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Renting a car in Greece

I have been reading Rick Steves book and it talks a lot about renting a car to see some of the out laying areas in Greece so I thought I would check out with you all here what you think of doing this. We are going the first 2 weeks of July 2019. Here is what we want to do, so if you can let me know what you think that would be great.
Arrive Athens spend 3 nights (2.5 days) Wednesday late morning arrival - Saturday morning check out.
Saturday: rent a car and drive to Delphi- sleep near Delphi
Sunday: leave Delphi to the west along the gulf and cross the Rion-Antirion bridge and follow the gulf along towards Corinth. We would play this day by ear and stop wherever we want to as we see things along the way. Arrive Nafplio see Mycenae on the way. Sleep Nafplio (I looked up the drive time at just over 4 hours, so this could be just get up and "beat feet" to Corinth, Mycenae and Nafplio)
Monday: See Epidavros in the morning and chill in Nafplio in the afternoon - sleep Nafplio
Tuesday: Drop rental car somewhere near Nafplio that has a ferry to Hydra (Ermioni?) Sleep Hydra
Wednesday: Spend the day on Hydra and last ferry back to Athens.
Thursday: flight out.

So we would need advice on a car rental place that would allow us to pickup in Athens and drop off somewhere down south. We have read about not driving at night, but thinking that July likely has long days of daylight, right? Any suggestions on where to stay in any of these places would be great as well. My next stop here is to check out the ferry schedule from Hydra to these Athens and Ermioni and see if that is even an option.

Posted by
2716 posts

We picked up a car at Athens airport and dropped it in Ermioni, then took a ferry to Hydra. We used a local co called Pop’s car. It was a good experience for us, and the only option I saw for this route.

We were in Athens first for a night, went to the airport to get the car, then drove to the Peloponnese for a week before returning the car, ferrying to Hydra, stayed there for 3 days, then back to Athens.

Posted by
23 posts

I'm sorry for the confusion. We do have 2 weeks, but because of our air miles (gotta love it) we have to arrive by going through Istanbul, Turkey. So although we leave the west coast on July 1st we won't arrive in Athens until the 3rd. Then we want to spend a 3 days in Istanbul on the way back so we plan to fly out of Athens on the 12th. So we really only have 9 days in Greece. But we don't want to spend 9 days in Athens, so we would like to get out and visit something else in the countryside. So maybe we don't have time to do the "loop around the gulf" and would be better if we drive to Delphi then go back towards Athens to go down to Corinth etc..

Couple questions in response: would 1.5 days in Athens be enough? Calculating in jet lag and checking into hotels and such? That is why I had thought 2.5 days there. My husband has been to Greece before and says that it is all pretty close together so a couple days is plenty. As far at the islands, if Hydra is not a good option, what about Aegina? From what I have read about Hydra, it is all about food. So I had figured that 1 full day there would be plenty, as we are really not "foodies" per se. We sort of fall into the opinion of "why buy the guide book if you ignore the advice found there?" Since Rick seems to like Hydra a lot we figured that would be a better option that some of the others, due to distance.

My kids (16 & 18, not exactly kids anymore) are really into Greek Mythology. So I would like to incorporate places that they have maybe read about into our vacation.

Posted by
23 posts

Mira - thanks for the advice. Pop's was one of the ones that I saw as being the only option as well!

Posted by
2875 posts

If Mythology & ancient sites are important (as well as good beaches) I share the advice to skip Hydra. People who come on this website are "Hydralized" by R. Steves' constant recommend of this island only (I think chiefly because it tacks on nicely as a day-trip at the end of his Greece mainland tours) ... but its ancient-site interest are few, and no beaches really... mainly a pretty port.

With only 9 days I'd instead sugget spending extra 1-2 days in the Nafplio area -- the Old Town itself is on a peninsula, surrounded by water, thus feels ike an island... has a cute Town beach on other side of its Cliffs, and 2-3 other wonderful beaches nearby. With a car, u can stay in Old TOwn & drive out to beaches, or even stay somewhere like PORTO ASSINI Apts ... which is directly ON a beach (it's on booking.com -- its listed as being on Tolo beach but it's actually not on this crowded UK beach). It's just 15 minutes outside of Nafplio (and next to one of my fave little ruins, Assine). Staying here is the best of both worlds... a fine beach, not overcrowded even in high season, and just a few miles away from history & scenery galore. Just check out http://www.visitnafplio.com -- wonderful NONcommercial website which has solid info/pix of entire area.

You could drive back to Athens late afternoon of your last day and drop car at airport -- and stay at one of several hotels near the airport (Hotel Avri in nearby Rafina has 24 hr free shuttle to/from) or keep car and stay at St. Thomas B & B ... do not dither about making reservations however, because you're going in HIGH season. It's "no-risk" if you take the slightly higher rate that allows free cancellation w.o. penalty, then you can breathe easy & turn your focus to reading up/prep for your trip.

Incidentally, unless you want the experience of going across the Rio bridge, that route is otherwise quite boring along the north rim of Peloponnese, & takes more time. If you headed back the way you came and turned a sharp RIGHT at Elefsina, going toward Corinth on the biggie intercity highway, it would be a faster drive.... just over the Corinth canal about 15 miles, on your RH side is exit to ANCIENT NEMEA ... only about 5 miles off the highway. Since u are not going to Olympia, this is a super "stand-in" its the "runner-up" Sacred Games site -- https://nemeangames.org -- authentically restored stadium & temple columns, your teens will dig walking thru the teams' Entry tunnel & racing from starting blocks 2400 years old (!!). This is the Heart of wine country, so at nearby village of Modern Nemea you can stop at a bottling facility & pick up some great Nemean Red. Leaving there & going back to big highway, you then immediately drive south toward Nafplio. I wouldnt try to do Mycenae that afternoon.... just get to Nafplio, wander Old Town, relax at seafront cafe for the BEST sunset you'll see in GReece. Next AM hit Mycenae 8 am & beat the bus tours... and in afternoon, find a beach.

Another tip -- you can avoid backtracking in your Argolid-area sightseeing by saving Epidaurus for the last day, when you are heading back toward Athens. Leave @ 8 am, drive up back of Palamidi for a last stunning view, then head East across the Peloponnese "thumb" to ancient Epidaurus. Don't puzzle over the acres of ruins, or its museum -- main thing is the stunning theatre -- most perfect acoustics in world they say. After that, drive up the COAST road to Isthmus & stop for 20 minutes for a photo-op of the Corinth Canal (so deep! so Skinny!).. which you cannot glimpse from the big highway. From there, on the Big Road, it's only about 1 hour to airport.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you to Kaeleku and Janet for all your insight. I am going to take this all in and get out my map and books and see what it would look like on paper. Should I have questions again I will post. Janet, I have read your responses on other posts here and really enjoyed all the information you have offered to all us "Newbies". You seem like a fount of information on Greece!

Posted by
2875 posts

tina just gotta add that i ENVY your air miles... I am still smarting from being "cheated" by American. Had 50,00 miles credit, not much I know... but events prevented any travel on that carrier for 2 years. Now I'm going to Greece in May-June and was just informed that my credits were ERASED for "lack of action" on the account (!!!!). I had at least hoped to trade them for an economy seat with more legroom seat. To heck w. them! I will forego their nonstop, and do a 1-stop w British Air & save big.

Posted by
23 posts

That stinks about your miles!! We kept our card open long enough to get the miles for the 4 of us and now we don't use it. It has been a pain the you know where. But we are all set. We just now need to get our flights from Istanbul to Athens set. But we know what days we want to fly so that is half the battle. Now I am just tracking them on Google Flights to get a better deal there.

So I went over your post with my husband and we had a couple more questions that we thought you might be able to help us with, given that you seem to be the Greece Guru!

  1. Athens - is the 2.5 days/3 nights sufficient? I don't want to short-change it, but I also don't want to be sitting around with nothing to do when we have so much to see out in the countryside. Again, remembering that we are flying in from the west coast (Oregon) so we will be tired. We will have like 8 hours in Istanbul to sleep, maybe 5 hours, prior to flying to Athens so there will be a little break in the travelling, but I expect that we will still be exhausted. But on the other hand, the excitement of finally getting there is also a factor. So I would want to do something on that first afternoon/evening. But nothing to taxing. If that makes sense...
  2. Rental car - any advice on a good company, Pop's was mentioned before, but since we are likely going to return it where we pick it up we don't need to worry about a place in Nafplio to return. Also, would it be best to get the car when we first fly into Athens or wait until the day we intend to leave? I heard that driving in Athens proper is not a great idea... 3.Delphi - do you have any suggestions on where to stay and how long? It has been suggested to visit Hosios Loukos - is this a fair trade for not making it to Meteora? My thought was to drive up early one day and drive out the next. Staying one night. But is this enough? Should we stay 2 nights there then drive to Nafplio (I am looking at leaving Athens early Saturday July 6th, for reference) We would also like to visit Ancient Corinth on the way either to Nafplio or on the way back to Athens, just for our bible study interests. I also read somewhere that a lot of places are closed on Mondays. Is that true of the high season as well? Or is that a low season issue. Since we will be there on a Monday I would like to schedule around any closures that might be going on.

Anything else I am missing? We want to "see Greece" But we also don't want to be rushing around so much that we don't really take it in either. A few hours each day at the beach is fine in the evening after all the running around of the day. But we are not, sit on the beach people. I feel like there is too much to see and do to waste time. Our vacations are sort of pack in as much as we can without overloading ourselves in the process. :)

Posted by
61 posts

After a week in Athens and Hydra, we rented from Pop's in Ermioni, returning it in Athens, and had a very good experience with them and our vehicle. I imagine you could do it in reverse just as easily.

We hit Epidavros on the way to Nafplio, spent the rest of that day and the next in Nafplio (stayed at Pension Marianna, highly recommended), then visited Mycenae on the way west. We spent one night in the quaint mountain town of Dimitsani (stayed at En Dimitsani Guesthouse - incredible breakfast!) and hiked the next morning to several centuries old monasteries in the Lousios Gorge before driving on to Olympia (stayed at Bacchus Pension - so-so). We spent a day in Olympia, then headed up to Delphi (stayed at Hotel Acropole - amazing view!) then Meteora (Pyrgos Adrachti hotel in Kastraki - loved this place!), then back to Athens, where we returned our rental car at the airport. Had the car 8 days.

As for time in Athens, 2.5 days will let you see the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, Ancient Agora and the National Museum, which are the "must-sees." But if you really want to enjoy the city, I'd suggest another day. Start by taking the Rick Steves walking tour. Relax, take your time over meals, and do some shopping.

Posted by
9 posts

We were staying in downtown Athens so rented from a Hertz office. We returned the van to the airport without having to drive back in Athens traffic. Because I dealt directly with the agent at the Hertz office we had no charge for returning to a different location.
We stayed in Athens many days. The Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis, the Agora, The National Archeology Museum, Hadrian's Arch and Temple of Olympian Zeus are all must see locations. The Benaki Museum was wonderful and managable, Riding the cable car up Lacavatos Hill gives you an amazing panorama of the city. I would get a guide for the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. It made it come alive to me.
If you are crossing the gulf on the Rion-Antirion Bridge why not go down and see Olympia and even further south Nestor's Palace.
The town of Pilos is a lovely beach town not far from Nestor's palace.
We spent three nights in Naphlion and loved it in March. It might be over run by tourists in July.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
1730 posts

We had three nights, 2.5 days in Athens. We didn’t see everything we wanted. But it is a balancing act with limited time and competing priorities.
I figure I will have to return!

Posted by
2875 posts

Lots of things to suggest plus answers to your questions but cannot reply today -- back to u on Tuesday. After all you have many months!

Posted by
1730 posts

On Thursday after we arrived in Athens at 4 pm we saw
Acropolis and Agora.
Friday we saw
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrians arch, Lysicrates monument, anafiotika, (which was very disappointing after visiting islands), Roman Forum, Tower of the Winds, and then in the afternoon after a late lunch we went to the National archaeological museum.
Saturday we saw
Panathenic Stadium, Filopappos Hill, Mars Hill, the Plaka area, and the Acropolis Musuem.
I had hoped to do the walks in the Rick Steves book. We did the ancient part but not the modern part or the Greek Orthodox Church part.
I had thought we would have been able to do this but ran out of time and energy.
We were only at the National archeological museum for 2 hours which allowed us time to see the highlights but nothing more. My brother in law who was traveling with us stayed longer in Athens and returned after we left.
There were other things I wanted to see like Lykavittos Hill, and the Byzantine musuem but I never really thought we would have time for these.
But you can see we were able to take in a lot in a few days. You need good walking shoes and lots of energy. We walked everywhere except the archeological museum which we took the metro to and from.
We stayed south of the Acropolis .

Posted by
23 posts

BethFL: This actually sounds pretty good for Athens. We will be arriving earlier the 1st day than you did so maybe we can get another thing or 2 in that day. I have 2 kids, although they are 16 and 18, they are still kids and I bet I can count on 1 hand the number of museums I am going to get them in to. For the whole trip! With Delphi, Mycenae and Epidaviros I am pretty sure they will be museumed out. Thanks for the advice on hotels as well, I will definitely look into them for our trip.

Posted by
2934 posts

I admit I only skimmed over the postings for this thread so I apologize if this information has already been passed on. If you live outside the EU make sure you go to your local auto club to pick up an International Driving Permit.

Posted by
1730 posts

Your kids might surprise you. Mine did. They were much more interested in everything than I expected. And I had thought they would go out at night (my 21 and 25 year olds) and not move in the morning but they never went out at night and were up every morning. They didn’t want to miss anything.

That said a few observations that might help. Epidauvus is mostly a theater. It is awe inspiring and if you climb to the top the view is beautiful and you can watch the people come in and out. Teens will love it. My kids wanted to go in the museum and enjoyed it.

Mycenae was probably not anyone’s favorite. With the exception of a few magnificent parts, it was very ruined. We had the problem of 7 people with 3 reading every sign. I wasn’t one of them and would have left sooner. But one thing I would suggest is a head lamp to go down into the cistern. I brought one (less than $10 from amazon but don’t forget battery-my husband did). That was a big hit. I also used it to climb to the roof top deck in Athens in the dark!

And several of our group’s favorite thing on our two week tour was the the Palamidi fortress in Nafplio. It is 999 steps up and we climbed them as a group. We spent an entire morning there. It is from the 1700s and more intact.

My kids liked Nemea much better than Mycenae even though it isn’t as historically important. They have reconstructed parts of it and you don’t have to use as much imagination. Plus they all enjoyed pretending to run the races. I had to drag people out of the museum. Really interesting but it may have been the air conditioning.🙂

I found Rick Steves book good when you only want highlights like at archeological museum. My son and I went around together and his eye went to mostly things on the rick Steve’s tour. So I then told him what he was seeing. But I let him lead.

And only the top few floors of the Acropolis museum are about the
Acropolis. The first floor is fascinating too-a glass floor over ruins. Great snack bar too. Rest of it is more like the archeological museum so could focus only on what is most unique.

We were in Nafplio in early June and it was hot. We went to different beaches in the afternoon every day.

Enjoy!!

Posted by
2875 posts

Smart of me to wait, Tina and a lot of your questions answered... I'll just add on some comments/tweaks:

• CAR PICK-UP/DROP-OFF - since u are going to be in Athens FIRST, I guess u could pick up car at Central Athens agency... many are on Syngrou Avenue - Make them MArk your Paper Map!! which you should consult even if you also useGPS -- if u look at this online map - http://euro-map.com/karty-grecii/peloponnes/podrobnaya-turisticheskaya-karta-peloponnesa.jpg -- u will see "Big Green Road" (major Highway going N from Center of town, it's labeled E 75 (but of course, Greeks don't mark highways, it's not their thing), it's the road that goes to Delplhi. You'll have a few blocks of INTENSE traffic to get to onramp, then all's well for many miles. Coming back from Delphi, as noted, Youll come down a RED ROAD from Thiva (Thebes) to the coast, then turn W toward corinth. the rest of the route to Nafplio area & return via coast as advised earlier is super-clear on this map. RETURN Car to AiRPORT ... you can time it to get back there the afternoon before homebound flight. If yr flight on departure is early, as mentioned you might want to stay at hotel Avra, on beach in nearby Rafina. It has a 24 hr free shuttle (IF you reserve in advance), so, an easy final night.

SITE COMMENTS -- If you want Anc. Corinth for religious-history reasons u can stop on outbound trip but just go look at where St. Paul preached, then leave; it's a lot of ruins, many people find it hard to decipher. Dont spend time climbing to Acrocorinth... better heights in Nafplio (Palamidi). DO stop at NEMEA, as other also urge. As for ANcient Mycenae, it taks time and in July, maybe super-hot; consider its forgotten "twin," Ancient TIRYNS, another Iliad-era fort just outside Nafplio -- NOT restored, but building-blocks even more massive. NO crowds. On ALL touring plans as Beth says HOT ... sites in AM, beach in afternoon.

DELPHI -- Study up! It makes a difference. If u havnt the time or inclindation to do your own advance prep, then hire a good local guide who'll meet you at site entrance. https://sites.google.com/view/delphi-guide (but don't delay; in hi season she's in great demand) For o'night Look @ Hotel PAN... its BACK rooms look down mountain to the sea... we were on the street-level corridor in rear, but when I stepped out on my balcony, hawks were circling BELOW my feet (!!). Fab views. And find a terrace at sunset for dinner & my recommended drink (tho I love wine) is DELPHIAN TAP WATER -- it comes straight fom the snowpac atop Mt. Parnassus, down a pipe to every faucet... and is Nectar of the Gods.

Posted by
2875 posts

chillbeach, this thread has Nothing to do with Thessaloniki, do not tag on an irrelevant question, y ou won't get answers here. Have y ou first tried Googlling your query?? That's what WE would have to do to answer y our question. BTW, if you bookmark the handy site Rome2Rio, this is remarkable in giving travel options almost anywhere in the world. j