We are planning a trip (approx. 17 days) to Istanbul and Greece next Sept./Oct. Wondering how long to stay in Istanbul and what islands, plus Athens we should visit and how many days should we stay. Also, what is the best way to travel from Istanbul to Greece and from island to island. We are 4 mature adults
If you have no plans to see any other part of Turkey besides Istanbul then the closest island is Lesvos, and from Lesvos you can use the Greek ferry system to reach more Greek islands. The Turkish ferry port for reaching Lesvos is Ayvalik. You'll have to take a bus to get there.
I'll comment on your Istanbul question. I suggest four full days in Istanbul to see the top sites. Add more time if you want to have more relaxed days or see more. You could easily spend more than a week.
I'd stay at least four days in Istanbul, speaking as one who has been there five times. And Athens, except for the Acropolis. and the Archaeological Museum, is the least interesting place in Greece. Just a sprawling big city. Delfi, Olympia, Parga, Metzovo, Hydra, Crete are all incredibly beautiful and full of ancient history. Don't just think Athens and islands, please! Many of the southern Aegean islands are alike, however wonderful, and you'd miss most of what is really Greece by concentrating on just them. That said, ferryboats are fun.
One thing that you can do is to price your air tickets from the US using Turkish Airlines to Athens. Their flights connect in Istanbul and allow you a free stop-over. This way, you can fit in a 4-night stop-over in IST, before moving on for the Greece portion of your trip.
Hi from Wisconsin,
Just did a trip like that in April. 14 days in Istanbul. Yep, 14. I would say 4 days a minimum. 5 days would be better. The Pension Side is an excellent place, small rooms that are so clean you can't believe it. Clean, quiet, and safe. Our three demands. With a good enough breakfast and an excellent location for the tourist sites.
Get a Museum Pass from the Archeologic Museum. Easiest and quickest, normally, place to do it.
Athens, I agree, is just a big city with the exception of the Museum. Well worth visiting. The Acropolis??? A nice walk around the base was more enjoyable for me.
Greece is full of great places other than Athens. The Islands all have white buildings with blue doors. Pick based upon how many walks, antiquities, restaurants, etc you want on the island. Sifnos is big enuf to have everything you need, but too small to take on tour ships or have an advertising budget.
I agree with other comments. Spent 6 days in Istanbul and was never bored. Flew from Ist to Athens on Turkish Air. Two days in Athens was plenty, then we went on to Nafplio... loved it! No islands, but would return for those, but Nafplio felt a bit like an island and I would go back there in a minute.
I would stay at least 4 days in Istanbul, but would like to recommend that you add at LEAST several more days in Turkey to see some additional places as well! Personally, I have LOVED Turkey as one of my two favorite counties in the world, having traveled to over 35 countries. I have loved seeing Pamukkale/Heirapolis, Olympos, Denizli, Ephesus..and there are many more historic and beautiful places to explore!! ~ Cappadocia, Bergama, Aphrodisias, and more. We saw Olympos, Pamukkale and Ephesus (WHIRLWIND and BARELY) in 3 days back in June. It's about 4 hours between each... You can drive, take busses, mini-busses, or there's a GREAT train service between Pamukkale and Ephesus (about 3 hours. Most trains in Turkey aren't great.) I'd recommend at least 4-5 extra days in Turkey beyond Istanbul. Flights within Turkey for long-distances can be CHEAP and save lots of time... We flew from Istanbul to Antalya (near Olympos) in 1 hour for about $50 per person. This would normally be a 12+ hour drive. From there it was only a 1 hour drive to Olympos, an AMAZING site to explore...a highlight on ANY trip!
For Greece, recommend approximately 2 or 3 days in Athens...1 day for Acropolis and Agora, 1 day for National Archaeological Museum and shopping, 1 day for Plaka, Acropolis Museum... can fit that into 2 days depending on your stamina/speed.
I recommend the Hotel Attalos in Athens. Stayed there in June, 2013... The rooftop bar CAN NOT be beat for a drink in the afternoon or evening. Amazing city and acropolis views that you'd pay through the nose for anywhere else...but you can bring your 2 Euro street Gyro up there to eat "for free." The service is great, the location is perfect. Halfway between the National Archaological Museum and the Acropolis/Plaka. Right in the middle of a bunch of great local shopping/markets. Be sure to check out the local spice, meat, produce, fish, etc. markets! They're amazing! Bring home some spices! I brought home some spices, but didn't have enough and ran out! The Hotel Attalos staff was kind enough to mail me some spices FREE OF CHARGE from Athens as they were the best I'd ever had for chicken...that is how nice the hotel staff are!!
For islands, Santorini has both views/atmophere, beaches, and history...a very nice combination...though they take a bit of time to get between them. Highly recommended. Hydra is very close to and convenient to Athens, no cars, nice and quiet if you want to sit on a beach or rock and read a book and drink a beer and nothing else. SMALL but cute town with a few hotels and cafes, where the ferries come in. If coming to/from Turkey, a nice island to do it from is Samos, about 1 hour off the coast of Turkey. Good island to see by motor scooter.
Sara, Turkey and Greece are two of my favorite places. But there are so many options, that it's hard for us to give advice not knowing what kind of a vacation you are looking for. Do you enjoy big cities? Shopping? Archeological sites? Hiking? Swimming? Relaxing? Eating? :)
I would suggest that you do some research to determine the places you would like to see in Turkey and Greece. I recommend the Lonely Planet Greece and Turkey books, as well as the Thomas Cook Island Hopping guidebook. This is a good Turkey website, and this and this are two good ones for Greece.
Since these countries are so large, you should limit yourself to 5 or 6 overnight stops. Possible itineraries could look like:
Istanbul (4 nights); bus to Ayvalik (for Pergamum) (1 night); ferry to Lesvos (7 nights); fly to Athens, then bus to Napflio (3 nights), bus to Athens (2 nights)
Istanbul (4 nights); bus or fly to Izmir (for the incredible Ephesus archeological site) (1 night); ferry to Samos (2 nights); fly to Santorini (via Athens) (3 nights); ferry to Paros (2 nights); ferry to Athens (2 nights)
Istanbul (4 nights); fly to Cappadocia (amazing hot air balloon ride & hiking)(3 nights); fly to Istanbul (1 night); fly to Santorini (via Athens) (4 nights); ferry to Naxos (2 nights); ferry to Athens (3 nights, with day trip to Delphi)
Of course, there are many other options, and you could rearrange these in many configurations.
I want to put in a plug for Lesvos. It's the 3rd largest Greek island but off the beaten track, and doesn't get many American visitors. But it has beautiful scenery, great hiking or walking, wonderful people, very inexpensive prices, fabulous food. Our favorite place to stay is Hotel Votsala near Mytilene (the port city). Look it up on Trip Advisor. You could spend a week here with day trips, or split your time between Votsala and maybe Skala Eressos. Highly recommended and very relaxing. Santorini of course is gorgeous, and won't be overrun by tourists that time of year.
Once your trip starts coming together, please come back to the Helpline if you need help with ferry or plane schedules, or lodging. Have fun planning!
Please see below my recommedation;
3-4 days Istanbul (1 day sghtseeing, 1 day bosphorus cruise)
2-3 days cappadocia including balloon ride
2-3 days Kusadasi (Ephesus, Pamukkale)
1 day samos
2-3 days Mykonos including Delos visit
2-3 days Santorini including Volcano
2-3 days Athens (half day sightseeing)
istanbul-cappadocia by bus or plane
cappadocia - pamukkale by bus or cappadocia izmir (kusadasi) by plane
greek islands by ferries