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First trip to Greece!

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I'm planning a belated honeymoon to Greece for my husband and me. We are from Texas, and have never been to Greece, but are definitely world travelers and like to pack a lot in. This trip has got me a bit stumped for several reasons. We're not interested in a total beach-lounging honeymoon, as we've been married 1 1/2 years and don't need that type of "recovery trip" that is typical immediately after a wedding. We've both been heavily influenced by Ancient Greece and the history and culture growing up, so seeing a lot of historical sites and as much of the country as possible, is important. But we do want to include a few days of complete R&R, so that it feels a little bit like a romantic holiday. We have about 10 days to spend, give or take, although I don't think we really can afford to spend any less than 10 days and see everything we want to see. We sort of walk the middle of the road as far as budget is concerned - splurging on a few things and budgeting the rest. We like to do things "on our own" so a guided tour with lots of other people wasn't really our idea of a good time, however much it might make sense in our situation. We also tend to like to see major sites in the city and then get outta town, because beautiful landscapes are more our thing. That being said - we don't want to miss Athens completely.

I've done a lot of reading and research in preparation, and finally decided to get some other traveller's opinions on my proposed agenda. Our proposed dates are the last week of September/first week of October - so as to miss the crowds, but not the nice weather.

So that is my first question - will it still be warm enough to swim at this time of year?

My thought is to explore mainland Greece by car before flying to Santorini for a few days of paradise. We started off thinking just a day road trip to the Peloponnese, but thought better of it after reading some reviews and information on Meteora. I think the interesting part of a driving tour is, as opposed to flying, you get to see a lot of the country, and make stops whenever you want. Plus we can spend the time in the car reading about the things we've seen or are about to see. I've also plotted this out so we spend the first part of our trip "cramming" a lot of history in, and the second half relaxing in arguably the most beautiful place on earth doing absolutely nothing. Road trips work really well for us, as we like to be on our own schedule and not tied to a tour bus. Here's the route I have mapped out. I'm looking to hear if my routes are realistic for foreigners by a car. It's a lot of hours, but hopefully the countryside is beautiful enough we won't be bored?

Fly into Athens, Stay in Athens - 1 night

From Athens By Rental Car
Drive through Delphi (see Temple) to Meteora, Stay near Meteora - 1 night

Drive from Meteora down the western coastline to Olympia (tour Ruins), Stay near Olympia - 1 night

Drive from Olympia thru Mycenae (tour Ruins), to Nafplion, Stay in Nafplion - 1 night

Drive thru Epidaurus (see Theatre Epidaurus) and Corinth (see Ancient Corinth), End back in Athens

Originally I had included Sparta, but after reading about how there's really nothing left to see, I decided the existing route had plenty of ancient ruins included already and we would just pass. Right now we're trying to included everything we want to do and narrow it down with a bit more research of what's truly worth the time. But this route is a good one for seeing a large part of the country at our own pace. The idea is that we would have accommodations that we had to stay at each night on the road, but that allows us to change our daily agenda as we see fit.

From Athens, Fly to Santorini, Stay 3 nights

From Santorini
Fly back to Athens, stay 1 night before departure

We were told a number of things - like only spend one day in Athens (I don't think that can really be enough, but using the city as a base I think we'll have adequate time to see the important things) and don't plan back to back island to international flights, which is why I've allowed a last day in Athens before our flight home. None of this is booked, yet, so I ultimately have complete flexibility.

Does anyone have any tips from planning or taking similar trips? Or perhaps edits/suggestions for my proposed itinerary. I really wanted to include Crete - but it sounds like Crete needs a week or so of its own.

Thanks!

Lo

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    I think you've got the right idea, but are trying to squeeze too much into a relatively short trip. I definitely agree that with your interests in mind you should concentrate on the mainland.

    While Meteora is worthy of a visit, don't sacrifice time in Delphi to do so. You wrote: "Drive through Delphi (see Temple)..." Which temple? Delphi is divided into two main sites plus the sacred spring, with several temples, treasuries, theatre, stadium, gymnasium, etc. To see it properly would take most of a day.

    Likewise, only two nights in the Peloponnese isn't enough to see everything you plan, and you will spend more time driving than sightseeing. I think I would head directly from Nafplio to the airport for a flight to Santorini, then spend at least two nights in Athens at the end of the trip. Why divide it into two separate one night stays, with all the time wasted in transfers and checking in/out of hotels?

    What should you trim from your itinerary? That's up to you, but were it me I would save Meteora and Olympia for another trip. :-)

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    Your first 4 days sound much like the reverse of a classical tour I took a few years back. What I liked least about the tour was that it was jam packed with driving and the selected ruins, there was no time to stop along the way to explore. I think the same could happen on your self drive tour. Delphi took my breath away and deserves more time. Thinking back, if I had to cut out a day it would be Meteora. The monasteries and formations are something to see, but it does not trump more time in the other areas.

    I agree about not booking back to back flights. I'm just back from Greece. When we were going through customs in Athens, the electricity went out and customs shut down. When we finally got thru customs, the conveyor belt was shut down. It took awhile to get our luggage. My two travel companions missed their connection to Mykenos. They'd only given themselves 2 hours between flights. I had 4 hours to my ferry and made it with time to spare. It was a very long day to go directly to the islands; I wouldn't do it again.

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    I had planned Santorini for the end of the trip - or rather, after most of the sightseeing - so we would return rested and feeling like we got a bit of a "vacation" rather than just ran a race. I do like the idea of possibly grabbing a car immediately from the airport and heading out for the roadtrip, however, leaving our two nights in Athens until the end - as it also means less moving from hotel to hotel. We will definitely consider cutting out Meteora as it is the farthest from Athens - if we're considering that as our base.

    I guess the thought was that even though we would be driving a lot, we'd still be seeing a lot of the countryside and stopping for views, etc. We're used to long road trips, but I am definitely listening to the advice here and thinking about cutting back on the destinations! And I don't usually mind time in the car - it's just time on a tour bus with a lot of other people that doesn't sound appealing at all!

    SO - give Delphi more time, cut Meteora (I'll try not to cry, it looks sososo beautiful), and get consecutive days in Athens versus passing through multiple times.

    THAT SAID: are there things nearer to Athens that I have not mentioned that you consider a must... or perhaps hidden gems? We are well aware from having travelled a lot that sometimes the best parts of your trip are the most non-touristy sites.

    Thanks to everyone for the input so far...

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    We are there at the same time and suggest instead of flying direct Athens-Santorini you have a bit of an adventure in the Cyclades on the way for a few days, then return Santorini -Athens by plane. We are ferrying from Athens to Sifnos then Paros then Santorini. These fit into the ferry routes well.

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    Heimdall as usual has given you sage advice. Here is why I think that. On our last trip to the Peloponnese we drove from Nauplion to Monemvassia through Sparti. This is a trip of 260 kilometers and if you make no stops you should be able to do that in just over 3 hours. I see from your original post you want to have the freedom to stop and explore on the way. Greece is full of antiquities and you will find little brown antiquities signs everywhere so if you are as flexible as you indicate you want to be, you are going the end up stopping a lot. On that particular trip we averaged 23 kilometers an hour and took 11 hours. You really have only 2 choices, drive like crazy and make no stops to get to your chosen destinations so you have some time to visit those sites or be true to your adventurous spirit and be spontaneous and be prepared to stop and take it all in.

    Heimdall suggested you drop both Meteoria and Olympia. The reason he made that suggestion is because Olympia to Nauplion will probably take 4 hours without side stops, thus from Delphi to Olympia and back to Nauplion is going to take you somewhere around 8 hours or one day of the 4 you have alloted to the mainland.
    Here is what I suggest: Do Delphi then head to Nauplion. Make Nauplion your base and then do day trips to Ephadurus and Mycaene perhaps Ancient Tirrns and for a real treat consider going to Sparti to visit Mystras. While not classic history it was the last home of the Byzantines and exploring that mountianside city will take you several hours.

    On the way to or from Nauplion stop in Corinth for Ancient Corinth, the canal and perhaps Acrocorinth a Venetian Era site very close to ancient Corinth.

    Also nearby, consider visiting Ancient Nemia. While it is not Olympia, in its heyday it was a sister city to Olympia and it had games as well. The stadium is still there plus a partially reconstructed temple and a very good museaum. In my mind it is worth the trade off: Nemia instead of Olympia and 8 hours of driving.
    Nauplion itself is worth a day, with its neoclassic buildings waterfront marble paved central square the the three Venetioan era fortresses.
    Here are some images of our trip. The first 36 pictures represent the suggestions I have made.
    http://travel.webshots.com/album/570747214TsFWOw?start=0

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    Hello everyone,

    All great advice. We are trying to prepare for all those things you can't really prepare for... such as a trip that should take 3 hours becoming 8 hours instead - as Stanbr reminds. Combined with some other advice I've received, I've sort of flipped the trip around. Here is the revised itinerary, and by no means complete, but I think it is now making more sense.

    Of all the places I've listed I think DELPHI & OLYMPIA are most important to me to see. Of course my mind might be changed once I've been, but going into this trip, those are places I do really want to make it to. So I am trying to take the advice given and still make this trip idea work. I was very sad to cut out Meteora, but it did lighten the driving quite a lot! We will just have to come back to do northern Greece. Fingers crossed.

    A note: while we intend to be somewhat spontaneous, we also don't know when we will be back. We are traveling alone, with no children or pets or aging parents to slow us down, and don't need to stop for a lot of breaks along the way. We are young and active. On our other excursions we have, yes, pulled over for a view or to see a site, but we are fast "seers and doers." We don't tend to read all the signage in museums, for example, but devote more time to the stuff that really interests us. That said, I think we will try our best to stay on a devised route so as to SEE and DO the prioritized things. What I meant by being free of a tour bus, is being free of all the people on the tour bus, being on our own schedule, and making our own decisions. We plan to start our days early (6am) and will go until things close and/or it gets dark. The first part of our trip is going to feel cramped, and then we can relax on Santorini! There is a certain type of adrenaline one gets in a country they have wanted to see their whole life... you can sort of walk for hours before you realize your legs are about to fall off! This is not "honeymoon" as in lots of romantic beach lounging time.

    DAY ONE
    Arrive at Airport around 10 am, grab rental car, drive straight to Corinth for food and sites (Ancient and Acrocorinth). Early afternoon, head down coastline to Epidaurus to see theatre (probably won't spend much/if any time in town). End DAY ONE in Nafplion for the night.

    DAY TWO
    Breakfast and a bit of wandering in Nafplion. Drive to Mycenae site and spend several hours (possibly hiring a guide to meet us there to make the most of time). Head on to Olympia (3+ hour drive), and spend rest of the afternoon at Olympia ruins. Finish day by driving on to Patra/Naupactus are to spend the night.

    DAY THREE
    Leave very early for Delphi. Spend whole day at Delphi ruins and city. Spend night in Delphi.

    DAY FOUR
    Drive back to airport. Catch flight for Santorini.

    DAYS FOUR-EIGHT
    Santorini

    DAY EIGHT
    Flight back to Athens.

    DAY EIGHT-TEN
    City stuff. Oh yeah, and that famous Acropolis thing:)

    Any thoughts?

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    Your itinerary on the Mainland is a bit rushed, especially on the second day.....

    Corinth is an unattractive city, there's nothing to see there (except from ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth)

    You will overnight in a wonderful city like Nafplio, and still have no time to see the city. ( one of the most beautiful cities of the Peloponnese)

    You will have a very tough second day, many kilometers to drive and too much to see.

    Between Patra and Nafpaktos, simply choose nafpaktos, a very nice small city with a medieval harbour and a castle at the top of a hill with great views over the city.

    The 3rd day looks ok, the drive from Nafpaktos to Delphi should take approximately 90 minutes, try to stop at Galaxidi which is on your way, a beautiful city on the sea, 30 km before Delphi..

    Don't expect too much from the village of Delphi, you could overnight in neighbouring Itea, in a hotel with seaview :)

    Driving back to Athens Airport will take about 3 hours, should you arrive before 9 am in Athens, there will the horrible rush hour on the highway Lamia-Athens, especially between Kifisia and the junction to the Attiki Odos ( Highway to the Airport).
    Take that into consideration.. ( some days it's ok, some others you may need 30 min for these 7 km... it is totally unpredictable ) :)

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    I think that one important think to consider is that sites have a specific timetable. For example although Delphi sites are now open till 8PM, museum close as early as 4PM . I am not sure what about Olympia, but even if you start early, if you spent time n Nafplio, then visit Mycynae, then do all this driving you have to do, it might be proved impossible to see Olympia ruins and museum in the afternoon as you plan. Visiting a site required some time too, it is not a 10 minutes deal even if you follow a fast-paced style. Not to mention stamina required too.

    I know the whole sense of been exited of been in a new country and all that, it happens to me too, but after a few days, you might start feeling like it is just an other site or an other museum... I am particularly worried because last site before your down time on Santorini is Delphi, and this is mainly a hill side spread of ruins that can take up to 2+ hours for a decent visit, plus 45-60 minutes for a decent museum visit. You will have go through a killer of a previous day, then possibly you'll have drive a couple of hours in the morning, before even setting a foot in Delphi. You'll then have to face the climb and the heat, and possibly the crowds... Not sure if you'll been able to appreciate what Delphi is about under those circumstances... I honestly think you have to slow down and allow some down time among the sites, even if that been half day. Just my opinion of course. : )

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    We visited the same area last Sept and I think you are being too optimistic about your days. I dont think its possible to fit Mycenae, Nafplion and Olympia into one day. There are opening and closing times and you arent giving anything enough time to actually see them.

    Nafplion itself deserves at least a day - its a lovely town with good food and beautiful views from the castle above town - breakfast and this alone will take you a better part of a morning and it would be a shame to miss this if you are making the effort to go here.

    I think it takes close to an hour to get from Nafplion to Mycenae (when/where will you eat lunch?)

    Mycenae is going to take you at least a couple of hours, especially with a guide...

    Then the 3+ hour drive to Olympia - I dont see how you will be able to get here in time to see the site. Then you want to continue to drive to your next place for the night!

    When are you going to eat?

    We wanted to go to Olympia too, but given our timelines we opted for Nemea, which is on the way to Nafplion from Athens. It was a fascinating site and you could stop on your way and also have lunch in the town - then continue onto Epidavrous (which deserves a few hours itself - there are lots of things to see there in addition to the theatre).

    You could then stay overnight in Nafplio and go up the castle in the morning, have lunch in town and then head to Mycenae in the later afternoon and stay somewhere en route to Delphi so you can get there earlier.

    With 10 days I would personally stick to Delphi, Santorini and Athens - there is more than enough to keep you occupied. While you may want to see both Delphi and Olympia I think you will need to choose your priorities as I dont think what you are proposing is feasible. Maybe drop Santorini...?

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