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Greece with kids March 24 to April 3, 2019

Hello!

I am flying from California to Athens, arriving March 24, 2019. Returning 10 days later (April 3, 2019). Bringing a 10 year old and 7 year old. They handle museums, ruins, etc very well. We usually do not mind rushing from place to place when we go to Europe, due to our limited vacation time. It will be our first time in Greece.

Our limits:

  1. We want to spend 2-3 days in Athens, visit one of the Cyclades, and then Peloponnese or another island (Crete? Rhodes?) .
  2. We probably need to fly from place to place in order to avoid seasickness from ferries as much as possible (family are all susceptible).
  3. Given the length of the flight getting there (16 hours), we probably do not want to hop a flight straight from ATH to an island on our arrival day; therefore we will likely start our stay in Athens.

I hope I have made my situation clear enough to request your help. Could anyone recommend a good itinerary for us? I am very appreciative if any input!

Thank you!

Posted by
31 posts

OP here. Also, I am happy to hear if my plan is crazy. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by
2951 posts

As much as you think you won't be up for flying out to your first island upon your arrival you'll be very glad if you change your mind. It's much nicer to wake up on an island than it is to do so in Central Athens. Save all your time on the mainland for the end of your trip to avoid backtracking and to insure that you don't get stranded due to a cancellation or mechanical breakdown.

Posted by
1801 posts

I have gone directly to islands too but my concern with your itinerary is whether the islands make sense that early.

I have not been in Greece in March but I am sure others have.

Posted by
31 posts

Beth,
Thank you for that thought. I also wonder if the weather will make sense for an island visit. We're not looking for a beach holiday, but do want to be able to enjoy the scenery and hiking etc.

Posted by
2165 posts

We're going when you're going. I can't comment on your pacing in detail but it doesn't seem like you have enough time for all of that. I'm a little worried about my pacing and it's slower than yours. We have 14 days and we're doing Athens (2 nights) and then a private driver to Napflio, Olympia, Delphi and Meteora (4 nights). Then we're doing 3 nights on Naxos and 2 on Santorini. As much as I wanted to fit Crete on this trip, it was either Crete (all 5 nights) or Santorini/Naxos and we opted for Santorini.

Not sure if you're planning on driving or not, but we found the private driver route for the Peloponnese to be very reasonable compared to say...a Gate 1 big bus tour of the same areas. I chose Private Greece Tours. http://www.privategreecetours.com. We don't like to rent cars when we travel.

As to the warnings people continually give for starting in the islands and ending in Athens, I chose something different. I am sure there's some risk involved but I just do not like to start my trips with the relaxation part. I tour, exhaust myself, and then end each trip in some spectacular place I've always wanted to see. For this trip, it's Santorini. To make things smoother, I am flying from Santorini to Athens on March 24 and don't have a flight home to Seattle until March 25.

And as to weather? Well, we sweated all day, every day in Sicily in June this year and that really impacted our sightseeing. I'd rather see weather in the low 60s than the 90s.

Posted by
2165 posts

And one other thing - March 25 - Independence Day - looks to be a major holiday that could impact sightseeing. I would research that a bit when planning your sites for the 25th. I didn't do any research since we fly home that morning but I keep seeing it mentioned.

Posted by
31 posts

Valerie,
Thank you! I am thinking being in Athens on the 25th will be really interesting; I am hoping that the people watching and patriotic celebration will make up for any museum closures.

I like your suggestion of a guided tour. I will look into that company you suggested!

Posted by
1204 posts

My family of 5 spent a month in Greece in June/July (3 kids 10, 13, 15)
You have a big list for 10 days (does the 10 days include arrival and departure days? Then subtract time in your itinerary for that)
The Peloponnese is so beautiful, but big. We spent 7 days there and it felt very fast. Lots of visitors go to Nafplio (about 90 minute drive from Athens) so you could do that for a short visit, but getting further into the Plpnse would eat up a lot of travel time, so theres that to consider
We went to Santorini and Naxos for our island portion. Loved Naxos, did not love Santorini (we were 'only there for 2 ½ days and could have reduced that or skipped it altogether). We spent 4 days in Naxos and that was good. Could have spent fewer days if in a rush, but could have spent more easily
We also went to Crete for 10 days: Chania and surrounding west/southwest coast, the south coast between Loutro and Matala, and Heraklion. Chania was nice but a lot like Nafplio so in your timeframe, maybe skip Crete this time. I would also reconsider the ferry. We took high speed ferries for all our island travel and not only did I not get sea sick (I did get nauseous on the ferry to the San Juan Islands, by contrast), it was very efficient and a novel experience, so added to our travel all around. Plus cheaper in our case, though flights will likely be cheap at that time of year and ferry schedule may be drastically reduced or not running, so flights may be better for that reason.
Im happy to answer questions about places in more detail. Id say each place should get at least two nights. We started in Nafplio and ended in Athens...
Not sure that helps ;)

Posted by
31 posts

Jessica,
Thank you for the advice. Yes, I'm sure you're right that I should slow down my trip. Could I ask you how Santorini and Naxos compared for the kids? I am guessing I should make Crete an entire trip in iteslf! Also, did you find Mycenae, Epidavros, and Delphi to be good for your youngest kid? Those are at the top of my personal list, but I want to be sure they won't be torture for the kids! Thank yo so much!
Robert

Posted by
2904 posts

Both islands have the "signature" classical housing look of white-cube dwellings with blue shutters & red bougainvillea... main difference is that Santorini houses are partly down a sheet cliffside, where Naxian buildings are on a sloping hill.

Naxos is fun for kids.... even without swimming, the port town is fascinating, the maze-like "agora" lane winds up and up and up to the top of the town where there's a wonderful Medieval KASTRO, you can go into, with slit windows for cannons, very King Arthury. Also, its tiny museum is a GEM -- and something even kids might lke... all those mysterious Marble pre-minoan "statuettes" that nobody has been able to figure the meaning... the NYC Met Museum, has a whole room just to showcase 6 of these items, the Naxos Museum has Six CASES full... from 3" to 3 FEET high. The Kastro area looks down on port and sea, beautiful at sunset. Naxos port town STILL has some little video-game shops frequented by local kids, and there are playgrounds too. The whole family will want to walk out on the causeway to the looming Arch of Apollo on its islet... to take a picture THRU it , at sunset. And the beach directly adjacent to the port town, St. George Beach, is golden sand, and fun to run on , and make sand castles. You could rent a car in Naxos & explore the hill towns & find a mountain with a whole side of MARBLE (and if you have the agency mark your map, you can find a marble-cutting factory, whre marble squares lie around in the grass, free drink-coasters!).

By contrast, Santorini has the Famous View of the Caldera from the parapet walkway, looking down at Cruise ships & out to sea, which will interest a 7 & 10 year old for about 5 minutes. The Main Town, FIRA and the calendar-famous village OIA have many ma lanes of shops selling expensive jewelry & objet d'art and clothing and souvenirs, even in March many will be open for the cruise crowds .... Naxos has some along the harbor and on a few back streets, but very very little in early Spring. There's the excavation of the buried village, Akrotiri, but it's hard to figure out unless you are an archeology buff. One adventure I can think of that kids would like would be a climb up Ancient Thira, on the other side of the island.... rent a car, or get a taxi to take you 3/4 of way up the high bluff, then huff-puff up a dirt trail to the top. An acre or so of higgledy-piggledy ruins, but the view is great. You can walk DOWN the road to the bottom ( like a corkscrew -- 26 switchbacks) & get & get an cup of cocoa & wait for a bus back to the caldera side.

Posted by
2904 posts

As regards your extensive other list, re things to see --- remember you only have 10 days!! Athens + 2 islands is really stretching it! RHODES - If you went there, you'd have to fly both ways. Good for 2 days with kids in March. They would like the medieval Walls of Rhodes town, IF in March they have the program where u can walk on Top, and probably like the Grandmaster's Castle too (although it is totally fake - the real one burnt down in the 1880s or so and Mussolini's architects built this one from imagination).
NAFPLIO & ARGOLID AREA -- this would probably be my choice for you... an easy drive from Airport, and LOTS to see... you could stop at NEMEA, just 5 miles off the highway, a lilttle after Corinth Canal... the #2 "Sacred-Games Site" after Olympia, has columns, stadium where they could race from starting-blocks 2400 years old. Then NAFPLIO itself is kid-magic ... its main-square museum is small but fab -- a 20-min video explains ALL about the ancient-greece stuff... & has the world's ONLY existing set of Iliad-era armor. There's a "castle-wall" above the city (you get there via elevator IN the cliff), a Castle in the Bay, AND the mighty PALAMIDI on a gibraltar-size rock behind the town (TIP: 4 of you drive UP the back way, 1 parent & 2 kids walk DOWN the 999 steps, other parent drives & meets them at the little cafe at the bottom).

LOCAL ANCIENT STUFF -- The MYCENAE site has some appeal, but is a long visit... closer & good for a 30-minute look is TIRYNS, same kind of Fortress, not restored. EPIDAURUS -- Every kid likes this!! Mainly the theatre... they climb to top row of seats while u stay on stage & whisper "Can u hear me now".

TIME-EFFICIENT ROUTE -- Drive to ARGOLID area on BIG road, stop @ Nemea before it closes @ 3pm... See Nafplio Old Town, Tiryns, Palamidi in 2 days, En route back to Athens area, drive across Pelops "thumb" in AM to Epidaurus, then up coast, jump off @ Isthmus to see Corinith Canal, then back on Biggie Intercity highway to turn in car @ airport.

Posted by
1801 posts

My young adult children liked nemea better than Mycenae because 1) the former had a stadium where they all pretended to compete, 2) the temples had been reconstructed so easier to visualize, and 3) the museum is extremely well done and air conditioned. Mycenae is larger and only parts of it are easy to figure out. We also had half of our group reading every sign while the other half was ready to move on. So some of it was the tension between what people wanted to do. A guide would have helped but we saw none.

One thing to do is to bring a cheap headlamp so can go down in cistern. I bought something for $6 from amazon and it came in handy a couple other times. You can use a cell phone light too but I like to have my hands free. We went all the way to the bottom. That was interesting (and cool).

Epidaurus was a hit with everyone. You can climb to the top of the theatre and enjoy the view and watch the tour groups come in.

Posted by
31 posts

Thank you all for this great advice!
I will definitely cut out Santorini and look into Naxos or Rhodes (who can resist fascist faux architecture? ) And I will consider skipping islands altogether to make the trip less hectic.

Nafplio, Nemea, and Epidauros will all be on my must see list! Mycenae may drop lower. Delphi is still on my list, but I'll have to make sure it works logistically.

Posted by
1801 posts

My group also loved the palamidi fortress. We all walked up the 999 steps. We stopped and took in the view so not really that hard. We spent an entire morning there. Lots of places to explore. Kids would love it. It was several of our groups favorite place in Greece. It was built in 1700 so very intact. Interesting to think it was being built as same time as revolutionary war in us.

With 10 days, I would do max of 3 places, maybe Athens, nafplio and one island. We loved naxos but we were there in May. It might be too early in March as I recall the manager of our hotel saying that he spent the winter in Athens and returned to Naxos in April. I would make climate my deciding factor in choosing which island.

Posted by
1204 posts

Hi Robert,
My younger two were 10 and 13. We arrived in Athens at 4p and drove to Nafplio from there. We did stop at the Corinth Canal (got off the freeway and drove to the little bridge you can walk over). I would definitely do this. The kids liked it a lot. So we got to Nafplio at night, and then spent two full days there (3 nights). Our first day we went to Epidauros in the morning, and Mycenae in the afternoon (driving straight from Epidauros). I figured Id see how everyone felt after Epidauros, but we were all game. Everyone liked Mycenae a lot. The driving (there is a LOT of driving in Greece; one of my complaints) provides a break from walking, but also motivates the kids to want to explore, no matter what you will be seeing. We all found Mycenae easy to replicate in our imaginations. The view is incredible, and we could tell the kids the story of it being an outlook and of Agamemnon, and they could really 'see' it. I think the fact that it is a ruin, with trails leading from part to part, made it like a maze for the younger two to explore (they took off ahead and explored on their own - and found a deep cave that they then had fun leading the rest of us down). We finished at the museum, which for us, is the hard part for the younger two: museums.
The second day in Nafplio we climbed the Palmidi fortress in the morning (not challenging, great views!, not as interesting as Mycenae), and did some other activity in the afternoon.
One thing my youngest enjoyed during the trip was counting all the cats. She kept a running tally for the month, starting in Nafplio, and ended up counting 210+. Nafplio had a ton of cats, maybe more than other places, so maybe the 7 year old would like to start a tally

Naxos was great because there was more to do than just a tourist center (Chora)/port and beach.
This was our theme - we prefer to experience the everyday life of a place, and not just the tourist hits. So although we do make a point of experiencing the highlights, we then head into les charted places if possible. In Naxos, my favorite thing was driving into the mountains, specifically, the Byzantine churches outside of Halki. You walk along a trail through groves and in the middle of them, you stumble on a gorgeous, intimate stone church with outstanding frescoes, and then further along the trail there is another one. The churches are open for viewing only during limited hours, and as we literally stumbled on them ("this sign says theres a church down here, lets follow this trail...") we were lucky to show up just as the volunteers who staff the churches showed up to open them. Then we drove the Apeiranthos, which was beautiful, but another 'highlight', so had that touristy feel I dont like. The drive there and back was spectacular (we took a different route back). We also made a point of staying well south of the Chora, and only went in to walk around for an afternoon. However, we were there during the high season, so you will not have the hordes of tourists. We liked Naxos because it was beautiful and so diverse in its geography, and had so much to do (hiking, biking, cliff jumping, beach, town, etc). Whereas Santorini was focused on tourists - staffed by people and services for the tourists. It was very beautiful, but really the cruise-ship-effect combined with the 20-something party people effect was just not for us. That said, again, you will be there in March (which could affect you negatively perhaps bc of lack of services? I dont know)

We loved Athens. I read here that its not very pretty and not a lot to do and no need to spend a lot of time. We spent 2 days and could have stayed a third. I think by the end we were so sick of beaches and venetian ports and wanted city life and museums. And the Parthenon was gob-smacking (my husband said its his favorite ruin, better than the Colosseum), and the kids loved (!) the Acropolis Museum. We did not go to Meteora

Posted by
31 posts

BethFL,
Thank you so much! Yes, we will limit ourselves to Athens, Nafplio, and one island. I so appreciate the advice!

Posted by
31 posts

Jessica,
Thank you for the details. Naxos sounds better for my family than Santorini would be. I have checked on hotels there in March and they are rock bottom (less than 60 euros?!). I will investigate the availability of services etc also.

I'm now thinking Nafplio with day trips to Epidauros, Mycenae, and Tiryns. We'll stop at Corinth and Nemea on the way there too. Still tempted to squeeze in Delphi though!

Posted by
2904 posts

Rashley, re Naxos in March-oApril -- If you stay in the Port Town, or the beach directly adjacent, St. George, you'll be fine even in March ... Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic islands, also the most fertile, so it has a large farming population and large permanent population. There are at least 12,000 people, a good school system, hospital, transportation, etc etc. Thus in Naxos Town, youll have plenty of restaurants (they are called tavernas, but are not Taverns -- just informal, red-check-tablecloth kind of places), shops, cafes, car rental and so on. Your fellow diners & shoppers will mainly be locals... and that's what new visitors always say they want to experience!

BTW, it's always good to bone up on a few GReek words, but for many years now, English has been taught in GReek public schools from age 5 on (!). Thus anybody under 40 has some degree of fluency. Rashley, I suggest you put your 10-year-old on this fascinating link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/greek/talk/ - a 12-part video/audio (which also shows kids) on "talk greek" with actual sound of words for Hello! Thank you! My name is ___ etc.

Posted by
5727 posts

There’s a reason that hotel prices are rock bottom in March - it’s off season! The weather in Greece can vary quite a bit, so you may want to consider this before you nail an itinerary. Eg Naxos has 50% more rain than London in March on average and is only 3 degrees warmer!

Posted by
31 posts

TRIP REPORT

Hello all! Thank you for all your kind advice. Just wanted to provide a trip report.

We arrived in Athens on March 24th, the day before the national holiday. The Herodion Hotel (very nice hotel, 50m from the Acropolis Museum) sent a car and driver to pick us up.

3/25 Watched the military parade (tanks, missile launchers, the whole bit); then Acropolis Museum, and an excellent food tour with Eleni at Greeking.Me.

3/26 Context Travels tour of the Acropolis and Agora (Sophia was a very good guide); then took the subway to the archeological museum.

3/27 Flight to Santorini. One day of good weather, and then rain rain rain and wind wind wind. I agree with all your advice that March weather is a crapshoot! Akrotiri archeological site was fantastic.

3/29 Back to Athens airport; transfer to Nafplio with a stop at Corinth, by Dennis of George's Taxi, who was an amazingly safe and cautious driver. Corinth and the Acrocorinth were definitely amazing.

3/29-4/2 Stayed in Nafplio, which my kids loved. Went to Epidauros one morning, then Mycenae the next. Spent the afternoons walking in and around Nafplio, including the terrific little museums, Acronafplio fort and the Palamidi fort (the kids and my wife took a taxi up and walked stairs down). On 4/1, I hired a taxi to drive to some other local sites: Tiryns, Dendra, Midea. the Heraion, Argos, the Hellinikon Pyramid. All worth the visit, especially Midea! We also did a bee-hive experience and honey tasting (really fun).

4/2 Back to ATH, stayed at airport hotel for early morning flight; had seafood dinner on the beach (20 min taxi ride away).

Sadly, we missed Nemea, which was completely closed (museum and site) on the Tuesday we had planned to see it. Otherwise, things went without a hitch! Rick's (and your) advice to limit the trip to a small area was right on. My kids absolutely loved Nafplio, so it worked out wonderfully.

Thank you again for all the good advice!

Posted by
2904 posts

SO glad you came back to let us know which of our pieces of advice worked out the best. I just KNEW you'd love Nafplio ... as I said, it's kid-magic! So many forts & castles & places to climb up, and its just beautiful, in the bargain, considered the most beautiful Old Town in Greece. And the locals join; when I'm there in late May, the little "town beach" is peopled with the local high-schoolers, finished with classes & not yet lassoed into helping at dad's store or mom's B & B.

Another thing -- you know that Street (Syngrou) that sort of divides Old Town from New Town? just on the other side is a major park with kiddie playgrounds... in March-APril the Trees BURST with lavender flowers (wysteria?) heavenly!! Also, from spring thru late fall, that park is the gathering=place of an evening for all the local families & young people... having a pizza or a spanakopita, a beverage, the kids on the swings. I go over there & have a slice & a beer and just hang out... often get into a conversation... Greeks are so darn social, if you're by yourself they'll chat you up.

PS: I love that the seaside cafes want you to enjoy sunsets even in chilly months so they have clear plastic side-panels & space heaters as well.

PPS: Nafplio also so noted for romantic aura it's known as Greeces' "Proposal Capital" because so many men take their girlfriends there to propose. Friend of mine who worked & studied in Greece (classical studies) met a Greek Guy in grad school, he brought her there for the Big question. Now he's head of the music dept on Gymnasium on a big Island, & she writes, teaches, has her own business ... another score for Nafplio.