Please sign in to post.

Greece Trip Report, July 11-23

I bought cheap $550 United tickets back in April DFW-ATH round trip, with a connection in IAD, for a friend and myself. We had been talking about travel and actually looking at Greece for April 2022. But she works in education and an April trip would of necessity be shorter, so when this sale popped up, we just did it. I had been watching Greece and felt pretty confident it would be open. I then booked all our lodging on booking.com with free cancellation (with late cancellation dates). We knew July would be hot, but it meant we could stay a few days longer.

It was both a pretty fast paced trip, yet relaxed. Nights were:
Santorini - 2 nights at Ianthe Apartments and Villas, rental car with Vazeos for 2 days at airport;
Nafplio - 2 nights at the Agamemnon Hotel, rental car from Athens Car Rental at the Athens airport after flying back from Santorini;
Itea - 1 night at the Hotel Kalafati (for Delphi);
Kastriki- 2 nights at Guesthouse Plakias (for Meteora); and
Athens 4 nights in Check Point - Plaka, an apartment. Car turned back in at airport upon return to Athens.

First flight change occurred about a month or so ago, making our connection tight, so I was able to rebook a flight with a longer connection through EWR with no change fee

However on Friday night before leaving, our Sunday flight DFW-EWR was cancelled and United rebooked it for Monday - leaving our Sunday EWR-ATH in place. Ha! After checking online options, I called and spent 2 hours on hold while I packed, since one of the options had us leaving a day early. The reasons for cancellation were stated as the tropical storm, plus a closed runway - and there were only 2 or 3 options for rebooking. We ended up changing our entire flight and routing through IAD again (with an almost 8 hr layover, but hey, we were still headed to Greece!). Once an agent answered, it was fast and easy. (Also I could hear a rooster crowing a number of times - she said she was working from home. Lol.)

We then had to go back in and edit our PLR forms for Greece. Since we didn’t have a QR code yet, it was easy (once we figured out how) and it triggered a new email for boarding. We used the United app, Travel Ready Center, to upload our Vaccine card photos and passport info and Greece email screenshot. I have since lost track of the checkin process, but everything was checked, verified at DFW, and then at the gate in IAD we had to show all docs again and get our boarding pass stamped before getting on the plane to Athens.

The PLR QR code arrived via email right at midnight (Greece time) just before we took off from EWR. That was a relief! Flight was full and normal but with the addition of masks. Upon landing, we were the only flight going through immigration - no PCR testing and it was fast. My daughter had flown in a week earlier from Dubai and they did a PCR test on almost everyone on the plane (took 2 hours).

Our flight landed about 10:00 am and we had a separate Aegean ticket to Santorini at 5:15. But there was an earlier flight at 1:30 and we were able to switch (after a couple of lines). Getting to Santorini a few hours earlier sure isn’t a bad thing! When I confirmed the earlier flight, I quickly emailed Vazeos Car Rental about the time change and they met us at the Santorini airport with our automatic car - quick and easy. Driving itself wasn’t so quick and easy and I might think twice if there were normal crowds. But I was just careful. The car gave us freedom for our one full day and took care of getting to and from the airport.

Posted by
1035 posts

This was probably the perfect summer to visit Santorini - although there were definitely tourists, there weren’t crowds except at the castle at sunset (my daughter went but I did not). Santorini was bucket list for my friend. So I chose the Ianthe Apartments and Villas for those famous postcard views. It is a family run location just on the edge of Oia, close but not too close. And it faces the Caldera right on the main road with nothing in front, so the views were spectacular - both from seats in front and from the rooftop terrace and also views to the other side of the island from the back pool. Breakfast was served to our apartment each morning. It was absolutely charming and it would be my choice again if I ever go back. The owner asked me to pass along that they pay booking.com 20%, so booking direct allows them to give customers a better price while also saving money. I normally book direct, but did not for this trip for the ease of cancellation if necessary.

For our one full day on Santorini, we explored Oia in the morning, then drove to the lighthouse at the other end of the island, then drove to the village of Emporio and wandered there, before an evening wine and food pairing at Venetsanos Winery - sitting right at the edge above the harbor. It was a fast stop and there were lots of other things we could have seen but that was the relaxing part. We just enjoyed each moment and our choices.

The following morning we flew back to Athens and were met at the airport with our car from Athens Rental Cars. There was about 10 minutes of paperwork and we were on our way to Nafplio. We made a stop to walk across the Corinth Canal, then needed lunch. Didn’t see an easy option near there so we drove a few miles to the Isthmus Bridge Cafe, which was right beside the canal water level near the canal beginning - it was a gorgeous waterside view. Then it was on to Nafplio and the Agamemnon Hotel.

Again, another great place to stay. I reserved a room with a balcony facing the water and it was so nice. The room had plenty of space and was our one lodging that had a bathtub instead of just a shower. Every night the restaurants below us along the water filled with outside dining, but if our balcony door was closed, you couldn’t hear a thing.

Nafplio itself was delightful to wander in the evenings. There were plenty of restaurants scattered through the old city and wasn’t expensive. We only stayed 2 nights but I do wish we had had 4 nights. :) There is so much to see in the area and we couldn’t see most of it. For our one full day, we visited the Ancient Theater at Epidaurus and then stopped at Melos, an organic olive oil factory for a short tour. Both of those things were so enjoyable; but it was hot, so we opted to get a little lunch, then head to the beach in Nafplio for a while, followed by a late dinner. Nafplio itself seemed to have a lot of visitors but not many from the U.S. The desk clerk at the hotel said they were full. The town was not crowded, though - just lively.

The next morning, we checked out and made the choice to visit the Palamidi Fortress instead of some other sites in the area. I know it is not historically as interesting but we had been intrigued and enjoyed stopping. Then it was on toward Delphi.

Posted by
1035 posts

Instead of staying in Delphi itself, the mention of Galaxidi interested me (and it looked really charming long distance from the highway) - we hadn’t had much beach time. However I couldn’t find anywhere with good cancellation or at a price I wanted to pay. So I roamed the area on Google maps and found Itea just a little further on and closer to Delphi. It was a cute beachside town, maybe a little less wealthy - and I reserved a room at the Hotel Kalafati. I have no idea what I reserved because when we arrived, they upgraded us to a top floor room with a massive balcony facing the water. Free easy parking included. The room itself was nice but not as nice as the Agamemnon (just as a comparison). But it worked well for us and we could have had a party on the balcony. :) I wouldn’t hesitate at all staying there again. Since this was basically just an overnight stop, we spent time on the beach and then ate at Maistrali, a beautiful restaurant right on the water. It was a one night stop, but very relaxing.

Delphi was on the agenda for the next day. We got there around 9 and found a real parking spot near the outdoor entrance. I went as far up as the theater and my friend went on up to the stadium. We saw everything at a leisurely pace - again, only encountered one large tour group and nothing was crowded. I think we spent about 2 1/2 hours there, then ate a small lunch at the museum cafe and spent another hour - hour and a half in the museum. The museum was one of the few indoor things we did. Staff were monitoring the number of people inside, both at the front door and in each room. We had to wait about 15 minutes to get in but not to move from room to room. It was nicely done.

We left about 2:30 to drive to Meteora. Some day I am going to check my route versus other routes…… I let Google choose for me and it took us up and down a serious mountain. (Not the one you have to go back down just to leave Delphi.) I seriously don’t like heights but I do better driving them than riding with someone else. So I drove and let my friend enjoy the views. I will say it was something totally different. We encountered numerous cows roaming freely alongside the road up the mountain and had to stop for one once while it crossed. It was the only drive where we saw cows. :)

To see Meteora, I looked at places in both Kalambaka and Kastraki and chose the Guesthouse Plakias in Kastraki. It is a little family run place with an attached family restaurant (where breakfast is served). This was far from the fanciest place we stayed but I seriously loved it. Everything was so casual that it felt like staying with family. Our room was nice (one floor up with no elevator) and our balcony looked right out at the mountains and monasteries, and it had a designated parking spot. One night I walked across the street to the village square and sat on a bench looking up at the mountains and listening to the old men talk and the kids playing. We had 2 nights here and ate 2 meals (and breakfasts) at the restaurant. One night we drove to Kalambaka to wander and ate somewhere else.

Meteora has been on my list for several years. Our full day was a Sunday so all monasteries were open. We visited 3, I think. I loved it, but the views were the most amazing part - both from above and from below. Lots of walking and lots of stairs if you visit them all. But driving wasn’t hard and even if you choose to not walk lots of stairs, you get amazing scenery. Remember no shorts, women need skirts covering the knee and covered shoulders. I guess normally the monasteries will loan you something but this year (Covid) they seemed to be selling fabric. Even saw a guy with a fabric wrap - apparently he didn’t get the “no shorts” memo. :)

Posted by
1035 posts

Driving back to Athens to return the rental car was easy. Most of the roads were highways and there wasn’t a lot of traffic till I got closer to the airport - but still far less than driving in city traffic here. It was about a 4 hour drive and midway we knew we had a couple of hours to kill, so we took a spur of the moment detour to Chalcis for lunch, randomly picking a place that looked like it might be on the water. Google maps did a great job of getting us there and it was yet a different view of Greece - a different large city with a beautiful waterfront.

We drove into the airport to see our car rental guy coming out to meet us - and our car pick up sitting a few feet in front of him. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect - our driver said he had waited only 2 minutes. When I started planning, I thought we would take the metro in to town, but a few days before we decided we would rather share the cost of someone to drive us directly to the apartment. The apartment management arranged for the transfer both directions. I never met anyone, but communication was always immediate and always reassuring.

I reserved a little one bedroom apartment in the Plaka for our 4 nights (Check Point Plaka). It was nice but the absolute best thing was location: central, near shopping and sights, yet quiet at night. By the time we got to Athens, we were getting a little tired (and hot) so just decided to slow things down. We visited the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, the Areopagus, and got our money’s worth out of the combo Acropolis ticket by seeing Zeus’s Temple, Hadrian’s Library, and the Ancient Agora. We also watched the changing of the Guard after getting our Covid test, walked through the National Gardens, and toured the Panathenaic Stadium. And shopped. :) Driver back to the airport and home. Covid test at Central Lab on Voulis (€20 printed out in English). We did the test, ate breakfast while they processed, came back in an hour to pick up our paperwork.

On Acropolis day, we ate lunch in the Museum cafe. In 2 weeks, except for hotel breakfasts, that was the only meal we ate inside. Every other meal was on a terrace or sidewalk or such. We just got a table in the shade and enjoyed it all. All of our hotels served breakfast except for the apartment in Athens. Everyone had some kind of Covid protocol in place, but it wasn’t all the same. Two hotels had breakfast buffet style but you donned provided plastic gloves before serving yourself, as well as wearing your mask. Two places brought or served individual breakfasts at your table.

And every place we went, Greeks were consistent on mask wearing inside. If you forgot, they would nicely remind you. So if you stepped off the street into an open shop, you needed to put your mask on. Even in open cafes, you needed your mask walking through other tables (as we should do). I talked to a couple of sales people and they were vaccinated, but one mentioned (like here) that a higher proportion of the new cases there were the younger people who had not yet been vaccinated.

In going through many old forum questions and reports here, I pulled off a lot of tips: head straight to the islands, the Agamemnon, Galaxidi (which led me to Itea), Athens Car Rental instead of a chain, recommendations for Nafplio (I finally just picked a spelling from many), and fromTripAdvisor Vazeos Car Rental (also local not a chain) and Central Lab for our test. I also chose to get a local sim at the Athens Airport for a couple of reasons and it worked well. I had offline Google Maps ready, should I need it while driving but I think I had plenty of data.

It was a wonderful trip and I now know why people return again and again. I have already threatened to stay long term in Kastraki. :)

Posted by
615 posts

Fabulous report. so glad you got to travel this year. Greece is on my possible list for 2022 so I will re-read your recommendations.

Margaret

Posted by
1612 posts

Great report -- and your travel experience and savoir faire show through brightly. Makes me feel like I'm stumbling through the world :-P

Posted by
2865 posts

So glad you had a great trip and thanks for sharing the details!

Posted by
1035 posts

Thank you! It was so nice to be traveling again, even knowing everything can change at any point.

Posted by
2733 posts

I absolutely loved your uplifting report! Thanks so much for sharing. Glad to hear you enjoyed your journey.

Posted by
1759 posts

We did the RS Greece tour in 2019 and loved it! Now, we want to go back and see Meteora and Santorini. Thanks for the report!

Posted by
254 posts

Thoroughly enjoyed your trip report of one of my favorite countries. Sounded like a breeze, I’ve always been leery of driving in Greece but I guess I need to rethink that!

Posted by
1928 posts

This is one of my favorite trip reports ever. I have been to some of the places you visited and by reading this, I happily revisited those wonderful locations and sites. I hope to go back one day. You have provided comprehensive and inclusive information and it sounds as if you had a wonderful and very successful trip. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

Posted by
6699 posts

Your on-the-ground time sounds terrific, but am I reading this right....did you and friend spend a combined 11.5 hours just at the airports (IAD and Athens) - that's in addition to the actual flight time? IAD is one of my local international airports. I was wondering what was there to do at the airport for that long...were things open? I imagine that wearing masks for that long was no picnic, and standing in crowded lines to rebook for an earlier flight, etc. I don't think I could do it (ok, I know I couldn't) - you have much more patience than me and, although I'm not generally risk averse, I think being in crowded airports that long does present a risk. I've flown only once since March 2019 (had to make that trip to take care of family stuff) and noticed that people don't observe social distancing and don't wear their masks over their nose even at airports. And there are plenty of small (unvaccinated) kids on planes.

Anyhow, the time spent in Greece sounds lovely - everything else sounds like a real pain.

Posted by
1035 posts

Oh, thanks, andi and others. :) We had a great time and I gained so much knowledge from what other people have written here that I wanted to add my details in case it helps anyone in the future.

Agnes, yes, you read right. And I won’t say it was a fun part of the trip….. but it was literally Friday night at 9:30 (before a Sunday morning departure) when we got word our flight to EWR was cancelled and I was on the phone on hold till midnight.

Options for getting to Athens at that point were slim. We had the choices of: 1) what we did (loooong layover in DC); 2) a connection through both Denver and Frankfurt; 3) another connection through Frankfurt on Lufthansa the agent didn’t really want to put us on (and I wasn’t crazy about last minute transit outside the U.S.) that left on Saturday a day early; 4) going a day late and hoping weather and runway wouldn’t be a continued issue; 5) connections that were WAY too short; or 6) cancelling everything. There were no other United flights that would get us to EWR in time for the EWR-Athens leg. So it was far from ideal and I know you are right about risks. I will say the airport was crowded for about 2 hours, then everyone disappeared until time for boarding the second flight. I can’t explain that, but it WAS interesting. All the planes left and there didn’t seem to be more scheduled there. Basically we ate lunch in a restaurant with 2 other customers and then took a nap in an area with no people.

And being able to change Athens-Santorini for an earlier flight meant we were in the Athens airport about 2 1/2 hours (occupied by getting the flight changed and checking in) between deplaning and boarding again.

I AM glad you pointed this out, though, because Travel 2021 has to be about assessing risks and being able to flex. My friend has both had Covid and had her vaccines and I have my vaccines. So yes, there are risks still, but they seemed acceptable to us - and everyone else in the airport and on the plane was making their own choice also. I know it wouldn’t be a good choice for everyone.

Posted by
1035 posts

Luv2Travel, most of driving was a breeze. But there were tricky parts. There were a number of 2 lane narrow, winding mountain roads where we went: up to Delphi, across wherever Google took me getting from Delphi to a highway, and up near Meteora. But when I was young, I drove for 8 years in narrow hilly conditions with a standard in Japan, and have more recently driven in Ireland, so with an automatic and a small car it just required some caution, a helpful navigator, and consideration (I tried to pull over for anyone to go around me if I was going too slowly). Also speed limits seemed to be more of “a suggestion”. Lol! I didn’t speed but I was in the minority!

Posted by
12325 posts

Glad you enjoyed it. Great post.

I get a kick out of people in the open breakfast buffet, with masks below their noses wearing plastic gloved.

Posted by
1369 posts

Wonderful!
Thanks for the great report.
Now, you loved Greece, but you will love Turkey even more if you ever go there!
Both are great.

Posted by
1035 posts

James E, you are funny - everyone at my hotels wore masks correctly. Maybe you need better places. 🤣🤣 Have a great rest of your trip!

SJ, this is a problem. I do tend to love where I go….. (although not everywhere). I plan to get to Turkey some time. Sigh - so many places, so little time.

Posted by
222 posts

Great trip report! I was thinking of doing the same thing- renting a car at Athens airport and driving to Delphi and Meteora. Your experience on doing so confirms that's the way I'm going to do it- rather than take a train/bus or an organized tour. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by
12325 posts

Travelmom, Greece was better than the other places, but I just flew from Crete to Athens today and it was a cattle drive, no social distancing at all.

I glanced around the waiting room and found a group of 20 seats and took a count and about 12 had their nose covered, but it was unbearably hot.

My hotel this morning was laughable, (great hotel by the way) the staff putting the food out covered up when the guests approached.

The guests were a bit more than half serious but no judgment, just what I saw; and yes, Travelmom, not fair to make a judgment on one small sample :-), so you are right.

I'm good with it all, but i don't want others taking a trip just to have a bad time.

Posted by
4841 posts

Glad you found Itea. We certainly liked Galaxidi better than the town of Delphi, and Itea sounds very nice as well. Your trip report reminds me how enjoyable Greece trips have been - look forward to being able to go again sometime in the future.

Posted by
6515 posts

We also liked Galaxidi but found Delphi wonderful. The views were gorgeous. Anyone booking a hotel there should make sure they get a view all the way to the water. Amazing.

Posted by
1035 posts

Good tip, Suki. Views make such a difference. Delphi was much more charming in person as we drove through than I could ascertain online. For me, the choice came down to mountains or beach. And we hadn’t had much beach time, so that was what did it.

Posted by
2932 posts

Great trip report! Also good to hear what things are like in Greece although I'm sure it varies from place to place. We're hoping to do a short trip to an island near Athens in a couple weeks, and finally do the Parthenon museum as well.

Posted by
80 posts

Wow! Sounds like a great trip! Thank you for all the tips & details; I'm planning our trip visit to Greece and this gives me a great starting point. We've been to Turkey and have been longing to visit Greece, yet for some reason it always seemed a bit intimidating to me - esp. driving there. You give me hope. Thanks again.

Posted by
1035 posts

Sarah, I figure not only would Covid situations change from place to place but they may well have changed just in the 2 weeks I have been home. :) Oh, well…..

Carolyn, driving wasn’t always a breeze but all our roads were 2 lane and paved - and we got to drive on the right side. Ha! Plus a lot of it was really nice highway driving.

Posted by
2932 posts

Carolyn - regarding driving in Greece, it's really Ok (outside Athens) for the most part. We've done it a few times (Thessaloniki to Pelion and back, about 3 hours each way on freeway and mountain roads) and from Athens to Delphi and back. We're willing enough to drive there again to do the Peloponnese, and I don't adore driving in Europe despite (or because of?) living here a long while. It's nothing as bad as driving even in the "good" parts of Italy and the drive to/from Delphi is especially chill. Just saying as a born and bred California driver who also gets nervous about these things!

Posted by
239 posts

Travelmom, thankfully you didn’t need it, but can I ask if you had a backup plan if you or your friend had tested positive before returning? Did you have a hotel or apartment booked, etc. for quarantine?

Posted by
5636 posts

Great report ! Glad I also got to see your photos at the SF-East Bay meeting today -- together they made an awesome combination.

Posted by
1035 posts

Thanks, Laura B. It is always fun to talk about travel and I love the East Bay group!

Shelly, I only speak for the time I was there. At that time Greece had designated lodging selected and paid for (it may still have it but I have not been monitoring). So I didn’t have to make a Plan B. I am also fortunate that the extra time for a quarantine would also not have been an issue, which is not the case for everyone, I know. Travel this year is full of uncertainty and I was ok with that. I am headed to Croatia next month and I will have to make my own quarantine arrangements (as I understand it) should the need arise.