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Need help planning a fall trip.

My family is planning a trip in mid September. I am at the beginning stages of planning but I think Greece is the place. There are 10 adults and one 4 year old. I would appreciate help with the itinerary. We were hoping to rent a large villa for 5 to 7 days, 2 or 3 days in Athens and 2 or 3 days somewhere else. Nafplio sounds nice, Delphi, Meteora. Do we have time for an island? Is so which one? We range in age from 23 to a young 59 (couples) We aren’t into museums (maybe one or two) but like historical sites. Love the idea of just hanging around a beach town and maybe doing a day trip or two from there.
We have travelled to Europe quite a few times but this is the first time in Greece.
I remind you I have just started looking into this so any advise is appreciated.
Also, is it easy to get around with a rental car?
I love this forum. It has given me so much information on how to plan the very best European adventures and I’m sure it will again.

Posted by
5265 posts

Besides the info under "Explore Europe" on this website, and in the guidebooks I'm sure you'll be perusing, Matt Barrett's website has a wealth of info about sights and logistics.

Your timetable isn't quite clear -- do you want 2-3 days in Athens, plus 5-7 in a "large villa" somewhere, plus 2-3 days in a third location? That would total 9-13 days. Or will your total time be less?

Nafplio would be a very good place to spend at least a few days, scenic and historic in itself, and a good base for sites like Mycenae, Epidavros, Nemea, Corinth, and Tyrins. Nearby Tolo also has a tour boat service to islands like Hydra and Spetses, for a taste of what the islands are like. Or consider a day trip from Piraeus (Athens' port) to nearby Aegina.

Delphi is worth an overnight if you can do it, less crowded early and late in the day. If you go there, besides the ancient ruins you should really take a look at the small museum. Won't take long. The other museum I'd highly recommend is the Acropolis Museum in Athens, where the original Parthenon sculptures are now beautifully displayed (the ones still left in Greece, that is). If you can stand a third museum, that would be the National Archeological Museum in a different part of Athens, large and comprehensive but maybe not so great for non-museum-lovers.

Driving in Athens makes no sense, public transit is very good (watch for pickpockets though). Driving elsewhere is probably the best way to get around, giving you flexibility about your schedules. A group that large will need at least two, maybe three vehicles for yourselves and luggage. Major roads are good and most road signs are in English as well as Greek. Drivers are less inhibited, shall we say, than in the US or even western Europe. It's common to drive on the shoulder of a two-lane road and leave the center part for passers.

Posted by
109 posts

Thank you so much for this advise. We will be in Greece for 11 or 12 nights and then home via Amsterdam for the last couple of nights. I am just estimating how much time to spend in each place. I have tried to find a home to accommodate us in Nafplio but the whole town is almost booked already! Does anyone know of a special site to find homes besides Air B & B or luxury vills?
I thought I had plenty of time but clearly I was mistaken. We don't have to spend as much time in Nafplio but I had envisioned having a villa so we could all stay together. It is nicer than a hotel.

I like the idea of Hydra but not sure how much time to spend there is it as good as Santorini or one of the other islands?
Delphi sounds like a must as well. I'm not sure how much time to spend in Athens. Is two full days enough? I like your suggestions for those museums. I'm sure we will do that as well. Meteora was another place I had hoped to visit but sounds like it might be to hard to fit in this time.

We won't drive in Athens but considering we will need so many vehicles I was wondering if we would be better off just hiring a driver?
All advise is much appreciated.

Posted by
2898 posts

Villas are much harder to come by in Greece than in Italy or Spain. Part of the reason is historical ... Italy for many centuries Italy had wealthy people who built villas in beautiful places often in major cities or right on beaches.... so when tourism began for upscale travelers, the villas were there. Greece suffered poverty for centuries under the rule of occupiers, who took the wealth. When tourism began in Greece (and this was really not until 1960s), it was a budget tourism, for ordinary folks -- so often the lodgings built on beaches or in cities were more modest.

By the time upmarket tourism developed, there was no vacant land on which to put large deluxe villas, in handy places. So villas had to be built farther inland, in inconvenient places, where 6 -10 people as in your case would have to rent several cars, and coordinate their comings/goings constantly. Large villas, in Convenient Places, are very scarce and are snapped up EARLY, so indeed you are very late on the scene.

Frankly with your complicated needs, and so far, lack of information about desirable places to go and to stay -- you probably will do better going to a knowledgeable agency, than trying to D-I-Y for 11 people. There are several Greece-based agencies with fine reputations for working online with N. American first-timers ... Greece-based IS important, because they know much more than just the overly-promoted cruise-ship stops (Sntorini-Mykonos-Rhodes) that the US agencies specialize in. Furthermore, if a glitch occurs, a Greek agency can fix it faster & better than an agency halfway around the world (and which gets its knowledge 2nd-hand) I suggest you e-mail immediately to Dolphin-Hellas, Aegean Thesaurus, and Fantasy Travel, giving the same info, and seeing which responds quickest, and with the answers/$estimates that appeal to you.

Agencies help best if you provide Full Details of proposed trip ... and realistic expectations. These would include:
• Proposed approx date of arrival AND date of depart (descript seems to be about 14 days - but u cannot count departure day, and cannot really count arrival day for activities/sights unless your plane lands by 9-10 a.m.)
• Will any of the group arrive at later date/leave earlier (affects bookings/car rentals/ sequence of events)
• Total number, in WHAT Grouping; i.e. couple w. 4 year-old; 2 rooms - grandparents; 3 20-somethings (will share triple) etc.
• Are u all arriving on same day? same plane? Or will arrivals be staggered?
• That big villa - where did you hope to rent it? Island? Nafplio area? Athens? what is your tentative budget for 7 days?
• Would u be interested in a place with 3-4 units for the group, in same building? What would be your budget range for a studio or 1-br unit in such a set-up?

NOTE: please don't ask for villa in Santorini unless willing to be way far from Caldera view. Also Santorini is n.g. for day-trips OR sandy beaches. For a beach island with a variety of rental units in one building or in a complex, with possible day trips (meaning, isles have dedicated day-excursion boats), good bets are NAXOS, PAROS, ANTIPAROS, and Western Crete.

NOTE #2 - you may have to stay 1st night in Athens or near airport just to get all your group together, but after that, it's usually more efficient to do island or Peloponnese (Nafplio) visits at beginning of trip, and do major Athens sightseeing at the end.
NOTE #3 - Yes rental cars are good, especially if going to Nafplio, but you can't get by with 2 standard vehicles -- legal passenger limit in standard sedan car is FIVE, even if child is only 4 years old. Then most fleets jump to a big van seating 7. So you have a headache ahead, unless the group is up for a 3rd vehicle.

Posted by
109 posts

Thank you Janet. That does make perfect sense with the economy in Greece.
I had originally planned to go to Italy but have been twice and thought it would be fun to do Greece.
It does help that we will all arrive together and we would need Five bedrooms.
Nafplio sounded perfect at the beginning with somewhere in between and then based on other advice from you and others ending in Athens.
Usually I have planned Europe five or six months prior with no problem but this doesn’t appear to be the case for Greece. I was able to get five hotel rooms in Nafplio but sounds like a bit of a challenge may lie ahead.

Posted by
2898 posts

Aha! I just KNEW this inquiry was from an Italy-goer. As you are finding, Greece is different in MANY ways;

• Italy has an extensive train network,. Greece has ONE train as of now.
• In Northern Italy, renting one of those many villas, you can settle in , and every day drive 20 miles in a different direction, have a new experience, and drive back for dinner at the villa. In Greece, if you drive 20 miles in any drection, you fall in the sea and drown.
• The Italy roads/trains can be very time-efficient, with schedules that work for tourists. Greece has an extensive FERRY system, but NOT built for convenience of tourists -- it exists to get people & goods from Athens to a specific Island "chain" and back ... but not for hopping from one island chain to another, as tourists like to do.
• American car rental agencies offer free drop-offs almost anywhere, and a fleet of many sizes, including vehicles seating 6-7-8 etc. Greek agencies may charge HUGE fees to drop off in a distant city (because they have no retrieval network), and cars that seat more than 5 are hard to come by...
.......... thins like this are why an agency can be helpful for planning challenges like yours.

Posted by
1788 posts

Have you tried VRBO? I found a place using that site in Nafplio. This is the place we are staying in but it only sleeps eight. Perhaps some people could stay nearby in a hotel. It is centrally located.

We are a group of six and I worked hard to find places big enough for us. I wanted at least three bedrooms (the Nafplio place has six but four have single beds in them). Places that are close to anything are not that big. We are staying in a hotel in Naxos and splurged on a roof top room for us so that we have a gathering place (the disadvantage of hotel rooms with a large group).


Posted by
2898 posts

Shelly -- WOW! if that VRBO is available, it's dynamite! I know the location, the lane its on, and sounds great. NOTE: if in any location, you find a place to book that holds 8 vs 10, you might write e-mail confirming booking and at the SAME TIME, ask the hotelier to recommend a nextdoor or very nearby bldg that would have a room for the remaining 2. (you could draw straws fro who gets it or -- surprise! -- sometimes one couple would be grateful for a little less "togetherness").

Posted by
109 posts

Thank you for that info!

Janet you made me "lol" I am an Italy goer! I mean I have been to a number of places in Europe but my heart certainly lies with Italy. However, Greece is on the bucket list for sure! I just wonder if with 11 people that might be more difficult than I originally thought.
So tell me what do you know about Italy?? :) I've never stayed in one of those villas but we are going as a family to celebrate my husbands 60th birthday. My vision for the last couple of years was a wonderful villas drinking wine, eating cheese and having all of my experiences close by for day trips. It's like you knew my dream....
I am going to look into the websites you mentioned but I'm wondering if it's going to be just to difficult to get around.

I always have trouble making the decision and then once I've made it I'm good to go so I do appreciate all of the help from you knowledgeable people.

Posted by
2898 posts

Don't waver & go back to Italy .,.. This is Greece time. it will be great for your bunch. And do you realize, September is special for swims ... when I visit Greece (mainly in May-June) the sea is "brisk" but ... having the entire summer to warm up ... the September sea is Divine. Don't miss it. And don't settle for swimming pools -- the Aegean is THE most wonderful place to swim in the world (MUCH cleaner, bluer than Italian beaches!) ... for some reason, tho it's saltier than Atlantic/Pacific, yet it never SEEMS so, you don't have that itchy needa-shower feeling upon getting out of the water. Also, since the Med/Aegean has no tide, the water doesn't recede, leaving seaweed in its wake as elsewhere, and you don't have to plunge thru huge waves in order to swim. Another thing (due to salt), you can float with almost no effort .. so good for the lazy folk. Off Folegandros one day, a friend & I floated around forever, discussing the collapse of the Bronze Age, didn't even realize how long we'd been out there, until our fingers looked like yellow raisings.

Posted by
109 posts

You are very convincing Janet. Ok I will keep my plans. I actually thought you were suggesting it would be to difficult with such a large group so I was going to bow out gracefully.
I have learned that on these forums there are always one or two of you that make planning so much easier. Last fall James was a tremendous help for Budapest.
Tell me? Do we have time for an island? If so which one? My husband doesn’t care one way or the other and is more interested in the history but the young ones would love the islands for sure!! I would too but I get quite sea sick so flying is preferable or a short boat ride.