest-running restaurant in Santorini (why? great traditional cooking, low prices) ... and a sunset view too!

Posted by
33 posts

I thought Firostephani sounded the best for us but a travel agent tried to steer us to Fira. We like to walk so this is great! Thanks so much for the heads up on Air Canada. Got a super airfare from SF. I'm starting to get excited. I know some great places to stay if you are venturing to Venice, Cinque Terre or Florence!

Posted by
33 posts

I thought Firostephani sounded the best for us but a travel agent tried to steer us to Fira. We like to walk so this is great! Thanks so much for the heads up on Air Canada. Got a super airfare from SF. I'm starting to get excited. I know some great places to stay if you are venturing to Venice, Cinque Terre or Florence!

Posted by
179 posts

Rick doesn't cover it in the guidebook but I would seriously consider taking the trip 2 hours north of Delphi and seeing the monasteries at Meteora. It was the highlight of the trip for my kids (and me too).

We drove from Athens in the morning to Delphi. Visited the site and museum and continued up to Meteora in one day. We stayed in Kalabaka that night (better town than around Delphi) and then visited the monasteries the next day. You only need one day to do the monasteries. You can do them yourselves or hire a guide (<100E).

We then continued on to Olympia which was a 5 hour drive. This was tough but you can break it in half stopping in Amfilochia.

Also worth stopping in Thermopyle for a 30 minute visit on the way from Delphi to Meteora.

Joe

Posted by
2864 posts

Joseph, I certainly agree that Meteora/Olympia are worthwhile, but 4labgirl has already stated her VERY limited time, and her priorities ... and a lengthy mainland trip doesn't fit into her time frame. I could also describe and recommend some wonderful places I have enjoyed on the West coast of the Peloponnese, but it wouldn't be suitable for her expressed wishes. When we don't stick to the inquirer's main priorities, it only confuses her.