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Just beginning to plan a 10 trip to Greece and am so OVERWHELMED!

We have just decided to spend 9 or 10 days in Greece and the only thing I know is that we will do Athens for 2-3 days and would like to hop over to Santorini for 1 or 2 days. I've also heard a lot about Mateora and would love to go there. We are 2 couples and will be driving.We have yet to get a sense of all the towns/cities/and sites we should see. If you can help me get a start I would appreciate it.
Thank you so much.

Posted by
1081 posts

First thing I would do is get the Rick Steves Greece book because it will tell you where to stay and eat. I would spend 8 days traveling around Greece with starting in Athens for 2 full days then head to Delphi and continue on to Olympia and hit several of the towns listed in the book ending up in Athens. Hop on over to Santorini for 2 days and you have a great trip. Hope you have fun.

(If you want to make it really easy just take the RS Greece trip, I loved it!)

Posted by
7050 posts

Start by visiting your local library and checking out some Greece books. You can't possibly be that overwhelmed having virtually no info ahead of you. I begin any trip planning by reading a lot and taking notes, then drawing up a list of priorities. The overwhelming part will be trying to fit in all the interesting choices/sites within the constraints of time and budget (and in your case compromising with the other party).

Posted by
1229 posts

I get the overwhelmed feeling. I am an experienced traveler and for some reason, I felt particularly overwhelmed planning my Greece trip. I think because its so big and there are SO many things I wanted to do. I wholeheartedly agree with Agnes that you need to read read read. No one can tell you what exactly will appeal to you. For example, out of 28 days, I am spending 1 in Athens. I know what I want to see there and it can be done comfortably in a day, and there were other things I wanted to do more (if I were there for 3 months I would spend more time in Athens). What you will want to prioritize this trip is very individual, even as many travelers want to see similar things. RS's book covers the places you mention, including Santorini (he doesnt cover much about the islands so this is worth noting), and with 'only' 9-10 days you will likely find plenty to appeal in his book (which will simplify things and take away that overwhelmed feeling). I would definitely spend 2 days on Santorini at least. Simply because traveling there and back for one day would be silly.

Posted by
1179 posts

Greece is a large country with beautiful islands and mainland. Yes, it can be overwhelming deciding where to go, especially if it's your first time.

Nine to ten days is really not a lot of time. I would recommend Athens for 3 days and maybe two islands at most. No need to rent a car in Athens . . . driving will be a nightmare. If you want to stay on the mainland you can drive down to Nafplio, one of Greece's nicest towns with several world-class archeological sites nearby splitting your time between Athens & Nafplio.

I agree that research is vital, using guide books and website and travel forums for help. However, don't be influenced by glossy travel magazine or websites that push the Big Name Islands. There is more to Greece than the over-the-top touristy islands with the mainland often overlooked which is filled with lovely towns, ancient sites, mountains, forest, etc.

Overwhelming but very doable.

Check out this website for everything about Greece:

But also check out other sources . . . in the end you should decide what you want, not a travel agent, glossy magazine or tourist-oriented website.

Posted by
1398 posts

Just a few thoughts.
Be sure you are over jet lag before you rent the car. Given that based on the time your flight arrives you could book a connecting flight to Santorini same day. Saves you a night in Athens and having to commute into and out of Athens. Jet lagged on an island is always better than jet lagged in Athens.

Fly back to Athens from Santorini and pick up your car rental at the airport. That gets you on the highway without having to drive in Athens.

You mentioned Meteora. So you can add Delphi to the trip to Meteora. They are a good combination. You might drive to Corinth stop and see the canal plus ancient Nemia and ancient Corinth then cross the gulf at Patras and drive up to Delphi. Arrive late afternoon and find a hotel then visit the museum. That will set you up for the site the next morning. Get to the site at opening and you will have it virtually alone for 3 hours before tour buses arrive. Then its time to get back to you car and drive to Meteora. same strategy arrive late afternoon or early evening. By then tour buses will be gone and you will be able to drive past all the Monasteries with all the great vantage points clear for photos. Next morning get our early. See as many Monastaries as you can because it gets very very busy. We counted 30 tour buses at one Monastery.
Its a 5 hour drive back to Athens so you may decide to spend a second night in Meteora but you could leave mid afternoon and get back to Athens for dinner.
Olympia Delphi Meteora

Alternately you could go south to Nafplio. Same opportunity to visit the great sites at Corinth.

Nafplio and Peloponnese

Which brings us to being overwhelmed. There is so much to see and do in Greece and 9 nights isn't much time.

While it is always good to get a guidebook I use a different strategy when visiting a new place. Sorry Rick but I go to Trip adviser and hang out in the background reading one days postings and discussions. I take notes of the discussions that catch my interest. I do that for about three days and its amazing how quickly things come into focus and a plan starts to develop. You can either focus on a specific forum or formulate a question and the helpful and passionate people who love Greece will answer your questions. Note, to get good info give us your dates, what interests you. tell us if you can drive a stick shift, any special requirements you may have. The more info you give us the better responses we can give you.

Posted by
109 posts

Thank you all. I am an experienced traveler and found myself reading this site and looking at a not so great map and the number or sites and towns were amazing. So, I thought, even before I read anything I would reach out to this great community and ask for some preliminary ideas I know that's it is not a long time to be there so am debating going to Santorini even. Thank you so much for your suggestions and ideas. Keep them coming and I will definitely be getting books, maps and returning to this forum. You are amazing!

Posted by
3961 posts

Leslie, in addition to all the great recommendations here, we found the Rough Guide to Greece an excellent resource as well. Enjoy your planning.

Posted by
1081 posts

Our upcoming trip looks like it covers much of the same ground as yours. For what it's worth, our itinerary is:
Day 1: Fly from Canada.
Day 2: Land Athens. Bus or train to Piraeus. Ferry to Hydra.
Day 3: Hydra.
Day 4: Ferry to Athens. Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour. Dinner under the Acropolis.
Day 5: Athens City & Acropolis walking tour.
Day 6: Athens.
Day 7: Pick up rental car. Drive to Meteora (4.5 hrs). Meteora Sunset Tour. Overnight in Kastraki.
Day 8: Drive to Athens Airport. Drop off rental car. Fly to Santorini. Pick up rental car (Smart Cabrio). Drive to Oia.
Days 9-11: Santorini.
Day 12: Drop off rental car. Fly to Athens. Fly to Canada.

So that's 2 nights in Hydra, 3 in Athens, 1 in Meteora/Kastraki, 4 in Santorini.

The Athens sights on our list to see, time permitting, include: Plaka shopping, Brettos distillery, Monastiraki Flea Market, Central Market, Panathenaic Stadium, National Gardens, National Archaelological Museum.

In Santorini, we hope to see: Red Beach, Akrotiri ruins, a winery, a caldera cruise, but mostly a relaxing vacation from our vacation.

Posted by
221 posts

I agree with the post saying to read, read, read. See what appeals to you. With only 10 days you may want to pick another island in the Cyclades if Santorini is a must for you. We have a similar trip planned for late May: Fly into Athens (2nights) ferry to Paros (3 nights) and ferry to Santorini (3 nights) Fly back to US from Santorini. We picked Paros as I read it is pretty chill and typical Greek island, lots of beautiful beaches and villages. Plan to take a boat tour which stops at 5 beaches and includes Antiparos.

Posted by
3364 posts

To Darren -- IMHO you should re-think the hop-on hop-off bus tour. You may be choosing this because it has worked for you in other European cities, such as London. It's useful there, b ecause there are long distances between major sites (i.e., Buck Palace & area to Tower of London waay off in east end). However, all the major Athens landmarks (Except for Nat. Arch Museum and the Old Olylmpic Stadium) are bunched close together within walking distance, and importantly, many are accessed through NO-CAR lanes or streets. Thus the Hop-On vehicles are limited to the busiest multi-lane heavy-traffic main arteries, where you spend a lot of time sitting at red - lights, staring up at office buildings. I'm not saying this in theory, I took the hopon bus when it first was launched, to check it out. Now, if y ou are taking it JUST to get transport to/from the N.A.M. (saving you a €5-6 taxi ride) then OK, but don't waste time just sitting in traffic. Before u decide on a strategy for seeing major highlights check R. Steves' Athens section on this site I believe he has a "D-I-Y" walking tour of main highlights.

Posted by
6672 posts

Darrenbois has a good plan except for flying from Santorini to Athens and on to Canada the same day. Unless the transatlantic flight leaves very late in the day I wouldn't take a chance on missing the connection. Having at least one night in Athens, even at the airport if the flight's early morning, is a safer way to end your trip.

Posted by
1081 posts

Dick, we thought about those concerns but in the end decided it made more sense for us to leave Santorini for last (vacation from our vacation) and only check into and out of Athens once. We have a four hour connection which I'm fairly confident will be enough. And if the worst thing that happens is we have to spend another day in Greece before going to work, all paid for by our trip interruption insurance, its a small price to pay.

Posted by
212 posts

First, 9 or 10 days is very little so you'll only need to pick a few spots.

I would recommend spending your Athens days at the very end. Two nights should be plenty.

If you want to see Meteora then that's on the list. You'll love it; it's amazing.

As long as you're in that area in a car you might as well add Delphi.

Santorini is beautiful but it's far away from these other places. Thus, if possible I would try to fly in directly to Santorini and begin your vacation there. If you can arrange that then spend 3 nights there, the first decompressing from travel, the others exploring.

That only leaves one or two nights, really. Personally, I love touring Greece by car. It's so easy to get around and it's so beautiful.

If your aim is to visit a great island then perhaps consider one that is convenient to the two knowns here, Meteora and Athens. Skiathos is very nice or you could visit Lefkada (which is great because there is no ferry). If you do the former you could add Mt. Olympus area on your way to Meteora or Nafpaktos / Galaxidi / Arachova if you choose the latter. Or Parga!

How about land in Athens. Drive to Delphi. 1 night, then spend next day at archaeological site and museum.
After touring Delphi site head to Nafpaktos via Galaxidi 1 night
Though I never spend fewer than three nights on an island you can economize by staying on Lefkada for 2 nights
Short drive from there to Parga 1 night (though really fun, worth more - some of the best beaches anywhere)
Wring another day of fun out of Parga and drive to Meteora later in the afternoon and visit the first monastery that day, the rest the next day and don't forget sunset photos up on the rocks (a lot of people hit this place and run but I find the village nearby to be charming and the vibe there is superb - 2 nights
Now, that's 7 nights and you're a 4-hour-drive away from Athens. Personally, I would add one night to any of the places listed below over a third night in Athens which you still might choose to do, or you could be very adventurous and visit Ioannina or venture up into the incredible mountains of Epirus.

The first day or two in the car and you'll be nervous. After that, consider the car your salvation and get off of the main roads if you can.