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Greece Trip (Fingers crossed!) Sept 2021

Edited for clarity on arrival dates.

Hello all!

I've been reading here lots and diving into many guidebooks. My husband and I are tentatively planning our 10th anniversary trip to Greece. We're leaving the US on Sept 5 and we arrive in Athens at 4:30 pm on Sept 6, and we depart at 6 a.m. on Sept 17.

The more we read, the more we want to see! We are so excited to see the Meteora and hike in the Vikos Gorge, visiting the Zagorochoria. Delphi is also a must see for us, and we'd like to spend a few days in Athens and visit an island or two in the Cyclades.

Our tentative travel plans are

  1. Fly to Athens, immediately depart for Santorini (flight)
  2. Santorini two nights, leave for Milos or Folegandros (side note, we would love to see the volcanic formations in Milos which are so unlike anything we've ever seen. But each island seems to be so interesting and have its own characteristics, and Folegandros is on the way to Milos so it seemed like a good one to visit if we wanted another island).
  3. Milos for 2-3 nights
  4. Back to Athens either Sept 10 or 11, straight to Delphi, overnight in Delphi
  5. From Delphi to Meteora, overnight in Meteora (1-2 nights?)
  6. Meteora to Monodendri or Mikra Papigo (2-3 nights)
  7. Back to Athens for nights of Sept 15 & 16

A few questions I have for the forum, here are:

1) Would you subtract Folegandros, and head straight to Milos for more time?
2) One or two nights in Meteora?
3) Should we subtract a night or two in the northern part of the country and try to add in Nafplion?

Thank you for your suggestions.

Posted by
17630 posts

This response has been heavily edited because I originally got the departure date wrong.

I think this is what you have. I'm showing the minimum number of nights you've specified at each stop; this indicates you have only one extra night to be used somewhere.

Sep 5: Dep from US(?)
Sep 6: Arr Athens and go on to Santorini (2 nights)
Sep 8: Dep Santorini for Milos (2 nights)
Sep 10: Dep Milos to Athens and on to Delphi (1 night)
Sep 11: Dep Delphi to Meteora (1 night)
Sept 12: Dep Meteora to Monodendri or Mikra Papigo (2 nights)
Sep 14: To Athens (2 nights)
One extra night; could be used at your choice of location. The problem is that you probably need one more night at every location, or nearly so.
Sep 17: Dep 6 AM for home

I can't speak from experience since my trips to Greece have primarily involved destinations different from yours, but I think you are far too optimistic about how quickly you can move from place to place and how much you'll be able to see in Greece in such a short time. It usually takes a minimum of half a day every time you change hotels/cities; it can take much longer than that. Spending one night in a city typically gives you about half a day there. If you're tired from the previous day's activities and don't get an early start, you may only have a few hours at your destination.

I don't think one night at Meteora will allow for much hiking after driving up from Delphi, which ViaMichelin estimates will take at least 4-1/2 hours. Those estimates are usually optimistic. They don't allow for stops, traffic slow-ups, or getting lost

ViaMichelin.com estimates the driving time from Monodendri and Mikro Papigo to Athens at between 5 and 6 hours. For that trip you must also allow time to stop for gas, deal with the rental-car return and get from the agency to your hotel. Realistically, you won't be ready to begin your sightseeing in Athens until rather late in the day, and part of the time you do have will presumably be spent a dinner. I'd count that as having only about one full day in Athens for sightseeing. Yet you say you want to spend "a few days" in Athens. To have two days in Athens, you need to spend three nights there.

Some countries in Europe have a lot of express trains that will whisk you between major cities at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour. Greece is not one of those countries (it has few trains of any sort), and in any case you're visiting mostly smaller places. You have only eleven nights in Greece. It's seriously ill-advised to consider dividing that time among six locations. Others may have a different opinion, but I'd recommend Athens if you want to see the classical sites/museums (it's really not otherwise a particularly interesting city), one island (maybe a day-trip to a neighboring island if transportation schedules allow it) or an in-transit visit), and one place where you can do the hiking you want. If you're more about the rural areas than the city, you could spend just your last night in Athens so you'll be near the airport and figure you'll see very little there. That would allow for one island (plus perhaps a day-trip) and two more stops on the mainland or two islands and one stop on the mainland.

People do fairly often make short visits to Santorini because it is both very expensive and very touristy. Otherwise, I'm not a fan of quick trips to Greek islands. I much prefer to have multiple days to settle in and see something other than just the port town. I like to have enough time to know I'm in Greece, which usually means heading inland, away from the beach. Two nights in Santorini followed by two nights on Milos (or Folegandros) would be frustrating to me. I'd be reluctant to spend fewer than three nights on Santorini despite the cost. (Milos I haven't been to.)

Posted by
1450 posts

Fly to Athens, immediately depart for Santorini (flight)

I your destination is Santorini why not fly to Santorini instead of Athens? That might include a transfer in Athens, but it might also include a transfer somewhere else instead. Santorini is a popular destination and in the high season there are direct flights from Santorini to most major European airports. September is a bit late in the high season, but there should be at least a couple of flights to other destinations than Athens.

Some countries in Europe have a lot of express trains that will whisk
you between major cities at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour.
Greece is not one of those countries (it has few trains of any sort),
and in any case you're visiting mostly smaller places.

I don't know when you last visited Greece but a lot has happened to the greek rail network in the last couple of years, and there are plans for more upgrades. Still pretty limited compared to other countries, but way better than it was 10 years ago.

Posted by
1164 posts

It takes a lot longer to move around than you expect and two nights equal one day.

We went directly to Santorini too and it worked well. We spent three nights there but you could see highlights if you stayed just two as you are planning.

I certainly would not try two more more islands.

My son spent one night in Meteora as did my brother-in-law. Both said it wasn't enough time.

I haven't been to the North of Greece but did spent 4 nights in Nafplio which I would recommend.

I would consider dropping the North of Greece and adding days elsewhere. I think you will regret the pace you are traveling at. You lose at a minimum a half a day moving from place to place and often more. When we went from Naxos to Nafplio (flew to Athens and then rented a car) we lost most of the day. You have too many travel days that you are not accounting for. Here is a possible itinerary.

2 nights Santorini
3 nights Milos
1 Delphi
2 Meteora
3 Athens

This still is quite fast paced.

Posted by
523 posts

Meteora is one of our favourite places in Greece. We spent 2 nights there and could have spent more. Definitely not just 1 night, as it takes a bit of time just to get there.

Re Folegandros/Milos and North/Nafplion, the advice I always give (and routinely forget myself) is "less is more." I would only go to one of the islands, and only do either the North or Peloponnese.

Frankly, if you are looking for time, I would cut Santorini. I know its everyone's dream of what Greece is like, but it absolutely is not. You already have Folegandros to experience island life. Santorini is too much like Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break. That said, you seem to be interested in volcanoes, and they definitely have a live one there.

Posted by
17630 posts

I'm sorry; I read your original post at least twice and still thought you said you were leaving on the 6th! I'll modify my earlier post so it doesn't confuse others.

Badger, thanks for the update on the trains. It's true that my trips to Greece were long ago. With this itinerary, though, such fast trains as may exist don't seem to be coming into play.

Posted by
1662 posts

I assume the trip north will be driving, but still check drive times and then round down. I did ten days in the Peloponnese in 2019 and planned to return last year for ten in the north (alas, it was not to be--sniff!), so I am a big proponent of slowing down.
I do a lot of hiking on my trips, and one night is not typically not a great idea--you might be a lot younger than me, but still it is nice to have some r&r time.
I would choose one island--all those two-night stays can be a drag. I think also stick to the north while you are up there (since Delphi and Meteora seem to be priority). If you rework anything, you might look at Pelion--that was something we had on the agenda, lots of hikes.
Hope it works out!

Hi Badger,

I changed my original post, too. hopefully it's less confusing now!

Everyone,

Thank you so much for your replies already! It's indeed helping me to narrow it down and think about where we truly want to spend our time.

Posted by
1450 posts

Badger, thanks for the update on the trains. It's true that my trips
to Greece were long ago. With this itinerary, though, such fast trains
as may exist don't seem to be coming into play.

Correct, for this trip they are probably not that useful. Unless the line to Patras has been opened, then it can be an option to return the car in Patras during the end of the trip and then take the train to Athens. But currently the trains only go as far as Aigio.

Hi Badger, I changed my original post, too. hopefully it's less
confusing now!

I'm not sure what you changed. But it seems like you planned to buy a return ticket to Athens, and once you arrive in Athens immediatly self connect to another flight to Santorini. My point is that if you want to stick to this plan, you should buy an open jaw ticket to Santorini and from Athens.

Posted by
2593 posts

While you can do your initial itinerary and be perfectly happy if you like fast travel, I would not. I like to savor a little bit more. However, you can savor what you like, obviously. I would not remove Delphi (the most beautiful landscape ever, IMO...but there is a lot of it in Greece), Meteora or Athens. Don't downplay Athens as it is well worth 3 days/4 nights, for a first visit. I would then throw in one island...perhaps getting a glimpse of Santorini on the way to another island? According to people I know who've been there, a glimpse is enough, but I have not been there and do not like 'resort' type stays so take it for what it's worth. LOL Greece is a beautiful country so I wouldn't be so anxious to hurry off to the islands. Greece has so much more to offer than the transit to the islands. IMO

Hi all! Tweaking a bit after your great feedback. I'm going to do a bit more digging on the Cyclades, Pelion peninsula (as suggested), and Vikos Gorge. I'm leaning towards leaving off Vikos Gorge for this trip, as it is pretty far away from both Meteora and Athens. OR, keeping Vikos Gorge but eliminating the Cyclades.

We have 11 nights.

Arrive Athens Sept 6 4:35 p.m.
...possible Cyclades: Santorini OR Milos... (3 nights)
Delphi (1 night)
Meteora (2 nights)
Sept 14-17 Athens (3 nights, two full days)
Depart Athens Sept 17 6 a.m.

How would you divide extra nights in Greece?

Posted by
3785 posts

So you’re looking for location(s) for nights of Sept 12 and 13, right? You mentioned possibly seeing Napflio, and we had 2 nights there in April 2018. We had a rental car, and in addition to time in the town (we didn’t climb the 999 steps to the castle, but the market downtown was wonderful), we visited ancient sites of Epidavros, Mycenae, and Nemea. That gives you a taste of the Peloponnese.

Posted by
1662 posts

I'd look for something else in the north and save the Peloponnese for a future trip, because you could spend a month there easily. But Nafplio would not be terribly out of the way if you are driving. And it does have top tier sites quite close by in addition to being a major attraction in itself.
I never got my dashed second trip fully fleshed out (was flying to Thessaloniki), but there is certainly a lot to choose from. You could add Mt Olympos if Pelion is too much for the time you have.

Posted by
1164 posts

It depends on what your goal is. If you want to see another place, I would agree with the suggestion of adding Nafplio. You could drive there after returning to the airport (I would definitely fly back from Milos as will make life easier). 2 days is pretty tight though and you won't see all there is to see. And your whole trip is still pretty fast paced.

Another option is to add the two nights to the time you already have scheduled. I certainly would add another night to Milos. You will be arriving after traveling for a long time and really two (full) days is not enough for all the effort involved. You could add the second night also to Milos or to Meteora, depending on what your interests are.

We also had three nights in Athens and certainly could have used one more so another option would be to add to Athens. But you can see a lot in a three night stay and if you return to Greece, you certainly could visit Athens again.

If it were me, I would probably use the two nights to have four nights in Milos. Island time is not fast.

Posted by
6058 posts

Another vote for Napflio. Santortini is the only place in Greece we did not enjoy. Move those three nights to another island for a more Greek experience.

Posted by
507 posts

Greece has so many worthwhile sites that you could almost take a different trip than what I did and still see Greece. Santorini has a covered Minoan excavation or archaeological site. I thought about seeing the island but I skipped it. It looks like you only have 10 whole days, plus the rest of the day you arrive. I was in

Nafplion
Two towns in Crete,
Delphi, and
Athens

I was in 5 towns in a 2 week, 13 night trip, 14 nights if you count the first night on the plane on the way to Athens.

You are considering:
Santorini,
Milos and/or Folegandros
Delphi
Meteora
Monodendri and/or Mikra Papigo
Athens

That is at least 6 towns in only 10 days. You can't comfortably cram that much into an only 10 day trip.

I don't know anything about Monodentri or Mikra Papigo without looking the places up; maybe you could skip them. There never is enough time to see everything you want to see on any trip.

Maybe just stick to
-Santorini,
-one other Island if necessary, probably Milos because of your desire to see the Volcanic formations
-Delphi if you prefer the site of Ancient Greek ceremonies or spectacles, or Meteora if you prefer sites related to Christianity, but
not both, and
-Athens.

Nafplion has the the Dendra Panoply in the Archaeology museum, and a Venician fortress; there cannot be such a think as "should" see Nafplion. I think you should skip it because it is not one of your top interests.

Posted by
2418 posts

Katherine, I haven't looked at this forum for awhile, just as well, others did some of the heavy lifting, getting you to be more realistic about what can be accomplished in 11 days. I've been to Greece 13 times since '99, and since I've had "newbie" travel pals on 9 of these, I have done repeat visits to the best-known places (although I expand my knowledge by coming ahead, and staying on after they leave, and using that time for new places). Long experience with logistics shows me the following:

• 11 days really amounts to 3 other places + athens, and that involves domestic flights AND a mainland car rental
• U need to do islands first, then back to mainland by plane, then car rental, then Athens last - 2 days MINimnum
• Swedish guy means well saying flight direct to Santorini but from N. America all direct flights go to Athens. Your arrival time seems to indicate u are changing in Europe - so you COULD on that transfer fly straight to Santorini. But as noted you'd have to have an "open Jaw' ticket allowing your homebound flight to be from AThens.
• If u want efficient visit to Cyclades, u Need Santorini albeit briefly.. Thats because u arrive late afternoon, u need 2-hr gap between flights, and Santorini is about the only Cycladic island that has flights after 6 pm.
• Santorini is mainly about the Famous View -- so book a rimside room in FIrostephani (uncrowded, convenient, caldera views), devote ONE Full Day to admiring view, seeing OIA + sunset then Move to Isle #2 on Day 3

A workable Itinerary would be
DAY/Night 1 - arrive, get 6;30-7pm flight to Santorini into hotel by 8:30? 9?
DAY/Night 2 - Early AM visit to OIA (mobs arrive 9:30-10 am), other sightseeing, sunset dining (NOT in OIA)
Day/Night 3 - Morning Ferry to MILOS (2 hrs). DAY 4 & 5 (if only 1 day, car rental is vital)
Day/night 6 - 8 or 9 am flight to ATHENs. Car rental. 3 hr drive to DELPHI. See museum late day (open til 7 or 8)
Day/night 7 - See Ancient site 8 - 10:30 or so. Drive to Meteora. Drive around seeing the whole site. Overnight
Day/nihght 8 - Meteora
Day/night 9 - Early drive to ATHENS (it will take til at least Noon). Afternoon sightseeing
Day/nighdt 10 - Intensive sightseeing; stay in Plaka area, walking distance to most sight
Day/night 11 - Ditto
Day 12 -A 6 AM flight REQUIRES being in check-n line 2 hours ahead... 4 am. SO You will have to get up no later than 2:30 AM to get 3 AM taxi/hire car for 1-hr drive to Airport!!! What possessed you to book that departure! It will totally wipe out what should be your celebratory last evening in GReece. THese days, AIrlines being so desperate, they're allowing changes without $$ penalty. Thus I urge you to explore availability of flights leaving at at least 8 am or 9. REmember you GAIN 7-8 hours going west.

Last thought -- Maybe unique scenery of monasteries atop pinnacles is a Must for u -- but it's not really the "real Greece." I've always favored as a last stop before Athens, Nafplio... which Greeks consider THE most beautiful town in the entire country. Also totally unique... and if u are a history buff, it's right in the middle of the most historic ancient ruins in Greece. I have recommended it to at least 50, maybe more of couples/families planning trips, and not ONE has ever said not worth it -- on contrary, many many people consider it the absolute high point of their visit.

Hi Janet,

Thank you so much for commenting! I read quite a bit of your replies on the Greece questions here. I will look into the changing of our flight home.

We've booked a hotel in Athens for the nights of Sept 14, 15, & 16. I'm not sold on going to Santorini (and yes, I know people have strong feelings about it), but as you say there's not a direct flight to Milos in the evening on Sept 6. So while I'm fiddling with flights I'll check into that one too. You were right, we connect in Amsterdam.

Thank you for the proposed schedule!

Posted by
1 posts

Well -that all sounds fantastic. I adore Corfu, but since the Covid-19 pandemic started I've become fearful of the prospect of flying. Obviously we can't drive from the UK to Corfu!! I live in hope that some time we will get to visit Corfu again. I suppose this too shall pass.
I hope you have an amazing time and I hope things are more normal travel - wise by September!