Thank you to everyone on this forum who helped with trip planning! Our trip was 16 days starting June 1. The weather was mid 80's and low 90's and sunny every day except one. We encountered high wind in Crete for 2-3 days, which modified our sailing plans; the skipper said 40 knot winds in June are rare.
Here is our basic itinerary:
Day 1, most of Day 2: Travel Columbus, OH/ Philadelphia/ Athens/ Heraklio, Crete, visit Koules Fortress
Day 3: Heraklio National Museum, Knossos, walk the city walls
Day 4: rent car, south to Phaestos, Agia Triada, Museum of Ethnology in Vori, overnight in Kamilari
Day 5: Amari valley church frescoes, Moni Arkadiou, Eleftherna museum, overnight in Argyroupoli
Day 6: Imbros Gorge, overnight in Loutro
Day 7: Botanical Park and Gardens near Fournes, check out Samaria gorge, overnight in Paleohora
Day 8: Elafonisi, Elos for lunch, turn in car at airport, overnight in Chania
Day 9: Day sail from Chania harbor with Orizon Sailing, overnight in Chania
Day 10: Chania museums, overnight on ferry to Pireaus
Day 11: Pick up rental car in Athens suburb, Mycenae, Palamidi fortress, overnight in Nafplio
Day 12: Sunken City kayak trip with Pan Expeditions, Epidaurus, overnight in Athens
Day 13: National Museum of Archeology, Acropolis, overnight in Athens
Day 14: Greek Agora, Acropolis Museum, overnight in Athens
Day 15: Cycladic art museum, Byzantine museum, Dora Stratou dance theater, overnight in Athens
Day 16, Day 17: travel home
What I would change from the above:
- Argyroupolis, Crete - in early June there are no evening hours for the restaurants around the waterfalls; the town itself is not interesting otherwise.
- Exchange our Paleohora time for either Sougia or another day in Loutro. Paleohora seems like a Cretan Myrtle Beach, which is not the type of experience we’re after.
- I didn’t account for the 0900 opening for the car rental office in Athens, and we blew a few hours transitioning from the ferry to the rental car.
- The first half of the trip had a lot of driving; my husband really enjoyed seeing so much of Crete; I would have preferred less time in the car.
- Returning the rental car to an Athens suburb was an exercise in frustration due to the traffic even in the middle of the evening and the address numbering system. We probably should have returned to the airport instead as it would have been simpler.
- If you get a new passport, you need to login to the Global Entry site to link your new passport number to your GE number. This doesn’t occur automatically.
What seemed just right:
- Choosing Crete as our island hop. It’s beautiful. Several Greeks that we talked with said, ‘Good for you going to Crete, it’s my favorite’.
- Chania, Crete is a fantastic place to spend several days. Great restaurants and some night life, interesting little museums, beautiful setting.
- Seeing the southern part of Crete, which has an entirely different character than the North coast.
- Taking a ‘short cut across the mountains’ to see the less touristic side of Crete. Husband loved the drive; I was a bit stressed by the narrow roads, height with no guardrails and rock hazards.
- Scheduling site guides at Knossos and Mycenae as sometimes it’s difficult to tell what you’re looking at. It’s also a great opportunity to spend time with someone who’s local.
- There was a taxi strike the first 2 days we were in Athens, so we purchased Grey Line tickets to get around the city core and save our legs for the museums.
- Global Entry got us through the Philly airport faster, after our layover was cut short by an air traffic control strike in France (air space).
- Three days is Athens is plenty of time, even for someone who loves antiquities. I agree with comments on this forum that it’s better to get acclimated to Greece somewhere else first.
- Build variety into the schedule by having active outdoor days and museum days, and both city and countryside.