My husband and I leave for Greece this Friday for 15 days and all I have planned so far is the first 2 night stay in Athens to see the sites. We were thinking then of an overnight boat to Santorini and also going to Rhodes. We like seeing sites and doing lots of walking, we aren't really beach people, we might just spend a half day at some point at a beach but other than that we like to see the sites. We were thinking of just doing the Rick steves itinerary that is in the book but it is only on the mainland with a visit to hydra. Also everyone says that if you go to Greece the Islands are a must especially Rhodes and Santorini. What are everyone's suggestions for an itinerary? Also how long would you spend on the islands? Our return flight is out of Athens so we will need to do some sort of loop. We also thought that with the economy this might also be the most affordable and least crowded time to visit the Islands. Also now a rental car for the RS itinerary is $1000 because we waited until now. I'd really appreciate any help in this last minute planning! Thank you fellow travelers. (P.s I tried to get a travel advisor through Rick Steves but because I procrastinated no one is availabke before Friday) 😭
Have you looked at this website Greece Travel. Rick Steves recommends this tour guide. Looks like they have offices in Athens. Maybe you can meet with them. They help plan itineraries in Greece.
Be sure of the ferry schedules on your proposed travel dates. www.gtp.gr Not every ferry route is covered every day. Athens/Piraeus to Santorini is daily but Santorini to Rhodes is not. Also, as far as I can determine there is no overnight ferry in August or September between Athens and Santorini. There is, on Monday, August 31, a 6pm departure that arrives at 1:30am, not an ideal time to make your way from the Santorini ferry port to your hotel. "Reception" usually closes around midnight. Be sure to go to your local AAA office to pick up an International Driving Permit, no test or membership required. Bring 2 passport photos with you to save a few dollars. In my opinion you'll waste too much of your precious time by combining Santorini and Rhodes. Choose one or the other and find another island nearby in the same island group to spend time on so that you are making the best use of the days you have before you have to return to Athens. I would also suggest that you save all your time on the mainland for the end of your trip instead of at the beginning so you aren't backtracking and aren't distracting yourselves worrying about returning to Athens at the last minute for your flight home. Honestly, if I have a choice I fly to and from the mainland.
I hope you enjoy your trip. Let us know how it goes and if you enjoy traveling this way. Some people like to plan and others do not. You seem to fall in the do not category, but I am sure that you will have a great trip anyway as long as you remain flexible throughout.
Thank you Lee and Pfresh,
Based on your info we narrowed it down to 2 possible itineraries. Wondering if you or anyone else would recommend one over the other. Also we already booked our hotel upon our arrival in Athens (that's the one thing I did, so I cannot save Athens until the end as was suggested).
Itinerary 1 found in the Rick Steve's Guidebook: Athens 2 days>rent a car stay on the main land seeing the Polipenees, and then seeing Hydra island. Making a loop back to Athens.
Or Itinerary 2: Athens 2 days>Mykonos>Naxos>Delos> Paros>Santorini ( and then a flight from Santorini back to Athens. (I found this itinerary in the lonely planet book)they say this island hopping itinerary is about 10 days total so we will have a little wiggle room here because we have 14 days. I just hope there is enough to do at each Island too.
With both itineraries...we will plan to stay in budget hotels and hopefully find something when we arrive at each destination which will allow us the most flexibility however I'm a little afraid of availability at Mykanos and Santorini. Can anyone speak to that? Also is there still a lot to do on all these islands besides sunbathing? We like to see sites.
Thanks again! Any replies would be appreciated :)
I like to have a bare bones itinerary and then wing it from there. The problem is determining if we should stay on the mainland or island hop? Let me know people's thoughts. Thank you!
Also we thought of itinerary 3:
Athens 2 nights...then see sights in Polipenees via a rental car then go to Santorini and back via plane?
My wife and I did a 19 day trip to Greece last May/June, spending nine days on the mainland and ten in the islands, including Hydra and Santorini, as well as several others. My suggestion would be to make fewer stops, for longer visits. I'd begin by adding another day in Athens- preferably at the front end, if you are already committed to a booking on arrival. We booked a private tour guide for the afternoon of our arrival, and it was a tremendous intro to Athens, even though we were pretty tired out at the end of a four hour walk. Nothing a good night's sleep couldn't fix. We used Maria Tsami ( http://www.tourguidesgreece.com ), who was fantastic! We rented a car and drove to Delphi, and stayed two nights nearby in Galaxidi. Then we drove to Nafplio and stayed three nights, visiting the ancient sites in the area. With a few more days on the Peloponnese, I would include either Kalamata or Monemvasia. This still allows time for a visit to nearby Hydra and, I would suggest, Egina as a second island stop.
If you chose to include Santorini or Mykonos, I would recommend getting back to the mainland the day before you fly out of Athens. We had a 6:40 flight from Santorini to Athens, with plenty of time to make our connection to Zurich. Problem was, on that morning only one security agent showed up to work at the airport. Not a strike per se, but our flight was 90 minutes late, which more than ate up our connection time. Fortunately, our flight to Zurich was also with Aegean Airlines, so they delayed it for the ten or so of us coming in from Santorini. Our baggage was not so lucky- we met up again 36 hours later. The point is, don't count on making a same-day connection from the islands via Athens!
Itinerary #1 is good and "safe" in terms of presenting no problems returning to Athens.
Itinerary #2 is all mixed up. Athens 2 days>Mykonos>Naxos>Delos> Paros>Santorini should read Athens 2 days>Mykonos>Delos>Paros>Naxos>Santorini so you aren't backtracking. And that's a lot to cover in 14 days, considering some of that time will be needed to get you back to Athens at least a day before your flight home. And did you know that Delos is only accessible as a daytrip? There are no hotels, shops or restaurants there. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can get there from Paros or Naxos as well by shuttle boat originating from Naxos. Unless you're intending to spend a lot of money shopping and partying I'd advise you to avoid Mykonos altogether.
Thank you all so much for your replies. Based on what I've read from all of you we will mark Mykonos off our list for this trip and might just try for Santorini. Now my final question for those of you who have done the islands and the mainlands....which do you prefer? do you think if we spend 10 days on the mainland that we should try to make a flight to Santorini and back for 3 days? Is Santorini a must see in your opinions? Will we get enough Island experience seeing the mainland and then just going to Hydra?
Thanks again everyone...you've all been a wealth of info!
A friend and I went to Greece for a month in July and we only had the first three nights in Athens planned and booked. We winged it for the rest of the trip. We had a fantastic time! We were young and were willing to stay in rooms. All the ladies met the ferries and cried out, rooms, rooms! One of us would stay with the luggage and the other would check out the lodging. Once we walked over a donkey pasture.
There's more to Greece than Santorini & Mykonos . . . two of the most popular and heavily touristed islands in Greece. While both offer stunning scenery, especially Santorini would you consider a more laid-back and "Greek" experience? If you want mainland Greece then you can rent a car in Athens and drive down to the Peloponnese and make a stop for a few days in Nafplio, one of Greece's most beautiful towns. You can do day trips from there to World Class archeological sights of Epidavrous, Mycenea, Tyrns, then hit the road and head down to the Mani Peninsula and base yourself at Kardymili and see areas of Greece most tourists don't go with just a short drive. If you want islands then islands like Sifnos, Milos, Naxos and even the less touristed Amorgos & Astypalea will offer you more in line with a laid-back, more relaxing and authentic island experience. Fifteen days sounds like a lot but you don't want to water down your experience by taking in more and getting less. Quality is more important than quantity. And let's not forget Athens home to some of the world's best archeological sites, tavernas, Anafiotika, the Greek "island" on the north side of the Acropolis and a stop at the Central Markets is a must just for the excitement and buzz! So much to see, do and experience in Greece and prices are great and the US dollar is super strong against the Euro. You'll love Greece!
Santorini has some incredible views, especially from Oia, overlooking the caldera. Other than that, in my opinion it has nothing else that you won't find in other places you are likely to visit- beaches, archeological sites, wineries etc. It's worth a visit if you are in the area, but I think you can get more value from you three days by staying closer to the mainland. As nice as the view is from Oia, it's not something that's going to occupy your time for hours on end. The town itself is also very pretty, but also very touristy, and everything is twice the price you'll find elsewhere. I'd go with tommyk5's suggestions, and my previous post. Delphi, Nafplio, the Mani, Hydra, Egina or Sifnos and more time in Athens will give you a good taste of Greece. If you do end up opting for Santorini, I would suggest two days is enough.
By the way, if you are still struggling with a car rental, try Swift/Avanti in Athens. It's the company recommended by Matt Barrett in greektravel.com. I rented from them in May, and had excellent service, at reasonable cost. They charge less because their cars are well travelled and come "pre-dented". But ours ran fine!
Thank you!! You all have been so great! We are going to hone in on the mainland Greece and get a rental car (the pre-dented type that was mentioned) and then after maybe go to Santorini for no more than a night or go to one of the closer Islands that was mentioned in this post.
Thanks again everyone! I am so excited I can hardly wait!!!
Going to Santorini for one night just isn't worth it. You have to consider the time a ferry takes to get there. While a flight is around 1 hour you have to get to the airport ahead of time, going through check-in and security, wait around, hope the plane isn't delayed and more importantly get as early a morning arrival as possible and the same going back. If you want an island chose either Aegina or Hydra, both a very short ferry ride and a very do-able day trip from Athens.
you can find better spots & islands on the peninsula
better spots & views
Skengly, Kattie has been back home for 2 weeks ... let it go.
Check out page 8 of the RS Greece tour book.