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Itinerary for Athens, Santorini, Nafplio, and Delphi

We are planning a trip to Greece in October, and will have about 11 days in-country. We would like to spend time in Athens, Santorini, Nafplio, and Delphi, but are having some trouble figuring out the best order/mode of transportation use since they're kind of spread out all over. It seems like we will have to go through Athens for each leg. Any ideas? Right now, we are thinking the following:

DAY 1 (Sat): Leave IAD at 9:30 pm

DAY 2 (Sun)
Fly to Athens. Arrive around 5:00 pm.
Connect to Santorini (Fira) via 7:30 pm flight.
Take taxi to Oia.
Stay night in Oia

DAY 3 (Mon):
Santorini

DAY 4 (Tues): Santorini

DAY 5 (Wed): Return to Athens airport.
Rent car, drive to Delphi, stay the night.

DAY 6: (Thur) Tour Delphi. Stay the night.

DAY 7 (Fri): Leave on time to drive to Nafplio.
Stop at canal.
Stop at Mycenae?
Arrive in Nafplio by dinner

DAY 8 (Sat): Nafplio

DAY 9 (Sun): Nafplio/Mycenae

DAY 10 (Mon): Drive back to Athens
Return car

DAY 11 (Tues): Athens

DAY 12 (Wed) Athens

DAY 13: Fly home (Thur)
Leave Athens at noon
Arrive home at IAD 7:30 pm

Posted by
2904 posts

I believe your itinerary makes good sense .... when I've planned a trip involving islands + mainland, I found that trying to go FROM an island and then get TO a mainland destination like Nafplio, it makes a horrendously loooong day! Had to feed my companions massive amounts of chocolate to combat crankiness!

DELPHI - it's good to plan a flight that gets you into ATH by no later than 1:30, then you can catch the daily 15:00 (3pm) bus to delphi, arrives 18:30 (6:30) ... just about sunset in Oct, enjoyable from a restaurant with view down mountainside. In AM, you can see museum at 8 or 8:30, takes less than an hour, and have plenty of time at ruins before tour busses arrive about 10:30. If you want to explore around Delphi longer, fine; otherwise there's a 16:00 bus. We liked hotel PAN, balconies at rear look down mountain to sea.

NAFPLIO - If taking bus, about €12/20 mins from Plaka-area hotel to Kissifou KTEL station; 1st bus 8 AM, then 9:30 & onward hourly, takes 2.5 hours,Air Cond/ upholstered numbered seats (ask for LH side outbound for sea view). €13 or so 1-way; return also almost hourly. In Nafplio, it's easy to get a car rental from your hotel & it really does make for most-efficient sightseeing of the many famed landmarks around. If driving from Athens, people often choose to pick up/return car at Airport to avoid city traffic, but makes sense mostly if flying out immediately on return. Otherwise get Athens hotel delivery with GOOD directions to access intercity highway -- one rental agency (Avanti) has service of driving you to very onramp outbound.

One advantage of driving from Athens is ability to make 2 quick & rewarding stops enroute (have agency mark your maps): (1) jump off intercity highway at Isthmus to go over the OLD bridge over Corinth Canal, great photo op!!! then back on hi-way, and (2) Just where you get off hi-way to drive SOUTH to Nafplio, first instead drive NORTH just 5 mi or so & spend an hour at NEMEA ... wonderfully authentically excavated/restored site of the Sacred Games that were runners-up to Olympic; splendid stadium etc. YOu will also be in the heart of superb vineyard area (Nemean red is my FAVE!)... in little village of Nemea there's a bottling plant right on main street where you can sample & buy good red stuff to savor on your Nafplio balcony!

Posted by
2904 posts

I believe your itinerary makes good sense .... when I've planned a trip involving islands + mainland, I found that trying to go FROM an island and then get TO a mainland destination like Nafplio, it makes a horrendously loooong day! Had to feed my companions massive amounts of chocolate to combat crankiness!

DELPHI - it's good to plan a flight that gets you into ATH by no later than 1:30, then you can catch the daily 15:00 (3pm) bus to delphi, arrives 18:30 (6:30) ... just about sunset in Oct, enjoyable from a restaurant with view down mountainside. In AM, you can see museum at 8 or 8:30, takes less than an hour, and have plenty of time at ruins before tour busses arrive about 10:30. If you want to explore around Delphi longer, fine; otherwise there's a 16:00 bus. We liked hotel PAN, balconies at rear look down mountain to sea.

NAFPLIO - If taking bus, about €12/20 mins from Plaka-area hotel to Kissifou KTEL station; 1st bus 8 AM, then 9:30 & onward hourly, takes 2.5 hours,Air Cond/ upholstered numbered seats (ask for LH side outbound for sea view). €13 or so 1-way; return also almost hourly. In Nafplio, it's easy to get a car rental from your hotel & it really does make for most-efficient sightseeing of the many famed landmarks around. If driving from Athens, people often choose to pick up/return car at Airport to avoid city traffic, but makes sense mostly if flying out immediately on return. Otherwise get Athens hotel delivery with GOOD directions to access intercity highway -- one rental agency (Avanti) has service of driving you to very onramp outbound.

One advantage of driving from Athens is ability to make 2 quick & rewarding stops enroute (have agency mark your maps): (1) jump off intercity highway at Isthmus to go over the OLD bridge over Corinth Canal, great photo op!!! then back on hi-way, and (2) Just where you get off hi-way to drive SOUTH to Nafplio, first instead drive NORTH just 5 mi or so & spend an hour at NEMEA ... wonderfully authentically excavated/restored site of the Sacred Games that were runners-up to Olympic; splendid stadium etc. YOu will also be in the heart of superb vineyard area (Nemean red is my FAVE!)... in little village of Nemea there's a bottling plant right on main street where you can sample & buy good red stuff to savor on your Nafplio balcony!

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you, Janet! Those specifics are incredibly helpful. So you would recommend doing Santorini, then Athens rather than going from Santorini straight to Delphi in the same day? How would you then recommend getting from Delphi to Nafplio, or vice versa?

Posted by
2904 posts

Well, I was working with your original plan... and I do agree with going to Santorini from airport, to avoid backtracking .. usually there are enough flights that you can get one about 2-3 hours after landing from US. As for switching to delphi right upon return from Santorini -- it depends upon factors not yet determined. Can you get a morning flight from Santorini? Do you want to drive to Delphi or take an intercity bus?? Taking an intercity bus means taking an X93? bus (another 70 minutes to the Loission station, then waiting for the Delphi bus. http://www.athensguide.com/practicalinfo/busschedulesB.htm -- 10:30, 1500 (3pm) or 17;50 These are not as frequent as from Athens to Nafplio http://www.athensguide.com/practicalinfo/busschedulesA.htm

A further consideration -- if you'd want to go straight from Delphi to Nafplio, there is no bus this is only possible if you've rented a car in Athens. Please look at a Map of mainland/Pelopponese -- you can see that you must go back toward Athens quite a way, to switch onto the highway leading to Peloponnese. Frankly, with the shorter days in October, I wonder how much fun that would be. And while driving in Greece outside Athens is perfectly OK (as long as you stay to the right & let impatient Greeks pass you), and there are signs in English (about 200 yards after the Greek version --- no matter what, you don't want to be driving at dusk or in the dark. The plan as is will be shorter driving, in daylight.

If you do the Nafplio thing by car, you could do the Isthmia/Nemea mini-stop in either direction depending on your timing. A final note: you talk about going to fly out "in the morning." You don't say when your flight is (NOTE for future: most data = best help). If your flight is 11 or noon, you could easily have final night in Nafplio & drive OR take bus back in early AM.

Posted by
25 posts

Ha we were writing at the same time. Thank you again. We will consider all that. It helps to know that driving at dark is a poor idea. We are thinking that we will probably rent a car and drive as opposed to doing buses, but aren't sure how to work that with Athens since it sounds like driving in the city is a nightmare.

We are flying from Washington DC to Athens on Oct. 1. Our return flight leaves Athens at noon on the 14th at noon. We haven't purchased the tickets yet, but plan to do so on Monday when my husband gets confirmation from his office.

So we could rent a car upon returning from Santorini and drive to Delphi. We could then drive back to Athens, but aren't sure what we would do with the car while we were there. So we could either return the car after Delphi and stay in Athens for a few days, then bus to Nafplio and back, or re-rent a car to drive to Nafplio. OR we could drive straight to Nafplio from Delphi, which I agree doesn't sound ideal Just the problem of what to do with the car complicates things. Soooo, here is what we are thinking now:

DAY 1 (Sat): Leave IAD at 9:30 pm

DAY 2 (Sun)
Fly to Athens. Arrive around 5:00 pm.
Connect to Santorini (Fira) via 7:30 pm flight.
Take taxi to Oia.
Stay night in Oia

DAY 3 (Mon):
Santorini

DAY 4 (Tues): Santorini

DAY 5 (Wed): Return to Athens airport.
Rent car, drive to Delphi, stay the night.

DAY 6: (Thur) Tour Delphi. Stay the night.

DAY 7 (Fri): Leave on time to drive to Nafplio.
Stop at canal.
Stop at Mycenae? Corinth?
Arrive in Nafplio by dinner
[It's a big day, but seems like it would be okay. Thoughts?]

DAY 8 (Sat): Nafplio

DAY 9 (Sun): Nafplio/Epidavros (?)

DAY 10 (Mon): Drive back to Athens
Return car

DAY 11 (Tues): Athens

DAY 12 (Wed) Athens

DAY 13: Fly home (Thur)
Leave Athens at noon
Arrive home at IAD 7:30 pm

This would be an alternative:
DAY 1 (Sat): Leave IAD at 9:30 pm

DAY 2 (Sun)
Fly to Athens. Arrive around 5:00 pm.
Connect to Santorini (Fira) via 7:30 pm flight.
Take taxi to Oia.
Stay night in Oia

DAY 3 (Mon):
Santorini

DAY 4 (Tues): Santorini

DAY 5 (Wed): Return to Athens airport.
Rent car (or take a bus?), drive to Delphi, stay the night.

DAY 6: (Thur) Tour Delphi. Stay the night.

DAY 7 (Fri): return to Athens airport to return car.
Check into hotel

DAY 8 (Sat): ATHENS

DAY 9 (Sun): Athens

DAY 10 (Mon): Bus (?) or rental car to Nafplio

DAY 11 (Tues): Nafplio/Mycenae/Epidavros

DAY 12 (Wed) Nafplio

Either Return to Athens by bus or return to Athens in the morning.

DAY 13: Fly home (Thur)
Leave Athens at noon
Arrive home at IAD 7:30 pm

OR we could do Athens right after Santorini and then rent a car to drive to Delphi and Nafplio. I just don't know!

I'm sorry - I feel like I'm rambling and not coherent. I SO appreciate your advice!! It seems to be a more challenging country to get around in than others we've visited in Europe. You're the best. Please feel free to not respond or tell me to leave you alone if I'm overstepping. :)

Posted by
2904 posts

Whoops! our postings crossed ... Now, see what I meant about asking for help, but giving insufficient data? WHen you are planning a trip in greece, with the complicated logistics of plane-ferry-bus-car rental it is vital to be clear about exact arrival departure times. You didn't say WHEN you arrived, and WHERE in US u are flying from. I fly from Philly, and i'm tired with even a 9-10 hour nonstop. You may be coming from West Coast, obviously a layover in Europe, you may have been on the road as long a s 16-18 hours, add on a 7 hour time change. Whoaaaa. Drive groggy, in the dark, on strange roads, in Country with a different Alphabet??? The question answers itself. Delphi first, by car - NO NO NO. Since u seem to have your r-t ticket already, your FIRST priority should be to book a plane to Santorini around 7 PM on your arrival date, before you make ANy further plans. http://en.aegeanair.com

While I'm at it, might as well request that in future postings you say WHEN in October. Oct 1, sunset is 7:09, Oct 31, its 5:28. BIG difference. Also, in October, destinations outside Athens are definitely off-season, increasingly as month goes on. of Course, Athens will be HUMMING, lots of activity!! If you have 3 nights in Santorini, u should be thinking about leaving early on day #3, because 2 days in off-season IMHO is enough.

Posted by
2904 posts

BTW, since this seems to be turning into a live chat, I'm going offline for a few hours will check back by 7 or so.

Posted by
4535 posts

Your revised itinerary that has your arriving in Athens, then immediately fly to Santorini, then fly back to Athens, pick up rental car and drive to Delphi, then drive to Nafplio, then drop off car and end trip in Athens is the way to go. You really need (and most certainly will want) a car in Nafplio as the archeological sites are quite a ways from town (about 35 minutes each). And there are some extra things you can do with a car, such as Cornith on the way to Nafplio and Housias Loukas on the way to/from Delphi. And the days allotted to each seem about right to me.

Posted by
2904 posts

Glad to have someone else chime in ... good thoughts. As for timing -- Keep in mind that major sites between Oct - April close around 3 pm... it may affect your time allotment. For Delphi, if you can arrange it to arrive by late afternoon, you can see the "open" part" of the site (famous Tholos round ruin, downhill from main site) in daylight, then check in to hotel. in the AM you can do the Museum 8 - 9, site from 9 - 11, check out, get a bite to eat and be on your way. There are other things beside the Ancient site in Delphi, but with your schedule, I think it would make sense to only stay 1 night, get to Nafplio by next night.

EN ROUTE -- skip Corinth inless u are archeology grad student, not great signage, hit Nemea for 45 minutes. Don't stop @ Mycenae. YOu'll have a bit more time with this "tweak" ... do Mycenae/Tiryns(?), drive up back of Palamidi (you are NOT going to climb the 999 steps!!). Nafplio itself is worth a FULLL day -- the most beautiful Old Town in all of Greece. It's known as the "proposal capital" because its so romantic that many Greeks take their sweeties there for the big ask I myself know an american happily wed to a Greek teacher, said yes in Nafplio. If driving, on your way back to mainland/Athens/Athens airport, you could take the road across to Epidaurus, then go up the coast to the Isthmia area and jump off THEN for the Canal look-see.

You have plenty of time for research and I recommend ROUGH GUIDE to GREECE ... library, or $3.99 on Amazon for 2012 edition. You can "pull out" just the sections you'd want, bind spines w. duct tape, and Voila! little Guide-ettes. Also look at fab Nafplio website (noncommercial, created by a Norwegian!) http://www.visitnafplio.com/. Here's the best online map, shows route all the way from ATH or ATH airport to Pelopponese & most of the way to Delphi (click & it gets huuge) --http://www.esperides.gr/images/peloponissos_esperides.jpg. When driving use MAP don't rely only on GPS, you can get royally screwed up ... a diff. spelling & you can't find your target destination, plus, every "county" (prefecture) will have an "Episcopi" -- sorta like "Springfield" in the USA, and GPS too dumb to figure it out.

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you both! So, a lot of sites close at 3:00? That seems so early! Good to know... We'll have to plan carefully and figure out what to do with the rest of our time. Let us know if there's any other gems we should consider.

I like your suggestion of starting with the outdoor ruins when we arrive in Delphi and then taking a peek in the museum the next day. Sounds like if we get on our way around lunch time we could still make it to Nafplio by dark.

Our interest in Corinth is primarily religious because of our Christian background, so we may make a quick stop in. Mycenae is skippable? How about Epidavros?

Appreciate you both greatly!

Posted by
2904 posts

BTW, don't you HATE the Steves' site format whereby, when you click to answr, all the previous responses in the thread disappear??? You have to open the thread in a 2nd window to keep track. GRRRR I've complained about this before to no avail. Now -- next:

SITE HOURS: This is for WINTER ... summer, major sites are 8 to 8, which used to last thru Oct. However, Greece economy crunch is so severe, I bet theylll cut back toOct 1, so don't count on long hours (right now, site staffs are threatening strikes on weekend -- but that will be over soon). CORINTH: u can do it, if you don't hang around, looking at every little stone ... just go to the place where St. Paul preached, take a photo, move on. Nothing else of Christian import there. It's in the lower level of Anc. Corinth, not up top anyway. MYCENAE - I didn't say skip altogether, I just meant not on way to Nafplio. If u follow my sugg. , this will be Day 6, not 7. So u will have more time in Nafplio to explore the other sites. Sample: Day 7 - MyCenae, AM (maybe Nemea if had to skip it; same direction see maP). AFT/Eve Nafplio old town. DAY 8: Nafplio old town/Palamidi/ Day 9: Whatever ... maybe Epidaurus? Go mainly for stunnning ampthitheatre, skip museum, give the rest of the ruins 20 minutes ... hard to decipher unless you've studied it a lot (NOTE: see ROUGH GUIDE). And Ride around countryside (it's beautiful); then more of Nafplio (DON'T miss it's Fab little museum). DAY 10: EARLY- back to ATH, return car: if Acropolis is open til 6 or 7, go up at sundown, gorgeous. DAY 11-12: More Athens... SO much tosee/do, best time of year there.

Posted by
5269 posts

An alternative route from Delphi to Nafplio could be west, along the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth, on E65, then south across the Gulf on the Rio-Antirio Bridge, then back west on 8A almost to Corinth (could stop there that day), then E65 southwest to Nemea (Janet's wine choice), then 7 south to Nafplio. Check out your choices on Via Michelin. This route is a little longer than the one that takes you back almost to Athens, but likely pleasanter and you see the Gulf shore from both sides and the splendid new bridge. We went this way from Nafplio to Delphi, with a long stop in Corinth for ruins and lunch, and it was fine (I wasn't the driver though).

I've lost track of your various options (agree with Janet about the disappearance of previous responses when I reply), but I think your basic plan makes good sense. Definitely drive on the mainland, outside of Athens, for flexibility in your time frame. If it were my trip, I'd give Santorini a day less (or even pick another less famous island), and give that extra day to Athens. Overnight in Delphi is a wise choice for crowd avoidance and sunset-sunrise views over the valley. In Athens, don't miss the Areopagus (aka Mars Hill) where St. Paul preached, just west of the Acropolis and south of the Agora.

We were there in October, a little nippy at times but seemed like a good time to go if swimming isn't your priority.

Posted by
25 posts

Excellent! I am adjusting the itinerary. Thinking about maybe stopping at a vineyard on our drive back to Athens from Nafplio - any specific suggestions, Janet?

I'm thinking that three nights will probably be enough in Nafplio... If we were to add an island day or two at the beginning, is Naxos worth taking a day trip to, or is it only good if staying overnight. It looks like you can't fly directly from there to Athens, at least in early October. Also, do you think we need more than an evening and two full days in Athens?

Posted by
2904 posts

This is getting too complicated , remember we are voluntary contributors not a travel agency to work up new scenarios every day . Re your new queries:

VINEYARD - the best area vineyards are all surrounding Ancient NEMEA. The little village of Nemea, a mile away, has a vineyard bottling plant right on the Main street!! (we spotted it because of huge tank in its "backyard". Inside u can see machines corking bottles; u can sample sample sample (but remember! u are driving!) and get a couple of bottles for balcony sunset-sipping during rest of your trip!
NAFPLIO - The first nite would just be getting there around Dinnertime, so doesn't really count, and night #4, you' leave 8 AM.. so in essence only 3 full days = NOT too much. Example I've been to Nafplio & its area at least 7 times in my 12 trips and EACH time, discover something new.
ADD-ISLAND AT START: Only island u can get NUMEROUS flights to is Santorini, arriving @5, u need to do it first. Also, in a day-trip on almost NO island can you do much more than see the port city. NAXOS: there are no day trips from Santorini to Naxos, (this day trip can only be achieved via excursion-vessel, not available from Santorini -- altho there IS a day trip FROM Naxos TO Santorini). Anyway, not worth it for just a few hours, altho Naxos town is one of the most interesting port towns in the Cyclades. BOTTOM LINE: with 11 days, 3 destinations is all you can reasonably manage, especially if you've never been to the country before.

ATHENS: My schedule had u geting to your hotel at 2pm (Plus 2 full days). In late afternoon, u could go up on Acropolis for the sunset, then in AM go to Acropolis Museum & then other sights on the 6-part "landmarks ticket" (I would skip Kerameikos, and do Temple of Zeus & Roman Agora just as walk-bys). If you feel you want THREE full days, you could drive back t o ATH the previous evening.

Jamie, at this time I suggest you stop, take a deep breath, and go look at some guidebooks. I wonder if you are trying to do all planning via internet & smart-phone. Trouble w. internet, it gives TOO much unsorted info. Imagine trying to get a drink from a fire-hose: you get bowled over by the flood, but still end up thirsty. Guides do the pre-sifting for you, so you can understand what's important and what's peripheral. Which ones? I suggest u go to library, browse thru 3-4, see which appeals to you most. Some thoughts:
Rick Steves -- Good on Athens & some of Pelops, but leaves out a lot (such as Nemea). I do like his step-by-step DIY for Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, and Nat. Arch. Museum. Incidentally these 3 DIY's are available FREE for download to your I-pod, on his website. However, his take on history & culture is necessarily limited.
NOTE: Background is immensely helpful to appreciate what you see -- you cannot grasp Greek heroism in war of independence (Nafplio), or the beauty of Minoan Civ (Akrotiri in Santorini), or the Glory that was Classical Greece (delphi/Athens) without some backstory. There's one popular (not elite) guide I like for this.

ROUGH GUIDE to GREECE -- has it all. I have a shelf-full of Guides, this ends up as my go-to when people want just ONE guide. SO thorough & gives both plusses AND minusses of destinations. Why spend $5-10K on a holiday, & not spend $5-10 on a Guide. U neednt even get latest edition, because not looking for hotel/restaurant prices, but for background. Used RG on Amazon = $8+ shipping. AND (as said by me repeatedly on this forum) it's super-handy; you needn't take a Big Fat Book -- just pull out sections u want (Athens, Peloponnese, History, Food etc), carefully "bind" the spine with Duct Tape and -- Presto! -- little pocket Guide-ettes.

Posted by
2904 posts

PS: You said there was no flight from NAXOS to ATH in early October.... did you use this website? http://en.aegeanair.com When I put in several dates, I saw several flights per day. But this does not change my advice regarding not over-reaching in an 11-day visit.

Posted by
25 posts

Janet - My apologies if I overstepped. I did not at all mean to make you feel obligated to respond - I simply assumed that you wouldn't respond if you tired of the conversation. I very much appreciate your insights and thank you for your time. I do have some good guidebooks that I've been looking through and will check out some that you mentioned. Thanks again.

Posted by
2904 posts

Nope, you didn't overstep, and I didn't feel obligated. It's just that I felt that some of the indecisions you'd been having and 2nd thoughts, might be avoided by a bit of spadework. When I help people on the phone, there's instant feedback, fast explanations why something is/is not a good idea, no need to type it all out. If that's helpful we can set it up via PM.