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Help w/ 11.5 day Greece Plan starting late March

We are already in Europe and just booked a flight to Athens in a few weeks. We need to come up with an itinerary that will appeal to two kids (ages 9 and 11) who are very interested in Greek mythology. I purchased Rick's guidebook and I like the variety in his two week "Best Trip by Car." It looks like with 11.5 days we could follow his recommended priorities of Athens, Hydra, Delphi, Olympia, Monemvasia, Napflio, Epidavros and Mycenae. However, the drive from Olympia to Monemvasia looks quite long and so perhaps it would make sense to stop in Kardamyli. (We would still skip the drive through the Mani peninsula.) It doesn't seem like Mystras will appeal to the kids.

Below is a draft of what that itinerary would look like (factoring in Greek Independence day on March 25). I like active vacations and road trips but please let me know if you think this schedule with kids could lead to a divorce, and if so, I appreciate any proposed changes. I'm having a hard time giving up on visiting Olympia and Monemvasia as both sound wonderful.

  1. Tu, 3/22, Arrive in Athens at 11pm
  2. W, 3/23, Athens
  3. Th, 3/24, Athens
  4. Fr, 3/25, Ferry to Hydra at 9am
  5. Sa, 3/26, Relax on Hydra
  6. Su, 3/27, Return to Athens airport, pick up rental car, drive to Delphi (12-3pm)
  7. M, 3/28, Sightsee Delphi 9-12, drive to Olympia 2-6pm
  8. Tu, 3/29, Sightsee Olympia 9-12, drive to Kardamyli 2-5:30pm
  9. W, 3/30, Relax in Kardamyli
  10. Th, 3/31, Drive to Monemvasia 9-12:30, sleep in Monemvasia
  11. Fr, 4/1, Drive to Mycenae (9-12) en route to Nafplio, sleep in Nafplio
  12. Sa, 4/2, Side-trip to Epidavros, sleep in Nafplio
  13. Su, 4/3, Return car to Athens airport by 11am; flight leaves at 2pm
Posted by
2901 posts

Hello Diego. Sigh. Yes, that agenda may bring divorce threats or child runaways. Rethink:. Rick's routes are for adults; parents need to think Shorter trips, downtime, chance to run & play. My thoughts:

HYDRA - I'd skip it. Rick loves it but it's mainly picturesque port, donkeys, pistachios for sale. For an island and a ferry outing, look at DAY Trip to AEGINA. Much shorter sail (1 hr). On a Regular ferry (NOT a hydrofoil, enclosed w no view), sit on deck, see all the water craft, from huge ships to tiny sloops, great views. On Aegina, rent car OR bus to mid-island to a fab temple ruin, walk down hill (look for short-cut path) to beach town for lunch then taxi back to port. This album https://www.flickr.com/photos/36264706@N03/sets/72157621604646139/detail/ shows all (u can skip monastery) Green line metro to Piraeus; 30 minutes.

OLYMPIA --- OR ??? -- Olympia = loooong drive!! Museum is a thrill for Arch. buff like me, but ruins are puzzling. If you mainly want the" Games vibe", consider terrific Alternative, MUCH closer -- ANCIENT NEMEA. Most Americans never heard of it but it's the #2 Sacred Games site, little-explored till UCBerkeley took it on and WOW! Authentic restoration: ruins, giant temple columns, tiny superb museum, AND stunning stadium: your kids can race from ORIGINAL runner start-line!! All this, just 5 miles off the big highway in Peloponnese, en route to Nafplio https://www.google.com/maps/@37.8082051,21.9212983,10z?hl=en When we were there in early June 2013, we were ONLY visitors. In nearby Nemea village, a wine-bottling venue right on main street.

OTHER -- I'd skip Kardamyl, for more time in NAFPLIO area... GREAT for kids: Castles, forts, climbing etc. Monemvasia, only if u stay in ancient fort-room Reverse trip order? Consider:

  1. TU - Arrive ATH 11pm - rent car. cute B & B 10 mins from Airport http://www.stay-in-athens.com gets kids in bed fast, & has lovely buffet breakfast
  2. WED - 9 am head off over canal -- a 10:30 stop at NEMEA, then on to NAFPLIO by 1. Explore town (top of Acronafplio for FAB view), maybe boat to castle in bay, ice-cream at seafront for sunset. Great website http://www.visitnafplio.com for ALL info! This hotel has quad rooms IF you can book it http://www.nafplioagamemnon.gr/en/ BEST location.
  3. THURS - exploring!! Kids will LOVE small museum on square (super 30-min video gives amazing background re ancient myths etc) museum has the world's ONLY existing suit of Iliad-era armor. Mycenae? OK, but ruins not understandable for kids; they'd like the Treasury of Atreus. Alternative = TIRYNS - another Iliad-era fort, 5 mi outside Nafplio. NOTE: March is winter hours; many things close by 3; check ahead..
  4. FRI - Drive to Monemvasia - Sleep in Monemvasia (IF you take a castle room)
  5. SAT - Back to NAPFLIO area (otherwise you have all day drive) ... as final treat, go up Palamidi (actually don't climb 999 steps, drive up back, take photos, then 1 parent drives to cafe at foot of steps & other parent & 2 kids climb DOWN. 6 SUN - After breakfast, drive to EPIDAURUS (skip ruins, enjoy amazing amphitheatre), then on to Corinth area. Jump off at Isthmia to walk over original Old Bridge, take canal pix, have lunch break. On to DELPHI (3 hours) enjoy town & sunset on mountain.
  6. MONDAY - Delphi... back to ATH by 5 (OR take extra day here??) Return car to airport, taxi €38 flat rate to Central Athens

8-9-10 TU-W-TH - Explore athens: don't overlook MANY activities for kids; check your hotel
11 or 12 FRi-SATTrip to AEGINA - overnight?? (you have flex-time if you forego those loong drives)
13 - Homeward flight.

NOTE: Athens is big city; putting it last, kids are more oriented to Greece, can cope with crowds & bustle better

Posted by
16883 posts

While each one is a bit different, other coastal towns can provide a similar experience to island towns, without a ferry ride. If you decide to keep Hydra in the plan, then I'd take the shorter ferry from Metochi (not from Athens), leaving your car parked there. See www.hydralines.gr or p. 406 of Rick's guidebook.

Posted by
10 posts

No wonder there has been so much fighting and complaining on all of our previous trips! I should have used this travel forum in the past. Thank you so much Janet and Laura for all of the helpful advice. Back to the drawing board! Aegina and Ancient Nemea look like great alternatives. I was a little concerned Nemea might be closed during the off season as it less well known. I will do some more reading and revise the itinerary in the morning after I have some coffee. BTW I forgot to mention this will be our first trip to Greece. Thanks again!

Posted by
179 posts

A few things as we did the trip last year at this time.

  1. Be prepared that almost all major sites close by 3:00pm (some earlier) so you should plan to drive and arrive at your destination in the afternoon/evening and visit in the morning.

  2. I suggest you skip Hydra. it's empty in March and the water transportation is "iffy" given the weather.

  3. Be ready for a lot of driving.

  4. I suggest you finish, not start, with Athens.

  5. Consider adding Meteora. It's not in the RS book but was the highlight for my kids.

  6. Kardamyli is empty that time of year. Too cold to swim. Not sure it's worth two nights.

Joe

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you Joe! In my research last night I was becoming excited by the prospect of squeezing in Meteora but then discovered how far it was from Delphi. Still, it seems like it might be doable if we skip Monemvasia (which Janet suggested may not be worth the long drive unless we got an ancient fort room). How does this revised itinerary look to everyone:

  • Tu, 3/22, Arrive in Athens at 11pm, rent car, sleep at B&B near airport
  • W, 3/23, Visit Ancient Nemea on way to Nafplio, sleep in Nafplio
  • Th, 3/24, Nafplio (Tiryns or Mycenae), sleep in Nafplio
  • Fr, 3/25, Nafplio
  • Sa, 3/26, Epidaurus in morning, lunch in Isthmia, on to Delphi
  • Su, 3/27, Sightsee Delphi 9-12, drive to Meteora (2-5:30pm), sleep in Meteora
  • M, 3/28, Sightsee Meteora, sleep in Meteora
  • Tu, 3/29, Return car to Athens airport in evening, sleep in Athens
  • W, 3/30, Athens
  • Th, 3/31, Athens
  • Fr, 4/1, Ferry to Aegina, sleep in Aegina
  • Sa, 4/2, Aegina, sleep in Aegina
  • Su, 4/3, Morning ferry back to Athens; flight home leaves at 2pm (Any chance the Aegina-Athens ferry could be iffy/delayed? If yes, perhaps we should return to Athens on Saturday instead so we don't miss our flight Sunday afternoon?)
Posted by
2901 posts

Don't worry about those Aegina Ferries ... people live on the island and WORK in Athens every day ... it's like a commuter ferry for them... As I say, the regular ferries go every hour, and in between, the hydrofoils go. It's a non-issue.

Posted by
1317 posts

Not sure from your itinerary which route you plan from Isthmia to Delphi?

One possibility is to go on the E65 along the top of the Peloponnese and then across he Gulf of Corinth on the Rio-Antirio bridge. This is about half an hour longer than taking the E94 back towards Athens but is more scenic. It also means you are doing a circuit rather than backtracking.

Just a thought.

Alan

Posted by
1813 posts

What a great trip! You've already gotten great itinerary advice, so the only thing I would add is to do your research. by that I mean, find the stories that will bring all this fabulous history to life. Ask your kids to speculate on why Mycenae ( by that I mean people) just disappeared. Will they know why things were built on the top of hills? One of my favorite stories from Olympia was the Walk of Shame where they had statues of the athletes caught cheating. This is such a welcoming country; you're going to have a wonderful time.

Posted by
10 posts

Great to hear returning to Athens from Aegina on Sunday should be a non-issue, thanks Janet!

Alan, thank you very much for the tip about the scenic route from Isthmia to Delphi. I will plan to take your advice.

Patty, many thanks for your feedback on the itinerary and the ideas on how to help bring all the history to life. I am cramming right now and wish I had more time to research. Normally I would spend months planning a trip but we are living in Europe temporarily right now and traveling during school breaks so I have to learn as much as I can in a short time. Please don't hesitate to suggest any resources that might be helpful for inspiring 9-11 year old kids as they tour these incredible sights. Thanks again everyone!

Posted by
1317 posts

For a light hearted look at the Greeks, aimed at about the right age group, you might look at this by Tony Robinson

https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/sir-tony-robinson/tony-robinson-s-weird-world-of-wonders!-greeks

He also did a very good kids version of the Odyssey which was a great hit with my godson when we read it to him on a beach in the Peloponnese. Not sure if the book is still available but an audio book is. Handy for car journeys?

https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/sir-tony-robinson/tony-robinson-s-weird-world-of-wonders!-greeks

The classic children's version of the Greek myths, at least the one most English children are brought up on, is by Roger Lancelyn Green. Many of the major stories told in simple language.

Cheers
Alan

Posted by
2901 posts

My top favorite of light-hearted history (and totally Accurate) is a tabloid-style paperback written by 2 witty Oxford Dons -- the "Greek Gazette" with headlines like "Nude Scientist in Bathtub Sensation" (describing Archimedes discovery of objects' displacement in water by volume) ... It covers all the highlights of Greek history in funny fashion but historically accurate. My grandsons, at age 9 & 11, were having a "greek year" in their school, and they laffed themselves silly over this, but couldn't wait to take it to school! It's not in print any more but on Amazon you can get copies for a few cents plus postage. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you Alan and Janet! I am going to order these books now.

Posted by
10 posts

We have now returned from our first trip to Greece and wanted to thank everyone for their tips and advice. We loved Greece even more than we thought we would. We loved the landscapes, the history, the food, and the fact that Greece, unlike France, Spain and Italy, has take-out coffee everywhere. Bliss! What was also amazing about Greece is how well people speak English — even the guy who sells you your take-out coffee. In the middle of nowhere. How do they do it? The take-out coffee seller that we asked this to said: “It is the first foreign language that they teach us in school.” Maybe. A friend suggested that it had something to do with dubbing versus not on television. Perhaps. We did find one all-English, undubbed channel on Greek television. But one can also find this in other countries, so we are not yet convinced. I think there is a thesis to be written by someone about this.

Finally, my hat is off to the Greeks for their unfailing hospitality. In addition to a couple hotels, we stayed at three different Airbnbs in Greece, all immaculately clean, with hosts who went above and beyond Airbnb hosting requirements, even taking the kids out for ice cream in one case! Everywhere we went, people were warm and welcoming, and ridiculously diplomatic in response to our paltry efforts to speak Greek. We are already trying to figure out when we can go back…

Posted by
2901 posts

Thank you, thank you, Diego, for coming back to report your experience. All too often we "regulars" labor together with newcomers to craft the best itinerary... and then never hear whether it worked. I gather yours did! We hope of course that the kids enjoyed the books we suggested ... and i'm just thinking of them RUNNING down the Palamidi steps! And running UP to the top of Epidaurus theater, watched by parents below.

About language, YES, unlike the case in Paris (where locals openly mock your accent), Greeks welcome your using even a few words in their tongue ... order wine saying "Krasi," and a waiter will say "Bravo!" Also, English instruction for at least a dozen years has begun at age SIX in Greek schools. I remember sitting on a hotel terrace with a first-grade child, helping with her workbook.

We're all delighted that your trip worked out so well ... and we predict that Greece may become a habit with your family! -- TJ

Posted by
10 posts

Hi Janet,

We followed the itinerary we had discussed and it worked beautifully! The books were also a big hit, so much so I've recently ordered others in the series. We ended up going to Mycenae and the kids loved the "secret stairway" down to the underground cistern (but apparently this can be closed at certain times of the year).

While choosing a favorite was hard my wife and youngest child chose Meteora and our oldest and I chose Nafplio. I liked the Nemea and Nafplio areas so much I wish we could have explored more of the Peloponnese. I loved Aegina town and the temple there but perhaps others following the same itinerary around the same time and with the same time constraints could consider skipping it and staying a couple more days in the Peloponnese. Will be hard to pass up the ferry ride and the chance to experience a Greek island though. Not to mention the Aegina pistachios!

BTW, it's funny, our first restaurant meal ended up as our favorite of the entire trip. A staff member at the Nemea archaeological site recommended it - I've since looked it up and see that some other folks felt the same way. It's called "Sofos" : https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1647621-d7117315-Reviews-Sofos_Georgios_Restaurant-Nemea_Corinthia_Region_Peloponnese.html I think it was unmarked so it's a little hard to find but well worth the effort.

Thank you again for all of your help shaping what turned out to be an incredible trip!

All the best,
Diego

Posted by
2901 posts

Wow! Thanks for the Sofos tip! I didn't eat in Nemea because we moved on but this is a GEM; have put it in my Tipsheet.