Hello everyone, thank you for the amazing information you've all put out here. This forum is an incredible resource!
My husband and I are in our early 30's and planning a first trip to Greece May 21st - June 2nd. That's 12 nights. Flying in and out of Athens on those days.
Our best trips so far have been slow adventures, with lots of walks, new foods, beautiful scenery. Don't need to pretend we aren't tourists, but definitely prefer places that have identities beyond tourism. Character over luxury. Picnic lunch over expensive restaurant. Love a beach and a swim, would be bored by a full-out beach vacation. The possibility of a drink and some music after dark now and then are all we'd every really want for nightlife. We tend to enjoy getting from one place to another (don't mind trains, boats, public transport). An ideal trip to us feels like an exploration, with some movement from place to place, but time to improvise, check out that walk someone recommends, have enough time to pay attention to where we are.
So, therefore, with what seems like the endless splendour of Greece, we need to trim some things off our wishlist and hone it into a plan. So far we are most attracted to Sifnos, Naxos, Western Crete, & Meteora. Kind of a weird salad of places, but I think they've all come up as good places for exploring whether by foot or by car. Questions.....
Sifnos & Naxos have each been described as great places for walks and hikes, with good tourist infrastructure but still more Greek than purely tourist-centered. Given what we're going for, does it make sense to try to go to both? Would be interested to hear a little compare-and-contrast - If they were quite similar, we'd want to nix one on this trip.
Western Crete - We're attracted to Western Crete because it seems like a place to explore both small towns and nature, and enjoy the ride. It seems somehow accessible that way. I understand that a person could spend weeks in Western Crete alone, but I'm curious if 4-5 days is reasonable for a taste. I'm picturing a base in Hania, hopefully hiking Samaria Gorge, and exploring the southeast coast. Lonely Planet Crete has a one-day driving tour itinerary of Hania & westward that has me drooling (pg. 57 of 5th edition if anyone's following along at home). What do you think?
Santorini...I feel like I need permission to NOT go there. It was one of those ubiquitous, insanely beautiful white-building photos that first turned our attention to Greece, but the more I learn, the more it seems like the intense tourism could be a big turn-off. In the past, our least satisfying trips have involved places where people are aggressively selling to tourists. And yet....does anyone go to the Cyclades and NOT go to Santorini?
The Meteora - We can really go for hiking around an otherworldly landscape, and Meteora seems like the pinnacle (haha?) of that. However, we're daunted by the 5-hour each way trip from Athens. Would love to hear any thoughts on how that could fit into the end-of-the-trip time in/around Athens. If we got a little practice with Greek driving on Crete, would renting a car in Athens be crazy? Is it reasonable to think of a visit to Meteora as a walking/hiking experience?
Thank you so much for any thoughts you can share!