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Help Planning an 8 Day Greece Trip!

Hey Everyone!

My wife and I are 26, and we are headed to Greece for our 5 year anniversary this summer, early June. We fly into Athens very late Saturday night and have to fly out of Athens back to the US on the Monday, 9 (more like 8) days later. We are first time travelers to Europe but are adventurous and eager to experience the culture while at the same time wanting to relax and take in the sites. Here is what I'm thinking right now. Would love any input.
Day 1 (Sunday) - Athens
Day 2 (Monday)- Day Trip to Delphi (WOULD LOVE ANY HELP ON THIS. IS A DAY TRIP DOABLE?)
Day 3 (Tuesday)- Ferry to Santorini (Possibly fly to save time?)

Here is where I really am unsure of and would love any help. How many nights should be stay in Santorini? Do we try to fit in another island in the time we have remaining, keeping in mind we fly out of Athens 6 days later. I've read mixed opinions. Do we just relax and enjoy the remaining days/nights in Santorini, taking it all in, or is that over-kill and should we go explore another Island for at least a night or 2. I would be a bit afraid of not having enough time in Santorini however if we say, only did 3 nights in Santorini and 2 nights on another Island (Mykonos/Naxos?). I'm assuming we should go ahead and stay in Athens the night before our early afternoon flight out of Athens on Monday. I'd love any opinion from experienced travelers. I would greatly appreciate the help!!

Thanks in Advance,


Posted by
1114 posts

8 days is really not enough to go to 2 islands plus time in Athens.

I would concentrate on Athens and just 1 island. Santorini is one of the most popular and heavily touristed islands in Greece. Whether you get a real Greek Experience from your time in Santorini is up to you. Early June will still be outside High Season for tourism so Santorini will not be as crowded, but still crowded, expensive and touristed-heavy.

Relaxing on Santorini can mean a lot of different things. It's popularity is because of the Caldera-Side Villages and vistas, not so much on being "Greek".

Alternatives to Santorini are Naxos (a favorite), Paros, Amorgos (one of our favorites), Tinos (another favorite) plus a number of other lesser-known and touristed of the Greek Island.

Whatever you decide on make sure it's what you want for a Greek Island Experience . . . which is open to a wide variety of likes.

Posted by
159 posts

I might suggest that as soon as you land in Athens that you get into a rental car and head straight to Delphi. It's a 2-hour drive but an easy one and it'll give you a good leg up on your short itinerary. You can visit the ancient monastery of Hosios Loukas on the way. If you are in your car at, say, noon, you can arrive in Delphi with an hour-plus at the monastery by 3:30. That would give you plenty of time to visit the archaeological site or the museum. Last entry into site is 7pm, so if you went right into the museum upon arrival in Delphi, then you could conceivably hit the site immediately after and be done with Delphi, but to do all that on your day of arrival in Europe is not advisable. So, visit the site on Day 1 after 3:30, museum in the morning, on the road by 10:30, and then drive to Meteora. Arrive 2pm, visit one or two of the monasteries, and drive around and take some photos. If you're lucky, the sunset hour makes for some tremendous opportunities. Day 3 morning, visit another monastery or two and then hit the road. Now, I would recommend that you save Athens for your absolute last two nights. That way, you'll be in Athens on the day your return flight leaves and you will save one travel day from going into and then later out of Athens. Thus, with the two nights we've already used, that leaves four nights. Of course, you want to visit an island. If you can stand some longer driving I might suggest Lefkada because it's the only Greek Island with a bridge. Thus, you get the island experience without the hassle and time spent on a ferry. Or, make a loop visiting Metora first. The following route is 720 miles and 16 hours but packs a ton. Athens - Meteora (2 nights) - Parga (1) - Lefkada Island (2) - Galaxidi - Delphi (1) - Athens (2). You could cut out Parga and Lefkada and substitute Volos and Skiathos, but that would only save you miles, not time. If you absolutely, positively must visit Santorini then I would go there directly upon arrival at Athens International by plane. You have such little time that 8-hour ferry rides are impractical.

Posted by
3259 posts

The prior poster seems to want you to experience what he finds vital, despite your wish to see Santorini, adding hundreds of miles of driving, and overlooking the fact that you arrive waay after dark. With only 8 days, please put that agenda aside. Instead let's seek a sensible itinerary, minimizing travel time, maximizing fun time. (BTW, i always wish people gave EXACT dates, you get better advice, why be vague, is arrival June 3 or June 10 ??). Also, no harm saying where you're from (unless u are in Witness Protection program LOL); I'm guessing from late-night arrival that you'll come from Far West, with 2 plane changes, 20+ hour duration & will be exhausted. It affects plans!

He's right about 1 thing; with only 8 days, it wastes precious time to go into Athens TWICE; save it for the end. Instead, get a rental car, check into small place very near Airport, St Thomas B&B (or if it's full, a more basic place but well-reviewed - First action: sleep!!

SUN, Day 2 - drive to Delphi (3.5 hours); bus tour crowds are from 10:30 - 1 pm, so time it to arrive as they leave; can enjoy museum, ancient site, sunset dinner on terrace looking down mountain to sea. From here on, you must choose between 2 options... and either will require domestic flights to achieve -- and please note: book ONLY AEgean or Olympic (same owner; top-rated) NOT Ryan, Sky Express, Volotea; BAD reviews.
• You REALLY need 2 full days/nights in Athens for the remarkable history/landmarks, and it's very enjoyable in June -- so that leaves M-T-W-Th and F for either 1 island or 2... depending on WHAT you want.

(A) You can spend the whole time in Santorini, lolling on a balcony, gazing at the Famous Caldera View & drinking wine ... and it will be (albeit co$$tly) relaxing. But you will not "experience the culture". It's so touricized you'll mostly hear English, be surrounded by huge cruise crowds and package- tour throngs. Even the waiters are Bulgarian.

(B) OR, you could do 48 hours in Santorini then 48-70 hours in nearby NAXOS, to get an experience of a Golden-sand beach (Santorini is either Pool or black-grit beach), a lively island with only independent travelers, dramatic mountain landscapes, and ancient history all around.

ACTION/(A) - • ACTION: Leave Delphi Mon 6:45 AM latest, Arriv Airport 10:15, return car, check in for 10:45 AEGEAN AIR $172 per pers. Arr Santorini 11:45. Leave Santorini FRI (Midday=$150pp; 6-9=$84). OR Ferry (9hrs/$70+).

ACTION (B) Same as (A) arr SANTO Mon 1145. Wed 3:15pm BLUE STAR ferry to NAXOS 2hrs. NAXOS W-Th nites, Fri day, then 6PM BLUE STAR ferry($38pp).. Arr PIRAEUS (Ath) midnight. Metro to ATH hotel.

BTW, there is no time to Dither; flights for June already are selling out. Settle your TRANSPORT first, only afterwards lodging. There's always a "plan B" for hotels, not for planes. I've been to both these islands many many times, and am happy to advise on places to stay once you get an itinerary set.

Posted by
1274 posts

I might suggest another different option for you. Follow Janets advice and stay near the airport that first night. Go back to the airport and rent a car. Drive to Nafplio. Its a lovely seaside town with two Venetian era fortresses and nearby ancient sites. While it isn't an island it feels like an island. Spend 2 or three days in Nafplio to get over jet lag then drive north to Delphi. Spend the night there and see the site in the early morning before the crowds arrive. Then drive back to Athens and fly to Santorini. Spend your three nights there then fly back to Athens for the last couple of day of your trip.

Olympia Delphi Meteora

Nafplio and Peloponnese

Posted by
3259 posts

As always, stanbr, a wonderful alternative. A contrast to Santorini... without all the flight kerfuffle to wedge another Cycladic into the itinerary.

Posted by
3259 posts

One tiny add-on ... if you follow advice to stay 1st night near airport, might be good idea to pick up your rental car on arrival. Thus u save the taxi to the nearby accommodation, and can leave directly from there for your next destination. Here's my fave online map: (click & it gets huuuge). Shows modern big hi-way all way to Nafplio and, on the Mainland, the exit (Elefsina) to go North-West to Delphi.

Another add-on thought -- if you get that early start on road to Nafplio, there's a great little treat on the way, and one little treat you can get either before OR after your time in Nafplio:
(1) ANCIENT NEMEA - Want a quickie visit to an amazing Ancient Games site?? This was the "runner-up" to Olympia, and a GEM overlooked by Tour busses. About `15 Km past the Corinth Canal is the turn-off SOUTH to Nafplio area. At same juncture is an exit going NORTH just about 5 miles, to ANCIENT NEMEA. a temple, ruins, museum and Amazing Stadium!! NO crowds.. and you can stand on the original starting blocks used by Athletes in 400 BC. Can see & enjoy in less than an hour... and then, guess what? U are in the middle of one of Greece's greatest WINE areas; the "bordeaux of Greece." Nearby village of Nemea has a bottling plant right on main street where u can sample (watch out!) and purchase some fine Nemean Red for balcony sipping!

(2) CORINTH CANAL - this 1896 marvel (SO deep!! SO skinny!!) can't be glimpsed from the biggie Intercity highway, but can be seen and photographed on a quick stop, either outbound toward Nafplio, or inbound, back to mainland en route to Delphi.
• OUTBOUND - keep eyes peeled for exit at "Isthmus"; peel off look for bridge signs or ask... walk out on bridge, maybe you'll be lucky and one of the superslim vessels will be sailing thru ... less than 30 minutes & a great memory-photo.
• INBOUND - Looking at map, you'll see that Ancient Epidaurus(Theatre, not town) is EAST of Nafplio, across the "thumb" of the Peloponnese "hand." A time-efficient way to see this wonder, is to head there on Morning you LEAVE for Delphi. (BTW, much of the site is acres of higgledy-piggledy ruins, just focus on the Amazing Theatre). After that, go up the COAST road to Isthmus, then back on the Big Intercity Highway as far as Elefsina.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all so much! This is very helpful. A couple new thoughts based on new research and what you have suggested.

We will land in Athens Late Saturday night the 10th. I've been considering Staying in a hotel close to the airport that evening and then that next morning, going ahead and getting a flight to Santorini. Staying 3 nights in Santorini and then maybe taking the ferry back to Athens that Wednesday. From there, I've been looking at a series of day trips based out of Athens. This is our first time to Europe (from US) so I don't know how comfortable we are renting a car and traveling on our own. So this is what I've been considering:

Thursday: Day Trip to Delphi (back to Athens in the evening)
Friday: Half day trip to Corinth, explore Athens more that afternoon/evening
Saturday: Ferry to Hydra, stay the night possibly?
Sunday: Ferry back to Athens
Monday: Fly out of Athens that afternoon

With that said, any tour guide recommendations for these potential day trips? Is my idea a terrible one? Thanks!

Posted by
11503 posts

Oh I am terrible.. but my advice is fly into Athens and get the heck off the the historical sites for when you are my age.
At 23 my friend and I flew into Athens.. spent one night.. and took the ferry to Mykonos and Paros ( this was a few DECADES ago.. lol) and loved the islands so much.

I would spend my 7 island days.. 2 days in Santorini ( everyone says you have to see it) and then head to Naxos.. loved that island..
My logistics suck.. trust the experts above.. but really, the islands will be the highlight of your trip so that's where I would spend my time( and you can daytrip to Delos to see ruins etc.. so its not like I am saying to do just beaches and tavernas.. not that theres anything wrong with that.. lol )