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Skip Peloponnese (LOTS of driving!)

We spent 10 days in Greece in June and loved it BUT we based our trip around Rick Steves' Athens and The Peloponnese Guidebook and felt the itinerary was too driving-based. Unfortunately we spent more time in the car, traveling place to place, than actually enjoying it. My husband and I both lived in Europe and have travelled extensively. Because we had our 3 year old and 1 year old children, we didn't even incorporate Olympia or Delphi. The Greek people were among the most welcoming, kind, kid-friendly people we've ever met.

Here was our itinerary:
Santorini - 2 days (very expensive but our favorite place on the trip was Imerovigli town/Oia was WAY too touristy. Rick doesn't even suggest going to islands but the geography of the Cyclades are not to be missed.)
Flight to Athens: Drove directly to Costa Navarino took 3.5 hours (spent 2 nights)
Kardimyli - 1 night (Drove 3 hours) Cute town but not worth more than a drive through. We planned to stay in Rick's recommended Kalamitsi hotel but ended up staying only 1 night because the manager was not very nice, rooms REALLY basic/hard beds, and they charged us extra for breakfast when they told us it was included when we made our booking.
Mani peninsula - 3 nights. LONG drive, extremely barren, rubble buildings. Coastline is beautiful but few easy access points. Would have stayed in Limeni if we had it to do over again. Gerolimenas' Kyrimai hotel is lovely but not good for kids. Rick recommends doing the Mani in a day but it is a LOT of driving (6 hours?)
Nafplio - 2 nights (Drive 4 hours) from Mani. This was our favorite place aside from Santorini. Small enough to walk everywhere, charming old center. Epidavros is an easy 30 minutes away
Athens (1 night): We stayed in airport hotel because of our early morning flight but would have spent more time in Athens if we were to do it again.

In hindsight, our itinerary would have been 3 nights in Santorini, another 2 on a smaller island, 2 nights in Athens, 2 nights in Nafplio, and incorporated Delphi. We would have skipped Peloponnese altogether or only gone to Limeni. If you have lots of time to drive, then perhaps its worth it. We must have spent 14+ hours in the car and we didn't even include Delphi, Olympia, or Monemvasia.

*Rick's recommended Swift car company was so helpful (picked us up airport) but make sure to ask for a newer car because the one they gave us was so old the air conditioning died in the hot (!) and REMOTE Mani peninsula and we were afraid it wouldn't make it to Athens!

Posted by
2568 posts

It's my feeling that Rick's itineraries really are sort of an echo of his Group tours ... and when a tourbus driver is doing the driving, the passengers don't get as tired, even when it's a 6-hour drive! Also, his tours are for 14 days, 11 in Delphi & Peloponnese ... and you only only took 6.5 - 7 days. No wonder you were exhausted!! TO add to it, he's usually addressing prospective travelers who are middle age or older, definitely no toddlers ... and the latter do not do well with lengthy road trips!

Also, Rick's itineraries seem to scant Nafplio (which is crammed w. history, beautiful buildings, lovely lanes etc), in favor of Mani which, frankly, is as you say barren, full of rundown old towers, definitely for a long long trip, not a "highlights" quickie like yours.

As for Swift, I recommend them in just one situation; when people want to go direct from their Central Athens hotel to the Peloponnese or mainland, and don't want to cope with heavy city traffic: their big selling point is that theywill drive you directly to the on=ramp of the intercity highway. If I were landing at an airport and going to Delphi or Pelops, no need for that 'handholding" ... just book an agency with new cars good rates ... and a no-dropoff-fee policy if you hire at airport and drop at seaport or central athens.

Your woulda-coulda-shoulda itinerary does sound like much better for young families. Maybe next time!

Posted by
4697 posts

I'm glad you loved the trip despite having to drive too much. Janet makes some valid points about the difference between a longer trip with someone else driving and a shorter one with YOU driving (and little ones). We loved Nafplio and found plenty to do for 3-4 days in Athens (sans kids).

I don't think Rick Steves is dissing the islands, he just hasn't published a book about them. They're really a separate destination, either a separate trip or a separate part of a longer trip. He does suggest Hydra as an easy way to get a feel for islands within easy reach of Athens. Janet and others also recommend Aegina for this purpose.

But thanks for sharing your experiences. You might want to contact the RS staff directly about your bad hotel experience, they want and need that kind of feedback.