Two Weeks in Greece

I apologize if this has been addressed elsewhere, but I don't see it. So, here goes ... In June 2014, our family of 5 (2 adults plus 3 college-aged "kids") is traveling to Greece for 2-2.5 weeks. Our final week will be on a private sailing yacht in the Cyclades. So, we're trying to figure out our first week. Initially, we were going to spend 3-4 nights in Athens and then rent a van and head elsewhere for another 4 nights or so. We have found a fantastic house in Athens (right near the Acropolis), so I am now considering something else ... What if we stayed in the Athens house for 7-8 nights, spent the first 3 or so days exploring Athens, and then used the rest to do day trips (in a rental van - the house has on street parking and a pay lot nearby as a backup) from Athens? My concerns about this are twofold: 1) Is there someplace farther away than a day trip that we will kick ourselves for not visiting? (Yes, I realize that we can't see everything on the mainland in 1 week.) 2) Will we spend too much time driving, getting to destinations (e.g., Delphi, Nafplio, Corinth, maybe places farther away from Athens) and back to Athens to appreciate them? Opinions on whether this is a good plan? Suggestions for day trips from Athens are also appreciated, keeping in mind that we will be spending 1 week island-hopping (and, most likely including Cape Sounion one direction or the other). Thanks!
Leslie

Posted by Alan
Brighton, UK
631 posts

Leslie Given you are obviously keen to do the sites I think I would probably aim to at least overnight in Nafplio. It's possible in a car to do a day trip which covers Corinth, Mycenae, lunch in Nafplio, Epidavrus and then back to Athens but it's a very long day with little time anywhere. If you can put in an overnight then it all becomes much more restful and you also get an evening eating out in Nafplio, which has a different atmosphere from both Athens and the islands. Going north it is certainly possible to do Delphi in a day if you've got your own transport. I've never done it but with the new motorway you can also get to Sparta and back in a day. Sparta itself doesn't have much but Mystra, just outside of Sparta, is a great site. The downside of this trip, if you are going to Nafplio as well, is you repeat the hour or so from Athens to Corinth which must be the ugliest road in Greece. You are inevitably going to end up missing something, but that's a good excuse to come back! Sounds like a great trip whatever you do. Alan

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Alan, Thanks for the quick reply and helpful information. Maybe we'll do 4 nights in Athens and do Delphi as a day trip from there. Then, we can head to Nafplio and spend 3-4 nights there and use that as a base for places like Olympia that we definitely wouldn't be able to reach reasonably from Athens. We're not fans of constantly changing hotels, but this seems like a reasonable plan. Keep those thoughts coming! Thanks,
Leslie

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

We have decided that we will most likely spend 4 nights in Athens and then 4-5 nights in Nafplio and explore the Peloponnese from there. I am wondering if Delphi is worth it, given that it's out of the way. We will certainly have no shortage of archaeological sites to visit. Opinions on whether Delphi is a "gotta see"? If we do it, it will be a day trip, either from Nafplio or on our way from Athens to Nafplio. Thanks! Leslie

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

I think you made a great choice with Nafplio - great town. I think it is always better to get out of the big cities and with Athens thats especially true.

Posted by George
Philadelphia
653 posts

I agree with the suggestions above. I wouldn't spend too much time in Athens if this is a one time trip to Greece. In my view three nights is plenty. I know someone will respond that they were in Athens three weeks and loved it, but, there is lots to see in Greece that isn't in Athens including that Greeks themselves who live in small villages and gather at the tavernas.

Posted by Will
Columbia, SC
315 posts

Look at a map, Delphi is not at all on the way to Nafplio from Athens, and it's way out of day trip range from Nafplio. I haven't been to Delphi myself, but I would go if I were in Athens or the region again. It's around three hours one-way from Athens; long for a day trip but plenty of people do it. I agree that three nights in Athens is enough; there's not that much of tourist interest beyond the Acropolis and the archaeological museum. My friend and I ran out of stuff to do in Athens after a day and a half.

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Thanks to everyone for the feedback. We are planning to spend 4 nights and 3 days in Athens. Yes, I know that some feel that it's a day too much, but we prefer not to be rushed and to explore the city a bit more than just the usual stuff. We are then planning to rent a car on our way out of Athens and spend 5 nights in Nafplio, enjoying the town itself and also using it as a base for exploring the Peloponnese. If we make it to Delphi at some point, that would be great, but we will figure that out once we're there. Thanks again! Leslie

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

I just wanted to report back with our itinerary. We booked our flights, and due to frequent flyer availability, we were "forced" to extend the trip by a few days. We'll cope somehow! Here goes: - 4 nights in Athens - 5 nights using Nafplio as a base to explore the Peloponnese - 7 nights island-hopping on a private-chartered yacht
- 2 nights in Delphi Thanks again for the input. Leslie

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

I have been convinced (by people on the Fodor's forum) to do an overnight in Monemvesia. So, we'll probably break up our 5 nights in Nafplio with a 2-day/1 night road trip to Olympia and Monemvesia. We have rented a house in Nafplio, so we'll just pack for an overnight and hit the road. So, I'm mulling around the following road trip for a couple of crazy intense days. - 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM Nafplio to Olympia - 10:00 – 2:00 Tour Olympia - 2:00 – 8:00 Olympia to Monemvasia - Overnight in Monemvasia - Morning: Explore Monemvasia
- Afternoon: Drive back to Nafplio, hugging coast Am I completely insane? Or, is the bit of insanity worthwhile for what we'll be able to experience? We're not running ourselves ragged for the rest of the trip - it's a pretty relaxed pace - so, I'm inclined to do this. Unless, you guys convince me otherwise! Thanks again! Leslie

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
433 posts

YOu probably will ignore this, but I'll suggest it anyway. I've been to Olympia and while I liked the museum, the site itself did not knock me out. Instead I suggest(MUCH nearer to Nafplio) the fabulous little-promoted site of NEMEA, the #2 sacred games site ... it's just West, off the main road after u come over the Corinth bridge. It has all the elements temple ruins, gorgeous small museum, amphitheatre and an amazing stadium (u can line up and race!), all wonderfully authentic restored by the Arch. dept of UC Berkeley but NO tour busses ... We were there in early June, Looooved it. It's so great, every 4 years they actually have a NEMEAN GAMES, where people come from all over to compete. Besides, Nemea is also the heart of Pelop. wine country, and right on main street of the little village is a vineyard bottler, where u can see them putting labels & corks in, and sample the wares. This would eliminate that loooong drive to Olympia; but judge for yourself; here are links: http://nemeangames.org/ http://nemeangames.org/en/nemea-stadium/track.html
http://nemeangames.org/en/ancient-nemea/temple-and-sanctuary-of-zeus.html

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

I'm wondering why you are trying to go to Olympia and Monemvasia all in the same day? They are in opposite directions of Nafplio by several hours. Why not do Olympia as a daytrip and return to Nafplio. Then on a separate day, drive down and spend the night at Monemvasia. With 5 nights total, it seems there would be enough time to do it that way. By doing Olympia just as a daytrip, you'd also have time to take the more scenic mountain route home. One suggestion would be to do Mystras (just outside Sparta) on your way to or from Monemvasia. Mystras is like the Byzantine version of Pompeii, without the volcanic destruction. Really scenic and worth the stop.

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Janet - I assume you're the same Janet from Philadelphia who has responded on Fodor's, too? We are planning to go to Nemea and a vineyard on our way from Athens to Nafplio. I have heard differing opinions about whether Nemea can replace Olympia, but I suspect that we're going to have to give up Olympia in favor of Monemvesia, which I guess will take 2 days and 1 night, including driving from and to Nafplio, to do it justice. Douglas - The reason that we're trying to do both Monemvasia and Olympia in 2 days and 1 night is that I think that it's the only way we'll have time to do everything we want to do. Here are the things I was hoping to do as day trips (not necessarily in this order, except Day 1 and Day 6, since they're travel days from and to Athens). I know that this is probably too ambitious, but this is the distilled version It's OK to tell me I'm crazy ... Day 1: Ancient Corinth and Nemea ruins and vineyard, on drive from Athens to Nafplio. Day 2: Nafplio Day 3: Day trip to Monemvasia. But, I have now determined that it's really better to stay over in Monemvesia, so we're leaning towards doing that. But, that means that Day 4 will now be taken up with the return trip to Monemvasia. (This is why I was proposing the crazy 2-day road trip of Olympia and Monemvasia.) Day 4: Day trip to Olympia. I know Janet (and many others) say, if you see Nemea, you don't have to go to Olympia. But, I'm not convinced yet! Day 5: Vouraikos Gorge: Diakofto–Kalavryta Railway. I guess we could give this up and still go to Olympia. But, this looks amazing, and it also seems like a great change of pace. There are only so many ruins you can visit! Day 6: Epidaurus, Mycenae, on drive from Nafplio back to Athens. Fire away! And, thanks again.

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
433 posts

Yes, same Janet (11 Greece trips, total 10 months, been there). Leslie, on behalf of all the people who have devoted time and research on your behalf on TWO forums, promise us this one small thing after you've returned home, sit down and tell us what this 6 days was like for your group and what if anything (or nothing) you'd do differently, in retrospect. Promise ...

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Janet - I always follow up on forums. I definitely believe in giving as much, and hopefully more, as I get!

Posted by Alan
Brighton, UK
631 posts

Leslie Just a few thoughts: a) it probably doesn't make sense to do Mycenae and Epidavrus on the same day. I'd adjust things slightly and do Nemea and Mycenae on the way down and Epidavrus and Corinth on the way up (or vice versa). b) you can't drive Monemvasia to Nafplio 'along the coast' as most of that coast is mountain! You'll need to drive most of it inland. Google makes it just over 3 hours, which sounds about right. c) I've never been to Olympia so can't comment on that discussion, but if you are going down to Monemvasia you will go very close to Mystra which is just outside of Sparta. Sparta itself isn't much, although there has been a bit more excavated there recently, but Mystra is a great site and well worth a visit. d) I also really like the Diakofto railway but I think you are in the 'this quart won't fit into my pint pot' zone already! Have a great time Alan

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Why not do Mycenae and Epidaurus on the same day? Not enough time? Doesn't make sense driving-wise? Just wondering ... The "along the coast" from Nafplio to Monemvasia is just as much as possible. It was recommended to do the following route: Nafplio-Astros-Tyros-Leonidio-Plaka-Poulithra, which involves some coast-hugging. Thanks for the heads up about Mystra. We could take that route the other direction. It looks like we'll probably give up Vouraikos Gorge in favor of Olympia, but we can decide that at a later point. I just wanted to get a sense of what would be realistic and how we'll spend our days. But, we'll do a fair amount of winging it once we're there. Thanks again, to everyone, for all the terrific input! Leslie

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

That is 6 full days for sure. While I see nothing wrong with filling your days, I'd say the issue might be so much driving. You'll wind up spending most of those 6 days in a car. Some of the driving will be scenic for sure, but it's up to you if that's really how you want to spend the majority of your trip. All of your destinations are at opposite corners of the Peloponnese from each other and Nafplio. Each of your major destinations is a good 3-4 hours one way. A few thoughts. If the gorge interests your for the scenery, you can get pretty amazing mountain scenery by taking the mountain route to or from Olympia. You'll pass through several little towns that hug the mountains and will have lots of places to pull off for vista photos. The Olympia ruins are not as dramatic as others, but it is "Olympia" and it has a great museum. To stand on the same track as athletes did over 2000 years ago and that inspired the modern games is pretty exciting, if the games or sports are your thing. Mycenae and Epidavros are 30-45 minutes in opposite directions from Nafplio. You can do both in a day, but you'll just spend time backtracking. Mycenae can easily be done in one of your days for Nafplio. Frankly, it might be one you pass on - for the average tourist, the ruins are not that dramatic and your family might find itself getting ruin-fatigue. Epidavros is the cool amphitheater that is pretty dramatic and along a scenic drive to/from Athens.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

Continue...
The seaside route to/from Monemvasia will take quite a bit longer. So definitely take the main road through Sparta for at least one of the legs. You can decide then if Mystras is worth the stop - you might get all the Byzantine ruins you need from Monemvasia. Nafplio is a very charming town and a great place to relax. It won't take long to see "everything," but leave time in the evenings for dinners and walks along the waterfront while the kids hang out in a café on the main plaza.

Posted by Alan
Brighton, UK
631 posts

Leslie Yes, to me, Mycenae and Epidavrus on the same day doesn't make sense drive wise. Epidavrus is pretty much due east of Nafplio while Mycenae is north. If you rearrange the trip as I suggested you make a circuit, which just seems to me to make sense. Alan

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Douglas - I think the only day where we will spend most of the day in the car is if we do a day trip to Olympia. Once we're settled in Nafplio, we'll decide if we feel like it. We will go check out Nemea on our way from Athens to Nafplio, and we might get a sense if we have gotten enough of a fill of the ancient games from Nemea. Otherwise, I think that we'll be able to spend each evening in Nafplio and most mornings relatively relaxed before hitting the road. We're renting a house for the 5 nights (although, not staying there one of the nights, assuming we do an overnight in Monemvesia - sounds totally worth it!), so we'll want some time to enjoy the house and the town. (The house is right in the old city.) Thanks for the suggestion to get our gorge-type fix on the drive to Olympia. I thought that the kids (young adults: 22, 18, 18), especially, would enjoy the train, but I think that the Vouraikos Gorge trip will have to be eliminated. Alan - Thanks for the explanation about Epidaurus and Mycenae. Leslie

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

Sorry for another question for you - Are you still planning on the 2 nights in Delphi? And if so, is that at the end of your trip? I ask because it seems odd to tack it on at the end, when you won't need a car before it. And 2 nights in Delphi (the town) sounds dreadful to me. While the ancient site is pretty amazing (no ruin-fatigue here, the scenery is just gorgeous), the town is pretty average at best and filled with tour and school groups. Depending on when you go, one thought I had is to combine Delphi with one of your Peloponnese sights. You can go from Delphi along the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, across the bridge at Patras and either down to Olympia or to the Gorge. That would save a lot of back-tracking doing one of those from Nafplio as a daytrip. And if you only spent one night in Delphi, you could use the other night to stay in Olympia or nearer to the Gorge.

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Douglas - Yes, we are still planning 2 nights in Delphi. Although, that might be a bit misleading. The reason we're tacking it on is that it seemed that we weren't going to be able to get there at all, since we didn't want to shortchange the Peloponnese part of the trip. Then, when we went to book our flights, we were "forced" to extend the trip by a day, which gave us the time we needed. So, here's how it will play out ... June 28: Morning, we disembark the sailboat and fly back to Athens, probably arriving 11:00 Amish. We rent a car and drive to Delphi, exploring along the way (Hosios Loukas, for example). We arrive in Delphi, chill, have dinner, hang out on the balconies of our lovely suite at the Acropole Delphi Hotel, which is in town, but a little bit off the beaten path (road parallel to main drag). June 29: Spend day exploring Delphi ruins, museum, and whatever else strikes our fancy. June 30: Drive back to Athens for 2:00 PM flights home. I'd love to get the Gorge, but this feels like a good plan to me, but fire away! I can take it! ;^) Thanks again! Leslie

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

My comments about the time spent driving were based on your posted itinerary. Day 1 is not too bad, about 3 hours in the car. Day 2 was no driving. But Days 3,4 and 5 are all daytrips with destinations at least 3 hours away. That is a minimum of 6 hours driving, 7-8 if you take your time or some scenic routes. If you include the time actually spent at your destination, you would not have time to linger in the mornings or spend relaxing evenings in Nafplio. Day 6 would add 1.5 hours to the roughly 3 hour trip between Nafplio and Athens (by backtracking between Mycenae and Epidavros). As you were already realizing, something needed to be cut to avoid so much car time and to fit in an overnight in Monemvasia. There are some ways you can rearrange your itinerary to be more efficient. Alan and I already pointed out the way to avoid backtracking between Mycenae and Epidavros. You could do the Gorge on Day 1, minimizing backtracking/roundtrip on that route. Then do the Corinth environs and Mycenae on another day. Or add Corinth et. al. with Epidavros on your way home and do Mycenae as a short daytrip. For example: Day 1 - Athens-Gorge-Nafplio (6-7 hours) Day 2 - Nafplio (Mycenae daytrip) (1.5 hours) Day 3 - Nafplio-Monemvasia (overnight) (3 hours) Day 4 - Monemvasia-Nafplio (possibly stopping at Mystras) (3-4 hours) Day 5 - Nafplio or possible Olympia daytrip (possibly 6-7 hours)
Day 6 - Nafplio-Epidavros-Corinth-Athens (3 hours)

Posted by janet
Philadelphia, PA, USA
433 posts

About Mycenae, agree with comment, you could get "ruin fatigue" ... I've been there a few times and have seen my travel companions sigh wearily. You can get the "feel" of an Iliad-era fortress by going to Tiryns the huge stones (the size of volkswagens) piled up 60 feet high, the ruins on top, the vista!! The bonus: NO tour busse, NO crowds & just 10 minutes outside Nafplio. You can fit it in at the beginning or end of any trip outside Old Town. PS on Nafplio when u arrive, before u go to your rental, drive in on main street, past P.O., straight to the seafront... on RH side just before water is a terrific "supermarket" (no huge sign, keep eyes peeled). Has all the goodies (fresh, produce, meat, cheeses, wine,soda, snacks) that you'll want for yr stay; great variety & prices. Then Load into yr car & not have to shop again & lug heavy bags.

Posted by Leslie H
Northborough, MA
619 posts

Douglas - I had thought about doing the Gorge on the first day's drive from Athens to Nafplio, but I don't think that we could do it justice that day. My impression is that, to really appreciate it, you take the train, explore the town(s?), and return. I think that we'll just be rushing too much, and we'll be anxious to get to Nafplio. I think that the first day will be better spent in Corinth and Nemea (ruins and vineyard), unless we decide to juggle things a bit because of Mycenae and Epidaurus. But, I'm beginning to think (thanks, Janet and others) that we might consider skipping Mycenae. Janet - Thanks for the tip on Tyrins. I would be thrilled to avoid throngs of tour busses and people! It sounds like a unique place, which is the only way to avoid ruin-fatigue! Thanks also for the tip on the grocery stop before getting to our Nafplio rental. So, now I have another question: We will be in Greece from the 12th to the 30th of June. What should we expect in terms of crowds? We were hoping that we would be a bit earlier than the peak season. But, will everything still be really crowded? And, that begs another question, based upon experience traveling during the summer in Italy. (In Italy, we booked as much as we could in advance, to avoid hours upon hours of waiting on lines (e.g., Colosseum, Uffizi, Accademia). It eliminates a bit of spontaneity, but it was a worthwhile tradeoff to avoid wasting hours in line.) So, the question is whether there are lines to get into the various sites in Greece? If so, I'll look into whether tickets can be purchased in advance. Thanks!