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One week in Greece?

My husband and I are planning a brief trip to Greece. We need to go in mid-March, and we have just nine days. (He’s tied to an academic calendar, and we don’t want to go in the summer.)

I am thinking of a few days in Athens, with a day trip to Epidaurus and Mycenae (and Nafplio, if it’s doable) and a few days on an island (perhaps Hydra). Can you make a better suggestion of how to use the time — basically a week, once you include travel? And can you suggest a possible itinerary?


Posted by
8020 posts

You should stay in charming waterfront Napflion while visiting the Mycenae and Epidavros.
Athens, Hydra and Napflion would work well. We visited Spetses instead of Hydra as a day trip from Napflion.

Posted by
9 posts

I did look at the Rick Steve’s itinerary, but it’s a full two-week trip. It’s a little hard to whittle that to one week without help!

Posted by
1318 posts

It may be too late for you, depending on what you mean by ‘mid March’ but 25th March is Greek Independence Day. Nafplio was the first capital of Greece and is big on independence celebrations. There’s a large market in the week before and a big parade on the day itself. It all makes for a lively atmosphere.

Combining Nafplio with Mycenae and Epidavrus is a good idea, and I would prioritise Nafplio over Hydra. If you want to get a taste of the islands then a day trip from Athens to Aegena is a good bet.


Posted by
976 posts

A couple of options, one already mentioned: Combining Athens with Nafplio. Most people go straight to their destination and leave Athens for the end.

Athens deserves 3 days to fully experience the city leaving 4 for Nafplio which will give you the time to explore the entire region filled with World-Class archeological sites. Nafplio is one of Greece's loveliest towns with a wonderful Old Town, waterfront, shops, markets, taverns and museums. There was a farmer's market every week (not sure if it's still on).

If you want some island time you can do the day cruise through Pegasus Cruise toward Hydra/Spetses from nearby Tolo.

An alternative with Athens is the lovely island of Aegina just a short ferry ride away. Pretty waterfront town with a daily market on the waterfront, archeological site in town, museums, shops, etc. One of the best preserved temples in Greece is on the island, an abandoned Byzantine Village in the hills, seaside villages, ancient olive grove, hiking and lots more.

I think either option will give you what you are looking for, especially March, off-season when there'll be less tourists, lower prices and hopefully decent weather. That time of year will provide you with a more Greek Experience rather than a tourist experience.

Posted by
2905 posts

Forget that idea of daytrip from Tolo... that's only in high season. . In making plans, remember that many sites & museums will be on winter hours, closing at 3 pm. Exceptions of course are Acropolis, Nat Arch museum (tho it may close @5). for biggies around Nafplio - Epidaurus/Mycenae, best to check by phone when arrive in Greece, or have hotel phone.

Based on many many trips to greece with newcomers. I agree w others about doing Nafplio & area, THEN Athens, plus a day trip to Aegina during Athens stay. For Nafplio/area, rent car at airport, most efficient way for you: before leaving USA, get International Driving permit from AAA office (takes 20 mins, costs $25); mandatery for rental. Scenario & itinerary:

• BOOK a flight that's nonstop from N. AMerica -- there are 4: Air Canada, Delta, American. U.A.E, from Newark. All leave US/Canada late aft/early evening, & arrive from 9 -10:30 in AM. Costs more than a change in europe but you know the old adage: when you don't have time, you must spend money. If you don't do this, you waste most of arrival day.

• BOOK car in advance for pickup at airport (athenscarrental is VERY highly rec & good rates). Don't need biggie, or high-power , u are not doing hills. Route to Peloponnese/Nafplio is on Greece's most modern, divided highway for 2/3 of distance, then on lo-traffic local road. This map (click to enlarge) shows entire route, bypassing athens.

• OUTBOUND (if u can start by noon or before) - over Corinth canal, 15 miles on, Exit RH for ANCIENT NEMEA (Sacred games site) -- olympic runner-up, stadium, the works! open til 3. In heart of red-wine country! Stop in village of Nemea at Wine-bottling plant for tastings! Then onward to Nafpllio to explore Old Town enjoy sunset at harbor (cafes have clear wind-break sides at seafront). Day #2 - Nafplio Museum (small, superb) great overview of ancient civ in area) then Drive to Mycenae, Tiryns, whatever u ca cover by 3 pm. #3 - Palamidi (you can drive up back road, unless ou WANT to climb 999 steps), rest of area.

• INBOUND - Day #4 - in AM, drive EAST to Epidaurus, then up the coastal road to Corinth area; exit at Isthmus to see/photo Canal, have lunch, then onward to airport. Turn in car and take taxi or X95 bus to central athens & your hotel ..

• DAY 5 - 9 - All of Athens glorious msueums, landmarks etc. When weather is forecast for a nice day, go to Aegina. Get GREEN LINE metro (beware of pickpockets to Pireaus.

• ISLAND OUTING - Get a CONVENTIONAL ferry if possible, not hydrofoil (check ferry skeds before); only the conv. ferries allow you to sit on deck & enjoy the seascape... huge freighters, cruise ships, yachts, small sloops, even a dolphin if u are lucky. on Aegina, do a car rental or take a bus or taxi to Temple of Aphaia @ mid-island, then walk downhill to seaside village for lunch. (Get card from a taxi to phone if u want a pick-up). Sunset bev at harborside before return to Athens.

If u want further info, do some research (you guys are academia after all) & come back with specific queries, & we'll be happy to help.

Posted by
1801 posts

We rented car and drove to Nafplio. A few observations.

  1. Instead of stopping at Nemea on way to Nafplio (which I think is a bit much after an oversees flight), I would recommend going to Cornith to look at the canal and grabbing a quick lunch at the stand there on your way to Nafplio. I would consider visiting Nemea and and some wineries on a different day. We went to Mycenae, Nemea, and one winery in a single day but that was really pushing it. We didn't see the museum at Nemea except briefly and it is very well done. There are lots of wineries in the area and we very much enjoyed our visit to the one we did visit (and all the wine we bought!) The wineries, even in June when we were there closed at 3.

  2. While the driving from the airport to Nafplio is easy, we found knowing where to go a bit more difficult. The car rental place did not give us a map and I had not studied a map to know which direction the main towns were. The car rental place had a representative meet our flight which was wonderful. But make sure you get a map from them or buy one before you leave the terminal. We did not and the representative told us when we were where we picked up the car that he didn't have a map but the roads are well marked. You can get to Cornith following just the road signs but Nafplio is not on a sign until you are off the toll road so you have to know where to get off. If you stop at Cornith canal, you can buy a map of the Peloponnese there that will help you get around Nafplio.

  3. Rent a car that uses diesel. We had two cars because we were a family group of 7 and one was diesel and one was not. The diesel one used a fraction of the gas the other car used. And gas is expensive.

  4. We climbed the 999 steps to the fortress in Nafplio and we very much enjoyed it. The views are great. We also spent the whole morning exploring it.

Nafplio is a lovely town. You will really enjoy it.


Posted by
2905 posts

Good tip beth. I cannot imagine a rental place not providing a map!! Maybe they think everyone uses a GPS (garmin) ... but those can send you astray sometimes, so you need somone in RH seat looking at a paper map at same time just to check. When you confirm a rental car by email specifically request a map, and ask that the rep MARK it for turn-offs. The newsstand in the Airport also usually has a road map of Peloponnese for €8 or so. BTW there ARE road signs in English.. first a sign in Greek about 1/2 mile from exit, then a bit further, same thing in English.. but only ONCE, and near to the t urn -- so be Alert! Greek highway design is not planned for the distracted driver; they tell you ONE time, and if you aren't paying attention too bad.

Beth has a point also, that you may not want to do Nemea right off the bat. It very much depends on your length of journey TO greece (I never call it just a journey -- more of a QUEST: time-consuming, full of stress, pitfalls, exhausting, but with magical treasures at the end). So Yes, you could just jump off at Isthmus OUTBOUND, walk on old bridge to look down at Canal (SO deep, SO skinny!), grab a quick lunch at nearby cafe, then get back on highway ... the Nafplio exit (south) is almost the same spot as Nemea exit (north). Look at the online map.

Nonstop road time between airport & Nafplio is about 2.5 hours ... so if you were in car by 11 & took a quickie Isthmus stop you could be in Nafplio about 2. As beth noted, if you go to Mycenae in the AM one day, you could go right on, cross the highway & see Ancient Nemea -- -- & stop at a winery too.

Posted by
976 posts

OK on the iffy situation for a day cruise from Tolo to Hydra/Spetses for mid-March. However, we did the tour in early October when things are either shutting down or closed . . . maybe, possibly, hopefully you might find Pegasus doing the cruise to Hydra/Spetses in March.

If not, there are still tons of things to do in and around Nafplio with decent bus service if you don't want to rent a car, but from experience I found renting a car to be your best option, especially off-season to get to areas the buses don't go to or are on on a very restrictive schedule.

You'll find Nafplio a gem of an area to base yourself and mid-March will not be over-run with tourists, non-Greeks anyways which in the end may give you a better Greek Experience rather than a tourist experience.

Check out the museum just outside the Old Town and hopefully the Farmer's Market is still running. The "New" Town is really not that bad . . . lots of small, locally owned shops with all kinds of goodies and where most locals shop for everyday items.

Palimidi Castle is a must and if you can take the small boat to Bourtzi Castle will also be enjoyable. Both of these are readily accessible right from Nafplio.

The walk from the waterfront to the back side of the town is really nice . . . you'll go through a tunnel, have beautiful views of coast, ocean and distant islands and end up a nice pebble beach.

Nafplio is truly one of Greece's nicest towns and a great place to explore the region.

Posted by
2905 posts

THe main museum in Nafplio is the arch. museum which is right in the main square, it is the Venetian armory repurposed. When you say "Museum just outside Old Town" I do not know what that means.... the Folk Museum is on the East? edge of Old Town, #8 on this map - -- it is outstanding.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for the extensive information. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to think that the trip we want to take will not work in March. One of my prime reasons for going was to spend several days on an island — and it seems the ferries don’t run in March. We also didn't plan to rent a car because of the stress of driving. (In other countries we usually rely on trains.) I may have to rethink this trip and plan it for another time of year.

Posted by
976 posts

So everything members have posted was a waste of time?

You can do Athens and Nafplio in March without much of a problem. Very easy to get to Nafplio from Athens via the bus which will take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours . . . very doable, easy and stress free.

On the other hand a stay in Athens and a short ferry ride to Aegina will be very easy and manageable and you'll get Athens and an a very nice island that has most of what tourists go to a Greek Island for without the hordes of tourists on Santorini or Mykonos.

There is good bus service from Nafplio to many of the world-class archeological sites in the area and other nearby areas. On Aegina there is good bus service to most of the main sites there or just hang out and wander about in the lovely main town.

I don't know what more you want . . . you seem to be very fussy and don't want to go the extra length in another country that doesn't meet your "standards".

March, May, October or any other off-season months will be not as touristy-crazy, over-the-top expensive and more tourist Greece than traditional Greece.

Ferris run year round to most islands and for the most part are very stress-free, inexpensive and joyful.

When in Greece . . . do as the Greeks do . . . or stay home!

Posted by
9 posts

Of course it wasn’t a waste of time. I very much appreciate everything you all had to say. I am considering going instead in May so that we can spend several days on an island (most likely Hydra) and also have a few more days to see Nafplio and Epidaurus. The March dates were too limiting to see what we would like to see.

Posted by
8 posts

Consider: airport to nafplio by bus if you are deterred from driving; 3 nights in nafplio; rent car in nafplio for 1-2 day driving to nemea and macenae in afternoon and epidauvris next morning (30 mins from nafplio) then on to ermioni (1 hr) then take ferry to hydra, dropping car in ermioni. 2 nights then ferry back to piraeus then in to Athens for 3 nights to fly home. We have car rented from pops car rental from airport to ermioni; maybe can get car in nafplio to ermioni.

Posted by
2905 posts

Renting a car in Nafplio and dropping it in Ermioni will run up a hefty drop-off fee ... the reason being that the Nafplio agency will have to send another car, with 2 drivers in it, to pick up the vehicle... tdhat is 2 drivers incomes lost for that "retrieval day" and 2vehicles out of service for that day. It may be worth it for the maupins but they should be aware. Also, Greece now has cracked down on rental agencies and now they definitely will not rent to non-EU citizens unless they have an International drivers Permit. This IDP does not require a test (just bring your regular license to any AAA office; in 20 mims hey'll issue it) but it does cost $25 including $5 photo fee, so you should be aware.

I would favor waiting until May, an option that did not appear to be open, from your previous posts. The Aegean is warm enough to swim by mid-May, ("brisk" for the first 15 seconds, then wonderful). However, I do advise you to do some homework ... did you know that Hydra has no beaches to speak of? It gets a lot of promotion from Rick Steves (his books/videos cover almost no other isles) and novelists (who stayed at posh private villas) have used it as a setting ... and the main attraction is the postcard-pretty seafront of the port; no historic ruins or sites to speak of. However, you may already know that.

Posted by
366 posts

Staying in Nafplio is a great thing. Stay a few nights.
If you haven't been to Athens, you'll benefit from staying there a lot, so I'd look at just doing one journey.
Nafplio (with good historical sites near, and on route) would be a rushed "day trip."

Posted by
11450 posts

emaupin.. if by spending time on islands you meant "beach time".. forget it.. its not warm yet.. warms up starting in late April.. but beach weather isnt really till May ( and water can still be quite fresh then.. we loved it.. but we dont like heat the same as some folks do )