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Greece in late July

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Okay, so this is my umpteenth post on Europe in late July. To recap, I want this holiday to coincide with my birthday but I want to avoid the crowd + heat + expensive cost. I considered going in April but seems like most hotels are closed in the off season and also, why go to Greece if I'm not gonna enjoy the beach? Some of you say that Greece is the best in June & July so I'm thinking, why not just go there and embrace all the crowds & heat? With some preparation and by keeping my expectation in check, I think I can have a fabulous trip.

So, my #1 question is: just how crowded can it get in late July? I'd like to visit for a week and split them into half in Athens to see the Acropolis and half on one of the islands for a beach getaway.

Since Acropolis is a must and I won't be renting a car, can anyone recommend the best hotel to base ourselves? (I don't mind a more upmarket one). Can you walk to Parthenon from the hotel? Last time we were in Pisa, we stayed nearby the Leaning Tower and we went there early in the morning (7:30am) or late evening (8:30pm) and the place was virtually empty, and so I'd very much like to repeat this experience in Athens.

Also, is hiring a tour guide really necessary or can we just explore on our own?

Now, comes the island question. Which island still has beautiful beaches and typical white-washed Greek buildings but somehow with less crowds? I've checked out the Shangri La (Mare Dei) hotel in Peloponnese and it looks gorgeous. Is Peloponnese a good idea?

Thank you!

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