Santorini vs. Athens

Hello! I will be traveling with an REI adventure group to Greece for an island hopper/hiking trip in September. I will be with the group for 9 days. I have the option to stay in Santorini at the end of the trip, rather than going back to Athens with the group. This will cost me more, since I will have to pay a change fee for the flight to Athens, and I'll miss out on prepaid lodging and meals for the last night. However, I've been told there's only so much to see/do in Athens and the islands really do appeal to me more. So, my question is, would it be worth a few hundred extra dollars to stay in Santorini for four more days on my own (after our team is there for 2 nights)? Or should I save the money and go back to Athens with my group? Which area is safer for a single woman (who is not an experienced traveler) and has more to offer as far as sightseeing, beaches, great spots to eat and explore, etc.? If I do go back to Athens with the group, are there recommendations as to what I should do there (I will have already been to the Acropolis, Ancient Agora and Parthenon at the start of our trip)? Or should I go elsewhere for my last three nights in Greece?
Thank you!!

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
860 posts

My advice, Kimberly NAFPLIO! just over Corinth Canal, most beautiful Old Town in Greece! Return to Athens with group (I gather by ferry?). At port, take 10-12€ taxi to the Kissifou KTEL Bus station. KTEL (intercity) bus (a/c, reserved cushiony seats, 13€) goes hourly on half-hour, takes just 2.5 hours. On bus, great views of water, olives, orange groves. This gorgeous place on a peninsula, feels like an island, golden Venetian architecture. Explore town (shops! museums! sunsets!) 2 days, and/or get local busses to AMAZING ancient sites (Mycenae, Epidaurus, Tiryns), AND beaches! Here's best Website, look at pix before deciding: My fave hotel: Leto, fab view down over town & bay, family-run, very helpful to solo traveler. You'll feel TOTALLY safe day/night, and SO much to see/do. At end of stay, u can bus back to edge of Athens, exit at Eleonas & get Metro DIRECT to Airport, if your flight is not before noon. Otherwise, 1 night near Syntagma square, Athens. My 1st trip ('99) I asked Mykonos artist, where for last 3 nights? Athens? She gave me above advice & said, u will THANK me. 10 trips later I'm still going to Nafplio, still thanking her!

Posted by Gabriel
Pico Rivera, CA
367 posts

I would opt to tell you to pay the extra money and stay in Santorini. It's all based on personal preference, but I got bored with Athens after the second day and am glad I was not there longer than that. It's not much of a city to look at. It's crumbling and not well kept. It's not to say I would never go back, but it's not at the top of my list. Once I saw the Acropolis, etc. I felt I was done with Athens. Santorini has much more to offer in terms of views and the like. I'm sure with the extra time you have there you can take a ferry to another nearby island or do some sort of short cruise excursion. I'm sure others will tell you more about Athens than I have, but again it's all based on personal preference. I vote for Santorini.

Posted by Alan
Brighton, UK
772 posts

Kimberley I'm probably in a small minority (possibly of one!) in that I would opt for Athens every time. Santorini is certainly beautiful, and I'm glad to have visited, but for me Fira was the least Greek place I have ever been in Greece. Every available space has been made over for tourists. As Gabriel rightly says this is, of course, all a matter of opinion but I can happily spend two or three weeks a year in Athens. You say you have been to the Acropolis and Agora but how about Filopapous, which has the best views of the Acropolis? Or the Keramicos which has some great statues? Or taken the venicular railway up Lycavitos? Also, with four days in Athens you can do a day tour: I'd recommend Delphi but the Peloponnese, taking in Mycenae and Epidavrus, is also good. Oh, and if you want good restaurants, venture outside the tourist centre and you will find cheaper and better places to eat than on Santorini. As I say, probably a minority opinion but I couldn't resist ;) Have a great time whatever you do. Cheers Alan

Posted by Kimberly
Bothell, WA, USA
3 posts

This is great info, thank you! Of course, now I'm feeling torn. I certainly want to have a well-rounded trip and soak up as much of the culture and authentic cuisine as I can. I really appreciate the feedback. Any others want to add your two cents? Recommendations for safe/affordable lodging in either location would be welcome as well. :)

Posted by Lee
2040 posts

It's a mistake to judge all of Santorini by the conditions in Fira, the island's social/commercial center. There's plenty to see and do there away from Fira for several days/nights.

Posted by Lisa
500 posts

I haven't been but I will be in two weeks. I am going on a cruise because to check out where I might want to return to. I normally don't travel that way. I am really looking forward to visiting Santorini since it looks like nowhere else I can think of. I would love to see and photograph a sunset in Oia though I will not get to do that this trip. Athens on the other hand makes me a bit nervous, being a busy city (I live and am often in NYC). I think there are good hikes along the coast and beaches in Santorini too.

Posted by Alan
Brighton, UK
772 posts

Kimberly Affordable is in the eye of the beholder, but here are a couple of good options. Both are close to Monastiraki metro which has a direct connection to the airport. The Attalos is a fairly standard modern(ish) 3 star with great views of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar. The Tempi is smaller, family run, and not all rooms are en suite. If we are in Athens for any length of time we generally get an apartment but if we are only there for a night we tend to opt for the Attalos. Again though a matter of taste: when we were younger we preferred the Tempi! Alan

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14103 posts

Unfortunately, it is not an equal comparison. Each has its own advantages and uniqueness. Personally I would stay in Santorini because I am there and it is wonderful place to relax and unwind after a trip. And you have seen some of the highlights of Athens earlier. However, there is still a lot to see and do in Athens after the major highlights.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24160 posts

Kimberly, I agree with janet in the last reply. Nafplio would be another good location to consider. As I recall, it was at one time the capital of Greece and also has a Syntagma Square. Some of the stores are a bit posh, but the restaurant costs seemed reasonable. If you stay there, I would highly recommend Hotel Marianna. Another option you could look at would be to spend a few days on Hydra after you get back to Athens. It's a short trip via fast boat from Athens, and a great place to relax or hike. If you decide to visit Hydra, I'd highly recommend Hotel Leto. Happy travels!

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2832 posts

Unless your flight from Santorini is connected to be part of your itinerary back to the US, I would opt to be in Athens at least the night before departure. Other than that, I would vote for exploring the mainland. as someone mentioned, Delphi, Epidaurus, Mycenae are all great sights. Nafplio a wonderful town for Epidaurus and Mycenae. The Meteora are another top sight, plus much more to do in Athens.

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
325 posts

I suggest going with Athens. If you get bored there are day trip options. If you get bored in Santorini, you are stuck. Plus with the additional costs, I would not pay extra to take a risk.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
9473 posts

Well I am biased,, I thought Athens was one of the grubbyiest of the Europeon cities.. and I did not feel half as safe there as I did in almost any other western Europeon city .
I am biased as I only spend a few days there, so those who have spent longer likely have a different view. The islands are so pretty , I would elect ot either stay on Santorini extra few days or even choose another island to visit on my own, I know for me personally I would enjoy island life over grubby city life for a few extra days.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
785 posts

So it sounds as if you were planning on staying on a few extra nights in Athens after the tour ended anyway, is that right? So the flight home is the same either way, but the choice is between four more days in Athens vs. four extra days in Santorini. If you have already seen all of the sights mentioned I think another four day in Athens would be a lot. Athens is good for a solid two to three days total. You did not mention the Archeological Museum, which is absolutely spectacular. I would probably extend the stay on Santorini, but try and figure out way to squeeze in the Archeological Museum, which is really a museum of fantastic ancient art. Make sure and consider the implications of whatever strikes and similar activity might be going on there. We traveled there in 2011 and strikes can shut down airports, public transit, taxis, anything on short notice.

Posted by Kimberly
Bothell, WA, USA
3 posts

I have decided to return to Athens with my group and spend a few days in Nafplio prior to flying back to Seattle. I am thrilled for the opportunity to visit several islands (Tinos, Naxos, Santorini), as well as time to explore the mainland. I appreciate all the helpul information in this thread, as well as the messages and conversations outside of this thread (thank you, Janet!). Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. Happy travels!

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
860 posts

Congratulations on your plans, Kim, you won't regret it ... Kalo Taxidi! (that's Greek for Bon Voyage/Have a good trip!).