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Three+ weeks: checking our itinerary

Husband and I are planning our September 2019 trip (we use miles to fly free, so buying our tickets very early is our strategy). We don't have exact dates, but generally leaving Seattle on the 31st, arriving on the 1st is our plan.

After reading a number of discussions here, we're interested in flying right to Crete at the outset and then kind of working our way back to Athens and the Mainland.

We are older and not in the best of shape. We like walking around cities and musuems as well as swimming. I snorkel. We've driven in Ireland and Italy and are undaunted by what we read about driving in Greece. :-) We've learned to plan on one major site each day, but will happily fill in quick stops along a journey. Our interests are centered around looking at/ visiting ancient/prehistoric art and sites (I call them 'pagan'). We marvel at the connections us moderns can make to people from 1000s of years ago through their cities and art. We tend to skip Medieval stuff and are uncertain how we'll feel about Byzantine. Our next passion is for exellent food, and that looks like an absolute no-brainer in Greece.

While we don't have a budget and are able to splurge, we generally don't spend a lot on lodging (since we know we'll mostly be sleeping in the room rather than hanging out there). We will always pay a bit more for a private bath and quiet room. We're good with taking local transportation, or taxis, and will rent a car on Crete and to drive on the mainland.

Right now, our 3+ week trip looks like this:
(travel day -- SEA to Heraklion, Crete)
Day 1 Crete (for discussion, think of this as Sunday, Sept 1st)
2 Crete
3 Crete
4 Crete
5 Crete
6 Crete
7 Crete
8 Crete to Santorini (via ferry)
9 Santorini
10 Santorini to Naxos or Paros (via ferry)
11 Naxos/ Paros
12 Naxos/ Paros
13 to Sifnos (via ferry)
14 Sifnos
15 Sifnos to Athens (via ferry)
16 Athens
17 Athens
18 day trip to Delphi, Hosios Loukas on the way (sleep in Delphi)
19 sightsee Delphi, drive to Mycenae, Diakopto along the way (sleep in Mycenae)
20 sightsee Mycenae & environs (Nemea and Epidavros)
(sleep in Mycenae)
21 Sounion seeing Ancient Corinth & Eleusis along the way (sleep in Sounion)
22 return car & fly home

A few notes and questions:
We really wanted to get to Rhodes, but put it on the 'next trip' planner.
A friend recommended Paros. Any thoughts on that island vs. Naxos?
Sifnos is there because I read that it's 'the' gourmet island. Too much time there?
We're staying in/near Mycenae and Delphi because that seems convenient for our sightseeing plans -- would another location be better? (I see a number of people recommending Nafplion, but that would add to our driving time. Is it worth it?)
We really wanted to see Ancient Messene, Mystras, Polilimnio (waterfalls), and the Diros caves at Pyrgos Dirou. Are they worth adding a day (2?), or maybe shortening our Crete timeframe to be able to stay longer in this region?
We're staying overnight in Sounion so we can see the sun set . . . is it truly so spectacular?
Olympus didn't make the cut (next trip), nor did Meteora. Given our penchant for ancient things, should we make more time for them?
(We do have room, if we plan carefully) to be able to extend our trip a day or two more.)

thanks in advance.

Posted by
7503 posts

Yes, Napflion is very much worth it. And since the most beautiful towns/ cities in Greece are Napflion and Chania, Crete, also spend most of your time on Crete in Chania.
You said you don’t enjoy visiting Byzantine sites so I am glad you have included Byzantine Mystras, a must see in my opinion.
We did include Olympia. We drove Napflion to Sparta where we stayed overnight to visit Mystras. The next day we drove to Olympia which was a highlight for us, a goosebumps kind of experience. We arrived as the tour buses were leaving, a wonderful day. Then drove on to Delphi after overnighting in Olympia.

Posted by
396 posts

If you like to see one major sight per day, and you love ancient things, you may want to budget three full days in Athens. Some of the very best stuff from all over the country is in Athens museums, and it also has many spectacular partially intact ancient structures. The Acropolis Museum/Acropolis and National Archeological museum could therefore take up two days, the ancient agora/temple of Hephaestos/ Stoa of Attalos and the museum of Cycladic Art (very ancient stuff) a busy third day.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you Suki -- I'll prioritize Chania and put Napflion back into the mix. Your O/N at Mystras is intriguing and now you've got me pondering Olympia again.

And thank you Lia -- three days in Athens can be managed all of the places you mentioned are on our list.

Posted by
1885 posts

Everyone has their favorites, but I would recommend Naxos rather than Paros (and I’ve visited both). And I would recommend staying there 4 or 5 nights. I would skip Sifnos — it’s quite a trek from Naxos and I don’t recall the food there being noticeably different than other islands. In fact we had wonderful food on Naxos.

From Naxos you could daytrip to Mykonos in order to see Delos, which sounds like it would fit your interests.

On Naxos, stay on St. George beach, visit the Old Market & the archeological museum, rent a car for a day to explore the island and see the Kouros — huge marble statues. Plenty to do & see!

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks Charlene! You said "From Naxos you could daytrip to Mykonos in order to see Delos, which sounds like it would fit your interests." -- that's a real interesting idea; Delos is a wish of ours that we'd put to the "next trip"

Posted by
104 posts

Sure, this is very good. But,

I would change your last seven days, though, for a few reasons.

First, no need to sleep in Mycenae. It's just a tiny little village that happens to be out in the countryside near the archaeological site. Stay in Nafplio. This gives you good access to Epidarus, as well. Or, if you like the idea of a charming little seaport village stay at Palaia Epidarus and visiting Mycenae and Epidarus during the day. Or, two nights and do one each day.

I would do this: Ferry to Pireas. Rent a car there. Drive to Cape Sounion. Hope for proper sunset conditions.
Next day, drive to Hosios Loukas (3 hours), enjoy the site. Drive to Delphi (30 mins). Have some lunch and try to visit both the archaeological site and museum, night Delphi (or nearby Arachova or seaside Galaxidi).

Why Diakopto? Do you want to go on the train ride? Diakopto is nothing much. I would suggest that you stay up in the nice mountain village on the other end of the train line, Kalavryta. Stay there and do the train "down-and-up" instead of the other way around. Make a day of your drive from Delphi to Kalavryta by stopping in Nafpaktos, touring the castle and cute harbor area. Night Kalavryta.

After train, drive to Myceane, visit the site, settle for night in Nafplio. Next day visit Epidarus and return to Nafplio for a full day. I recommend a taxi to the Palamidi Fortress and then a walk down the stairs back into town. Night Nafplio.

Then, drive to return rental car in Piraeus, drop your bags at your Athens hotel, and spend the next two days and two nights in Athens. Then, you're as close as possible to the airport for your return.

Posted by
1645 posts

I agree to stay in Nafplion rather than near Mycenae. We stayed in Nafplion for 4 nights and saw Epidaurus, Mycenae, Nemea, and a winery as well. Nafplion is also an interesting town in its own right.


Posted by
964 posts

I am late on this thread however I do have some images of Nafplio and the surrounding area including Ancient Corinth and Ancient Nemia. While it is not Olympia Nemia had sister games and the statium is still there along with a partially restored temple. Substituting Nemia saves you a 10 hour round trip drive to Olympia.
Nafplio and Peloponnese

And here is the day trip from Naxos to Delos and Mykonos.
Day trip Delos and Mykonos

Posted by
3259 posts

We toured Greece last September for a month and would totally recommend the charming town of Nafplio as your base to visit the sights that Beth mentioned. Napfplio was one of the highlights our tour.

We were on Santorini four nights. 3 nights would have been just right. We spent a week on Naxos. It was our favorite island. We took local transportation or walked. We didn't have time to visit Paros. Next time!

Posted by
18 posts

ok -- I'm definitely 'sold' on Nafplion and Naxos. I'll come back with a revised itinerary and next set of questions. Thanks all