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Greek island pre-trip

We (two adults) are taking the Rick Steves tour of Greece (Athens & the Heart of Greece in 14 Days) this year during Sep 26 to Oct 09. The tour starts on Monday (Sep 26) from Athens, but we would like to arrive a few days early (Friday) and visit one of the islands over the weekend. We are thinking Santorini, though are flexible - we're looking for a "quintessential" Greek island visit. We will fly into Athens. We are open to taking a short flight (seems easier?) or ferry ride to the island. We are looking for an easy, "low-stress" way to get to and from the island. I have looked a little into the ferry schedules, but find them confusing. We have never been to Greece before, and don't speak Greek. We meet the RS tour group at 6pm in Athens on Monday. Can someone please provide us some pointers and suggestions? Thank you! Bryan

Posted by
2876 posts

Santorini is certainly a beautiful and unique island but just what do you mean by quintessential? Knowing that would go far to help us help you decide on the best island for you. The highspeed ferry, if available when you need it, takes about 5 hours to reach Santorini. The conventional car ferry takes about 8 hours. Flying takes 30 minutes and qualifies as "low stress". The two airlines that fly to the islands are Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. Both have websites. If you can arrange your arrival at the Athens airport to give you a 2-3 hour window to catch a connecting flight, fly straight out to your island of choice. Ferry schedules for next September are probably not completely finalized yet but when they are you can see what's available to you here: http://www.gtp.gr Everyone you would need to communicate with in Greece speaks English.

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you for your reply, Lee. I guess by "quintessential," I'm referring to the beautiful island pictures I always see of the Greek isles. Santorini comes to mind because that's the one I hear about most often - the white homes arranged overlooking the sea and such. Also looking for the "Rick Steves" back-door environment. As you can tell, I've never been to Greece, but I'm looking to make the most of my weekend pre-trip.

Posted by
417 posts

Well, with needing to be back in Athens on Monday, and arriving on Friday, that really only gives you two FULL days to explore an island. Take Lee's advice and fly directly there from Athens to maximize your time. There are many to choose from, but with limited time and schedules, Santorini is probably the best bet. It is not exactly "back door" but it is stunningly beautiful and a great place to visit. Preliminary, I see Aegean Air has a flight on the 23rd to Santorini at 10:35 that takes 45 minutes and a return on Monday at 11:55. That could work for you.

Posted by
2876 posts

Just to add another voice to the choir, I agree 100% with Lee and Mike. Go to Santorini, and take a plane to get there. You're going a bit off season, so the crowds shouldn't be bad there, and it's one of the most spectacular places you'll ever see.

Posted by
55 posts

I agree with going to Santorini but the hardest part is cordinating the flights. Because the airlines can change the times on your flight after you purchase, so you could end up in Athens airport waiting for your flight to Santorini for many hours. I might suggest you stay on after the tour if possible and than take your flight to Santorini.

Posted by
2876 posts

You might also like to consider Hydra. It's just a couple of hours by ferry from Athens and still retains a lot of its 'old-world' charm because motorized vehicles are not allowed there.

Posted by
34 posts

We spent time on Santorini two summers ago. Absolutely fell in love with the place, the people and the food. We stayed in a villa in Oia. Great place, incredible sunsets. Visited every beach. Enjoyed every meal. Whether you go before or after your tour, go. You l will love it. Probably not much help, but had to rave as we always do about the incredible island.

Posted by
290 posts

You might want to try Rena's Villas in Fira. That's where I'm staying next week at 45 euros a night for a double ocean view room. They have free airport/port pickup and drop off in with the price and give a good discount for early online booking.
Website: http://www.renasplace.gr/ .

Posted by
417 posts

Lee makes a nice suggestion. Hydra is great, and much less crowded. However, flying to Santorini will make your transfer much simpler than having to make it all the way to Piraeus and finding your ferry on your first day in Europe. Plus, Santorini is definitely your "quintessential" Greek island with white building cascading down the cliffs. I would recommend staying in Oia rather than Fira Town. Smaller, slightly less crowded, and I think more picturesque. There is simple bus service all over the island.

Posted by
687 posts

I agree that Hydra is a nice example of a "quintessential" Greek island, but Bryan said he was taking the RS tour, and the RS tour goes to Hydra.... Also, if I were going to Santorini I'd want to at least arrive by boat, as half the point seems to be the view from the water. Matt Barrett's site has a good section on islands - see http://greektravel.com/

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you everyone for the great suggestions! Many of you recommend staying in Oia - does anyone have any recommendations for hotels, villas, etc? We're pretty open to anything.

Posted by
2876 posts

"Many of you recommend staying in Oia - does anyone have any recommendations for hotels, villas, etc? We're pretty open to anything." Are you sure? There are a cople of hotels that have rooms for €1600/night. Several hotels charge at least €300/night. I'm very familiar with Oia. If you state your maximum daily room budget I can provide you with appropriate suggestions.

Posted by
25 posts

Yikes! Didn't realize there was such a range in hotel prices. I guess we'd like to keep it under €200/night, if this is possible. Looking for clean & comfortable, don't need extravagant. We'd be there for 3 nights (Fri, Sat, Sun).

Posted by
55 posts

In April 2011 we just stayed in Fira at hotel IRA with a nice Caldera view and it was 120 euro's a night. Very nice place with nice breakfast included. We took the bus up to Oia and spent the day there walking around and drinking wine and eating olives.

Posted by
655 posts

I too suggest Santorini and Oia. You'll remember it the rest of your life. I hope Lee returns to help with suggested places. Also, check Oia lodging on tripadvisor.com.

Posted by
2876 posts

In Oia for 200 Euro or less with a caldera view check Filotera Villas, Delfini Hotel, Olympic Villlas, Onar Villas, Lucky Homes, Lauda Hotel, Old Oia Houses, Lena's House, Villa Kallisti, Oia Waves, Casa Sofia, Fotinos Houses, Golden Sunset Villas, Chelidonia Villas, Aris Caves, Thea Studios and Stelios Rooms.

Posted by
51 posts

If time for only one island, Santorini is our choice. We stayed in Fira at the Aroma Suites. Great views with very reasonable rates and the owner is very friendly and helpful. He will pick you up from the airport. Almost a perfect rating on tripadvisor.com. With time constraints, rent a vehicle and see the whole island. Different and great views from everywhere.

Posted by
1893 posts

Another recommendation to Santorini and the village of Oia. We enjoyed an Athens-Istanbul cruise last year, and Oia is one of the very special memories of that trip. Be sure to follow the little paths behind the shops/restaurants. The view of the caldera, the blue water, and the white buildings/blue domes is so peaceful and memorable. Lots of photo ops. I kept saying to my husband, "if we ever get back to the Greek Isles, I want to stay right here with this view." Looking at photos from Oia brings me back and I find myself smiling. Enjoy!! No problem not speaking Greek...learn the hello, thank you, key phrases, etc. and you'll be welcomed with great gusto. Tourism is important to their country.