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Kind of last minute decided to go to Greece - itinerary sanity check

Hi everyone,

I usually am one of those who likes to plan trips months in advance and was thinking about going to Greece later this year (end of Septemberish) and for that reason I've barely scratched the surface on my planning and research, but turns out I've had a change of plans and will be going to Greece sooner rather than later!

I'm currently scheduled to arrive in Athens on Jun. 15th at 10:15am (coming from east coast of US). The good news is I have a little more time than I was initially planning. I fly back home Jun 30th departing Athens at 1:50pm.

I had posted a thread here asking for first time advice on a route and after having to make some tough decisions about what to prioritize and what to drop, I think I am going to do something like this, but wanted to run it by all you good folks here and make sure it is feasible.

I plan to fly directly to Santorini after landing in Athens (will look for a flight at least 2 hours after my arrival time in Athens).

  • Santorini (3 nights, Jun 15-18), ferry to Naxos on the 18th
  • Naxos (4 nights, Jun 18-22), ferry to Athens on the 22nd
  • Athens (4 nights, Jun 22-26), train to Kalambaka on the 26th
  • Meteora (2 nights, Jun 26-28), train to Levadia on the 28th, then taxi from Levadia to Delphi
  • Delphi (1 night, Jun 28-29), bus back to Athens on the 29th
  • Athens (1 night, Jun 29-30), fly back home to US on the 30th

A little about me and my interests: I am a solo male traveler in my 30s. I have no interest in nightlife/clubbing/drinking. Mostly when I travel I like to visit important historical sites, architecture, walking or guided tours, just wandering through towns or cities, experiencing the culture of a place, and also some photography (so incredible landscapes/views are a big plus). Beach time is not a high priority for me (though I may take a dip in the sea just once just for the heck of it).

I'm trying to keep that balance between too slow and too fast.

I do not plan to rent a car during my trip. I was planning on taking the ferry back from Naxos to Athens to avoid another plane trip (I am a nervous flyer and prefer to avoid it if possible :D)

Question/points/feedback requested:

  1. Do my island choices make sense given my interests? I chose Santorini mainly because it's my first time to Greece and I want to see the famous caldera views I've seen in so many postcards and images of Greece. Besides that, my priorities are Akrotiri ruins and the Fira-Oia hike.

I really need to do some more research on Naxos, Do you think Naxos will keep me busy with other stuff to see besides beaches as that is not a high priority? I was also thinking of using one day in Naxos to do a day excursion to Delos/Mykonos (I know that's a long day, but seems pretty cool). My other island that really interested me was Rhodes, but it just seems so far out of the way and I think I would need more time in Rhodes. So the combination of Santorini-Naxos seems better this trip than Santorini-Rhodes?

  1. Lodging - I know I am getting a late start. For Santorini, I know Firostefani is recommended a lot here. If I can't find a good place there, how horrible would it be to stay either near Akrotiri or on the other side of the island near Perissa? Are these areas at least well connected and easy to travel to other parts of the island if I don't have a car?

What about Naxos? A quick look at Booking looks like there are still some highly rated places in Naxos Town/Chora. Would that area be my best bet?

  1. Do I need to book ferries now - or can that wait closer to my trip date?

  2. Dumb question, but on the ferries, is it possible to be outside and get fresh air (I'm thinking to reduce corona risk and not be stuck in an enclosed space with a bunch of people for a long time).

  3. Are there any other attractions in the places I am visiting that I need to book well in advance?

Thank you all again, I really appreciate it!

Posted by
1801 posts

On Santorini, I would look in Fira if Firastefani is booked. Without a car, Fira is most convenient. Akrotiri is really out of your way. There is not much there either.

We went to Naxos because of the beautiful beaches but only spent part of one afternoon there because we were so busy doing other things.

We stayed on a a St George Beach in Naxos which blends right into Naxos town. But in town itself is good too.

Posted by
8020 posts

Being outside on a ferry depends on what type of ferry you plan to take. There are large ones with open decks you can stand or sit on and high speed ones where passengers are all inside, no decks or views.
You are wise to save Rhodes for another trip as it is an entirely different island group, the Dodecanese and needs more time.
Without a car, try to stay near the caldera on Santorini. .
Delos is definitely worth a trip.
We bought ferry tickets a day ahead at most.
In Athens, go up to Lycabettus Hill, tram to top from midway point up the hill to see all of Athens all the way to the waterfront.
Don’t miss the Acropolis Museum, Cycladic Museum, Archeological Museum.
Delphi Hotel- book a room with a view of olive groves that go all the way out to the sea.

Posted by
3261 posts

Are you going to do a tour to Mycenae and Epidaurus? I think you can do it as a day tour from Athens.

Posted by
1945 posts

I like the measured approach you are taking to this trip. I don’t have many answers, but for Santorini, at this point, you should book what is available in your price range. Busses run but Akrotiri would be iffy.

Posted by
102 posts

Beth, good to hear about Naxos, thank you. I'm looking at some places on St George now. I think I found one that is in my price range and is reviewed highly.

For Santorini, what about Imerovigli? I managed to find a location that fits my budget and has good reviews. Near Skaros Rock.

Cala, I would certainly love to visit Mycenae and Epidaurus and I did see there are day trip tour options from Athens. However, I haven't really planned out my days yet, and I am not sure if I will have the time to basically drop a day from Athens to do this type of tour? I don't know, what do you think? I've seen many people say 2 full days is more than enough in Athens, but I am going on the advice of people here to give it some more time (also so I am not rushing around like a chicken without a head!).

Also as an side, many of the places I'm looking at on Booking.com for accommodation seem to be more "apartment" type lodgings than traditional hotels. I look for ones that have a decent number of reviews and are reviewed highly so I figure it should be fine, just thought it was a little odd. I usually book more traditional hotel type accommodations I guess. Anyone else make heavy use of apartments when visiting Greece?

Posted by
1801 posts

I haven't been to Imerovigli but did walk by it hiking from Oia to Fira. My impression is it is fairly isolated and might not be the best without a car. Fira is really the center of the island in terms of buses. You can walk to Fira from Firostefani so that would be good too.

Posted by
102 posts

OK, thanks! I managed to find a villa in Firostefani. About 5-minute walk up the road from Villa Fotini which I see get mentioned a lot on here as a recommendation.

After spending basically all day yesterday looking at accommodations and researching my various options, I managed to get everything booked! This is definitely the fastest I've ever thrown together a trip and I'm exhausted LOL. I wish I was on a Greek island right now.

Posted by
2904 posts

James, Booking.com in the ATHENS section can be a bit puzzlling in recent times.... it's because the last 2-3 years for the first time, they have branched out and allow individual apt. owners to advertise their places for short stays. This was not pemitted before on booking.com... and as a result, sometimes apartments -- lets say LR (w double sofabed), BR & Kitchenette -- are shown available in Very convenient streets near to major landmarks, for lower rate than 2 BR at hotels near that locality. There are advantages to getting a room /rooms this way on Booking.com vs using AirBnb or VRBO, namely because sometimes those agencies (1) rquire longer stays (2) or require bank-transfer advance deposits vs supplying credit cards, and/or (3) do not have cancel/w.o. penalty and/or (4) have v. irregular check-in/check-out provisions. Thus, people who once would only consider hotels now are lookng at these privately-owned accommodations, due to security of the Booking.com guarantees. This development does not appear to be widespread in Greece.

Posted by
102 posts

Janet, thanks for that info. I was unaware of that change. Seems like a win for us travelers then. We get more choices along with the backing of Booking to keep our reservations safe.

Funnily enough though, in the end I have had to change and stick mostly with traditional hotels. I did all my initial looking on Booking, but my plan was to use my Chase points to pay for my lodging. Well, I don't know if you've ever had the misfortune of having to book through the Chase Travel Portal, but let me just say it is horrible! Much fewer options compared to Booking. I couldn't find any of the apartments I was looking at on Booking. It is mostly just hotels available through the portal. So if I wanted a free stay, my choices were even more limited.

In the end, it has all worked out. I managed to find what look like good hotels in Athens, Delphi, and Kalambaka and I didn't have to pay a dime! The only places I had to pay out of pocket ended up being the villa in Santorini (went with Smarula Villa in Firostefani) and my Naxos lodging (went with Ormos Holiday Studios by St. George Beach).

Posted by
1801 posts

Have a fabulous time! There is something special about quickly planning and going. I planned a trip for seven to Italy in six weeks last summer and there was only one snafu that I would say was due to limited time spent planning. There were others, of course, but not due to short time frame for planning.

Posted by
2904 posts

lucky you James. As budgeteering retirees, a lot of us don't have points built up via business travel (paid by a company) with which to get free flights & lodgings. We're happy when people are relieved that it works out (what makes us "pointless people" weary are the other sort -- those who whine when they can't get exactlly precisely what they want, for free). You're not in that category.