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Help with first part of our Greece itinerary

We're a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 boys age 14 and 12), and we'll visit Greece from Mar 26th thru Apr 8th (I know it may be cold and rainy... but it's during Spring break for our boys)... We'll be spending 6 or 7 days/nights in the Islands (Santorini for sure since we'll fly out to Athens the last day; and Milos and/or Mykonos to start it off). The last 3 nights will be in Athens, so we'll need help creating our first 4 days or so of our itinerary as we arrive in Greece.
First of all, we'll be renting a car and we'd like to minimize one night stays, but "ideally" (I know, always assume you will be back) would like to visit: Meteora, Delphi, Olympia, and surrounding areas of Nafplion (Epidavros, Mycenae, etc)... The first question is 3 nights or 4 nights? The major problem I'm finding by googling distances online is that these places are not close to each other...Say, we stay in Nafplion for 2 nights, we could probably also visit Olympia as a day-trip and return at the end of the day... But... we can't do a day trip to say Delphi if we choose to visit and spend the nights in Meteora, they're about 4-5 hrs apart apart one-way by car... Does it make sense to stay somewhere in between these two places? In such a case, we'd always have at least a 2 hr commute either way, not convenient either... So something's gotta give, and I understand it all boils down to personal taste... however, we need to accommodate also our kid's interests, so I'm not sure what to do here, I'm looking for some suggestions...So either leave out Meteora and/or Delphi, or... leave out Olympia altogether, and visit both Delphi/Meteora... hmmm... any insight will be appreciated!

Thank you in advance!

Posted by
3313 posts

Alex, I know you're going to have a wonderful time, and I believe you posted before, and your boys are enthusiastic about Greece. May I respectfully inquire whether you've acquired an actual guidebook to aid your plans? If you're spending well over $10,000 (14 days w a lot of transport costs, + 4 RT USairfares), a book really is worth a few $.... trying to do it all on the internet is the worst kind of economy. Steves guide is good for ATH & mainland basics (plus I llike his DIY of Acropolis & Nat. Arch Museum), but I always also recommend ROUGH GUIDE to GREECE because of its comprehensive coverage of culture, history language food etc ... AND the bonus is, you can carefully pull apart the sections u will need, bind spines with duct tape & Presto! pocket-size "guide-ettes"! Many of your questions will be answered just with a bit of browsing. Let's run thru some of your list (and I'm basing this on my 12 extended trips in greece, 9 of them taking along 3-4 "newbies" to major destinations) --

TIMING & MUST LIST - Guessing that your dates include arrival & departure days -- so really only 12 days. In addition, your days will be shorter than in summer, and given the Greek economic crunch, some sites may still stick to shorter winter hours (closing at 3) Be prepared for one-nighters, and even so, you simply cannot do your whole list, mainland OR island. You'll have to leave out Meteora. And probably Olympia which is NOT a day trip from Nafplio (but NEMEA, a superb "sacred games" site, is a great substitute for the latter). To do Delphi w.o. backtracking, link it to your Athens stay. Here's an attempt.
DAY 1 - Arrive (tired!) @9:30 USAir nonstop. Coffee! Car rental, Destination Nafplio. 10 miles after Corinth Canal Jump off big intercity hiway to NEMEA -- Glorious!! Ruins, stadium!! (1 hr) Bite to eat, then on to NAfpllo, crash for nap, enjoy sunset & Early night! Here's a quickie view of Nafplio joys -
DAY 2- 3 - Explore Nafplio (MEMORIZE this site!! .. castles, forts, Museum + Tiryns + Mycenae etc
DAY 4 - Leave early; Epidaurus ampthitheatre (skip rest of site), at Isthmia, jump off biggie highway for photo op on Old Bridge above skinnnny deeeep canal. To airport, drop car, fly to Santorini arrive late day, sunset & dinner.
DAY 5 - Santorini ... Views, Museum, Akrotiri (car rental).
DAY 6 - Island #2 (I urge NAXOS instead; Milos will be deadddd off-season). the 3:15 Blue Star Ferry (2 hrs), large ferry w. open decks is a great "mini-cruise" experience. Stay at Beach (St. George) adjacent to town, lots going on, shops, cafes etc.
DAY 7 - 8 Explore Naxos town (forts! Ruins! winding "Maze" streets); day 2 rent car, zoom all over island, ruins, marble quarries, mountains, beaches -- great stuff for boys to discover. Photo sample
DAY 8 - FLY back to ATH Airport (reserve NOW! only 1-2 flights, small jets) Rent Car, drive to DELPHI 3.5 hours for sunset/o-night -- if museum still open, can see in afternoon, also non-fenced part of ruins (Tholos tomb). Recommend Pan Hotel, mountain views.
DAY 9 - Ruins at 8 AM & museum, before bus-tour crowds arrive. By noon, drive back to ATH (3.5 hours) drop car at airport get Taxi (flat rate €38) to Hotel in Plaka. If still peppy, start your sightseeing by going up Acropolis 5 pm, for golden sunset on stone.
DAY 10 - 11 - 12 - Finish ATH sightseeing! This website lists many FAB museums & sites your boys will like (Musical Instruments etc).

This is REALISTIC, use-tested ... plenty of time for boys to run around, and relax-time in sunset cafes, too. If you cram in more, you'll enjoy it less, I promise you.

Posted by
104 posts

The pictures from Nafplio and Naxos are stunning!... Thanks for sending these...

Posted by
1157 posts

Not to be a party pooper here but I think you are trying to cram to much into little a time. I know everyone wants to see as much as possible in the time you have but rushing around makes it difficult to really take in what you are experiencing. Maybe paring your trip down to just a few sites would be best. Nafplio is one of Greece's most beautiful towns and a great place to base yourself for trips to Epidavrous & Mycenea and other nearby sites. Don't forget there are the Palamidi & Bourtzi Castles right in town filled with history, plus all the lovely back streets of Nafplio and a lovely walk along the back of the town along the beach with stunning vistas.. In addition there is a great Farmers' Market to visit even if you don't anything.

Don't forget the time involved in traveling in Greece. It's not the super highways of the US but a lot of secondary roads . . . while scenic takes time to travel on and you'll always want to stop along the way to see some unknown area that just screams STOP to visit.

Taking ferries eats up time even to islands closer to the mainland.

One thing I have learned in my travels is to slow down and enjoy what you are seeing!

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks tommyk5! Agreed!... Sometimes, "less is more"... however, I have enough time to visit 2 islands (6 or 7 nights total on the islands)... which ones do you recommend? Stay the whole time on 1 island and do day trips to another(s)? Or stay on 2 islands?


Posted by
1157 posts

You can do two islands in the 6-7 days you have. Just remember time involved from getting to one island from the other and you need to make sure the islands you want to go to are on the same ferry run. As someone who has been going to Greece for a number of years, but a lot less than some of the pros around here, I have found that it's better to decide just what you want from a Greek Island: beaches, partying, nightlife, shopping or culture, history, great REAL Greek food and islands that have more locals than tourists.

For me the latter, but everyone has their own opinions.

I have combined Sifnos & Milos which are two of the more less touristed and authentic Greek Islands. I also did Astypalea/Amorgos two of the very best of the smaller and more traditional Greek Islands. In addition Naxos and Paros would be a great combination or even Santorini/Paros or Santorini/Naxos. Naxos offers the best of Old & New World Greece. Crete is almost it's own country with enough for everyone's taste . . . experienced travelers or first-timers.

I have never been to Santorini even though I've seen all the photos and videos it's just one of those islands that doesn't appeal to me. I did a day cruise to Mykonos and while visually stunning was crowded, touristy and high priced, but again that's just me.

There are so many Greek Islands to go to, most of them people have never heard about but a lot of them worthy of a stay. There are the Travel Agents Greek Islands then there are the More Experienced Greek Travellers Islands.

The only way to know is to ask questions, research on the internet or guide books and obviously go to one and see for yourself.

Check out Matt's Greek Guide on the internet for anything you want to know about Greece and the Greek Islands.

Two excellent books are Greek Island Hopping and the Blue Guide to the Aegean Islands with the latter the better of the two.

Posted by
104 posts

Yes, Matt's Greece guide is very complete...good point about the islands being on the same ferry run... I appreciate the feedback... Thank you.

Posted by
4535 posts

I agree with Janet that trying to see Meteora, Delphi, Nafplio and Olympia with the time you have allotted is not possible. You can pick a combination of the two nearest each other (Delphi/Meteora or Nafplio/Olympia) or maybe pick Nafplio and Delphi.

I have not been to Meteora so cannot comment on that site, but the photos I've seen are dramatic. I think the kids would enjoy Delphi as it is very dramatic and scenic. The museum is very nice too. And everything can be seen in one full day or split up into a few hours one afternoon and a few the next morning. The town of Delphi is not much to see, but it has wonderful vistas down to the Corninthian Sea. If doing that and Meteora, I would just stay in each town for a night and not split between. The distances are too far and you want to limit your time in a car.

Nafplio is a great and popular small city. Very scenic and very walkable. The kids might get a bit bored as I think of it more as a romantic destination, but there is a castle, a harbor and lots of ancient sites nearby to see. If they know the Illiad at all, Myceanea would be fun for them. If not, there is not much to see really. The theater at Epidavros would be fun to see and they can experiment with the acoustics. And Nafplio's old town is pedestrian with lots of places to wander and explore on their own to get away from mom and dad. It might be a bit repetitive in feel though to your island destinations.

Olympia is not a dramatic site, but it does have that association with the games most everyone knows. The museum is also nice but if you saw Delphi (which also has a race track), Olympia might be repetitive. And it's a long way out from what amounts to a few hours visit. I would not try and make it a daytrip from Nafplio; it is too far and way too much time spent in the car for little reward. The town is of no interest.

Keep in mind that to rent a car in Greece, you must have an International Drivers Permit in addition to your state license. Most rental agencies won't even rent your the car without one.

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you Douglas! Those are all great comments!...

Posted by
1385 posts


I agree with all of those who say 'less is more'. Your initial wish list is too much for the time allowed. A couple of other thoughts:
a) if you've got a car you don't need to backtrack from Delphi. It's possible to carry on west through Galaxidi and Nafpaktos and cross the Gulf of Corinth via the Rio - Antirio bridge. Delphi to Nafplio is about four hours driving that way and you come down past Nemea and Mycenae.
b) I agree with Douglas that Nafplio is a romantic destination but I don't think that means a couple of boys won't like it. We took a couple of 10 year olds and they had a great time: the fort is brilliant and the fact the old town is pedestrianised means we could let them play ball in the main square and generally wander about while we had coffee or a drink.

We've written up some of our favourite restaurants if you fancy a look.

Have a great trip.


Posted by
1157 posts

Just to add to my recommendation for Nafplio. Yes, it's a "romantic" destination but it's also a great family destination. The Palamidi Castle is one of the great joys of Nafplio . . . it will be all kinds of fun for the kids to climb up 1,000 steps (so they say) take in the views, hang out along the way and then once you enter the "castle" all the fun to explore a centuries-old site with all the nooks & crannies, the various walkways, look outs and so much more. The Bourtzie castle is a fun way for the entire family to to take 10 minute boat ride to the site, walk around and the kids can play among the ruins and walkways and other things kids love. There is a nice beach on the backside of Nafplio that can be reached by a enjoyable and leisurely path, you even get to go under a natural rock tunnel! The beach is a pebble beach but that's OK . . . the water is warm with beautiful color and safe for children. The Farmers' Market is a great place for kids to explore and enjoy . . . there are lots of "non-Greeks" selling stuff kids like but be descrete if you want to buy. There are gelato sellers that kids will love to eat, the Town Square that is reminiscent of Syntagma Square in Athens but on a smaller scale and so much more for not only children but adults to enjoy.

To say it's a romantic destination may be true but it's one of the best of the family areas in Greece.

Posted by
104 posts

Thank you all for your insightful comments...