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Two Weeks in Greece

My husband and I are planning a trip to Greece in the second half of September. We are both interested in history and would also like to do some hiking. My husband is also very into photography and I enjoy trying out restaurants and visiting wineries when we travel. We know we want to spend a few days in Athens and see Meteora and Nafplio.

My questions:

  1. How many days does it make sense to spend in Athens? I had originally thought 4 or 5 but I'm not sure that there is enough to do there to sustain that many days.

  2. I was thinking we might use Nafplio as a base for a couple of days and then go on day trips to the vineyards in Nemea and/or Mycenae. Does that make sense?

  3. Is Delphi a day trip or should we plan to spend more time there?

  4. Will we be missing out if we stick to the mainland? We know we're planning to skip Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos. I am a little wary of the travel time to the islands.

  5. How much is practical to do in two weeks? I don't want to rush from place to place but it's hard for me to tell how much time is reasonable to budget.

Thanks! I know that is a lot of questions.

Posted by
5267 posts

Two weeks is plenty of time to see and do a lot. Four full days in Athens should let you see the major sights (Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, Agora, National Archeological Museum, Syntagma Square, others that might interest you) without feeling rushed. Nafplio is a good base for the Argolid area including Mycenae, Epidavrus, Nemea, and Corinth. I'd give that region at least three full days. Delphi could be a day trip but you should have enough time to spend the night there, beating the midday crowds. I suggest the museum first, then overnight, then the ruins the next morning. My island experience is limited to Hydra and Crete, but from what I've read on this forum Mykonos is quite skippable. You might consider a day trip to Aegina or Hydra (adding a day to Athens). I have no experience with hiking in Greece but others will doubtless have ideas.

Look at the "Explore Europe" section of this website for our host's ideas on how best to use your time. Another good resource is Matt Barrett's website.

Posted by
1804 posts

What you want to visit in Athens is the Acropolis and museum one day and possibly the Ancient Agora and National Archaeological Museum the next day. I would also buy Rick Steves’ Greece guidebook and take his two self-guided walking tours so you don’t miss anything. You may want to take each walking tour on separate days.
I would also consider taking a ferry to Hydra for the day. If you spend two days visiting museums and another two days taking self-guided walking tours plus a day trip to Hydra, you’re looking at five nights.
I don’t recommend Delphi as a day trip from Athens because it takes 2h 30m to get there making it a very long day. I do like your idea of sleeping in Nafplio though.

Posted by
5648 posts
  1. Four days might not be quite enough if you want a thorough Athens time, so a fifth day will give you that. Are you flying round-trip in and out of Athens? You might do what we did in 2018, split your time with a couple days there at the beginning, and 2-3 days at the end. Walking the Agora, and its museum, took the better part of a day. Two tips: Have dinner at least one night at Mani Mani. And be extra alert for pickpockets and well-dressed thieves in the Athens Metro.

    1. Napflio was a great base that same trip. We actually visited Nemea on the way there, and Mycenae, as well as Epidaurus, while staying in Napflio. We went to ancient sites, not vineyards, but still a great base. It’s a great town, too, and you could hike the 999 stair steps up to the castle, for the exercise and the views.
    2. Same trip, where we drove more of the Peloponnese peninsula, clockwise, after Napflio, we finished with Delphi on the mainland, before our final nights in Athens. It’s close enough that it could be a day trip, but the area was worth staying two nights and a full day, plus. We actually spent our first night in Delphi town, but it was noisy and hard to get a good night’s sleep, so we moved west down the coast, and had a much better stay in Galaxidi. We want to go back to Galaxidi on another trip.
    3. Going one place is always a trade-off with not going elsewhere. But then you’ll miss more mainland time if you’re island hopping. Great trip, either way. That 2018 trip, we were taking the ferry from Athens to Hydra, before heading back to the Peloponnese and Nemea, Napflio, etc. The seas were so rough that our ferry got cancelled, as well as the one scheduled after that. We took a taxi to another port with calmer waters, for a boat to Hydra. Like Dick, our two Greek islands in the last 25 years are Hydra and Crete. Crete was 2 weeks all on its own. You could easily fit in 3 days on Hydra, with both Athens and Napflio relatively close.
    4. That Athens/Hydra/Peloponnese (including Monemvasia and Olympia)/Delphi/Galaxidi/back to Athens trip all got fit in 2 weeks, but we did a lot of driving, and there were several stays of 2 nights or less. If you want a slower pace, or more time in each place, seeing the whole Peloponnese, or too many islands, would be tough.

By the way, Crete offered fantastic hiking opportunities. The Lasithi Plateau, in the middle of the huge island, is a plain ringed by mountains, with old villages, and numerous trails climbing up into the hills. In addition, you can hike down countless gorges - we did the Gorge of the Dead by Kato Zakros in southeastern Crete, and the long, famous Samaria Gorge in the southwest. Oh, the even-older-than Parthenon sites of the Minoans throughout Crete made for historic stops, and there’s more recent history, too.

Posted by
336 posts

By no means an expert, having only been once. We were in Athens for a week (split 4 and 3 around a trip to Nafplio) and at no time did I feel we had nothing to do.

If you want to say you've visited an island, and you are limited for time, Galatas is about 30 miles or so from Epidavrus. From there you could almost hit a golf ball across to Poros (there is a car ferry, plus multiple small boats - I think the ferry fare was €1 each way). We spent a couple of hours wandering around and had an excellent meal on the Island.

Posted by
8007 posts

While staying in Napflion , we drove a short distance to a water taxi across to the pretty and green island of Spetses, a nice day trip.

Posted by
1022 posts

Since you indicated your husband was interested in Crete I will chime in with some info of what Crete is like.
If you decide to do Crete then I would suggest you fly to Crete immediately after landing in Athens. Getting over jet lag on an island is way better than doing it in Athens.
Crete will take up a full week and you will not have sufficient time to really do much more than a superficial visit.
You can easily make a connection if you have an hour and a half or two hours before the connecting flight. We always make a connection in Athens and fly to Chania. It is a Venetian era city with an amazing old town and harbour within the city walls. We spend the first couple of days getting over jet lag and just wandering the maze of back alleys.
Chania https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157632117917828

You can rent a car and start exploring the west part of Crete. Chania makes a great base for visits to Agia Triada Monastery, The Roman Ruins at Ancient Aptera, perhaps you would be interested in the boat excursion that departs Kissamos just 45 minutes for Chania. This includes a stop at Gramvossa where there is a 14th century pirate fortress and a nice beach then continues to Balos where there is an outstanding beach experience in a huge sand lagoon surrounded by mountains. You might also consider the beaches and ancient site at Falasarna and the pink tinged sand beach at Elafonissi. If you want more urban old town experience and a Venetian Fortress you could go to Rethymnon for a day trip.
Ancient Aptera near Chania and Meladoni Cave in Rethymnon area.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157672118379637

Gramovossa,Balos and Elafonissi https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157698932695812

Agia Triada https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157674450353888

Fly back to Athens and rent a car for 3 or 4 days and visit the Nafplion area which can include a day in Delphi.

Delphi and Meteora https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157698930270992

Nafplio https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157632094108982

Save Athens to the end of the trip. You can hit most of the main sites also museums in three days. Be in Athens your last night before your flight home.
Athens https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157632121475515

As you can see Crete is a treasure trove of places to photograph. You will love it.

Posted by
975 posts

I've been to Athens numerous times and still spend a minimum of 2 days with 3 better.

There's more to Athens than just the tourist sites/sights.

If you think 4 or 5 days is too much because there is not enough to do then you should be doing a lot more research on the city.

If you haven't looked at this website for Athens check it out:

https://www.athensguide.com/

Nafplio is a definite must as it's a wonderful base to explore the Argolis Peninsula and surrounding area. It's filled with archeological and historic sites and you can even do a day cruise to Hydra/Spetses from the nearby town of Tolo.

Santorini and Mykonos are two of the most heavily touristed and expensive of the Greek Islands. It's not a "must see" for me but many others love it.

Two weeks will give you more than enough time for several days in Athens with several more in Nafplio.

If you want to go the islands then it means back tracking from Nafplio back to Piraeus and then ferry to what ever islands you
choose.

You could spend your entire time on the mainland and not feel like you "missed out" on not going to the islands.

The mainland will give you a different Greece but still very Greek. The Peloponnese Peninsula is a wonder with history going back thousands of years right up to the present.

It's always tough to decide what to do.

If you decide on a mainland experience you can always do a island trip to Aegina from Piraeus as it's the closest of the Greek Islands and has everything one wants in a Greek Island.

Bear in mind, every time you move from Point A to Point B eats up time and time is valuable on holiday.

Posted by
2764 posts

Don't worry at all about skipping the islands. I definitely want to visit many of them one day, but for my first Greece trip, I spent it all on the mainland in the Peloponnese, and it was absolute perfection, with all of the natural beauty and historical sites, few of the crowds (in May 2018).
I intentionally gave Athens short shrift because I know I'll pass through again. One day/night was sufficient to see the Acropolis and walk around. If you want a more exhaustive visit, then I don't think you would have any trouble whatsoever filling 4-5 days. However, you can also spend that amount of time in Nafplio and not see everything in its vicinity, so tough decisions will have to be made. Nemea would be an easy day trip (I'd hire a driver even if you rent a car, because wine). We visited Mycenae and Epidaurus, and there are plenty of other day trips you could do depending on how long you like to be out on the road each day.
For Delphi, I would stop over en route to Meteora or stay over.
We hiked in the Kardamyli area and the Dmitsana/Stemnitsana area, both highly recommended.
We had planned to return in 2019 and visit Meteora and explore the north (hiking in Pelion), alas cancelled--I think we might keep that plan when we travel again.
When I do make it to an island, I will likely spend it all on Crete. good luck!

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all so much for your suggestions and advice! We have almost finalized our plans now. We have a total of four days in Athens, six days in Crete (my husband can't resist the Samaria Gorge), and three days in Nafplio.

That leaves us with two days. I think we should spend both of those days in Meteora and my husband wants to try to squeeze in both Meteora and Delphi. So that leg of the trip is still up in the air a bit.

I think it's going to be a great trip! Of course there is so much that we aren't going to be able to see, but hopefully we will be back someday.

Posted by
2901 posts

The trip from Delphi to Meteora can take more than half a day ... and the t rip from meteora back to Athens area ditto. Sorta like saying we're going to Zion National Park, why don't we squeeze in the Grand Canyon too. The answer is of course, a Flying Carpet -- but those haven't been seen in the area for several thousand years.

Posted by
60 posts

If you can do a night in Meteora and a night in Delphi, I would. They are both amazing but in different ways. You can probably do Delphi in a day or en route to or from Meteora, but...its charm is really when the buses go home and you’ve got that gorgeous Mountain view all to yourself and you wake up and hear the little tinkling of goat bells in the distance—-like magic. If it were me I would take a day off of Athens to add a night in one of those spots. Ditto to what everyone has said about western Crete...that’s the place in Greece I keep going to again and again and again!

Posted by
1022 posts

I have to go with Kim. See my pictures for the highlights of Delphi and Meteora both absolutely first class sites.

Posted by
2764 posts

I think it might be a bit much. If you decide on scaling back, there is a beautiful hike in Dmitsana/Stemnitsana area that features two monasteries--one is really evocative (though not Meteora, it's photogenic for sure). That area is an easy drive back to ATH. So, you could do this order: Crete, Nafplio (via Athens), Dmitsana/Stemnitsana, Athens. Trying to fit in Meteora would be a lot of driving with only two days.
Or, just visit Delphi and save the north for a future trip. You could maybe stopover in Nemea if you don't feel like you need two nights near Delphi (there was a great article in the NYT a couple years ago about this area). Regardless, I would look at all of the travel logistics carefully before deciding. You can't really go wrong, but you are going to miss things whatever you decide so I'd say maximize your time with what you do choose.

Posted by
787 posts

If you write yourself a day-by-day itinerary, you will see what in Athens you want to see and which museums you will acquiesce to skipping. 3 to 5 whole days is enough. There is enough to do in 5 whole days, or you can decide you are not interested in certain museums and cut back to 4 or 3 days. I have a talent for seeing uncrowded less popular sites, for example, Athens has a museum of old coins that occupied me for at least 2 hours - the Numismatic Museum.

Yeah, Nafplio is a good base for seeing Nemia, Mycenae, Epidavros, and so on.

I spent a night in a hotel in the modern town of Delphi. Spend a night there - as a day trip from Athens would be too much travel and rushing for one day.

The mainland has plenty to do. You can save islands for another trip. My Greek island experience is limited 3 days and 2 nights on Crete. I would have been as happy if i had skipped Crete and seen Olympia, site of ancient Olympics in Western Greece, on that trip. Crete could occupy you for 3 days to a week or more. Every place you go always means you are missing where you did not go. Focus on the mainland and not on rushing around and trying to see islands and/or a little of every place that could be of interest to you.

Writing a day-by-day itinerary will show how much is practical to do in 2 weeks. Up to 4 or 5 locations (4 or 5 different hotels) and up to one or 2 days of day trips might work.