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Our 1st Greece trip September/October 2015

We are a couple from Saskatoon, Canada in our 60's planning our lst trip to Greece in Sept/Oct 2015 (for our 45th Anniversary). We love to explore, want to experience the Greek culture, islands to relax, sites not to miss on, enjoy good food & drink, shopping, love beaches, want to island hop (likely stick with the Cyclades), and walking is not an issue. We are planning around 4 weeks but not sure if that is too long or short for Greece alone. We appreciate any and all advice! Here are some of our questions:

1) best place to fly into to start our adventure...Athens? How many days?
2) how many islands, which ones, what is island main highlight and how long on each?
3) travel options for island hopping in Sept/Oct and costs? Websites for info?
4) accommodation types and avg costs?
5) recommend websites for info?
6) would Turkey be an option? Where?
7) any other info

We appreciate hearing from anyone who can help us get started on planning this adventure! Thank you so much!

Posted by
3219 posts

Hi Rita!
What a great way to celebrate your anniversary -- and the planning can while away the snowbound months in Saskatchewan! The list of questions sounds as if you want someone to plan out your entire trip for u -- and I'm sure that's not what you really want from us, because we're helpers, not professional travel agents. How about doing some research yourself, then coming to us for opinions on specifics? Here's what I suggest:

• GUIDEBOOKS vs WEBSITES - Websites are great for color photos -- but NOT for full information. Trying to get all your info from the internet is like trying to drink from a fire hose; you get drowned in data, but still are thirsty. Guides are invaluable in helping u focus, & the best (candid) ones help you avoid the "hype" that internet sources may have. You're going to spend many, many thousands on this dream trip... why not spend just a few loonies to get honest advice??? U can get used copies from Amazon cheep-cheep; & not necessary to get latest editions. You won't use these for hotel & dining prices, but for general highlights & itinerary advice & those don't change. I've done 11 Greece trips & have shelves of guidebooks, but my overall favorite is Rough GUide to Greece. VERY detailed/candid, good maps, doesn't waste too much space for color pix. A bonus: u can (carefully) pull out relevant sections (Cyclades, Athens, etc), bind spines w. duct tape and voila! instant pocket guidettes! If u have a good publlic library, browse thru EYEWITNESS: the Greek Isles and GREEK ISLAND HOPPING ... the first for its succinct visuals on highlights, the 2nd for realistic itineraries via ferry. Rick's Greece book is more limited but good on Athens and Argolid area D-I-Y advice.

• TIMING -- Good for you, avoiding the cram-jammed hi season: the best months are May-June & Sept. If u are going a full month, I would suggest doing Sept 1 - 30 or Sept 10- Oct 10 rather than later because many Isles are "closing down" by then... weather still good, but many proprietors shuttering to move to mainland. Big isles like Crete of course are active year-round. Still, transport cuts back sharply by October -- Greece does not have the long "shoulder seasons" as Italy.

• WHICH ISLES -- Many people are misled by Cruise ballyhoo. Those monster-ships are limited to deep-water ports, so they hype as "must-sees" the only places they can go: Santorini, Mykonos, Heraklion, Rhodes, Patmos. Santorini is a must-see for newbies, others are options. And they never mention Cycladic jewels like Milos, SIfnos, Naxos, Folegandros.

•TRAVEL OPTIONS & SEQUENCE -- Transport is KEY to a great trip; countless people come to forums weeping about nonreturnable hotel deposits on islands they cannot reach! A Tested strategy: Land in Athens -- fly ASAP to your farthest island destination -- ferry-hop your way back -- sightsee Athens at the end. This ferry chart -- altho outdated & for high season -- but shows most-usual ferry routes. Get to know THIS website -- If you leave the Month & date at "any" you'll see all available sailings... if you specify month but leave date at "any" u will see all of Sept. for example. It's the first site to show Fall 2015 listings, but they wont be up for quite awhile. THIS site has a magic "rollback" feature -- you can put calendar back to Sept 2014 & see what ferry routes were offered then; they're much the same year to year, so it's a useful planning guide.

• TURKEY? I'm not a huge fan, being a Graecophile; again, do homework, ponder cultural interests, before deciding.

Have fun planning... the more you prepare, the better we can help you... otherwise, you're just going to get fragmented advice based on a particular person's enthusiasms.

Posted by
439 posts

I just wanted to add to an earlier reply. Websites vs Guidebook - I actually read the guidbook on my Ipad using the notes/highlight features. If I want to check a website for information (ie: availability, costs, photos), I do a search on my Ipad/computer right when I am reading that section. You can then add that to the notes in the book.

Posted by
16893 posts

I think that one month is not too long for Greece; on my first visit I had the luxury of one month in each country, saw a lot, and also included some relaxation time. If your inclination for islands is to stick with the Cyclades, then Turkey is two more ferry rides away from there, or a flight from Athens to Istanbul. If you travel the long distance to Turkey, then I think you would want to give it two weeks, whether you're splitting the month or adding more time.

For your stated focus so far, I think Rick Steves' Athens/Greece guidebook is going to be all that you need. If you find that's not comprehensive enough, then I'd also use the Lonely Planet guidebook. Ferry schedules are one thing that the web can do better than books, but since they are subject to frequent changes for weather or other reasons, plan to reconfirm ferry schedules locally as you travel.

Driving on the mainland is easy outside the big cities, so I recommend car rental there. Rental companies might not allow or provide insurance coverage for cars on the Greek ferries. The cheapo method I used on my first visit was the public KTEL bus system, which is another example of a schedule that must be confirmed as you go.

Posted by
3219 posts

Laura, Rick Steves book does v. well with Athens & the Peloponnese areas most popular with organized tours, but only covers ONE island, Hydra, main advantage of which is a quick trip from Pireaus (tho not as quick as Aegina). And this couple is particularly interested in the Cyclades Islands, that's about 20+ not covered by RS. Lonely Planet Greece used to be everyone's pick, but in order to accommodate large color-photo sections (to go upmarket), LP eliminated much of its text besides logistics, accommodation & major sites, chopping sidelight details that once made it a delight. I'm sorry to say this, because I was a Big LP fan up thru its 2002 Greece editions.

Posted by
1094 posts

My favorite guidebooks for the Greek Islands are Greek Island Hopping and Blue Guide: The Aegean Islands. Both cover many islands with how to get there, where to stay, what to see, eat, travel tips and reviews. I use them both for trip planning. Matt's Greek Guide on the web is one of the best for anything about travel to Greece. My favorite islands are Sifnos, Milos, Naxos and one of the loveliest mainland town is Nafplio in the Peloponesse. Costs can be whatever you want to spend. I'm not cheap but I am economical so I book everything myself: flight, accommodations, transfers, etc. There are several good agencies such as Greek Thesaurus which we used on our first trip to Greece. However, with the internet you can deal directly with the businesses and save money. Oct. is our favorite time to travel to Greece: less tourists, lower costs, and still nice weather. Beware that the off season is when many businesses close down on smaller islands but if you are not interested in partying, shopping and nightlife will not be a major problem. Can't speak for anyone else but our trips go this way: fly from Boston to Athens, spend a couple days to catch our breath and see some sites, head for the islands, then return to Athens for two more days to see what we missed the first time and not be rushed in getting to the airport. As some say: Do your research, ask questions on various forums, use guidebooks and the internet and you will see that you can Do-It-Yourself and have a stress-free trip (no guarantees, of course!)

Posted by
1432 posts

We are in our late 60s/early 70s and in 2012 we spent about 4 weeks in Greece beginning the middle of September. The previous year we went to Turkey. At that time we had considered adding Greece but decided against it as there is just too much to see in each country. We planned our own trip using RS Athens and the Peloponnese, Greece Island Hopping, Frommers Greece (I like to read),, as well as this forum, tripadvisor, and virtualtourist. Suggest you end in Athens as you will probably be leaving from there and will have to spend your last night there anyway. Following is our itinerary which you can use as a starting point if you want to research the different towns. We flew directly from Athens to Santorini (I think it was Olympic Air). You can check Blue Star Ferries for schedule and prices.

Santorini-4 nights; Naxos-5 nights (day trip to Delos and Mykonos); Hydra-2 nights; Loutraki-2nights (to visit Corinth); Nafplio-3 nights; Monemvasia(we slept in Gefyra)-3 nights; Kardamili-2 nights; Olympia-1 night; Delphi-2 nights; Athens-3 nights. On both Santorini and Naxos we rented a car for one day to see more of the islands. We took the ferry from Santorini to Naxos, Naxos to Hydra, Hydra to Pireaus where we rented a car which we returned at the airport in Athens. We took the metro (taxi might have been better) from the airport to Athens for our last 3 nights and took a taxi from the hotel to the airport when we left in the morning.

The planning sounds daunting but really was a lot of fun. There are so many great sights, beaches, ruins, and delicious foods. It was great to be able to visit some ancient sites and spend the day walking around, then return to our hotel and spend a couple of late afternoon hours on the beach. Have fun planning!

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for all your comments. You've given me alot of avenues to research and now I am getting excited to check this all out and develop a draft itinerary! Much appreciated.