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Updated Itinerary

Hello,

I previously posted some ideas about which places we think we'd like to see in Greece. We've done some more research and have moved on the the next step of our planning. We're now ready to start finalizing our hotels, and before doing so, were wondering if we could run our itinerary past you guys to see if there are any red flags.

We are a couple in our early 30s with only a little bit of travel experience (Paris, all around Italy). We most enjoy relaxing on the beach, ancient/Biblical history, food/authentic culture, and - for lack of a better way to put it - seeing famous things in real life (the things you always see in pictures, books, movies, etc...love having those "I can't believe I'm seeing this in real life!" moments). We travel on a budget. Given our finances/life circumstances, we're not counting on being able to return to Greece for certain in the future. So far, we've committed to our plane tickets in/out of Athens, a one-way flight to Santorini, and a hotel in Athens (though for 3 nights only...may add 4th night so we can come in from Nafplio the night before, on the 6th).

August 27: Arrive in Athens, fly to Santorini, recover from jetlag
August 28: Santorini (Meander around Oia, perhaps hit Kamari beach)
August 29: Santorini (Akrotiri excavations? Volcano tour? Sunset boat ride? Just more meandering?)
August 30: AM boat to Naxos, then strolling and beach
August 31: Naxos (day trip to Mykonos?)
Sept 1: Naxos (strolling and beach)
Sept 2: Long travel day (ferry to Athens, bus to Kifissou station, bus to Nafplio)
Sept 3: Nafplio (rent car, see Corinth and Mycenae)
Sept 4: Nafplio (drive to Olympia as day trip? Then return rental car. Alternative = stay in Olympia overnight then drive back to Nafplio first thing in the morning on the 5th, also trying to see Epidavros on the 5th before returning rental car)
Sept 5: Nafplio (Epidavros by bus, as it is cheaper than keeping rental car)
Sept 6: Nafplio (just strolling around, then bus to Athens in PM so we can have the whole day on the 7th?)
Sept 7: Athens (Acropolis and surrounding ruins, Acropolis Museum, Rick Steves' walks in tour book)
Sept 8: Day trip to Delphi
Sept 9: Athens (National Archeological Museum, any missed odds and ends)
Sept 10: Fly out of Athens very early in the morning

My main concern about this itinerary is the amount of moving around, as I know that can make for a very tiring trip, though it is always difficult to balance this with wanting to see everything there is to see. The most obviously expendable things would be the day trip to Mykonos (just keep reading about how beautiful it is) and the loooong trip out to Olympia (though this is definitely a biggie in the "I can't believe I'm seeing this in real life" category...would be hard to go all the way to Greece to miss it. Would highly prefer to see Olympia over the closer games sight near Nafplio) We know that it would be more efficient to drive the mainland in a big loop from Athens to Delphi to Olympia to Nafplio to Corinth/Epidavros/Mycenae to Athens. However, not only are we slightly wary of the stories we've heard about driving in Greece, but also we find driving to be very tiring and enjoy being driven around by someone else much more, and we also dislike having to switch hotels a million times, so the bus plan sounds much more appealing to us (though it adds several more hours of transportation to our trip). To my knowledge, we cannot easily use public transportation to make the loop, so that's why we were thinking of just basing ourselves in Athens/Nafplio and making trips out from there.

(continued below)

Posted by
195 posts

Our reasoning for leaving Olympia as a possible day trip is that we could then choose to skip it when the time comes if we are feeling too run down, and would also not have to switch hotels, but we have read on this forum that doing it as a day trip is not advised. The alternative would be to stay one night in Olympia, but the downside would be having to check in and out of more hotels (Nafplio, then Olympia, then Nafplio again) and seeing Epidavros after already having a long drive between Olympia and Nafplio on the 5th. Was hoping there was a long day tour we could join from Nafplio, but I haven't been able to find anything like that.

Another concern is wanting to make sure we're not missing out of anything big, and instead allotting our time to lesser things (e.g. too many days in Nafplio - Rick Steves says 2 nights/1 day is fine). We are sad to miss Crete (but understand that that is a vacation in and of itself) and other Biblical sites (Patmos, Thessoloniki, Phillipi - they seem to be far out of the way). Are we on the right track as far as the highlights we've chosen?

Lastly, a couple random questions:
1) Ok to bring all our luggage on any buses we end up using?
2) Are we making a mistake to keep the hotel we found in Oia on Santorini, given that all the public transport is out of Fira, so we'd likely have to make a connection to get to the port, outlying sights, etc?
3) I am still unclear on getting ferries on the islands. I think I read on this forum not to buy tickets from the States, as they are expensive. But I'd imagine you need advance tickets for Santorini --> Naxos and Naxos --> Athens, as we don't have any wiggle room in our itinerary? What do people typically do?

Thanks so much in advance for your valuable insight.

Posted by
2416 posts

Hi! So many questions -- let's deal with them in order
Sept 2- Looong day indeed! on Blue Sta (9:45 - 3pm)r, get "reserved economy" seats so you can snooze. And from Pireaus no bus to Kifissou station, take TAXI (€12-14?); you'll catch 4:30 bus arrive Nafplio 6:45 tuckered out. I've done that trek; take snacks! when u reach NAfplio bus station Check Epidaurus bus timetable (it's via local bus) to see what's feasible.
Sept 3 - U might consider making this a day of bus to/from Epidaurus, then strolling town instead of the long day of driving to 2 major sights (Corinth & Myceane). thats 2 looong days in a row.

LUGGAGE -- OK to take on KTEL bus (Ath - Nafplio); there are luggage compartments beneath -- NOT on Bus to Epidaurus, its a local bus & no place to stash it when u get off to sightsee.

FERRY TICKETS -- In Santorini buy tickets to Naxos. In Naxos, buy tickets to Pireaus If nervous, buy as soon as u arrive each isle. If you buy from states No the ticket itself is not more expensive, its just the hassle because they want to MAIL it to you and its World FedEx. If you are super-nervous, you can just e-mail the travel agency PACIFIC TRAVEL that has office at ATH airport 24/7/365 ... and order your 2 sets of tickets for pick-up at their counter. You'll pay a small convenience fee but can stop fretting.
HOW MANY DAYS WHERE -- Don't go by Rick Steves on Naxos he has never been there on his TV prog or for his guide ... and last year Trip Advisor named Naxos as one of the Ten Best Islands to visit in the WORLD (it was the only island on the list from Mediterranean/Aegean)..
SANTORINI HOTEL -- If you have found one in Oia that's within your budget, don't frazzle yourself by trying to switch. Use that energy to minimze your transport costs. Example. Anyone arriving by plane will have to pay €25 taxi to Oia--- but if you find another couple also going to Oia, you can pretend you're together & split the fare (u have to get off at same place or this won't work). Also, check with hotel whether they'll provide shuttle transport to the ferry; the bus will be a lengthly hassle.
DAY TRIP to DELPHI -- I don't know if it was for you, but I wrote about doing a D-I-Y trip to Delphi via KTEL bus from Liossion Bus Terminal. Yes the "package tour" trip is easy but has definite downsides; those busses waste nearly an hour stopping at hotels to pick up registrants; they all arrive at once at Ruins, give you VERY limited time there, All the parties are i nthe museum at once, so it's packed -- and then all to many of these tours drag you away from the site to a Taverna lunch (which YOU pay for, and may not want ) and then often stop at a gift shop/rug store (I susspect both of these involve kickbacks), so your time onsite is extremely limited. If you DIY, and catch the 7 AM Ktel bus, you arrive before the tour busses, you can bring a picnic to enjoy up on the heights, you can make up your own mind how long to stay; busses back to Athens at 15:00 & 18:50 (6:50); if u want last bus buy ticket when u get to Delphi don't wait until 6:30 it may be sold out. It's your call.

Posted by
744 posts

As usual great info from Janet.
Just a couple of thoughts. When you rent the car in Nafplio to explore the area you indicated you were gong to Corinth but never specified what you wanted to see there. Presumably Ancient Corinth the Roman Biblical city. That is a good site ( look for the Bema seat location). A visit to the canal will only take a few minutes unless you search for the sinking bridge. If there is a ship in the canal the sinking bridge is something to see.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157645760986005

You said something interesting you wanted to include Olympia in the plan but would be willing to drop it if you were too tired. Being flexible is a big key to seeing Greece so I would suggest while you are in Corinth take an hour and visit the Nemia location. No it isn't Olympia but it hosted the same series of games (PanHellenic) as Olympia. If you decide not to do Olympia then at least you have seen a games site. If you have the energy to go to Olympia your Nemia experience will not affect the wonderful Olympia experience.

While on Naxos I would recommend you find a hotel at St George beach. It is part of Naxos town so you get a beach holiday plus all the activities of town. Its a perfect location to just enjoy relaxation and wandering around. The excursion boats go to Delos Mykonos twice a week. Just stop at any travel agent to get the day that works for you.

Having said that I think you are not planning on one of the best things about Naxos, the mountain villages. You have the option of taking the local KTEL bus to either Chalki or Aparanthos. These are two beautiful villages where you can easily spend two or three hours just wandering around.
The other option would be to take the bus tour of Naxos. This will take you to both of these villages but it will also take you to some of the antiquities as well. Riding a bus in the Naxos mountains is a thrill ride in its own right.

Naxos Mountains and Villages http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632110674306/
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094558042/
Trip around Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
Have a great trip

Posted by
195 posts

Haha, yes Janet, I saved up all my questions rather than posting them as they came up so that I could possibly stumble across the answer myself, and also so as not to annoy with a million posts. Thank you both for taking the time to share your expertise. Am I right in assuming that, since neither of you told me I'm crazy, this looks like a reasonable itinerary??

Just did the calculations, and it looks like if we did all the driving ourselves, we'd have roughly 11 hrs of transportation across 4 travel days (not including the shorter side trips to places like Corinth), but would stay in 4 different hotels and would have the extra stress of trying to find our way around (and I hear the drive from Olympia to Delphi is a little hairy). If we relied on buses as much as possible, we'd be up to 19 hours of transportation across 4 travel days (we'd drive the 8 hrs round trip to Olympia, then the other 11 hrs would be on buses with somebody else driving us), but only 2 hotels. Leaning towards the latter, but if you guys think we are making a mistake, we'd love to benefit from your expertise.

Thanks for the suggestion about moving the Epidavros day, Janet. I hadn't thought of that. Though if it really is important to break the trip to Olympia between two days (overnight in Olympia) rather than leaving it as a flexible day trip option that we can decide on when the time comes, then we'd either have to do Epidavros on the day we drive back from Olympia, or not do it at all. Will have to give it some more thought. Our back-up plan is to go to Nimea as Stanbr suggested, though at this point I'd have a much stronger preference to go to Olympia since the Olympics are such a big part of our culture still today.

Stanbr, to answer your question, I haven't looked into too much detail about Corinth yet, but the reason we are going is because of its Biblical ties, so we plan to see the ruins and a quick stop at the canal. We'd hoped to see more Biblical history, but looks like there's no good way to fit in Phillipi/Thessaloniki/Crete/Patmos. Thanks for the Naxos tips!

DELPHI: Previous Delphi tips weren't for me, Janet, but I did read them and I think we'll probably do the DIY version. Are there places I'm seeing (Corinth, Mycenae, Epidavros, Acropolis, Delphi, Olympia, Nimea) where it would be crucial to join some sort of tour group once I'm on site in order to understand what I am seeing? For example, when we were in Italy, it was really important to be prepared with an audioguide for the Roman Forum and to have a tour guide to shepherd us through the crazy Vatican Museum, but other places like the Pantheon were easier to do without a tour. Any Greek sites that tours are a must?

FERRY: Jan, I noticed in a previous post, you recommended sitting on the deck. Would this be the case for the long haul between Naxos and Athens, or were you meaning that more for shorter routes? The reason I ask is because I'm from the Pacific Northwest, and on our ferries you go out to the deck for just a few minutes before coming back inside because it gets a little chilly and windy after awhile, so my first inclination was that sitting inside would be more comfortable, but we don't want to be misunderstanding if deck seating is prime. Also, I have found pretty good descriptions of the airplane/business class seats, but not the unreserved economy seat - is the only downside that they are unreserved, or are they also a more uncomfortable type of chair? Lastly, Janet mentioned buying tickets to Naxos upon arrival in Santorini, but we'll be going straight from the airport to Oia...is the only place to buy the tickets way down at the port (a place we will not be at until the morning of our departure)? After getting off the ferry at Piraeus and heading to Nafplio, I had heard that there was a bus (420?) that would take us from the port to Kifissou put perhaps we would not be able to take our luggage on it.

Thanks again, I really appreciate you guys!!

Posted by
744 posts

Just a quick clarification i was not suggesting you substitute Nemia for Olympia. i was simply suggesting that you take the opportunity to visit Nemia because you are going to Corinth. If you decide not to do Olympia because of the long distance commute then you will be happy you did Nemia. It gives you options.
The drive from Olympia to Delphi was long but not difficult. The bad part of the National road is from Athens to Patras. Coming from the other direction there was no problem. Take the bridge across at Patras.

Posted by
2416 posts

Again, many things to untangle:
FERRY SEATS -- don't get confused, I advocate spending time on open deck of BLUE STAR ferry, but not the Whole time, The Deck seats... the plastic garden chairs ... are where "plain vanilla" Economy ticket holders sit -- they can ONLY sit there or on seats in indoor cafes, or chairs along the corridors. Others who hold higher-level tickets ALSO can sit on deck whenever they please, wherever they can snag a seat (that's why it's important to hustle on board at head of line). The difference is, when you tire of the view, or want to rest, read, nap -- if you have a "Reserved Economy" seat (which is just another name for "Aircraft Seating), then when you go indoors, you have a numbered seat reserved for you. In a fairly full ferry this is important... because some people are "squatters" but if you show them your numbered ticket, they must move. The "reserved/Aircraft seating" is comfy, upholstered, leanback w. headrest, armrests, footreast --- waaaay more comfortable than actual Airplane seats! (That's why I don't like to use that label). These are on the 2 top decks. The deck just below has the "business Class"... closed off, costs a lot more, waiters come around & t ake your drink orders. But why I don't book Business seats is they are "club chair" style ... you know, roundish, and arms & back are same height -- so you can't lean back & snooze. Not for me.

FERRY TICKETS -- lyou don't have to get them at the pier, no indeed, Both Fira Town AND Oia have numerous Ticket agencies ... where you buy boat tickets tour tickets etc. Just go to an Oia agency & buy "aircraft seating" ... AND request seats in an SIDE compartment ... these are smaller compartments, with the big windows, also quieter. The Central seating area has same kind of leanback seats, but is like a BIG Theatre... over 300 seats, several aisles, bright lights, TV on constantly.

DELPHI -- I dont know how much independent prep you're interested in doing ... if you want a Guide who's based in Delphi & can meet you at the site, here's a great one - http://www.delphi-guide.gr -- highly recommended by my friend "Mariha," a Forum expert (and hospitality industry professional) who herself also lives in Delphi. If you don't want to hire a guide and want materials to read, print & take, you'll have to send me a PM with your e-mail address, and I can send you links & attachments.

PIREAUS to the KTEL KIFFISOU St. STATION -- Yes there supposedly is a local public bus that will get you there,... but several big drawbacks (1) Who knows where the bus stop is, and you may have to trudge for blocks to find it (2) Unlike on the KTEL Bus or the ferries, No driver speaks any English on the Local Bus, to help you ... (3) even if you manage to get off at the right place it is NOT at the KTEL station, it is some blocks away, in a VERY grungy industrial neighborhood (mainly auto junkyards), and (4) it could be MUCH slower than a taxi that would cost €14 at most. I have done this weary trip at least 3 times and would ONLY take taxi. Final note -- KTEL busses to Nafplio waiting space is right by the Depot's exit door and (UNLIKE any other busses) has a ticket counter right by the bus. So... if you are let out into the station, just Ask Anyone in a uniform, loudly, NAFPLIO??? and theyll point you there. ... a BIG time-saver if you're trying to make a bus. Nafplio busses go hourly on the half-hour --- probably the 4:30 is the earliest you can get. HOWEVER, If (1) the ferry gets in before 3, and you're aleady waiting with your bags when the Ramp slams down, and (2) you can run run run and get a taxi in a minute and (3) tell driver you'll pay extra if he can get you to the station by 3:20 (show your watch or draw a watch)... then MAYBE you can get the 3:30 bus.

Posted by
195 posts

Great, thank you both!

Janet, thanks for shedding more light on the Blue Star set-up. I tried to piece together pieces of info I could find, but I think you've filled in the gaps nicely so that I now have a good picture of what to expect. I appreciate all of your other tips as well!

Stanbr, thanks for clarifying. I think the substitution plan was more the one in my head, as I'm not sure we'd have time to do Nimea on the Corinth day (doing Mycenae that day too) and therefore I was thinking we'd only have time to see Nimea if we end up skipping out on Olympia, but thanks for making sure I didn't think you were saying to do Nimea in place of Olympia. Maybe Corinth and Mycenae will take less time than I'm anticipating and we will have time to go to Nimea that day after all...will definitely keep that in mind.

Looks like the internet shows us driving from Olympia to Delphi through Patras in 3 hrs 17 min...to clarify, are you saying that going Athens --> Nafplio --> Olympia (the long way from Nafplio, not through windy mountains) --> Delphi --> Athens would not put us on that bad stretch of road?

Thanks again!

Posted by
744 posts

We never took the national road from Nafplio to Patras due to negative reviews. I actually don't remember how we got to Olympia other that we went west to Tripoli and took a toll road south to Kalamata and then headed along the coast to Methoni/Koroni then north to Olympia. The drive along the National road heading east to Patros was no problem. Although i do remember it being more than 3.5 hours. As i recall it was more like a 5 hour drive. Greece takes a lot more time to drive than one would expect based strictly on North American distances.

Posted by
2416 posts

When thinking about Olympia, I believe you need to do some research on the state of the National Road between Corinth & Patras -- last I heard, it was all dug up for repairs/improvement .. it was suppposed to be finished by last Autumn or early Spring, but due to the continuing fiscal crisis, it was delayed.... it could be that it's down to one lane, filled with traffic cones and a snails-pace nightmare. I don't know how to get an update on this. But if you find out... the only way to avoid it would be to go to TRipoli, and then thru the mountains to Pyrgos.

No matter which route is most possible, Olympia is NOT repeat NOT a day trip. It's at least 5.5 hours from Athens... I would guess 4.5 hours from Corinth.

Posted by
744 posts

I just looked at my notes. We left Nafplio and went to Sparti and took the new toll road south to Kalamata then headed to Methoni. Its a long day.

Posted by
195 posts

Great, thank you both once again.

Stanbr, am I understanding you correctly that when you say "coming from the other direction there was no problem", you mean that if we reverse our loop and go Athens --> Delphi --> Olympia --> Nafplio --> Athens, then we'd avoid that bad stretch of road? That's good to know that Delphi --> Olympia takes signficantly longer than the quoted 3 hrs 17 min...it sounds like that is the case for the time quoted for Nafplio --> Olympia (2.5 hrs) too (I read it is more like 4 hours). If all of the drives take much longer than the internet quotes, then perhaps we are not saving all that much time by driving ourselves rather than just taking the bus (sounds like it is not the 8 hour disparity that I had calculated since my calculations were based on the internet-generated drive times).

Janet, when you say that Olympia is "NOT repeat NOT" a day trip, does this hold true from Nafplio as well, or were you thinking from Olympia/Corinth? We've done day trips before that are 3 hrs each way so we were thinking that perhaps 4 hours each way would be hard but not impossible. The perks to leaving it as a day trip would be that we can stay uncommitted and just decide the day before whether we actually feel like going or whether we are too burnt out, and we wouldn't have to deal with checking in/out of a hotel. But if it is a huge mistake to take this approach, then we may have to rethink our plan and do an overnight in Olympia on Sept 4th-5th. We were hoping we could find a tour bus to drive us there from Nafplio but that has been unfruitful. Will research the condition of the road as suggested.

Thank you!!

Posted by
195 posts

I suppose another option would be to arrive with no hotel reservation on Sept 4th...then we can make a reservation on the spot in Olympia if we want to stay, or head back to Nafplio to find a place if we decide to drive back. However, I'm not sure how difficult this is to do...we've never traveled that way before.

Posted by
2416 posts

Re the "circle" alternative yes I do think Stanbr meant that counterclockwise would avoid that bad stretch of road. i.e, Dellphi, then over the Rio bridge to Patras, then SW to Pyrgos/Olympia, then make your way eastward to Nafplio -- here is the map I recommend to for planning. http://euro-map.com/karty-grecii/peloponnes/podrobnaya-turisticheskaya-karta-peloponnesa.jpg For a less mountainous road toward Nafplio, you can go down to Kalo Nero (a good place also to spend night), then E on E56 thru Tripoli.

When you say "internet generated" drive times, what source do you mean? Michelin?? I find that While the Michelin Routing is good, it seems to deal with people who are strictly trying to get there (i.e. busses, truck drivers, locals), not newcomer tourists, who like to look around a bit. Also, I get the feeling you keep asking the same questions, hoping to get a different answer. All I know is this: I took a bus from Athens to Olympia, going clockwise on that coast road and it took from about 11am - 4:30pm ... yes there was a rest stop for 15 minutes... BUT this was also before ANY road construction began. I also took a bus from Athens to the lower West Coast (Pylos), and it took over 5 hours... and those busses really travel FAST on the main highways. Even from Nafplio, it would be nearly 5 hours, because you'd have slow smaller roads part way. So no, it is Still not a day trip no matter if you keep asking -- you can't pour a quart into a pint bottle.

About Olympia, you don't have to book a hotel ahead in September ... Unless you pick a hotel that is mainly booked by bus groups, there will be plenty of room, as in the cute little place I stayed hotel Hercules.

We've tried to give you our experiences, but in the end, you will do what you want.

Posted by
195 posts

Janet,

My apologies if you feel like I'm asking the same question trying to get a different answer. That is not my intent. The reason I double checked to clarify what you meant after you said " Olympia is NOT repeat NOT a day trip" was because you referenced the travel times from Athens and Corinth, neither of which are the cities we would be considering a day trip from, which led me to believe that perhaps there was a possibility that there was some confusion about my proposed route from Nafplio to Olympia. I was not asking a clarifying question in hopes that you'd change your mind and tell me what I wanted to hear (that Nafplio to Olympia is doable as a day trip) but rather to make sure I was understanding what you were saying correctly. According to the Google route planners, it looks very doable as a day trip (which would be more convenient), so I wanted to be sure about what you were saying before making a change to my itinerary. I think we are clear now that you are saying Nafplio to Olympia as a day trip is a no go.

Thanks for clarifying about the counterclockwise route and sharing the map - we will take that into consideration when finalizing our plan.