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Greece May 2022 - chapter 1

Trip report for May 2022 / Greece - i will preface this by saying that the travel forum and the RS information overall was invaluable to the planning and execution of the trip - everyone had a wonderful time and overall trip exceeded expectations - here are some highlights which i hope will be helpful to others that might also be contemplating Greece- for reference we were a group of first time visitors to Greece- all over 50 and fairly active; and two first time international travelers / two many time intl travelers -

Day 1 / overnight from Wash DC to Athens

Day 2/ arrive / immediate transit ATH to Santorini via Aegean ; stayed at Hotel Mylos in Firastephani ; Panos was kind enough to arrange our airport pickup and transfer to the hotel ; loved the hotel location; rooms were comfortable / sufficient for our needs (we dont spend any time in the room , so we look for the basics - good location, friendly host and functional place to sleep and shower;

Walked to Fira to shake the jet lag, checked out the sights betwn Firastephani and Fira; walked down the steps to the old port and took the cable car up ; stopped by Tropical bar for a sundowner before we walked back to Dinner at Athaion - made a reservation the week before and asked for a 'rim side' table - we shared mezedes and then split one entree (so big were the portions) great dinner, reasonable prices and excellent service
Day 3/ breakfast (included at Mylos) on our 'front porch' - simple and delicious ; cannot beat the view; took a bus to Oia and explored the town (before the cruise boats arrived) - note it was very windy so ultimately only one boat was able to send in tenders, everyone else appeared to sail by :) so less crowds ... ; hiked back from Oia to Fira ; beautiful hike but espec challenging given the winds that day; picnicked along the route and took many photos; once back to FS, took the bus again , this time out to visit Santorini Brewing Company - where we did a tasting and sampled some coming attractions - nice tasting room, excellent prices and good place to pick up some gifts for the beer drinkers in your circle ; back to Oia for dinner at Dimitris Taverna in Ammoudi Bay (below Oia) - sitting on the water side ; watching the boats come in from their sunset tours; great food and excellent service (again make reservation ahead of time) - we had mezedes and then picked a fish from the case for dinner - yum!
Day 4/ morning tramping around Firostephani / Fira; rounded out our RS tour with visits to a couple churches including the requisite photos of the dome over the caldera - transit to ferry terminal for midday ferry to Naxos ; as in most parts of the world, the ferry was disorganized chaos but we had assigned seats so once we waded through the crowd at boarding, we were able to settle into our seats and enjoy the ~90 min ride (fast ferry) - again, it was a very windy day so good to be inside on the fast ferry ; on arrival in Naxos we walked from ferry terminal to our hotel , Kalergis Studios, right on the beach in St George just south of Chora ; dropped bags and went for an orientation walk around Chora old town - ended up at Meze Meze (or Meze2) for dinner - excellent food, service, reasonable prices- quickly becoming a habit to get a series of mezedes to share and then see how hungry we were (or were not) before ordering an entree- this worked well for us both in being able to sample a larger number of dishes / family style, but also helped our budget! - decided after talking to the Kalergis host that to visit the center the following day we were going to need to rent a car because the bus sched had not quite ramped up yet for the season - host was able to arrange with DriveTime - so we reserved for the following day ... more in vol 2.

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Chapter 2 / Naxos contd -

Day 5 - went for breakfast at Klik Cafe - the crepes are super and the service was fab - ; picked up the rental car and drove out to multiple sites including Demeter Temple, Panagia Drosiani, Apano Kastro, and hiked from Melanes to Myli to Flerio and back to see the Kouros; stopped in Chalki for late lunch (mezedes) at Το Σπιτικό Γαλακτομπούρεκο,(near Mitos Arternative Bar) visited the Vallindras distillery - while the hikes are number signed and marked, there are places along the trail that are difficult to find the marking , suggest GPS and use or all trails or follow the instructions of the earthtrekkers to help you along the way - we did not have a paper trail map - if doing over, i would find a place to buy that! ; sundowners at the convenient bar in front of KS ; dinner at Nostimon Hellas - delish!
Day 6 - early start to get out to Mt Zas and hike the "shorter but more steep" route from the west side - beautiful views and had mostly to ourselves before ~10am... after that started to see the train of folks trekking up the other side - again, trail is marked but can be difficult to find the markers along the way - keep a lookout for the cairns and be prepared for bouldering and scree/scrambles.... stopped for late lunch in Filoti at Platanos cafe (the only Pizza we had on this trip) and wandered back on small roads back to Chora; beach time in the afternoon - access to chairs across from KS on StG beach ; dinner at To Elliniko - great food and service ; pretty much everywhere we visited offered us small sweet treats and/or post dinner wine/ouzo/tsipouro as a thanks -
Day 7 - early morning walk on the beach and then quick breakfast before departing to Naxos airport for short flight back to ATH; pick up rental car at airport (ACR rentals) and head to Nafplio / Peloponnese region ; driving no problem, tolls manageable , intended to stop at Corinth canal at old walking bridge but it was closed and there was an active construction site around it (town water treatment facility??) so we drove and walked around /across the Isthia bridge - it was interesting but if you are planning for it, you dont need more than 20 min to park, walk across and back, take photos and move along - drove on to Ancient Nemea to visit the museum, old olympic stadium and ruins - definitely worth doing - we also visited a winery on the Nemea 'wine road' - we were late in the day at this point , if doing over, would allow for more time there - the Nemea wines are pretty great and a super value- we picked up a couple of bottles for our time in Nafplio - friendly and engaging family run businesses - pick your fave and stop in ! drove along the back roads into beautiful farmland and ultimately into Nafplio - parked the car in the convenient free town parking near the port, and walked over a couple blocks to our hotel at Amymone/Adiandi - friendly host /staff ; once checked in ; headed out to do self-guided RS orientation tour of Nafplio - had a good ~two hour walk around town and visited all the recommended sites - ultimately ending up back at Aiolos for dinner - while the food at Aiolos was very good, it was the one place where the service was less friendly/attentive than everywhere else we were in greece (including Athens!) ; we had a reservation and were seated promptly but it took a long time to even get someone to take a drink order ... for reference we had looked (per Janets recommendation! ) at the visitNafplio website for recommendations/suggestions - great reference for your planning - we did check out Omorfo but it was closed for renovation and also O Noulis but they were only open for lunch at this point in the season (ultimately we did go there for lunch later in the trip!) - finished dinner just in time for a quick visit to the ice cream shop for a late night gelato ! more in chapter 3~

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Chapter 3 /Nafplio contd Day 8 - early morning trip to the Palamidi to climb the steps (all 999) of them - visit around the site - great views in all directions and then hiked back down to the town - a lot of steps but actually an easier climb than the steps in Santorini / Fira old port , which are very worn/slick and difficult to navigate - returned to the A/A for breakfast - wonderful spread served across along the waterside in their sister restaurant Wild Duck ; after breakfast, headed out via car to visit Tiryns, and then Asine - Tiryns was interesting - conveniently close to Nafplio, but Asine is definitely worth the trip - one of the most well -organized and signed sites that we visited in terms of providing information about the various features of the site and a great little museum ; across from Asine is a small restaurant/cafe on a pebbly/stone beach with a few ~10 chairs; paid for drinks /chairs and enjoyed the beach and water for the afternoon ; headed back to Nafplio late afternoon in time for another pre-dinner stroll around town; a little shopping and enjoying some of our Nemean wine on the tables out front of A/A , then dinner at Kavaleris - lots of locals; great food at reasonable prices; also enjoyed another Nemean rose for 3Euro/ 500ml ... another stop at a diff gelateria after dinner and nice walk along the waterside before calling it a night
Day9 - breakfast at A/A then out to Mycenae - cannot say that we were able to beat the crowds, there were a fair number of bus groups there including quite a few school groups - museum is worth a walk through ; take your time to walk through all the different little side routes up on the site ; returned to town in time to visit the weekly market (Wed /Sat) and visit with the different vendors to sample wine, honey, nuts, and pick up some picnic supplies including the former but also fruit (cherries, oranges) - stopped for lunch (late) at O Noulis - try the flaming saganaki ! and then went for a walk along Arvanita beach along the pedestrian walkway down toward Karathona we stopped part way at a small stone/pebble beach along the path - water here somehow colder than Asine... headed back to town A/A for pre-dinner bottle of Nemean wine and then dinner / Alaloum - only the waterside one was open and not the one in old town - strolling around Syntagma and a post dinner gelato
Day 10 - breakfast at A/A and then visit to Arch Museum on Syntagma Square (note W/Cs in museum are closed for Covid- thats the only place we heard that ) ; and left Nafplio midday for drive back to ATH, stopping in Epidavrus on way back to visit the theater - amazing! allow enough time to visit the other ruins at the site as well along with the museum - arriving in ATH , returned ACR car to airport (note when you give them a return time, thats when they plan to meet you - so if you are early, be sure to whats app them and give a heads up or you will be hanging around) ; metro back to downtown - and then to Mitreopolis street and dinner at Ella - we did not have a reservation but they accommodated us quickly - food was good and service was prompt - again, we trended toward mezedes shared and then entrees if we were still hungry - not so pricy and plenty of choices - we stayed this night at Hotel Iris across the street from the train station because we had an early morning train the following day - i can only say that the location was good - we had a < 10 min walk to train station in the am - continued in chapter 4 ...

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Chapter 4 /

Day 11 - early morning train to Kalambaka / Meteora - this is the only part of the trip that we used a travel vendor to arrange - bought the package from VisitMeteora that included the train tickets, hotel stay, and two tours of our choice (we chose the sunset tour on day 1 and the hiking tour on day 2) including transit from train to hotel and hotel to train - the VisitMeteora team was excellent from start to finish, getting us our train tickets, contacting us to confirm our tour choices, the guides and drivers were excellent, knowledgeable, helpful, etc and obviously enjoyed their roles! - train ride was ~4 hours from ATH to Kalambaka - take snacks but they do have a decent cafe car on the train - beautiful scenery on the ride and comfortable all things considered - we had reserved seats so no issues boarding the train to find seats together - arrival in Kalambaka on time and found our tour leader to take us to our hotel - we chose to stay in Kastraki - highly recommend staying in the old village - smaller and easier to get around and feels more authentic than Kalambaka which may have more services but also feels more touristy- our hotel was Hotel Plakias - and we stayed in a small guesthouse behind their restaurant Taverna Gardenia - we ended up having lunch at Gardenia - made friends with the owners and staff - and then took a short hike around old Kastraki and up onto the trails before coming back to meet our VT tour group for our sunset tour - took a ~4.5 hour tour around Meteora to see all six active monasteries, plus visit the oldest Byzantine church and also go into St Stephens before finding a scenic rock outcropping to watch the sunset - there were a fair number of people at all locations so i can only imagine what it looks like in JulAug timeframe! make sure you do in fact have your shoulders covered and wear a skirt below the knees OR take a large pareo and wrap around as a skirt when needed - returned to Plakias and ended up having dinner at Gardenia ( we just loved these folks -- so friendly and helpful and engaging ; great food and good atmosphere!) - rooms at Plakias were perfect ! well appointed, quiet, and looked to be newly renovated - modern touches in a traditional setting -

Day 12 - breakfast (included) at the hotel prior to early morning departure with our Visit Meterora friends for our hiking tour - we had a group of eight - our group plus another family of four - our guide Christos took us on a ~5 hour hike around the area, ultimately ended up being able to see all six active monasteries, visit Great Meteoron and Varlaam with the group , and then while the rest of the group hiked back down to Kastraki, we detoured to hike through to Roussanou, and Holy Trinity and then ultimately on the trails from Trinity (famous in James Bond movie) down to Kalambaka where we caught a ride back to Kastraki - we took snacks on the hike but were also able to supplement with very good spinach pie from the food truck at GM and a freddo cappucino at Varlaam food truck ... back in Kastraki- said goodbye to our wonderful hosts and visitMeteora driver picked us up for return trip to train station where we caught our ~6:30p train back to ATH - taxi to the hotel in the Plaka (Hotel Phaedra) - we had dinner on the train (courtesy of our friends at Gardenia who packed us takeaway boxes) -

Day 12 - walked up to our rooftop patio at the Phaedra to see the Acropolis view in the early morning - cannot beat the location for access to the Plaka, Acropolis, metro, etc. rooms are comfortable but minimal services - all about the location and value here - then walked down to Makregianni street to find a cafe for breakfast- highly recommend crepes at LaCreperie or Spezie ... tbc chapter 5

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Chapter 5 / Athens contd
Day 12 continued... after breakfast - having gotten a leisurely start, walked over to Syntagma square for the changing of the guard at the Parliament, then decided to visit the Acropolis museum (very glad that i did this prior to visiting Acropolis because it was a good orientation - then did the RS walking tour parts 1 / 2 and then found a late lunch at OldSchool (very friendly staff and the best fried potatoes i had on the trip) ; we took a late afternoon bus tour (we had some tired walkers after our 5+ hour hike in Meteora the prior day) - but it was not something Id do again - i think the RS self guided walking tour at your own pace would get you to all the sites you needed to see and probably equally as efficiently - later in the day visited a few other local sites referenced in RS walking tour ; and then had dinner at ManiMani (also spelled ManhManh) - we had stopped by in the late afternoon to make a reservation - they were nice enough to accommodate us at our requested time - it was a splurge compared to the other places we had eaten on our trip, but the food and service were excellent and worth every euro! it is a little further from the plaka and does not have an acropolis view - but fortunately we were able to enjoy that from our hotel rooftop before and after dinner on our own ! - a bit of a walk around the plaka after dinner and then back to the rooftop!
Day 13- head out straight to the Acropolis to be at the gate for 8 am opening - followed the selfguided RS tour and finished up around 11a and headed to late breakfast back along Makrigianni - after breakfast headed out to the National Archeological Museum and visited more RS sites ; then returned to Phaedra in time to change and walk over to The Clumsies for cocktails before walking over to Cook.In.Athens for our cooking class/ dinner - The Clumsies has some unique drinks and has been rated top three in the world (!) for unique bar/cocktails; Cook.In.Athens we had reserved ahead of time on -line ; Marilena is a wonderful teacher, cook and host - we had a group of eight - our four plus two other couples and by the end of the evening we were one big family ... it was a wonderful experience and highly recommend! make your plans in advance as she books up early - she was able to accommodate one vegetarian in the group and we had a great evening making and eating our creations! - walk back to the phaedra and window shopping along the way and eventually back to our rooftop!
Day 14 - morning trip to Ancient Agora (RS self guided tour !) and back to Plaka via the Anafiotika area for breakfast ; visited several historical churches, Hadrians Library, Arch, Temple of Apollo and then finally back to hotel to pick up bags and meet our Welcome Pickups driver for ride out to Rafina / Hotel Avra - reservation for Welcome Pickups made on line and easy /peasy - superfriendly driver , quite knowledgeable and fun trip out to Rafina - once checked in, enjoyed our final beach trip , quick dip and sundowners before dinner and packing up for return trip to US the following morning - ... Day 15 - Hotel Avra - breakfast included , wide selection and avail starting at 6am.... free shuttle service provided you reserve a spot ahead of time to the airport- smooth return to airport and headed home...... thanks again to all that helped us with our planning - overall the trip was fabulous and we are already starting to think about a return.... we would spend more time in Naxos and Nafplio in a heartbeat, i could also have used an additional day in Meteora - of course there are many other places in Greece we had to skip this time.... so looking forward to our return !! happy travels ! GRYHNDGRL

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Sounds like you had a great time!

I am also in love with Meteora and plan a stop again next year. I also stayed at the Guesthouse Plakias and will plan to be there again. They did just renovate this winter AND changed the name to Boutique Holy Spirit, in case anyone is looking. No idea what that’s about but I double checked with the owners just to be sure.

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GRYHNDGRL- What a wonderful trip report! Thanks for taking me back to many of my favorite places.

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I really enjoyed reading your trip report! Your hotel on Santorini was 3 min. from our hotel. We also enjoyed dinner at Aktaion twice! Glad you enjoyed 2 other favorite restaurants of ours- Mani Mani, Athens & Nostiman Hellas, Naxos! In addition, fond memories of other sites throughout Greece! Looking forward to vol 2. efcharistó!

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I have been to many of the places you visited and I must say you were more efficient than we are were! I can’t believe how much you were able to do in one day!!

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could not have done it without the sage advice from the crew on this travel forum! we do tend to be an 'up at dawn and out until the bats fly' kind of crowd.... so we max'ed out on our time and yet still managed to rest/chill on a few beaches and take strolls around the towns ... !! when i get a moment.. will add volume 2 which is ALL ABOUT THE FOOD !!! yum yum.

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What a wonderful trip report! Thank you! We are doing a very similar itinerary in July and I am taking notes! I am wondering how easy it was to get a COVID test 1 day before you returned and where did you get it? We are flying back to the US from Athens so wondering if anyone has any information on that? Thank you.

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Yes I was able to get a covid test the day before
We were also in Athens in the plaka
I checked at two pharmacies and they both were doing testing - however the pharmacy on the main road was making appts and the out of the way pharmacy did not have a line and took me right away
To be safe I would check w the pharmacy to see if you need an appt and go ahead and fill out the PLF FORM on line even if US says not required both pharmacies asked for my QR code /number to do the test results
8euro and got my results immed (less than 15 min)
Check w your hotel too for closest pharmacy?