I'll be traveling in Greece for about two weeks. I will fly from Athens to Santorini. About how many days should I plan for in Santorini? Can someone give me a general orientation to the island? I'd like to be near beach but also see archeological and nature sites. How far is it from the airport to the various villages e.g. Should I plan on hours to get there? Take a taxi? Are there islands/day trips from Santorini? I will also be staying in Crete for a week. Will I need to go back to Athens to get to Crete? Is it possible to take a ferry or is it better to fly from Santorini to get to Crete? Any advice to orient me will be most appreciated! Newbie traveler to Greece.
Hard to respond to all of your questions in the space allowed for responses. Most of your answers will be found in good guidebooks and suggest strongly that you look at the Steves' guide book for Greece. Also, Frommer's had guide book just on the Greek Isles. And finally hit your library from guidebooks and travel DVDs. Also, what time of year. Makes a huge difference since the islands tend to shut down from mid-Oct to late Spring - reduced transportation schedules, hotels close, etc.
You will need a minimum of 4 full days to explore Santorini. I recommend longer. It's small and there is an excellent bus system based in Fira, the island's social/commercial center. The two main beach resorts are Perissa/Perivolos and Kamari. From the airport the furthest village is only about 30 minutes by car, but if you are taking the bus from the beach to Akrotiri on the south end or Oia on the north end it means a bus to Fira and another bus to Akrotiri or Oia so it will take at least an hour depending on how long you have to wait for the Oia bus. You can take a caldera/volcano cruise on Santorini that also stops at Thirassia on the far side of the caldera. Depending on ferry schedules it might be possible to visit other nearby islands, Folegandros, Ios or Naxos, for a day. Ferry schedules: www.gtp.gr
The afternoon ferry from Santorini to Crete only takes about 2 hours. Flying means connecting back in Athens which is expensive and time consuming.
Thanks so much for these suggestions. I really apprecatiate it!
Rick Steves book is excellent on Athens, for a newcomer. His guide does not cover the islands (except maybe a short part on Hydra, which some of his tours include). If you want to study up a bit on the islands (and you should, if you're spending all that $$$ to come to greece & will spend most of your time on islands), look at "EYEWITNESS: the Greek islands" for photos & quickie overview, and for details and logistics, Rough Guide to Greece. As Frank notes, we can't provide you with "Greece 101" in the limited space allowed on RS Forum. So go look, read, study some good websites like (for Crete) http://www.explorecrete.com and fab online maps lke this (Click & it gets huuuge) -- http://www.explorecrete.com/crete-maps/images/Crete-eot.png -- to keep you realistic about distances. With just a week in crete, you either need to rent a car for at least 4-5 days of that time, or limit yourself to either Western or Eastern Crete. Only studying a guidebook and reliable websites (ones that are not all "eye candy") will tell you which side matches best with your interests & priorities. Then, when you've learned a bit, and you've chosen your "must-see" destinations on the island, and located them on maps, you can come back here for advice on itinerary sequence via car or bus.
And YES, it really does matter when you're coming, in terms of weather, crowds, and Greek holidays that can affect both lodging and travel arrangements.
This is super helpful. The websites are a great way to get started. Thanks! I will be traveling in July, which I know is the hottest and most touristy month.......
I hope not just the websites -- do consult guides as well. the Public libraries have these guides, or browse a good bookstore. And Amazon has used copies for much less. Remember, you're putting many many thousands into this trip, don't begrudge $15-20 for a valuable guide (or half that, for a used one). Penny-wise pound-foolish.