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Once in a lifetime trip to Greece

My husband and I are planning a trip to Greece in October. Our flight arrives into Athens in the late afternoon on October 14th and departs early in the morning on October 24th. We are seniors, and given our bucket lists, this will probably be our only trip to Greece. We are very interested in the antiquities, historical sites and natural beauty. What's the one thing that you recommend we ensure is on our list of things to do/see? We are open to visiting sites on any of the islands or mainland.

Also, any suggestions you have for splitting time between the mainland and islands to get a good overview is appreciated.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks! I have looked at the itinerary and also read RS Travel book. The challenge is trying to narrow down all of the wonderful options to fit in the time frame that we have.

Posted by
2904 posts

Joy, I'm a senior as well, and I've had the joy of visiting Greece 12x, not starting till my 60s, and looking forward to my Grand Finale next May. So I'd love to work out a perfect trip itinerary for you, but knowing so little about you, it's hard to figure what will please you, and what's do-able or comfortable. For instance, are you OK with staying 2 nights in a place & then moving on? Do you have walking, mobility or energy issues? And have you done any research /reading about antiquities/history, or would you need/want guided tours. See what I mean? All this could affect answers

As to priorities, please don't ask for the One THing... that's like asking which of your kids you love more. General observations:
• You only have 9 days (don't count arrival/departure days) - so save Athens for last; getting into town, checking in/out, getting back to airport or seaport can eat up precious hours, & y ou have to be back in Athens area the night before takeoff anyway.
• Be aware that -- despite "official" notices that all major sites will have long hours, in October a lot of them close by 3pm ; also mid Oct. sunset is 6:30pm -- so don't count on late-day travel or sightseeing.
• Everybody talks about Santorini, and all your friends (who did cruises) will ask if you went there, so OK, but be aware that it is no longer authentic as a greek isle, so don't stay long; have at least 2 nights at a nearby less-touricized island, like Naxos.
• If you're OK with the 2-nights-then-move approach, I think this Scenario might work for you:

OCT 14 - Stay near Airport, get over jet-lag- take AM Aegean flight to Santorini NOTE: http://www.hotelavra.gr is about a 40 minute ride from Airport, has FREE 24/hr shuttle to/from (but you MUST give online request for it)
OCT 15 - FLY Aegean 7:15 or 10am (50 mins) to SANTORINI ... Stay in Firostephani, handy to Oia or Fira Town but no crowds
OCT 16 - Santorini
OCT 17 - take 3:30 BLUE STAR ferry to NAXOS (your 2-hr "cruise"). Stay at St George Beach, directly adjacent to Port Town
OCT 18 - Explore port town, high "Kastro," beaches, possible short "taxi tour" to inland areas, sunset on harbor
OCT 19 = book 11:40 Aegean flight to ATH airport arr 12:25. Taxi (€38 flat rate) to Hotel. Late day sightseing
OCT 20 & 21 - Further Sightseeing, + Museums of special interest
OCT 22 & 23 - Practically the ONLY tour I recommend, because it gets you to super Ancient sites, and to Greece's most beautiful Old Town, Nafplio -- AND gives you AMPLE free-time CHAT TOUR http://www.chatours.gr/tours.php?exc=8&exccat=1 NOTE: for the 1 night in Nafplio it offers 1st Class & Tourist accoms -- Take the TOURIST; the 1st class is way out of town, the tourist hotel, perfectly good (Victoria) is just off the Town square which is fabulous at night. The tour will get you back to ATH hotel for the night of the 23rd ... and don't worry, Athens hotels are VERY used to people leaving for a night or 2 and then returning ... they will either save your room or give you another one comparable -- and you can leave your big bags in their luggage room.

If this sounds reasonable/do-able, I and others can provide tips & info, but no point in doing so until we get feedback, and more details about you & husbands that may affect suggestions.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you! We are healthy and have no mobility issues and are comfortable being on our own. We prefer not to spend too much time in the car though. We had thought about doing a 4 day/3 night tour that included Delphi, Olympia and Napflio and the surrounding sites, but got concerned that it would be too much time in the car? You're itinerary looks great! Would you recommend Napflio instead of Delphi/Meteora if we only have time for one?

Really appreciate your help.

Posted by
1801 posts

Janet's itinerary has you moving a lot. I went to Santorini, Naxos, Nafplio, and Athens this past May and June. We spent 3 to 4 nights each place. Two years ago my husband and I did 10 days in Naples and the Amalfi Coast. We never stayed anywhere more than two nights and we both found it exhausting. So my two cents would be:

  1. See if you can get all the way to an island the same day as you arrive in Athens. I think it is less exhausting to take another flight than to have to get to and from a hotel and the airport before getting to your final destination. .

  2. Consider going to three rather than four places. I would pick either NaxosOR Santorini, Delphi and Meteora OR Nafplio, and Athens. Santorini is mostly about the view which is amazing but honestly we liked Naxos even better. I am sure you would enjoy either one. Santorini is the view you see, as my son said, in all the Greek restaurants in the states. Naxos is less disneyesque than Santorini--it is a place real people live versus a place tourists come. It is beautiful too but not in the same jaw dropping way as Santorini.

You asked about Delphi and Meteora versus Nafplio. I have not been to the first two but I can tell you why we picked Nafplio instead. I liked being located in one place and in a medium sized town that we could get to know.

beth

Posted by
2904 posts

Yes I would vote for Nafplio over Delphi -- and certainly over Meteora (you can get a wonderful DVD from the library about Meteora)... I was sent to Nafplio by an artist in Mykonos, in 1999, she said go to Athens leave your big bag at your hotel luggage room & take a bus to Nafplio. Why ? What's that? I said. She said, you'll thank me. And I have been thanking her ever since, the 5 x I've returned. That 2-day trip will give you a good taste (do not miss the sunsets from the marquee cafes along the seafront! the best in Greece) and because yu have so much free time (all afernoon n day 1, and all morning on day 2) you will not feel rushed. This wonderful noncommercial website http://www.visitnafplio.com will give you ideas of what to do with that free time.

Do not let Goodorf (beth) get you feeling bad. Beth, tsk tsk tsk. you know you had about 15 days, so you had the luxury of going slower. These folks have only got NINE days on the ground, they've already booked their flights -- do you want to pay the change-fee?

Beth's other suggestion deserves consideration, Joy -- you may well want to take a flight immediately to Santorini upon arrival... 2 hours leeway in between arrival time & domestic-flight departure is ample... Athens Airport is just one building, and in Oct there will be no crowds in line. And Yes, there are several available flights -- 17:15 (5:15pm) and 19:50 (7:50pm)... and quite late one =9:50 Joy, i didn't pose those options because you omitted 2 important facts:
(1) When EXACTLY is "late afternoon" ... could be 4, could be 6 pm. It Matters.
(2) WHERE are u coming from?? From a European airport with a 3-4 hour flight? A nonstop from US east coast with an 11-12 hour flight? Or from the West Coast, with 2 stop-overs and a total airtime-layover time of 22 hours?? It really makes a difference in what people are capable of doing upon arrival.

Big lesson here is -- don't worry about writing a long initial post. Details are Good. They enable Best Advice. They allow your helpers to save time & energy, by not having to guess, and working out multiple scenarios.

Posted by
1801 posts

I certainly wasn’t trying to make anyone feel bad but not having more time. I only suggested considering going to fewer places because my husband and I who went a similar length of time to Italy wished we had done so. Packing up, figuring out transportation, and finding your way around a new city constantly can be exhausting. And frankly, moving from place to place took less time in Italy than in Greece. There is always a trade off between depth and breadth that only travelers can make.

Beth

Posted by
11 posts

We are flying overnight to Amsterdam and have a 2hour layover and arrive at 4:15pm into Athens. There were not any other feasible options for flights to get us in earlier. We live in the middle of the US. Unfortunately , this is the maximum amount of time that we have for the trip.

Posted by
396 posts

Outside of Athens I think our favorite spot on the mainland for antiquities was Mycenae, which isn't far from Napflio. The tholos tomb there is among the best in Greece and really amazing, and walking through the lion gate was cool. There is a smallish, fairly new museum there that really provides a great perspective on the site. Before the trip I purchased this Great Courses series of lectures: The Iliad of Homer: Elizabeth Vandiver, The Great Courses. Unlike my college course on the Illiad, which was pretty dry, this series of lectures clued me in on all the symbolism and customs of that age that I would have missed in a casual reading. I highly recommend it. So with my head full of Mycenean Greece it was even more interesting to visit the site.

Posted by
11 posts

It sounds like Nafplio is the better choice for us over Delphi/Meteora.

Here is what I've come up with based on everyone's input. I've put the mainland first and the islands second, as it seemed that there were fewer cruise ships coming into Santorini on those days.

Oct 14-Arrive Athens
Oct 15-Athens
Oct 16-Bus to Nafplio
Oct 17-Nafplio, day excursion to Mycenae, etc.
Oct 18-Drive back to Athens airport and catch a flight to Naxos.
Oct 19-Naxos
Oct 20-Naxos
Oct 21-Ferry to Santorini
Oct 22-Santorini
Oct 23- 9pm flight to Athens, stay over night at Airport Sofitel
Oct 24- 6am flight to return home

Is this enough time in Athens? I do share Beth's concern about trying to visit too many places. It's a difficult trade off between depth and breadth.

I really appreciate everyone's input!

Posted by
1801 posts

That isn’t very much time in Athens but that may be tradeoff you are willing to make.

You have yourselves taking bus to nafplio and then returning to Athens airport to take a flight. The bus from nafplio does not go to airport.

With a 6 am flight I agree best to just stay at the airport.

Beth

Posted by
2904 posts

Joy I appreciate Santorini anti-crowd ploy -- but u may be nixing a do-able itinerary for insufficient cause. This link - http://ports.cruisett.com/schedule/Greece/805-Santorini_Island/October_2018/ -- accurate in past. shows no ships Oct 15, a small 1 Oct 16 (1,995 psgr max). On Oct 17, 2 biggies, 1 small anchor. However, all must come by launch, don't reach Old Pier until 9:30 - 10, then queue for cable car to clifftop). Consider this workable strategy:

• OCT 15 - ARR 4:15, thru passsport control, get luggage before 5 pm. Check bags @ Aegean, walk across street for relaxed Sofitel meal. @6:45 check into Aegean for 7:50 flight. arr 8:30. Taxi to (Firostephani?) hotel for early night.
• OCT 16 - Get 8:40 bus at Firostephani bus stop (on main road, close to rimside hotels) to OIA. Wander, take pix for 2+ hours. When cruisers invade, bus back to Fira Town, tour small & Good Museum (1 hr) .. if u want to do Akrotiri u can bus there, phone a taxi back. Crowd-free sunset cocktails, anywhere but Oia (ask me for tips).
• OCT 17 - IF u did Akrotiri this AM, u wd see NO cruisers! Then taxi to ferry pier (NO cruisers) @2:30 for 3:30 ferry - OR take 10:30 ferry - arr NAXOS @ noon... cruisers avoided! (to be continued)

Posted by
2904 posts

Hi again!! (and BTW I constantly complain bout TWO annoying features of Rsteve forum #1, the maximum length and #2, when one hits reply, the whole thread disappears so one must open another window to refer to previous posts -- Moderator, pay attention!).

Joy I appreciate your careful turnabout of the schedule, because of fear of Santorini crowds. however In OCtober this is not as severe as in high season, and you can find serenity by staying in Firostephani -- at the north edge of Fira, walkable to all its attractions, but totally bypassed by cruisers & tour busses. On the other hand, the turnabout schedule raises several concerns for me:

• Starting ATHENS sightseeing "full-bore" at 8 am Day #1 can be daunting! Exhausting! SO much walking Much easier to start on an Isle ... believe me! Ive done it both ways, even while younger its a challenge! Ask those who've done both.

• The business of getting back from Nafplio to the Airport-- whether by car or by KTEL bus + Metro (a hassle) in time for a mid-morning Naxos flight is too anxiety-making!!

•Doing Chat tour at end offers relaxation ; I dont often recommend tours, but this really works. Do think things over.

If you insist on the turnabout, her are my comments:
OCT 16 - I would recommend getting the 9:30 bus or at latest, 10:30 (arrival by 12, or 1).. and staying at a convenient sea-level hotel or Pension in Old Town (look at Omorfi Poli, Hotel Agamemmnon, Hotel Athena, Ippoliti) Reason I urge getting to Nafplio by 1 is that its museum (small, terrific! gives best overview of ancient civ in area) may close by 3 pm.

• OCT 17 - by saying "day excursion" I am guessing that you plan to rent a car locally for the day... GOOD idea. There used to be a local day-excursion thru a travel agency but no more... locals tell me that it's because most people who want guided tour come with one from Athens, or off a cruise ship. A great loss. But if you rent a car ( when you confirm your hotel booking, ask hotelier to arrange it beforehand so it will be at the door at 8 AM), you can get to Mycenae by 8:45 ... then and/or by 11 or noon go to Nemea, or to Epidaurus. Former v. certainly will close by 3... Maybe latter will be 5. Get the phone #s off internet, and have your Athens Hotel desk phone (spaking greek) and confirm operations hours -- advance planning avoids disappointment. Also check on hours of Palamidi -- You do NOT have to climb the 999 steps! U can do just what all invaders did... go up the back way! You eithr can drive or there's a "happy train" tour-thing @ €5 if it's still running in Oct... or do a taxi. Oct sunset is about 6:30, don't miss it at harbor one day ... or, there's a cute taverna on the Cove at Asine with fab view of water & sundown.

• OCT 18 - Now you confuse me! for 10/16 you say "bus." but for this date you say "drive." That implies an Athens rental and Airport drop-off. Alas, Joy, no can do. In most of Greece you cannot do one-way rentals without HUGE charge (that's because there aren't large daily interchange of cars in a network, even the biggies mostly charge because they have to SEND a car + 2 drivers to retrieve vehicle).. I think you could rather, on Oct 16, rent car at airport -- there's NO city driving, you go on Greece's most modern divided highway, without a single stop or turn until you exit for (lo-traffic) local road S. to Nafplio. SO easy -- i've done it with a first-time Southern-rural driver, in a rain-shower.
IF you do have a rental car from the airport, you will have to leave NAFPLIO super-early to make the flight to NAXOS -- the only flight that day is 10:40 AM (and it's a small plane so it fills up many weeks ahead; do not dawdle to book! ). Working backward, you must check in 1 hour ahead (= 9:40) it takes 2.5 hours driving time back to airport & you must figure 1/2 hour to turn in car, so u must start by 6:30 and watch the clock!

Do think, & heed voice of experience.

Posted by
1801 posts

Below is same itinerary (same places and lengths of time you proposed) just rearranged. I agree with Janet that getting back to Athens for a flight could be stressful. This has you staying in Athens before your early flight back to U.S. But you can get a taxi directly to airport--your hotel can arrange it and although it will be more money than during the day, it still will be less than staying at the airport as you proposed. Then you can spend last night in Athens rather than at airport hotel. I have done it both ways and while it is nice to be at airport already in the morning for early morning flight, it is a mediocre way to spend your last vacation evening.

Half of our party had to go back to U.S. after two nights in Athens and they managed to see a lot. But it was at the end of our trip, as proposed below, and you can see a more in the same length of time when you are not jet lagged.

Oct 14-Arrive Athens and fly to Santorini (two nights)
Oct 15-Santorini
October 16 Santorni, ferry to Naxos (three nights)
October 17 Naxos
October 18 Naxos
October 19 flight to Athens, drive or take bus to Nafplio, (2 nights)
October 20 Napflio
October 21 back to Athens by bus or car (2 nights)
October 23 Athens
October 24 fly home

Beth

Posted by
396 posts

re: favorite things, the Acropolis and Acropolis museum, and the National Archeological Museum in Athens are must-sees. BTW the gold treasures from Mycenae are the initial exhibit upon walking in the door. The ancient agora in Athens is enjoyable as well. The temple of Hephaestos there is considerably more intact than the Parthenon. The historically accurate, reconstructed Stoa of Attalos at the other end of the same forum is a unique experience that helps put you back into ancient times. We bought a little guidebook to the forum and wandered about the ruins. There are foundations of a cobblers shop that was mentioned by Socrates. Amazing to think Socrates may have walked exactly where we were. We were in Athens for 3 full days and by the end of that were ready to move on. We would have been happy with 2 days.

We didn't go to the Cyclades because we chose to go to Crete instead. Since childhood I've been fascinated by the Minoans, so we chose to visit the 'palaces' of Knossos and Phaestos, and the Archeological museum in Heraklio which features Minoan finds. If we had gone to Santorini I would have wanted to visit Akrotiri, which is a small but significant archeological site.

Posted by
11 posts

I understand what Beth and Janet mean about the jet lag. I had not considered that. Also, will look into the Chat Tour which sounds less stressful than doing it on our own and I imagine we would get more out of it with a guide.

I'll definitely heed your advice on the order of the trip.

Posted by
2904 posts

Glad to hear you are re-thinking. Mycenae definitely benefits from Guide info (I have long shelves of greek books & guides and have taken 5-6 senior-level courses at U of Penn on classical art & archeology, so I'm Ok there now, but on my first visit, the Guide made it real). Epidaurus: the theatre is the main thing, the ruins cover many acres,but only 2-3 are of interest... & don't waste time on museum, the best stuff is all in Athens.

ATHENS Sight-seeing --If you download the FREE R.Steves Audio step-by-step Guide to Acropolis, & another to the AGORA, you can DIY.... (often better than when a guide is struggling to explain the basics of Mythology) to Yahoos who haven't read a book since HS). RS also has download of Ten Top Sights of Nat. Arch. Museum... don't know if hes done it for the new Acropolis Museum yet. But As I recall, you have already bought his book, which is good on Athens & the Pelops.

2-day Trip & last night -- That Chat trip gets you back to Central athens about 7 pm,and as goodorf says, you can plunk right back into your previous hotel. A night-rate taxi (that's any ride that reaches airport before 6 AM)will be €54 vs the €38 day flat-rate ... but a relaxed dinner in Plaka area, IMHO, is better than eating & sleeping at Sofitel. When u check in your central hotel for your final night, pay bill at check-in (one less thing to do) & have desk arrange an early am wake-up and taxi. If you have not booked a central Athens Hotel yet, I do like the South side of Acropolis (you can enter the grounds there near the ancient theatres, just across from Acropolis Museum). Moderate Hotels just close to that museum are Hotel Phillipos and its slightly upscale Hotel Herodion... which has fab rooftop terrace view. Both hotels on higher floors have balconies w. Acropolis view, you can request when booking.

Posted by
2904 posts

PS -- do not dither about the CHAT tour... it is popular, only goes 1x per week, and that week is the LAST time it's being offered until April... so don't risk disappointment. If something happens, you could cancel with sufficient notice.

Posted by
11 posts

We’re going to go with Beth’s rearranged schedule. Unfortunately, Janet, the Chat tour only runs on the 16th and 17th in October. So, we’ll take the bus to and from Nafplio. I’ll look into finding local tours to see Mycenae, Epidaurus, etc. from our base in Nafplio.

Thanks everyone for the great guidance! I’m sure our trip will be better than if I’d planned it on my own.

Posted by
1023 posts

I have been away for a few days so am quite late on this thread.

Just something to consider. What are your expectations for Naxos? While Naxos is our favorite island by far, you are talking about October. We were on Naxos the first week of October last year and it was really starting to shut down. The whole tourist infrastructure on the west coast beaches was virtually shut down. Even some of the tavernas in Naxos town were shutting down. If you are into hiking. mountain villages renting a car and searching for antiquities then late October is a good time to go. Plan to stay at St George beach which is part of Naxos town. This is the area where tourists will be basing themselves in October.
Its part of Naxos town so you have easy access to all the activities of town and a bit of beaching if its a nice sunny day.
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/

Here is another thought. Do fly to Santorini that first day. I know its a long way but we fly from the west coast and it takes us 24 hours of travel but we always get out to our first island to get over jet lag. I might consider skipping Naxos and heading back to Nafplio for several days. Hopefully the chat 4 day tour will be operation on one of those extra days. Have you gone on Dolphin Hellas web site. They are a good Greek travel agency and have access to more than Chat tours. Chances are they will be able to find you a 4 night classic tour Delphi Meteora, Mycaenea and Olympia or just the Delphi Meteora two day tour.

Nafplio and Peloponnese http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/
Olympia Delphi Meteora https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645469717811/

Posted by
2904 posts

I think stanbr has a good idea .... I have not been on Naxos that late in the year ... it changes my thinkng ... and one of those 4 day trips would be good.

Posted by
11 posts

Ah, good to know about Naxos. Dropping that would also decrease a bit on the hotel changes. I'll rework the schedule to see how it would work to add maybe an additional day in Nafplio and maybe another in Athens as we were skimping a bit there.

Another thought: Would it be worth taking a day trip from Santorini via ferry to Naxos? Not sure if that is even doable due to ferry schedule, but I thought I would check to see to if it's worth it, before I see if it's possible.

Thanks!

Posted by
2904 posts

Not feasible, joy, in oct. schedules... besides a 2+ hr journey each way, plus the 45 minutes each end to get down to dock & back....it's not like jumping in the car and takng a quick trip to the local lake.

Posted by
1940 posts

Joy --
If you add a day to Athens, and want to have one more island experience, you could take a day trip to Aegina. This lovely little island is just about an hour from Athens on a ferry, so you'll get the ferry experience. There's a pretty little port town, and you can take a bus to a temple on a hill with gorgeous views. Ferries run often, so you can have a nice dinner and watch the sunset before returning to Athens.

If you do a search of this forum for Aegina, you'll find lots of information, including some wonderful detailed instructions from Janet, which we used a few years ago.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks! I'll take a look at Janet's info. Aegina sounds like a nice day trip.