Hydra and Peloponnese or Cyclades

We're planning a 10 day trip to Greece in late september and are having trouble planning our itinerary. We would like to spend 2-3 days in Athens and the remainder traveling around. Looking to visit some ruins, and enjoy a little R and R. We're intrigued by Rick's recommended itinerary of Hydra, Nafplion and surroundings, Olympia and Delphi but feel that a trip to Greece without visiting the Cyclades might feel incomplete. Please give us your thoughts if you have done both. Also, since we are somewhat limited in time and choose to do the islands, would we be better off flying to the islands (Santorini or Crete) and make our way back to the mainland via ferries? Thanks for your advice

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
860 posts

I am a confessed Greece addict … 11 trips since '99 (the only way I manage is, I never go anywhere else!). So I've visited over 25 islands, many of them multiple times, plus the Peloponnese many times. RS's guide to athens & his limited number of other destinations is good … but yes, limited. His TV programs on Greece do cover islands (but are so old -- late 1990s -- that costs are mentioned in Drachmas). I wonder if Hydra is the ONLY island recommended in his book & on website is because he has never expanded or updated his explorations elsewhere in Greece. Surely the other islands are worth looking at … particularly since Hydra has very few ancient-history aspects.

Since you are limiting your visit to 10 days, and 3 for Athens, I would advise against Crete, unless you plan to spend ALL your island time there… it's just so big. Instead, use your 7 days for Santorini & a 2nd Island… either Naxos or Paros are popular choices, and both will have enough activity (and year-round population) to be vibrant in late September … smaller isles such as Folegandros or Milos etc, really are markedly emptying out by that time.

Also, change your sequence. We "old Greek Hands" recommend doing Athens at the END, not the beginning. It avoids the time involved in going into Athens/back out to airport TWICE. Also, it's more fun to recover from jet-lag on an island… and if you get used to Greece on an island, you'll be readier to cope with big-city vibe at the end. To plan this, book a transatlantic flight that is nonstop from the East (NY, Philadelphia or Montreal/toronto), because these are the only US/Greece flights that arrive before noon in ATH airport. You can connect with a 50-minute flight to Santorini, and have time to do some sightseeing, and be settled with a sundown drink by 6 pm (remember, Sept days are shorter!). After 2-3 days, board the 3:30 pm Blue Star ferry that goes to both Naxos or Paros. This is the Large modern ferry with outside decks, so u can get the fabled view upon departing.

As for Naxos & Paros, you'll have to research & make up your own mind. I'm biased toward Naxos; I find the port town the more charming of the 2, and the bus system better in reaching the outer beaches and the scenic inland scenery … others are equally fervent about Paros. As for returning to the mainland, the 2 main (and best ferries) are Blue Star (large modern, smooth rides) one at 9:45am from Naxos, 11 from Paros, arriving 3 pm. If you don't want to have a whole day chopped up by ferry travel, take the 6 pm ferry, arriving just before midnight. No problem with that, if you've planned your Athens time for trips-end. You Also have the option of flights back to Athens, but book IMMEDIATELY (only 1 flight per day from Athens, 2 from Paros, modern SMALL jets).

Posted by afaust
4 posts

thanks for the info. we're flexible on athens. would it make sense to skip it and do crete instead? so we'd be looking at 3 nights in Crete, 3 in santorini, 2 in paros, and last night in athens prior to returning. or is that cramming too much in?

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
860 posts

Yes, too much. All your time spent in Transit. And "flexible on Athens"??? At least 2 days, please. This amazing city has been waiting for you for 3,000 years, u can at least give it 48 hours. Stay on South Side area of Acropolis, wonderful pedestrian promenade there… a Hotel like Airotel Parthenon is just steps from the walkway and 200 yards from the Acropolis entrance by the ancient theatre, and the New Acropolis museum. Athens will be lively, skies will be blue… ancient sites enjoyable. The Benaki Museum is FREE on Thursdays & stays open tip midnight (plus has wonderful restaurant & bar -- go there to see chic Athenians). Save Crete for your next trip, give it 5-6 days, & we'll design an exciting tour for you...

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9896 posts

I agree that the large island of Crete deserves 5-6 days on a different trip and Athens deserves 2 days on this trip, since it's your first time there. FYI, Rick doesn't have any plan to write about the rest of Greece, which he thinks is already well covered by books like Lonely Planet and which (with the vagaries of ferry travel) is unlikely to become part of the tour program. His latest Greece book does cover Mykonos, Delos, and Santorini, which were researched as part of the Mediterranean Cruise Ports book. I would not expect you to be disappointed with any of the stops on your list, as long as you have time to relax and enjoy them.

Posted by afaust
4 posts

Thanks everyone for all your advice. Leaning towards the following itinerary at this point. Fly into athens and transfer to santorini by plane. 3 days in Santorini, 3 days in Naxos, and ferry back to Athens for the last 3 days. Would 2 days in athens be sufficient? Would it make more sense to ferry back to Santorini and do a return flight to athens?

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
1247 posts

I think it sounds like a great trip. I would ferry back to Athens from Naxos. Three nights (two full days) should be enough for Athens.

Posted by Carol
Martinez, CA, USA
802 posts

We did something similar - flew from Athens to Santorini, ferry to Naxos, and ferry back to Athens. If by 2 days in Athens you mean 3 nights and 2 whole days, yes that is enough time. We visited the new museum the first afternoon, the Acropolis, Agora, Hadrian's Library, Parliament and a few other sights on the second day, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Anafiotika neighborhood, Forum, and the Archaeological Museum on the last day. As you can see, it was a very busy and long 2.5 days but worth it! Not sure about your idea of ferry back to Santorini to fly to Athens. Did you compare ferry times from Naxos to Pireaus vs Naxos to Santorini, connections to the airport and flight time? I have not checked but it seems like ferrying directly to Pireaus would take about the same amount of time and be less stressful.

Posted by afaust
4 posts

thanks again to everyone. looks like we have a few different flight options to the islands. As someone mentioned, we could fly to Naxos as well, in addition to Santorini. I also notice flights to Mykonos which are about half the price of Santorini's. Would Mykonos be worth adding to our Itinerary, or should we focus on Naxos and Santorini given the relatively short duration of our trip? Replace Naxos by Mykonos? Thanks.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2313 posts

We stayed at the Acropolis Select Hotel in Athens in May and June of this year. Good location, good breakfast, elevator, friendly staff, asked for top floor corner room - and got it, good location to get to most things, very fair price given its competition. WE would stay there again when we return to Athens. We went to Hydra (EE dra) while in Greece and certainly appreciated the absence of motor vehicles - only walking and donkey rides. We did not visit Santorini but heard some negative comments from folks who did go there about cruise ships dumping hordes of "shoppers" there. I wonder what folks who have visited there would say about that to you.

Posted by Michelle
4 posts

Hello All,
I am planning a trip next year in Naxos/Mykonos/Santorini. We'll be "living large" in Santorini as we'll be at a resort for a friend's wedding, but are looking for good hotel recs in Mykonos and Naxos - something in the $150-$200 range max. Does anyone have any amazing ideas.
Many, many thanks!!!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24160 posts


On Naxos I would highly recommend Hotel Grotta. It's located within an easy walk from the main part of town, the room was comfortable and they served a nice breakfast.

If you haven't been to Greece before, be prepared to drink bottled water in some locations, which include Naxos and Santorini. Also, be sure to do some research on the "bathroom etiquette".

I used one of the Greek travel agencies to make hotel, transfers and other arrangements for my island visits, and they provided exceptional service. That hotel was one they recommended, and I wasn't disappointed.