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Lots of Questions about our Family Trip to Greece

Thank you in advance--y'all have been endlessly helpful for other trips we have taken!
Our family will take an educational trip to Greece in Mid-March. (No option for other dates). On our educational trips, we read & study for the year ahead, and then visit and explore. We still need help on a lot of questions. If you are able to offer help on just one question, or all of them, we thank you! Our kids are 14, 12, 10. They love history. They also are typical kids--at some point, more ruins just look like more ruins! Physical activities work well, balanced with touring. Rather than just focusing on Ancient Greece, we are trying to incorporate a lot of background of the Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Empire and the modern immigrant situation. We welcome any input you have.

Day 1: Arrive Athens apartment
Day 2-5: Explore Athens, including a day trip to Hydra
Day 6: Car rental from outskirts of Athens, visit Delphi, arrive at lodging in Meteora (Kalamata)
Day 7-8: Hike & explore monasteries (Probably doing the "Meteora Hiking Tour")
Day 9: Drive to Nafplio apartment
Day 10-11: Explore Pelopennese Peninsula, hopefully rent a small boat to do independent cruising
Day 12: Drive to Athens, stopping at Corinthian canal
Day 13: Fly home


  1. What activities would you recommend private tours? We really like the "Free City Walk Tours" whenever we arrive in a new city, so we will do that in Athens. We plan to book tour guide for Meteora hike. Any others?

  2. What more modern activities can you recommend? We have plenty of options for exploring ancient ruins and cathedrals, but anything in touch with more modern culture (olive oil tasting?) or physical activities would be great.

  3. Which Meteora monasteries should we visit if we aren't going to do all? We will plan around the days they are closed, and our lodging is at the base of the Holy Trinity Monastery, so we will definitely go there. Please advise on best to visit (Wednesday & Thursday).

  4. Nafplio Boat Rental: this is a quirky one--our kids love the idea of motoring around in the Aegean Sea, looking for an island to dock at. (I know, a bit of a fantasy, but we try to indulge their adventurous spirits). The only boat rental I have been able to find in Nafplio is for yachts. We are thinking ideally of a pontoon type boat/motor boat. (This is a challenging question--you will get big Thanks if you can answer this one!)

  5. Peloponnese Activities: what are your top recommendations for 2 days? We definitely want to tour the Venetian Palamidi fortress in Nafplio. Additional considerations are: Corinth, Epidaurus Theatre, Kaspia Cave, Sparta, Mystras, Olympia. We need advice tailored to a family with teens!

  6. Syrian Refugee Camp: this may be impossible, but.... we have focused on the current refugee situation in Greece, particularly in Athens. We sponsor an organization that serves there, and we care deeply. I contacted one camp to ask if we could visit and spend a couple hours there, but they declined. Ideally we could spend a few hours, possibly handing out items, or just interacting with children. I know this may sound odd, and we don't mean it to make a spectacle of the refugees. It's important to us because we truly care about the plight of the people and have read and prayed for them for a long time. We feel like it truly is part of modern Greek culture, just not very publicized. So any guidance you can give about an organization or opportunity would be appreciated.

  7. Anything else you think we really need to consider? Especially advice because we have kids. We wish we could stay longer this time, but we can't. So we are trying to balance squeezing in all these incredible things without overwhelming ourselves!

Thanks so much.

Posted by
1117 posts

Let me just start with your question about refugee camps, since we have quite a few of those here too, if not nearly as many as in Greece.

Just to help in understanding their situation, and why they decline visits: They certainly need all the support they can get, and I am sure they are very grateful to your caring and your support.

But your caring also needs to respect the privacy of the people living in those camps. For the time being, this is their home, however imperfect. Many of them are traumatized by what they have gone through. If there is one thing they don't need, it's living in a zoo, or having visitors come and benevolently handing out gifts, expecting grateful looks in return. I am sorry to put it so bluntly, but these camps have requests like that every day.

Now I do know you don't mean your request that way, and I also believe that your intention is to make your children understand what is going on and empathise. That certainly is a good intention, but it just doesn't work that way.

What these refugee homes need is people who come and visit refugees on a regular basis, help support them in integration, learning the language, finding their way around in the local bureaucracy, and all that kind of thing. I don't see how your visit would do any of that, well meant as it may be.

Posted by
35 posts

Thanks, Anna, I appreciate your insights. And I do get are absolutely accurate that struggling people don't need to be in a zoo. ( I hesitated even putting it in my original message because I was afraid it would come across that way.) Here in the United States, my kids and I lead a weekly refugee reading program, helping families get settled and helping the kids learn to manage in schools. So we do understand that us showing up for one day isn't going to make any improvement in the families' lives. We simply try to have an attitude when we travel that isn't just "me first"--we look for ways to serve even as tourists. We enjoy meeting kids that we sponsor through sponsorship programs, and sometimes I think for kids, actually realizing the people truly exist expands their capacity for compassion. But I do truly appreciate your thoughts on it, because it's always good to have an outside opinion, to see where we might be putting OUR desire for experience ahead of what's truly best for struggling people. Thanks for your openness.

Posted by
1117 posts

my kids and I lead a weekly refugee reading program, helping families
get settled and helping the kids learn to manage in schools

Well, that is fantastic! That way, your children are becoming sensitive to the real needs of those families, and you are all doing something that is really helping people.

Now here is something I hesitate to recommend, but it might be worth thinking about. Have you considered making the island of Lesbos part of your trip?

Lesbos is one of the main spots where refugees arrive, coming from Turkey. That has made tourism really go down on that island.

So you would actually doing several good things on that island: You'd be supporting the local economy that is in dire need of support, and you might try and find out what is going on on that island and if there is anything you can do or get involved in with your children during your stay. You might also get in touch with locals and see how they handle the situation, or try to find out what kinds of help they might need.

I am really unsure if that would work, and if it's a good idea. But at least it's some food for thought and further research.

Posted by
25625 posts

Question 5: I think Mystras is a good idea: a Byzantine site on a hillside, so it feels different from many others. Sparta, though, is a "No" unless it's just a convenient stop to grab a quick meal. It's a modern city and not a particularly attractive one. You can Google for photos to verify. Use your time elsewhere; as you know, there are plenty of options.

Posted by
3260 posts

Hello again Runner316!
I see that your itinerary has changed greatly since your last threads in summer, but new plans sound just as exciting. Thoughts:

• REFUGEES - Anna's suggestion of LESBOS is thoughtful, but alas not very feasible on your short & crammed trip schedule. Stay flexible on this option: I can query one of my Athens friends who's aware of efforts, who can suggest what might give your kids a personal encounter with refugee situation, in an appropriate way (of course a donation also would be fitting).

• ATHENS SIGHTS - The best (only?) Free walk tour may not be operating (in past years, it has disappeared offseason). You can e-mail for info. And even if it's on in March, be aware that it's entirely a walk-by -- the guides are not licensed to take you Onto sites. And you really should go UP on Acropolis. If you're going to go for a private family tour Athenswalkingtours can tailor an excellent tour... or viator will do the same. Both will tell you Exactly what it will cost, and you can choose what to include. If you're trying to be frugal, you could do Acropolis, Agora, and Natl. Arch. Museum as a DIY- by downloading the Free step-by-step podcasts on This very Rick Steve site (I already told u about this), then supplementing with a free walk-tour if available... For instance, the Temple of Zeus, Roman Agora, and Olympic stadium are perfectly good walk-bys.

• DAY TRIP - Why Hydra? A long ferry trip in an enclosed ferry, and just to see a port city... not a lot else. Instead, I always vote for AEGINA. Take GReen-line Metro to Piraeus, book a REGULAR ferry (NOT a Hydrofoil, which has NO deck, only inside seat rows, no views at all) .. On regular ferry, you can be on deck 60 minutes, viewing lively seascape -- huge freighters, cruise ships, ferries, yachts & tiny sailboats - maybe even a dolplhin! On Aegina u can rent car or take local bus to mid-island and FAB Temple of Aphaia on high hill, 360° view of entire Saronic bay. Go back on road, find hand-scrawled sign to a downhill trail to beach town for lunch and bus/taxi back to port. Explore back lanes of a Real (not tourist-fake) island port town, take a sunset ferry back. Here's a step-by-step photo album of this adventure:

• NAFPLIO BOAT - Don't waste time/effort; yes it's a fantasy. IF such existed, you'd have to pay €€€€€ deposit. Not just a guess, this is result of checking in the past, due to others' requests. In the high season, off the local package-tour beach, Tolo, for a quick spin around a bay, maybe. But not when u are going, for what u describe.

• PELOPS ACTIVITIES - In previous thread I gave many links re Nafplio kid-fun activities, including teen faves like NEMEA on outbound drive, climb to Acronafplia, in old city. I think Epidaurus (mainly the theatre, not the ruins) is ideal on way BACK from Argolid area, then exit at Isthmus to walk out on Old Bridge of Corinth Canal. As for other list items, with only 2 days plus to-from days, Not Enough Time.

Posted by
35 posts

WOW Thanks so much for all the time and thoughtfulness.
*Anna--great idea of Lesbos. We will look into it.
*Alan--we hadn't consdiered biking in Nafplio but that's a wonderful idea. Thanks for the link.
*Acraven--Good call on Sparta. Sounds like it's not worth a stop.
*Janet--Thanks again for all your help now and in the past. Please do let me know if your friend in Athens has more info about the relief efforts.

Free Tour--thanks for the heads up. We have always done Sandeman's tours, but after I read your message I checked--they don't have an Athens tour!
Thanks for the reminder of Rick's downloadable tours. That sounds like what we need for the Acropolis, so we can explore at our own pace.
Hydra--we picked that island b/c we thought in March we wouldn't be able to do traditional island activities (swimming). We will look into Aegina!
Nafplio Boat Rental--we will keep hoping. It sounds like a real long shot, but if anyone has a contact who would like to captain a boat for us, or rent a boat to us, we would be delighted!

Thanks again for all the help and anything else y'all can suggest is appreciated!

Posted by
1117 posts

Janet is perfectly right of course that within your crammed schedule, Lesbos is really not feasible. Or you'd have to throw out numerous other things and change your itinerary altogether.