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Seniors need help with Greece, Sicily itinerary

Hello fellow travelers,

I need your help. We're traveling round trip from Florida to Madrid. Our plan is to visit the following: Madrid, Northern Spain, Barcelona, Athens, Greek Islands and Sicily. We're planning about 4-5 weeks total, beginning May 20, 2019.

I would like your recommendations as to whether it'd be best to go from Barcelona to Sicily first, and finish our trip in Athens.

Or is it better to fly from Barcelona into Athens, leaving for the islands immediately, visit Santorini, Naxos and Crete (or other islands pending more research and your recommendations), return to Athens to explore it, then finish our trip in Sicily.

We are 2 couples 70-80 years young. We want a relaxed and fun trip. We love to experience nature, beaches, amazing views, dancing and enjoy fine wine.

Any additional first hand recommendations as to cities, experiences, lodging, etc are very much appreciated!

Thank you sooooo much! I look forward to your wonderful expertise.

Posted by
7240 posts

By the end of June, everywhere will be warm, but as you are from Fla., that may not be significant.

I think I would go to the farthest point 1st and work my way back

Posted by
6322 posts

Sicily needs two weeks at a minimum as do both of your Greek and Spanish itineraries. Rushing from one place to another is exhausting as well as expensive and it would be better to choose two of these locations instead of three. There is nothing relaxing as you have it planned.

Posted by
2513 posts

I agree with last contributor ... either skip Sicily or Greece .... otherwise it won't be relaxed or fun. That is, for normal-budget folks. If you are all very affluent, you can just arrange for private drivers/guides everywhere ... but then, why not do it thru an agency. Be realistic about your energy level -- I'm in your cohort and I'm the fittest in my crowd, but I know my limits. In June in 16 days we're doing 2.5 days Santorini, 5-6 days naxos, 5 days Nafplio (Argolid area), 3-4 days Athens -- and I've been to all these before, many many times. You're attempting 3 countries (really, 4, Crete is as big as a country) in 4 weeks and gather you've not been to any of them. More research on your part will equip you to make the best decisions; we aren't in a position to do this for you. Good Luck!

Posted by
18349 posts

I agree with the others. Those are all great destinations, but there is a lot to see in each area, and you will not have much access to express trains, so moving from place to place will probably take more time than you are anticipating.

Posted by
11246 posts

Just to pile on. I know 4-5 weeks sounds like a lot. But it takes times not only to see the places you mentioned, but to get between them. I spent 10 nights in Sicily, ran around a lot, and only saw a small portion of it. Similarly, "northern Spain" and "Barcelona" and "Greek Islands" will take some time to see even at a fast pace.

For getting between your countries, you'll have to fly. To see who flies where from a particular airport, look at that airport's Wikipedia page. To find actual flights and prices for your dates, use Skyscanner: https://www.skyscanner.com/

Once you start investigating flights, you'll see that some of your destinations will require connecting flights, meaning it will take most of a day. All of these flights not only take time, but also create the opposite of a "relaxed and fun trip."

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you everyone! I don't mind being piled on when it's constructive. You are absolutely right. We were trying to accomplish too much. We will go to Greece and Sicily next year (God willing). This year it will be Spain and Portugal.

If you would kindly review and critique my tentative itinerary below I would very much appreciate it.

5/20-5/21 Miami to Lisbon Nights
5/21-5/22 Lisbon 2

5/23-5/26 Fly to Islas Canarias; La Palma 4
Ferry Day trip to Tenerife

5/27 - 5/28 Lisbon (Fly back from La Palma) 2

5/29 Coimbra 1

5/30 - 5/31 Porto 2

6/1 - 6/3 Santiago de Compostela 3
Day trips to Ourense and La Coruña

6/4 -6/6 Gijon or Oviedo (not sure which yet - suggestions) 3
Day trips to Cudillero Beach and Ribasidella or Aviles

NICE TO HAVE**Day trip to Cangas de Onis - Picos de Europa - THIS IS CHALLENGING since we are not driving, maybe you can help also with this, please.

6/7 -6/8 Santander 2
Day trip to Palacio de la Magdalena

6/9 Santillana del Mar 1
Day trip to Altamira Cave

6/10 - 6/13 San Sebastian 4
Day trips to Bilbao, Playa de la Concha , Vittoria-Gazteis - or ?? (suggestions?)

6/14 - 6/15 Pamplona or Logroño 2
Day trip to Logroño or Pamplona

6/16 Abalos, San Vicente or Briones (not sure yet, suggestions) 1

6/17 - 6/18 Zaragoza 2

6/19 - 6/22 Mallorca (fly from Zaragoza) 4

6/23 - 6/24 Valencia (fly from Mallorca) 2

6/25 Alicante 1

6/26 - 6/29 Madrid 4
Day trips to Avila, Cuenca or Salamanca

6/30 - Madrid - Home

Thank you so very much!!

Posted by
1253 posts

This is the Greece forum so I would suggest posting on the Portugal and Spain forums instead. That said I have been to Spain and happen to have one young adult child going to Portugal and another to Spain and have been helping them do some planning.

First of all, have you plotted out your transportation and how long it will take? I have read that it is difficult to get from Portugal to Spain and the best way is to fly. You are moving quite a bit and might want to see how much time you actually have once you factor that in. Some locales are very difficult to reach on public transportation. With my daughter, I created possible itineraries that included the train times to help decision making. My gut is you need to pare down your itinerary some.

In Greece, lots of people fly from Athens to an island a few hours after arrival rather than going in and out of Athens twice. There is an inefficiency of going to Lisbon for two nights, leaving from airport for 4, and flying back to stay another two nights. So it something you might consider.

Segovia is another day trip from Madrid you might consider. It is much closer to Madrid than Salamanca. My daughter who spent a semester studying in Spain said she liked it better than Toledo.

Posted by
3753 posts

I agree that you need to move your new Spain/Portugal itinerary to a new post and the relevant forum, but it is hard to read/understand as presented. It looks like 19 changes in about 40 days. Every change takes 1/2 to 1 day. So that is about 10 days lost just changing cities. I am 60 and wouldn't do it if what I have in mind is a 'relaxed and fun' trip.
Not meaning to be rude, but have you ever travelled like this in the past 5 years? If so, was it successful? If successful, then I'll keep quiet. If no experience with this sort of travel, I think most would say it is a big undertaking.

Posted by
18349 posts

I'm 67 and take trips even longer than what you are planning, but I try to avoid 1- and 2-night stays, and I make a real effort to find enough to do at each stop to justify spending 4 nights there. I feel like you are planning to move around a bit too much. For example, flying to the Canary Islands for just 3 full days (with a ferry trip on one of those days) isn't something I would do. Although I would like to visit the Canary Islands at some point, I have so far twice opted for the Portuguese island of Madeira instead. It is drop-dead gorgeous and worth a 5-night stay if you want to spend some time walking the paths along the levadas. Those are flat, but you would need transportation to get to and from the levadas.

You have just two nights in Porto, so really just one full day; I think an extra day would be worthwhile so you could do something outside town, such as a trip to the Douro Valley.

With three nights in Santiago de Compostela (not super-easy to reach from Porto), you have only two full days, yet you are planning two day-trips. The historic area in SdeC is quite large; when will you see it? I haven't been to Ourense, but I do like A Coruna.

Oviedo is more historic (with some extremely old churches--not walkable from the center). Gijon is livelier. Gijon has a small historic area and some attractive late-19th/early-20th century architecture.

The Picos de Europa scenery is great, and the old stone town of Potes is charming (though touristy). In 2016 there were once-a week bus tours (I think on Wed.) from Santander, but they ran only from early July to early September. There may be public-bus transportation between Santander and Potes. Googling may turn up something. Otherwise, with four of you a private driver should be affordable.

I found Santander itself imminently skippable. It suffered a devastating fire in the 1940s and has very little historic architecture, though the beach is magnificent.

The Basque Country is extremely scenic. If you have time you might enjoy the slow train trip between San Sebastian and Bilbao; the bus is faster. I prefer the much less touristy Bilbao to San Sebastian, whose entire historic area seems to have been turned into tapas bars. Get an early start on the day you head to Bilbao or consider spending a few nights there. Vitoria-Gasteiz is also very interesting. Note that the historic district is on a hill. There are exterior escalators to assist you in reaching the top, but it could be a bit difficult for the mobility-challenged. Other highlights in that area for me were Hondarribia (again, there's an uphill walk to the oldest part of town) and the small coastal towns of Bermeo (near Bilbao) and Zarautz/Getaria/Zumaia (near San Sebastian).

Pamplona is only OK; I thought it offered less of interest than most of the other places I visited in Spain.

Zaragoza is worthwhile, but it can be extremely hot during the summer. I recommend staying near the old town rather than out near the train/bus station, though you might get a good deal on rooms at the EuroStars hotel there. Unfortunately, the area is a food desert, and you are a 15-minute walk from the Moorish palace and about a 30-minute walk from the historic center. There are buses and taxis from the station, but it's annoying not to be able to walk out of the hotel and find food within a few blocks. The hotel restaurant closes during the worst weather and offers a limited room-service menu; avoid the pizza.

I think Mallorca is worth more than 3 full days, especially if you will be traveling around by bus.

If you need more time elsewhere, I'd consider skipping Valencia (you have only one day there) and especially Alicante.

Avila is a wall and not much else; skip it. Salamanca is very nice but a very long day-trip from Madrid. Toledo is closer and I prefer it; I spent multiple nights there. Cuenca is nice; buy that AVE ticket early to save a lot of money.