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Help please with Greek Isles itinerary May 15-May 25

My husband and I will be in the Greek Isles May 15-May 25, prior to a RS Greece tour from May 26 - June 8. We are a mature couple, who enjoy nature, and will be traveling independently using ferries and public transportation. This is our first trip to Greece but we have traveled independently in several places in Europe. We enjoy hiking, cultural activities, and having more authentic experiences. Avoiding the cruise ship crowds is a plus, but not always possible we know.

We need advice from those experienced in Greek Isles travel:

1) Is Tinos worth the effort it will take to get to at this time of year? Any recommendations on where to spend 2-3 night that would have a beautiful view but be moderate in price?

2) Our temporary plan is this:

Arrive in Athens May 15; acclimate ourselves in Rafina May 15 & 16; ferry to Tinos for 2-3 nights;

ferry to Naxos for 3 nights; ferry to Santorini for 2-3 nights; return to Athens and connect with the tour.

3) Is Santorini not to be missed? I know the crowds will be there in full force. Any recommendations for a moderate priced place to stay with a view? I know it is expensive but maybe well worth the effort.

Any advice from experienced Greek Isles travelers is greatly appreciated.

Posted by
6034 posts

Maybe some reassurance rather than specific places to stay...

Smart move to stay in Rafina and use that port since you will be in Athens later in the trip. Not sure if two nights are needed there, but certainly no harm in doing so.

Overall your trip is well paced, taking 2-3 nights is ideal, many think Island hopping is one night each place, but to me that is just riding a ferry.

Tinos would be fine, probably less of a crowd, as I said, no recommendations on rooms, but I would think at end of May you could find something very reasonable, the same with Naxos. May I think is a wonderful time, things are green, the tourist season is still building, the water may be a little cool yet, but overall wonderful.

I would spend some time on the Ferry websites looking at the connection from Tinos to Naxos. Not sure if there is a single ferry that hits Tinos then other islands and then Naxos, I believe there is, but that general area is crisscrossed by multiple lines, at worst, you may have to hit Mykonos or Paros for a few hours to catch the next ferry going to Naxos. While in Rafina, you can also spend some time working out some tickets.

As for Santorini, I think May will still be bearable for crowds, for a trip of your maginitude, and seeing that you are hitting some more laid back Islands, Santorini is worth it. Again, been a few years so I will not recommend a place to stay, but consider Oia, several people on here have great recommendations, if they do not chime in, look through some old posts, it comes up regularly.

You might consider flying back to Athens from Santorini, flights are cheap and fast, a ferry from santorini is a grueling 8-10 hrs, 5 on Seajet, but also the risk of a very rough trip. Ferries can also see delays due to weather, planes less so.

Posted by
16883 posts

I agree that this is a fine plan, if you've found ferry schedules that work, that Spring in Greece is lovely, and that May is not yet high season for crowds.

Posted by
2903 posts

Hi Elle --
Always good to include key details such as (1) WHERE will you fly from? West Coast US have much longer tiring trip. (2) WHAT TIME of DAY do you arrive??? Both fact affect your options/our suggestions. As for RAFINA Stay … If arrive Afternoon, 1 night in Rafina is worthwhile; can't agree with TWO. Nothing much to see, next day you'll be itching to get somewhere. Sail off on May 16
TINOS -- Worthwhile for some, maybe not for you. Very Greek, most visitors are Greek (not bad, just no provisions for tourist needs). Except for biggie church & famous Ikon, even my friend w. house in Tinos admits port town is boring. BIG problem is -- VERY minimal public transport (only early AM, late aft) so u'd have to rent a car to see Anything. Best consider other options.

ALTERNATIVE SCENARIO - RAFINA -- Only other sailing is to Mykonos and not PM onMay 15 (unless u want a FIVE-HOUR trip on an old rust bucket). But if u stay o'nite (Hotel Corrali is handy & moderate) On Friday a 16:30 Seajet arr MYK 18:35 (4:30-6:35pm). For a nice one-niter, handy, quiet, budget check http://www.angelasrooms.com … surrounded by rose-gardens, white building w. balconies, tucked behind Hotel Despotika; upstairs rooms w. sea view. Taxi from port, but then walkable everywhere … relax, have nice dinner, roam costly maze of lanes, next AM see the town views, then take 14:45 (2:45) sea jet to Naxos, arrive 3:25pm ! If you decide you want to see DELOS, stay a 2nd night & sail to Naxos Sunday @10:15 am. Most Naxos hotels will meet you at the quay.

NAXOS -- recommend staying in Ag Giorgios (St George) beach area, directly adjacent to Naxos Town… I stay there every May .. right on a beach, quiet at night, yet a 10-15 minute stroll to the harborside cafes, shops, sights, no car needed! There are good bus 1-day tours, about $20. and frequent local busses to outer beaches AND inland towns. Naxos has best walks ever; check this site http://www.cycladen.be/NaxosEng.htm for ideas… #19 is shortest; I loved it. BIG BONUS -- from NAXOS, you can get the Santorini experience in 1 day… Day excursion http://visit-cyclades.com/day-cruises/naxos-cruises/121-day-cruise-to-santorini goes Mondays & Wednesdays 7 AM… 6 hours on island, escorted tours take u to Oia & FIra, plenty of free time for strolling, pix taking, lunch etc., leaves at 4:30 back @ 7 pm for dinner… then u can tell all your cruise-ship friends you saw it.
OPTIONAL ADD-ON -- AntiPAROS -- Best daily ferry to Mainland Is Blue STAR 9:45 AM - arr. 3PM. a Long sail (sit on deck all you want but get reserved Economy so when u go inside to snooze or read, u have a guaranteed comfy seat). If you want to cut an hour from the trip, on THURSDAY, go to PAROS (1 hour), and get off and spend Th-F-Sat in lovely ANTIPAROS … charming, restful walkable everywhere. I recommend HOTEL DIMITRA, balconies on harbor. Then take sunday Blue Star from Paros 11 am.

OTHER OPTIONS: Take X96 bus to Piraaeus for first nite (Hotel Pireaus Dream is decent & handy to Blue Star pier); take Blue star 7:30 AM to Naxos, perhaps on tom here to Santorini THEN to Antiparos. IMPORTANT: if u do a Santorini Stay LAST; a flight back on 5/25 is $189, and a ferry ($60) is an 8-10 hr trip -- NOT what u want when you're embarking on an ambitious tour the next AM!!

Posted by
2903 posts

Clarification On my OPTIONAL ADD-ON comment, I meant that the Naxos-Piraeus trip is 5+ hours, but if you move on to Paros/Antiparos on Thursday, u can stay there, and then on Sunday get the Blue Star one hour LATER, shorter trip. The final item, OTHER OPTIONS was for a scenario NOT from Rafina, skipping the Mykonos thing entirely.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks so much for taking the time for such thoughtful responses. I need a bit of time to consider all this info. All ideas are greatly appreciated.

Posted by
2057 posts

Here's a link for the lovely place we stayed on Santorini for a few nights before joining our 2010 RS Greece tour. It's located right on the edge of the caldera, so gorgeous views (oh, and the sunsets...sigh....), lovely semi-private terrace on which we were served breakfast every morning and cute, unique rooms. We really enjoyed our stay there; lots to see and do on the island. And only a short flight to Athens. In my opinion, definitely not to be missed-at some time!

http://www.villamariadamigou.gr/

Posted by
2903 posts

Glad to be helpful … I hope you have a guidebook besides Rick's. His is good on ATH & the Pellopponnese … but that says it all. For the Cyclades, I recommend borrowing from Library -- EYEWITNESS the Greek Isles (for the pictures & graphics, good overviews) and ROUGH GUIDE to Greece (my over-all favorite). Doesn't have to be latest edition … u are not using for hotel/meal prices. Photocopy key pages, including island & town maps to take along.

LIke u, I'm "mature" (some say over mature, past my sell-by date!!) but since I retired (early) have been to Greece 11 times since '99 for 3-4 weeks per time, and have taken along 2-5 "travel pals" on 9 of the trips, age 37 to 75; I know what "newbies" have enjoyed most, and I'm definitely a budget traveler, tho I don't forego comforts, like balconies, a/c, nice dinners (in Greece u can dine WELL for €12 - 15 including some wine!) . I suggest to get a calendar (with boxes for days) and work out your itinerary in DETAIL, showing transport time involved, dividing boxes thus; in a list it's so easy to say "2-3 nights" but not visualize clearly the hours on a ferry, or whether it's really just 2 days, and/or what can be done/seen in those 48 hours. A calendar is a good reality check. Try to do what a RS tour must print out -- where u will be for Bkft & D each day; hours per ferry etc.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks to all for so many good thoughts. Now, another BIG concern: Malaria. I've just read that malaria has recently been on the rise in Greece, after 50+ years of being malaria free. Guess I thought if RS went there, I didn't need to be concerned about that issue; but of course, he only goes to Hydra - not places like Tinos. We are not risk adverse and would take precautions regarding DEET, etc., but we are definitely not foolhardy. I'm wondering now about how important it is/or is not to see an infectious disease doctor regarding malaria pills and perhaps Hepatitis A vaccine. That had never occurred to us.
Any thoughts? Any thoughts from RS office staff, Laura?

Posted by
2903 posts

Lordy lordy Elle … if there are not obvious things to worry about, you will go Hunting them! If you will look closely at the datelines of these "Scare" stories… you will find that they all date to 2012 -- there were exactly 70 cases in a country with 13 million people … and if you will check update from the Centers for Disease control http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/malaria-greece-sept-2012 you will note that their warning was removed in June 2013. Over. Nada.

Furthermore I am MAGNET for mosquitos (blonde, fair, people take me on picnics to attract all skeeters!) and i have done 10 trips in late May-Early June to Greece & its islands and the number of bites I have had?? ZERO. May is very early for mosquito season in Greece …. most complaints u hear are from the Europeans who travel en masse in July-August, after skeeters HAVE hatched.. Greek hotels do not have screens, but they DO have shutters, and here's how you avoid attracting any stray mosquitos around. Before the sun sets, as you are leaving for dinner -- close the shutters, & turn off lights. When u return, in the dark, leave shutters CLOSED while you have lights on as you get ready for bed. After you douse lights, THEN open shutters for the breeze. If u want to take along some DEET stuff fine -- or that amazing Avon Skin-so-Soft … just in case. But that's just for the rare occasional bite. CDC says, no malaria peril. Do not worry. Oh, and PS, any Rick hotels I am sure will have A/C because his travelers are all American, so you can just run the AC if you're anxious.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks to Janet for pointing out that the CDC removed the malaria warning June 2013! :) I'm not paranoid nor am I risk adverse, I just like to be as prepared as possible with accurate information.