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Suggestions on seeing Greece and the Islands

I am planning a trip to Greece in 2022 when, I sincerely hope, it will be safe to travel again. This will be our first trip to Greece and the islands. (I'm planning this trip since my hubby says we have to go someplace besides Italy.) I refuse to go on a cruise since I don't want to be limited to seeing what the cruise lines think is important. So, I'm looking for suggestions on how to best see the islands and the mainland. We will be there for approximately 6 weeks. I prefer to stay in Airb&bs. I should add that I would like to avoid renting a car. In Italy, it was no problem since the trains and buses were wonderful, but I'm not sure about Greece.

Thanks for your suggestions.

Posted by
2482 posts

Hi Toni, when you say six weeks, does that include both GR and IT or six weeks in GR? If it's the former how long will you be in IT? When you say the mainland, are you referring to GR or both GR and IT?

Posted by
79 posts are on to my evil plan. I will find some way to spend a week in Italy since it is where I really want to go. The rest of the time would be spent in Greece and the islands. Now that we are retired, I like to go to places long enough to get an actual feel for them. Our initial trip to Italy was 8 weeks...which included 2 weeks transatlantic, and it just wasn't enough time in country. I absolutely love walking around and discovering wonderful things.

Posted by
3604 posts

Though I always love the idea of more time in one place, the week in Italy might be helpful, because you can check for flights directly to an island, rather than having to transit through Athens twice. I've been to Italy seven times and Greece once (planned to return immediately but was nixed by covid), so I get the attraction of Italy. But don't worry--you are going to love Greece. We visited in May and had sites nearly to ourselves, the weather was gorgeous, food of excellent quality, and people warm and lovely. It was so much more lush and green than I expected too.
My dream way to fill six weeks would be at least one week on Crete and at least two weeks on the mainland. I find the islands fairly overwhelming and have traveled a lot in Croatia where the islands are so easy, so I just have not had a chance to tackle Greek islands yet. I would start by looking at sample itineraries and reading to see what draws you the most. What kind of stuff are you interested in, and what kind of things do you both like to do on vacation?
For sheer number of historic sites, nothing beats the Peloponnese--it has all that plus all of the natural beauty you could desire. I only had 10 days and wanted to visit small towns, so there was no question we would be renting a car. You always hear horror stories about roads and drivers in other countries, but the highways are modern and excellent (better than ours), and the rural roads are quiet so no worries there either. You absolutely can do the Peloponnese by public transit, but it will take much more planning. Obviously you'll be flying and using ferries otherwise, so no concerns about transport on the islands, though I would want to drive across Crete as well. My main piece of advice is to not discount the mainland in favor of crowded islands, but then there are tons of islands so you have plenty of options.
There is a show on the Smithsonian channel called "aerial Greece"--great source of inspiration!

Posted by
2482 posts

Are you looking for advice on what to do in IT for one week and what to do in GR for five weeks? If yes, where have you been in IT?

Posted by
169 posts

My wife and I, both seniors, travel around Greece almost every summer for about a month. The islands are easy to visit without needing a car. Ferry service between islands is excellent, inexpensive and routine. Reservations are not necessary. Just buy tickets a day ahead of time from whatever island you are on for the next island. The port city usually makes a fine base and there are regular buses to other towns and popular beaches. We like to stay 3-7 days on an island and since there are dozens of islands you can easily fill 6 weeks. Every island is unique.

I check both Airbnb and regular booking sites. Greece has many small family run accommodations where the rooms have fridge and small stove and flowering outdoor common areas so they are often nicer than private apartments and you are treated like family.

On a first visit to Greece skip the mainland where it is hard to get around without a car. Of course you will spend a few days in Athens to visit the Acropolis and museums. Just take a taxi from the airport. Stay in an Airbnb within walking distance from the Acropolis or one of Rick Steve’s recommended hotels that have a rooftop patio with views of the Acropolis. After Athens take a taxi or the subway to Piraeus where all the ferries depart. Enjoy.

Posted by
1064 posts

If you are just doing islands then you want to find an island group like the Cyclades, Northern Aegean, Dodocanese, etc., which will more than likely have ferry runs to other island in the same island group.

Lots of islands to choose from depending on your interests. You can get by with public transportation on many islands (but not all) and some times the schedules can be erratic or not work with your timing.

The mainland, especially the Peloponnese could take up all your time since it's filled with history, ancient and continuing up to modern times. It's where Greece began it's war of independence from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). It would fill your entire stay in Greece. While you can do the Peloponnese by bus it will take a lot of planning and flexibility as schedule tend to be geared more to school and/or work hours. Some parts of the Peloponnese have better bus routes than other. A car would be my recommendation for the Peloponnese.

Athens deserves a minimum of two days with 3 better. There's more to Athens than just the tourist sites.

I like to book directly with an accommodation where you may get a better price, service and it's nice to get to "know" who you are dealing with.

I think a bit more research on your part to narrow down what you want to see and where you want to go.

Here's a website I use a lot for reference.

Lots of other websites so look around and don't overlook guidebooks like Lonely Planet or the Blue Guides to Greece

Posted by
6513 posts

We’ve done 2 trips in the past 3 years. While we didn’t have a car in Athens or on Hydra island (ferry to get to and from there), we had a rental car the remainder of the time. First trip was touring through the Peloponnese, plus Galaxidi, Delphi, and Athens on the mainland. Second trip was all on the big island of Crete, covering almost all of the island by car. Although rented houses or apartments are how we’ve stayed in most recent trips in France and Italy, for Greece we used hotels and B&B’s. We stayed 4 nights or less in each place, often just a couple, so we were on the move more than a longer Airbnb stay would make doable.

Greek drivers seemed to take the center dividing stripes of roads as a suggestion, not a rule. Many times, especially coming around corners, the car coming towards us was in our lane. They’d drift over to their side of the road - no head-on collisions were ever encountered - but it was a bit unnerving each time. Still, a rental car got us to where we wanted to see. Is that a possibility for your time in Greece?

Posted by
3468 posts

I share your love for Italy . . . I think we’ve been there at least 16 times . . . but I suggest you limit your upcoming 🤞trip to Greece. Even with 6 weeks, there’s plenty you won’t get to. Here’s some of what we especially liked: Crete, Rhodes, Napflio. Being history buffs, we spent time in Athens on all three of our trips. The National Archaeological Museum! OMG!, not to mention the Parthenon Museum and a slew of others.
Imo, Cadogan guides are the best. There are two for Greece, one for Athens and the Peloponnesus, the other for the Islands. Cadogans give the most detailed information about places that just aren’t covered by others. The only drawback is that you can rarely find them in bookstores. I have had to resort to Amazon the last few times that I wanted one. 😡
I’ll just throw in here that the Greek people are outstandingly friendly, kind, generous, and hospitable. Every place we stayed was sparkling clean, and we don’t at all go for the high end, mostly middle range. You’re going to love it.

Posted by
2482 posts

Toni, my suggestion on the mainland is Athens and Nafplio which you can take a direct bus to get to from Athens.
If you have a lot of time in GR, consider flying to Mykonos. From there take a ferry to Naxos. From Naxos take a ferry to Santorini.
From Santorini take a ferry to Heraklion on the island Crete. I would focus on Heraklion and Chania on Crete. You can then take a non-stop flight from Heraklion to Rhodes and include a day trip to Symi from Rhodes.

Posted by
9 posts

Stay away from Athens. Maybe just a couple of nights or less if possible. Then explore both the islands and the mainland.
The Peloponnese region is a must-see.
If you don't want to drive you could look for private tour agencies. They can be very good and you don't miss anything as the smaller agencies are very flexible.
Around the Peloponnese, there are islands like Hydra (amazing), Spetses, Poros, Zakynthos, Kythira, Elafonisos. IF ... you can avoid Mykonos and Santorini it will be best, but difficult with all the word-of-mouth about these places. Look for the small Cycladic islands.
Small family-owned Airbnb's or not, are great and you get the best treatment.

Posted by
570 posts

We did not have to rent a car on Santorini or Naxos. However I can't imagine Crete and the Peloponnese without one. There is a lot of geography to cover on both of those places. We wanted to freedom of a rental car to visit the places that were appealing to us.