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Re-doing Greece trip with changes

My wife and I cancelled our trip to Greece for April of 2020.
Rather than try for the same itinerary, I think I might trade out the road trip through the Peloponnese for time in Istanbul.
The original was Athens, Hydra, Peloponnese by car, Santorini, Naxos and back to Athens for going home (23 days).

So now I am thinking Athens (4-5N), Hydra (2N), Santorini, (3-4N) Naxos (3N) or Mykonos (3N), Rhodes (?N) and 5-6N in Istanbul.

My two main questions I would love anyone's input on are:

1) Am I blowing it by missing the Peloponnese (Delphi, Olympia, Kardanyli, Monemvasia, Nafplio) instead of time in Istanbul?
2) What would be the recommended travel method between stops of new itinerary and in what order would be best?

Sorry for bring so general, but just starting to rethink things for mid- April to late May 2021 for three weeks or so.

Any help is most appreciated.


Posted by
2764 posts

I loved Istanbul, and I think it ranks among one of the world's best cities, but think about if you will be going back, and if for example you might prefer to visit more of Turkey when you do (Turkish airlines is great, and they seem to have frequent sales). The last thing I want to do on a vacation is hop on another plane back and forth, so it would be an easy decision for me. Late May of 2019 was absolutely heavenly weather- and crowd-wise in the Peloponnese (we had sites to ourselves on a few occasions). In fact, I'd skip islands in favor of more time in the Peloponnese, where there is just so much on offer.

Posted by
108 posts

Agree with prior post that Istanbul is a must see. For ease of travel you might consider Istanbul first for 3 to 4 days; then Athens for another 3 to 4 days; then off to whatever other destinations in Greece you prioritize. Rhodes is further away and might require backtracking.

Posted by
3477 posts

Hi RC,
I can't speak to Istanbul, but it's on our radar for a possible future visit. That said, I would agree with the previous suggestion to save Istanbul for a future journey. We took the RS Athens & the Heart of Greece Tour in September 2017. We followed a similar itinerary that you mentioned. It was at the top of the list of favorite tours. We added days that included 2 days in Athens prior to our tour and included 6 nights in Naxos and 4 nights in Santorini. If we were to redo our itinerary we would have deleted a night in Santorini. Not our favorite island. We felt we had a better Greek experience in Naxos. We stayed for a total of 28 nights in Greece. On our last night we stayed at an Airport hotel in Athens.

As far as time of the year many contributors to the Forum have recommended mid to late May for moderate weather & activities. Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
77 posts

I was on the Rick Steves' Best of Athens/Peloponnese tour back in October 2018 and loved every minute of it. I can't speak for Istanbul (although it's super high on my list) or Santorini (it's very low on my list due to feedback I've received from others who have gone), but in my opinion, the Peloponnese region should not be missed. I was floored by the natural beauty of the area and as a hiker, there was an incredible bounty of trails to explore and the ancient sites of Delphi/Olympia/Epidavros/Mycenae, etc., were jaw-dropping.

I felt that the itinerary we followed on the tour was an excellent and efficient way of seeing the region. I do plan on returning to Greece someday, but I think this time I'm going to explore the northern area of the country (especially Thessaloniki).

Posted by
2341 posts

We were in Nafplio. When you are there, you are close of Mykinos. It is the oldest place I have ever been - a palace of the age of the Trojan war, which was 1000 years before the Golden Age of Pericles in Athens. Consider how long ago the Norman Conquest is to us today, and this is the equivalent time difference between Mykinos and the Acropolis. I think this is a key part of a Greece trip.

Posted by
8853 posts

Am I blowing it by missing the Peloponnese (Delphi, Olympia, Kardamyli, Monemvasia, Nafplio)

I went to all these places on the RS Greece tour. I am glad to have been to each one. I have not been to Istanbul, so cannot comment on what the trade-off is. I think Istanbul would be better as a separate trip, or part of a longer trip.

I do not know if you are "blowing it", but you would definitely would be missing A LOT.

Posted by
1104 posts

I would just stick with Greece. We did the RS tour in 2014 which went to the places you mentioned and I wouldn't trade them for the world. Absolutely loved Greece! You can then focus on that country and culture and Dave Istanbul and the rest of Turkey for another trip.

Posted by
8007 posts

Don’t mix these two countries on one trip. Visit Greece, and later visit Turkey on another trip. Yes, you will be missing a lot if you skip the Peloponnese. Mixing them short changes both countries.

Posted by
1204 posts

My family (mom, dad, three young teens) did the trip you had originally planned almost exactly. We started in Nafplio for 3 nights (first night was arrival), then drove into the mountains en route to Olympia, then to Kardamyli, Monemvasia, etc, for a total of 7 days, 8 nights. Loved the Peloponnese and would return for more time and exploration. Then we went to Crete for 10 days, Santorini for 3 nights/2.5 days and Naxos for 5 nights/4.5 days. Of Santorini, my 17 yo daughter, who is standing here, said "Im glad we went because its so famous but I would never go back". What Ufgak said is how I felt about it. But, Im glad to have seen it. We were there for 2.5 days. It was Greek Disney. Hordes of people, and I mean bumper to bumper trying to get through the passageways of Oia, and trains of people being carried up the donkey trail from the cruise ships to Fira. Beautiful but bizarre in how manufactured it felt. Naxos otoh was wonderful. A lot of variety in what to experience, whether the Chora or beach or mountain village or small areas not frequented. We spent only two days in Athens. I wold have liked one more. Haven't been to Istanbul. You can't go wrong in your choice, and you can always return ;)

Posted by
2930 posts

I can't imagine going to Greece, but skipping Delphi, which I think is one of the most beautiful location and ruins that I've every seen. YMMV. I also wouldn't drop Olympia.

Posted by
67 posts

Thank you all for your input!!!!

So now thinking of reverting back to my original plan (Peloponnese) and leaving Istanbul for another time.
Would this be a schedule to follow?
What to add or delete?

• Athens to Delphi seeing Sanctuary of Apollo that day and (1N) in Delphi.
• Drive to Diakopto for train to Kalavryta and back then Olympia (1N).
• Tour Sanctuary of Olympia then on to Kardamyli (2N). Next day is RS walk and RS hike.
• Drive to Monemvasia (2N) seeing Mani Peninsula on way. RS town walk on 2nd day.
• Drive to Nafplio (2N) RS town walk and waterfront day one. Drive to Mycenea and Epidavros day two.

Posted by
2764 posts

I found Google maps (with some slight rounding up) fairly accurate, and I planned by looking at how much time we wanted in a car per day (minimal). I'd personally not want so many one and two nights stays, but we all like a different pace. Two places I would try to include are Mystras and Messene, but of course there is probably too much on your list already! I found both as impressive or slightly more so than Mycenae and Epidaurus.

Posted by
1204 posts

We arrived at Monemvasia at 5p, and most of the daytrippers were heading off island so we managed to find a parking spot on the road that leads to the entrance gate. We stayed one night. We walked the rock and had dinner, so lets say 5 hours, and then slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and departed at noon. Thats it. We saw all of the rock the evening we arrived. Perhaps you plan to use it as a place from which to drive to other site seeing locales. That is the only reason to spend 2N there. It's very small. I would add a night to Nafplio. However, we were comfortable with many 1N stays in Peloponnese. YMMV. (We actually stayed 2N in the mountains 1 hr. S. of Olympia and spent 1 day seeing Olympia and one seeing the Temple of Apollo, which is really remote but was so cool (called a mini Parthenon).

Posted by
13749 posts

I am not Greece expert and what you have may be perfect for you. If it were me I would cut one night out of each (2 out of Istanbul) and expand the playing field.

Posted by
2218 posts

I too did the RS tour Athens & The Heart Of Greece and loved every minute! While I have not been to Istanbul ( on the list) or any Greek island except Hydra, I don’t think you need to do all the islands you have listed. I would definitely do the Peloponnese with all it’s ancient sites and skip one or two of the islands you have listed ( but not Hydra, which is wonderful)!

Posted by
169 posts

Like your new plan... but for the islands - I'd skip Hydra (I know - lots love it. But to us it seemed a lot like all the others and the ferry schedule there can be difficult to time.) .. I'd choose to spend more time in Naxos or even the Pelop..

IF you are at all budget conscious - or crowd adverse.. try Kamari for hotels on Santorini (east side near the airport). We stayed there on our 2nd visit (had splurged on the caldera before) and really enjoyed the reduced $$, fewer tourists and very good amenities. Were able to rent a car and drive around the island easily for a day. The bus is there as well for connections. Several very good restaurants and a large beach (although rocky). Down side is - there are few great views from the hotels.. but we felt a little bit more "Greek" than Japanese bridezillas.