I am looking at going to just Athens and Istanbul with a stop in Santorini. Is it realistic to do this in 12 days including travel time? or too rushed...going in late April.
It's realistic if you fly. Otherwise you'll spend a minimum of 2-3 days in transit just from Santorini to Istanbul depending on the ferry route you take.
I would allow more time in Istanbul and Santorini then Athens,, its not an attractive city to me,, although of course it is steeped in history and has some amazing sites.. I would do 2 full days there( don't count day of arrival), 3-4 days in Santorini, and then 3-4 days in Istanbul. Flying. Not ferries.
I agree with Pat's itinerary - Athens was not one of my favorite cities, either, but I absolutely loved Istanbul. I would allow a couple of days to see the major sites of Athens, then head for Santorini and Istanbul. The weather should be very nice, especially in Santorini. I was in Istanbul the first week of May and the weather was perfect.
12 days is enough. you can spend 1-2 days in athens, and split evenly between istanbul and santorini, assuming you'll fly. by bus/ferry will take some extra time, but still you can see everything, just a little rush.
"Otherwise you'll spend a minimum of 2-3 days in transit just from Santorini to Istanbul depending on the ferry route you take."****There are no ferries to Istanbul from anywhere in Greece. I've done this trip and my recommendation is to do an open-jaw itinerary. Fly to Istanbul from the U.S. and start your trip there. Then fly down to Athens. From Athens you can either fly or ferry to Santorini. Then fly or ferry from Santorini back to Athens to catch your flight home. I would do 4 days in Istanbul, 2 in Athens, 4 in Santorini, leaving you 2 days for travel.
Thank you for all the replies. It looks like we are now debating between doing Tom's recommnedation or a Windstar cruise that leaves late May from Istanbul to Athens. I have never been to that region nor I have I gone on a cuise before. My husband and I are both mid to late 30s and not sure what option we woudl liek better. Thank you!!
I was not as clear as I could have been. I was not implying that you could get to Istanbul from Santorini by ferry. I should have mentioned that you would need to get to one of the 5 Turkish port towns where you would then need to fly or take a bus the rest of the way to Istanbul. Thus my estimate of 2-3 days travel time. It could even be longer.
I see the itinerary you mention ... Windstar is a nice cruise idea, smaller vessel than those huge biggie boats. However, it will be more about the sea voyage than the isles. Y ou will stop in Kusadasi to see Ephesus, in Rhodes probably 8 hours, Bodrum Turkey for a few hours, Santorini for probably 5 hours or less, and Mykonos for half a day or so. Not enough time to really get away from any port town ... or stretch your legs a bit. For people in their 30s, you mght feel "pent up" a bit. I like that idea of an open-jaw ticket, since you do seem to want to see Istanbul. Fly there, fly to Athens fly to Santorini, then take a ferry back to Athens if you wish (if you time it right, you can sail while you sleep on an overnite ferry).
Some facts that might help you plan: there are no ferries from Santorini to anywhere in Turkey. The hi-speed hydrofoil ferry from Santorini to Piraeus (Athens) takes 4 hours 45 minutes. A flight from Santorini to Athens International airport takes 45 minutes.
Correction: There is no hydrofoil between Santorini and Athens/Piraeus. The highspeed ferries for that route are catamarans operated by both Hellenic Seaways and I.J. Sea Jets. http://www.ferries.gr/hfd/images/fc4.jpg
I agree with Tom's itinerary. I think that is the best suggestion. Been to Athens twice (second time wasn't my choice really...traveling companion not been and wanted to go). My opinion is defintely more time for Ist and Sant than Athens. Just returned about 3 weeks ago from Turkey. 5 full days in Istanbul and I felt I barely scratched the surface!