We will conclude a Rick Steves (Greece) tour in early October and would like to follow up with a visit to one of the islands for four days. We could fly or take a ferry but are certain we do not want to rent a car once we arrive on the island. That would appear to rule out Crete. We are a couple in our 60s, interested in natural beauty, hiking opportunities and local architecture and culture. We also prefer smaller hotels or better yet, a B&B. Any thoughts or suggestions for a good destination for us would be appreciated.
If your tour finishes in Athens one good possibility would be Hydra (Ee-dra). No cars allowed, great for walking. It's a quaint setting with some old-world atmosphere. You can easily reach Hydra from the ferry port of Piraeus.
Agree about Santorini. It's truly amzing, well-worth the effort to get there.
If you want somewhere more off the beaten track you might consider Andros Town on Andros. It's a 2 hour ferry trip from Rafina, Athen's second port, and has great walking, a good museum and is very scenic. It also has a very Greek atmosphere with very few tourists.
We've written up our visits there which gives an overview
Have a great trip.
Looking at your timing (October) and preferences (no car, natural beauty, architecture/culture), I want you to think out of the box -- a stunning destination accessible in 2.5 hr ride on comfy numbered-seat intercity (KTEL) bus -- a place considered THE most beautiful "Old Town " in all of Greece, on the tip of a peninsula so it Feels like an island -- NAFPLIO. This lovely noncommercial website shows its highlights -- http://www.visitnafplio.com/visitnafplio.com/Home.html -- and a fellow traveler's photo album reveals the beauties of town, seaside & surroundings -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/
Nafplio is just over the Corinth Canal, then thru Orange Groves & rolling hills in the "Argolid" ... the area that has the Most ancient landmarks per sq. mile in all of Greece. Unlike most islands (which go very quiet & sometimes feel "shut down" by October), Nafplio is a favorite weekend getaway for savvy Athenians, so it's lively year-round. Wonderful small tavernas, good food, chic shops. Venetian architecture (Golden stone/terracotta roofs; protected by law), exciting history (Modern Greece's 1st capital, in 1820s) ... THREE Castles to explore ... central square paved in Marble, a row of seafront cafes for sunsets that beat any island (including Santorini, IMO). My fave place, Hotel Leto (€4 taxi from bus station) 14 balcony rooms, all looking down on town square and bay; many other family-run places abound -- Pension Nikolaos, Hotel Athina, Pension Bonne Nuit etc. Take 2 days to wander the town, then a day to visit & hike around famed area sites (Epidaurus, Mykonos, Tiryns) either via local bus, day-tour or 1-day car rental (are level & uncrowded country roads). Years ago at end of my first Greece adventure, I asked an artist friend on Mykonos, shall I just finish with day trips from Athens. She said NO! go to KTEL bus station, visit Nafplio for 3 days, you'll thank me. Now, after 11 trips (including SIX stops in Nafplio), I'm still making discoveries there, still thanking her! PS: busses go hourly on half-hour @ €13, taxi from Athens Plaka district to bus terminal about €10-12.
A PS to my plug for Nafplio -- this excellent map http://www.esperides.gr/images/peloponissos_esperides.jpg (click to enlarge) shows Athens area on Mainland, then the road over Corinth canal to Peloponnese ... Nafplio is on Bay of argos, on inside of the "thumb" of the Peloponnese "hand" .. You can see how close it is to ancient Mykonos (Mikinis), Epidaurus (stunning 15,000-seat ancient theatre) Tirintha/Tiryns (the latter just a 5 min local bus ride out of town ... all memorable sites. But Just as much fun: a 10-minute local bus ride to Tolo beach... ask for a stop at Asine cross-roads, and 200 yards down a lane, a great little ruin, a sandy beach, a stony cove with a family taverna, for a sun, a swim, a tasty fish dinner overlooking sunset. Just 1 of many side-strolls I enjoy here
Janet, thanks for all the great details. Don't know about the OP, but you've convinced me to finally go to Nafplio on our next trip.
I'm always pushing Nafplio to anyone going to Greece but the RS Greece tour spends 2 nights there already. I'd go with either Santorini or Mykonos, or my favorite island Lesvos.
Aha ... that's why I wish people would give a short list of stops on a RS tour... we don't all have these memorized ... so I just spent quite a while on an irrelevant suggestion!! Ah well, if it persuaded someone else to try Nafplio, I guess it's worthwhile.
For people who are tour-takers, then I would agree with your suggestion of Santorini for 2 or 4 days -- because it's the classic "must-see" for first trips (all their friends will ask if they've seen the famous Caldera View, and then they can say they have). Also, Santorini has a longer season, some other islands will feel "dead" in October.
My thought: fly to Santorini ( 50 minutes vs 9 hr ferry), for 2 nights in a caldera-view small hotel in Fira town or Firostephani ... they could try for http://www.gaby-apartments.gr/en/ and have a wonderful view PLUS a genuine family-place experience vs. the more usual "honeymoon posherie." Or my favorite budget gem, http://www.santorinivilla.com -- again, not posh but owned/run by a dear family, right by the caldera. Then, since they haven't done a ferry thing, sail on 3:15 Blue Star ferry 2 hrs to Naxos ... to get the classic Greek-ferry experience. Stay in Naxos 2 days/nights right in Naxos Town, or next to it, on St George Beach (Hotel Glaros? Hotel Asteria? Villa Naxia). Just wander the town, take a bus inland, see what a more authentic Greek island is like... Greeks going about their business, harvesting, wine-making etc. Then fly (45 mins) to ATH ... but book early, only 1 flight per day.
Lesvos is lovely but eveleen says they do not want to rent a car, and that really limits you on Lesvos.
Thanks for the helpful responses. In hindsight, it is clear that information about the stops on the RS tour would have been a good addition. ( I am new at this.). At any rate, we have two nights each in Napflio and Hydra, and that means free time to do our own exploring. So the information is not wasted at all and the obvious enthusiasm for these spots has me excitedly looking forward to the trip. I am also very glad for the links to Alan's ramblings, which are wonderful.
As someone who goes to Europe every summer for a month and while there takes a RS tour (#12 Greece in the last 13 years coming in May) we always check out all of the stops that the tour makes (they are shown on the web page for that tour) so we can plan our free time either before, after, or both, around the tour. Also, RS headquarters will provide you with sights on the tour that the tour does not visit so you can plan to visit them on your own if you so choose. That information does not always come at the most opportune time for planning ones schedule so it is possible to contact the Travel Desk at RS headquarters and request that information sooner if you choose. We look forward to our first visit to Greece. Happy travels.