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Greek Mainland Itinerary

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I'm in the early stages of planning a trip to Greece with friends for next fall (with my job I need to start planning early), and I want to ground-truth our initial itinerary. I'm not worried about specific details; I'm more interested in knowing how this route sounds in general - it's not one I've seen others take.

4 days - Athens
(rent car)
4 days - Nafplio (use as base to explore Corinth, Mycenae, and possibly Mystras)
1 day - Delphi
3 days - Meteora
(return car in Thessaloniki)
4 days - Thessaloniki

My travel pace is generally slow and steady. I don't like long days rushing site to site, or days of endless driving, but I do like to experience as much as I can. I'm far more interested in historic sites, beautiful scenery, good food, and experiencing the local culture, and not interested at all in resorts or beach days.

Based on google maps this doesn't appear to be a busy schedule - but I have been fooled by google maps before. My main question is: does this route look reasonable, or does it look like it's rushing through areas to fast? My secondary question: would this route allow us to experience Greek culture more than, say, a trip to Mykonos and Santorini would?

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    edit: One reason that we want to set a rough itinerary early is that some of us will want to spend a week or more in Mykonos and Santorini. I spent a week in Mykonos once, I loved it, but I'd rather spend time in the mainland this round. We're looking for areas of overlap where we can meet up.

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    When on fall you plan to visit? I assume you will make good use of the car and explore surrounding areas of each town. I would add one day or two in Delphi area. I think it is a good plan.

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    I am just back from a 2-week-trip to Greece and I can honestly confirm that the best of Greece is on the mainland, not on the islands.

    You will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery and of the beaches and of the history you find virtually everywhere.

    Nafplio is a small town with a charming old town, lots of restaurants, a small port and a fortress. However, I am not sure if I should recommend staying 4 days there.

    Athens makes a good start. Corinth is just one hour from Athens. To be frank, it is a B category archeological site but you can see the terrace where Paul delivered his speech (there is a small altar) which makes it significant for everybody who is interested in theology. But the medieval fortress of Akrocorinth is one of the most impressive fortresses in Greece. In any case, drive up for a visit.

    20 minutes south of Corinth is Mycenae. There is not too much left but it is historically very significant because it is much older than the archeology from the classic time. The best pieces from Mycenae are not in the museum there but in the National Archeological Museum in Athens.

    So, you visit Corinth, Akrocorinth and Mycenae on the drive from Athens to Nafplio. From Nafplio, you should visit Mystras - it is A category for byzantine monasteries - and Epidauraus which has the best theatre at all. After Epidaurus, make sure to drive to one of the beautiful beaches in the area for a swim. This means, two full days in Nafplio are sufficient.

    IMO, the very best attraction in all Greece is Delphi. Firstly, of all mythological places it is the most mythological one. Second, the scenery is breathtaking. Third, the ruins are impressive - another good theatre, a very good stadium, an almost completely preserved temple-like building, many columns left. Fourth, the museum has first-rank pieces.

    Although there is so much in Delphi, it is very compact and you need not more than two to three hours to see everything (do not miss Athena's temple down from the road). In spite of this, I would recommend staying for two nights in nearby Arachova.

    From Nafplio, I would suggest not to drive back via Athens to Arachova but to drive via Patra. It is a slightly longer drive (4 hours), but breathtakingly scenic. The bridge of Patra is most impressive and the coastal road north of the Corinthian Gulf is very scenic.

    Before reaching Arachova, you may stop for a visit of Hosios Loukas, a Byzantine monastery from 945 A.D. which is very beautiful and UNESCO World Heritage. Many say, it is the most beautiful Byzantine monastery in Greece at all. Quick and easy to visit and just 30 minutes from Delphi.

    Arachova is a charming yet touristy mountain village, very scenic. There are many hotels in Arachova, however my recommendation would be this one:

    http://www.skamnos.com/eng/

    It is a little further up in a high valley, right under the summit of Mount Parnassos. After visiting Delphi in the morning you can use the remainder of the day to drive up to the Corycian Cave (in fact, you can hike from the hotel to the cave, but it is quite a climb and you have the possibility to drive the forest road up to the cave) and maybe have a look of the ski resorts nearby.

    Sorry, can't say anything about Meteora and Thessaloniki.

    Although my Garmin worked pretty well in Greece, it did not know all attractions and hotels, so you need good maps. I can recommend these two:

    http://www.amazon.de/Peloponnese-200-Topographische-Stra%C3%9Fenkarte-Topo/dp/9608195632

    http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/9609412068?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00

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    Looks like a fun itinerary and it's good that you're starting your planning early, plenty of time to "tweak" things as you learn more. Comments:

    • You mention that friends want to spend a week in the Islands, but don't say whether it's before or After. or in the middle. Be VERY careful on meet-up plans so you don't get hamstrung by others' contrary plans! If they're OK with doing the island thing before, then have them do the 1st week in Sept, then meet u back in Athens.

    • On your Drive-plan, Athens - Nafplio, I suggest a substitution. Corinth yes, is "on the way," but as others have said unless you are a super-buff on Hellenic ruins (NOT well-signaged) or unless you have a "thing" for St Paul, then maybe you could pass Corinth by.

    • I suggest you use a good map, and hop off the BIGGIE highway at "Isthmia," so you can see the Corinth Canal. So deep!! So narrow!! From the big highway it's virtually hidden, but if you jump off at Isthmia, you can go across the "Old BRidge" and stop & take some great pix, then hop right back on the Interstate.

    • Just beyond the canal about 10-13 miles, take turnoff for 5-6 km and discover a little-promoted GEM, Ancient Nemea. It's the "runner-up" of Sacred Games Sites, after Olympia (which is hard to get to) .. Nemea has temple ruins, superb little museum, FAB stadium (where u can stand in the original runners blocks!!), all beautifully restored (U of Cal Berkeley is the funder!) ... 45 mnutes, a great ancient-games experience. Then back on highway & head south to Nafplio.

    • Nafplio is worth at least a full day to explore, considered the most beautiful Old Town in Greece -- at sunsets at its seafront are the best in Greece, IMHO. SO much to see/do. For Palamidi, you can drive UP the backway if u don't want to do the 999 steps! Also, don't miss Tiryns, only bout 5 mile outside of town.... Huge block slike Mycenae but NO crowds.

    • Epidaurus is a good day trip... theatre is the big thing, the rest of the site is acres & acres of ruins, hard to interpret. I agree that afternoon swim at a nearby beach is great... or you could head back toward Nafplio & stop at Tolo or Assine beach.

    • Going from Nafplio to Delphi via Patra can be scenic, but I understand the modern intercity highway may be under repair... check this first. The parallel "old road" goes thru little villages & is v. nice, but would add considerably to travel times.

    • For Delphi itself (the ruin & museum), in 2 visits, the approach I liked best was to travel up in afternoon, and go to Museum before sunset (it is open until 8 pm thru Oct, I think). Very well signaged, easy to understand if u also have done some homework/have a guidebook. At that time u can also drive downhill to the Athena Tholos (round) ruin, the one shown on all the websites. It's open 24/7. The main ruin opens at 8 AM & the light is wonderful... 3 hours plenty of time to appreciate everything before bus tours arrive. As for all that advice about monasteries, it will depend on your interest in such things.

    I agree that its best not to rely totally on GPS, the spelling of Greek names throws it off, better to have a good map as well.

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    Forgot to say... For car rental in ATH, with drop-off in Thessaloniki, you MUST shop around!!! Many (most?) Greece rental agencies do not have a big national network, thus they must send ANOTHER car w 2 drivers, to pick up your car on the other side of the country so they charge a huge fee! (200E +).

    There are now 2 or 3 agencies that will do the drop-off thing at low fee ... can't say which, you'll just have to research, by googling "one-way car hire Athens Greece". There now is a "broker" agency - http://www.oneway-carhire.com/Greece/Car-Hire-Athens.aspx - which apparently has quotes from all eligible sources on drop-off in THessaloniki. -- that would include Budget-Athens, Sixt, europcar etc. The agency I've used with satisfaction (no one-ways tho), Budget-Athens, says in its online info "One way is available at a fee ranging from €90 to €400 depending on distance." So... be aware!

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    >>>Going from Nafplio to Delphi via Patra can be scenic, but I understand the modern intercity highway may be under repair... check this first. <<<

    I have driven there two weeks ago. The construction is just a small section at the beginning of the road with good signage for the detour, no big deal. The coastal highway is in excellent condition, fast and scenic (lots of pullouts for photo stops along the way).

    Driving in Greece is very easy. Without speeding, we were usually faster than the route planners suggested.

    Otherwise, I totally agree with travelerjan.

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    You have had some excellent and detailed advice. If I were to tweak your plan her is what I would do.
    Central Athens around the Acropolis is quite compact and can be well done in 3 days. I might consider dropping a day from Athens.
    4 days in Nafplio is just about right. I certainly would want to check out Corinth either on the way to Nafplio or the way to Delphi. Ancient Corinth and particularly Ancient Nemia are worth an hour each for sure. We actually drove to the Gulf of Corinth side of the canal and found the sinking bridge. We lucked out and spent 20 minutes there watching the bridge sink and a boat pass over.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157645760986005

    If you choose to delete a day from Athens then I would use that day and visit Mystras and perhaps slip down to Monemvassia. These are two outstanding sites. You can spend the night in a period room inside Monemvassias walled city. Remarkable

    I agree with Jan arrive Delphi late afternoon find a nice hotel most likely at a good discount if you find it on a walk up basis. The views from the village are special. See the museum that evening so you are prepared for the site the next day. We arrived at opening and it was about 2 hours before the first tour buses started to arrive. By that time we were high up in the site and were essentially alone for three hours.

    Then head to Meteora. We arrived in early evening and found the area virtually empty. We visited each of the Monasteries with no one around and got pictures without people and tour buses blocking the view. We stayed in the tiny village of Kastraki which is nestled at the foot of the monastery mountains.
    We spent the full day visiting. We only got into one monastery that day so could have spent another day there but with up to 30 tour buses at the open monastery It just wasn't worth the effort.

    I have to admit to having no experience at Thessaloniki but 4 days seems a bit much. If you really wanted to do Mystras and Monemvassia you might consider dropping a day at Thessaloniki and adding it to the Nafplio/ southern Peloponnese portion of the trip.
    Here are some images to whet your appetite.
    Nafplio and Peloponnese

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/

    Olympia Delfi Meteora
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645469717811/

    Have fun planning

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    Great advice, thanks!

    I don't know much about Thessaloniki, and added it because it sounded fun to end in a new place. I also would love to see the Royal Tombs at Aigai, and they are en route Meteora>Saloniki. I thought about doing the trip in reverse, but figured I'd have more energy for lots of day trips and exploring early on, so wanted to hit the Peloponesse first.

    I'll carve any extra days for Delphi or Monemvasia out of the four days planned for Saloniki. Monemvasia looks fantastic; I'm concerned about having too many long driving days if I try to work it in. I plotted put an Athens>Nafplio>Monemvasia>Mystras>Delphi>Meteora>Vergine (Aigai) route, but it didn't look like a pace I'd enjoy.

    As for planning with my friends ... they can be special flowers. They are fantastic travel companions (they let me do the planning, and are game for anything I suggest - the best!), but also tend to do things like wait until the last minute to buy their tickets & end up with awkward dates. They will also only have one week. So I'll plan a trip that I would enjoy doing solo, and it's bonus points if people can join me. My best guess is that we'll have a group in Athens and I'll be solo on the road.

    Though if the dates work out I might drop Saloniki at the end for Santorini at the beginning. No desire to go there alone, but it would be fun if my buddies are there. And it'll be post-party season (early October), so I might be able to convince them to make their week Santorini/Athens or Athens/Nafplio.

    I need to research the one way car fees. I did some price checks for this October on Autoeuropa and Kayak, and the final quotes didn't mention them. Maybe because it's off-season, or because I'm looking at a longer ten-day rental? Or is it a surprise fee that comes up after you commit?

    Also: are car break-ins an issue if you stop at sites while on the road? I know in some places it's a concern (Sicily, and sadly my hometown), and others it's not. That will affect our planning.

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    Hi again --
    Glad you liked the thoughts from Stanbr and Me -- we play "tag team" on these forums.

    About the drop-off fee -- I think they don't mention them because they are so high. You have to ask ask ask.

    About Saloniki -- yes it's "interesting" and I too would like to see the Vergina tombs (being a Greek-history nerd) -- but it's a Big Big city, and really hard to get to easily/quickly. I've been to Greece 12 times, and it never has worked into my itineraries. Why not google Thessaloniki and look at a bunch of videos & blogs, and read about it in a DETAILED and CANDID travel guide, such as Rough Guide, which is forthright in opinions ... and decide whether it's a Must-do for your first Greek trip.

    RE -- car break-ins. With my travel companions, we've stopped many times for a few hours, at an ancient site, or for dinner, leaving car parked on street or parking lot. We had the trunk (boot) locked and never gave it a thought, except the ONE time there were 5 of us in a hatchback & our luggage was packed to the ceiling... we were in a Crete town with a big tourist influx, so we suddenly felt "iffy." but all we did was park backwards in a lot, so the back of the car was almost hitting a wall.
    In general, you are NOT going to encounter the kind of "pilfering" that alas is endemic in parts of Italy. The Athens subways have a pickpocketing issue (largely an illegal-Albanian "ring") ... and some beach towns in high season have slight problems (as the books tell us, usually the culprits are your fellow hoildaymakers, 18-23, whose moms didn't teach them not to steal). In 12 trips, staying in over 60 lodgings (largely small & family-run), I have NEVER had anything go missing. As a friend of mine, married to a Greek, said laughingly, "Janet, Petty theft is just not part of the Greek culture... maybe shipping magnates will steal a fleet from each other... but no Greek is going to rummage through your luggage."

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    >>> are car break-ins an issue if you stop at sites while on the road <<<

    First, Greece is a very safe country. The Greeks are generally very relaxed and very friendly. The only place where we sensed the presence of petty crime are some neighbourhoods in Athens where doubious creatures gather, never on the countryside.

    Second, most of the archeological sites are in the middle of nowhere. You drive highways for many kilometers through
    farmland, olive plantations or wilderness areas until you reach a parking lot. There are no bad people living nearby.

    The parking lots of the archeological or historical sites are usually well-populated, with tour buses, bus drivers hanging around on the parking lots, ticket booths, souvenir shops, snack bars and lots of traffic. We never saw any suspicious figure or any occurance and we never sensed any danger - and believe me, I am a very sensitive person.

    In brief, we did never hesitate to park our loaded car in parking lots of archeological or historical sites or in the parking lot of the port of Nafplion. We always felt good and never had an incidence and never heard of any incidence (and we have a friend living in Greece).

    However, in Athens, we felt unsafe several times, especially in the neighbourhoods right south of our hotel, the Radisson Blu Park Hotel. There we saw a lot of homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes, but never outside Athens. Our Greek friends said that there is not really poverty in the countryside, because in the villages, the family cares and everyone can find something to do and to live on, while poverty congregates in Athens.

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    You may want to google and check Galaxidi, Angelos and Eva Sikelianos museum of Delphic festivals, the hiking path Delphi to Kirra or Delphi to Corycean Cave, Argyriou winery on Souvala, vagonetto bauxite mines tour between Delphi and Meteora and Plastira lake about 2 hours side tracking before reaching Meteora among other things... and pick what you fancy depending on how long you end up been on each area.

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    I forgot to comment on traveller1959 great comment about the Garman GPS working well in Greece. Ours was very reliable as well but with one caveat.
    As 1959 says you need a map in order to set the
    co ordinates correctly. Who would have guessed that there are 7 different locations called Meteora in Greece. Who would have guessed that one Meteora is an outskirts of Thessaloniki? That was a very long day all because we didn't have a map for Northern Greece.

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    Dropping Thessaloniki actually opens up my options a lot, though it does make it harder to visit the Royal Tombs.

    My new working plan is:

    3 nights Athens

    3 nights Nafplio
    3 nights Gytheio (or thereabouts)
    2 nights Delphi (5-6 hour drive)
    3 nights Meteora

    2 nights Athens

    Based on what I'm reading this will capture a good variety of natural beauty, Greek culture, and historic sites. I avoid single-night stops, and these seems to be nice places for down-time if I'm feeling lazy. I can decide if I'm in the mood for a long detour to the Aigai tombs when I'm in Delphi or Meteora.

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    There are some very good videos of the Royal Tombs. Someday I may visit them, if I decide to visit a friend who lives outside THessaloniki in a little college town. Not unless.

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    Why do you want to go to Gytheio? Is is for coast and scenery?

    In this case I would rather recommend going to Pylos & Navarino Bay. It is absolutely spectacular and your way to Delphi is not that long as from Gytheio.

    Maybe you want to go there:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voidokilia_beach#/media/File:Voidokilia.jpg

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    Totally agree with trav1959 -- For coast, beach & scenery, I MUCH prefer Pylos area, espcially that secret Eden just 10 KM north of Pylos, Gialova. Wonderful little seaside stretch of about 4 blocks, a few restaurants, maybe 3 hotels. Hotel ZOE is Heaven on a Plate!! Right on the beach .... and you can walk for miles north on the beach and nobody's there!! ... You eat outdoors by the water, under low shady palm trees, hung with lanterns. You can drive in 15 minutes to Navarino, the wildlife refuge and stunning Voidokilla This enchanting area is not overrun yet ... go before it changes.

    Pylos itself is a charming small town with a stylish open square fronting on the sea ... very chic (designed by the French), lovely place for sunset cocktails.

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    At the start of October sunset comes at 7 but at the end of the month comes as early as 5.30 and of course weather strarts to get more iffy. The earlier on October you plan to visit the more active summer resorts will be, but I am not sure if most mainland beach resorts will have much going on to be honest... at least not the ones that do not receive foreign visitors and rely to Greeks.
    I would still go to areas with enough sightseen and scenery if this is what you want to do, but personaly I would stick with original itinerary making a few adjustments.

    It is a pitty not many people explore Northern Greece above Meteora and even discourrage other people to do so without even ever been there! I wish I have the opportunity to travel north more often my self. It has been quite a few years since last time... There are many variations, but the distance from Meteora to Vergina can be less than 4 hours driving non-stop and one could overnight on the area. Following the route that gets you through Grevena area can be quite scenic while overnighting in Vergina area you can visit one of the most atmosperic and important sites of Greece on your own pace. It is then less than 90 minutes drive to Thessaloniki if you do not side track and Thessaloniki IS an amazing city. It has lots of sightseen and its own mentallity and ambiance and fantastic food and coffee culture and nightlife.



    Decisions, decisions....

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    "Why do you want to go to Gytheio? Is is for coast and scenery?"

    Gytheio would be more of a base to explore the area. The second option would be Kardamyli, but can decide on my specific base later. I'm not worried about beach time, as long as the weather is temperate enough that we can be outside we'll be fine!

    AutoEurope claims not to have any drop off fee, so that opens up Thessaloniki again! I've got two working plans: the rational one, and the "I want to see everything" one.

    Rational:

    4 - Athens
    3 - Nafplio (Arcocorinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus)
    3 - Gytheio (Mystras, Caves of Diros)
    2 - Delphi
    3 - Kalampaka / Meteora
    2 - Thessaloniki (Royal Tombs en route)


    THE TEMPTATION

    3 - Athens
    3 - Nafplio (Arcocorinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus)
    2 - Monemvasia (Mystras en route)
    2 - Kardamyli (Caves of Diros)
    2 - Dimetsana (Lousious Gorge)
    2 - Delphi
    2 - Kalampaka / Meteora
    1 - Thessaloniki (Royal Tombs en route)


    Strangely enough, I have the exact same number of non-driving days with the "fast route," which would alternate between walking and driving days. The first route would involve a lot more potential day trips, and so the actual time driving evens out.

    I lose valuable (to me) city time in Athens and Saloniki with the faster pace, and I'll probably change my mind on the best option a lot between now and then.

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    You could always book first couple of days in Athens and maybe last one on Thessaloniki and then decide on the spot depending on how you feel.
    I am not saying to arrive somewhere without a clue on the area and start looking for accommodation out of the blue... But you could research in advance some possibilities and decide where to go next while there and call a day or two in advance to book a room on next destination... or even have a top 5 of hotels on each location and seek them out on the spot.

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    Nope, they don't get a say!
    _________________________

    In truth, here are the ones who are interested:

    #1 - Visits his family in Egypt each fall, would like to stop in Athens en route. All we need to do is coordinate dates

    #2, 3 - Not planners. I've "planned" trips with them before, only for them to admit on the plane that they never actually followed any of the links I sent them! Luckily we have very similar interests and travel styles, and they are happy to follow my lead.

    #4 et al. - the special flowers. They're close friends, they're great fun to travel with, but they don't understand concepts of time and space. I went to Istanbul with them last year. We were going to meet on a Sunday. Two of them said they couldn't arrive until Monday (no problem), then bought a ticket that *left* on Tuesday, and didn't arrive until Thursday ... giving them only 3 1/2 days in Turkey - and they still hoped to see Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia!

    The special flowers don't get a vote. They currently want to visit Mykonos for the parties (though the season will be over), Santorini, and Athens in less than a week. I will show them my dates, and we'll see if there is anything that intersects. I would drop time on the mainland to stay with them in Santorini, though not sure what I would cut.

    In the end, I'll plan for a trip that I would love to do solo, and adjust it if any of my buddies come through. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

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    On Peleponnese, especially if you don't have Olympia on your itinerary we especially enjoyed Nemea. You have to use your imagination a bit but do both the museum and the actual stadium if you would like a sense of the original ancient games that actually occurred also in locations other than Olympia.

    And Mystras was one of those unexpectedly wonderful sites, the second largest city in all of Eastern Christianity at one time. It's really mostly ruins but well curated and interesting.

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    If the Special Flowers were in my travel group, I would tolerate them coming along on the itinerary I had planned -- but I surely wouldn't drop my own interests to cater to their wishes for (nonexistent) island parties off-season (Islands they probably know nothing about, anyway, aside from photos on their Smart-phones). See these "friends" some other time, not twisting yourself into a pretzel to accommodate them.

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    I didn't communicate well! I tell the special flowers: here's where I'll be, let me know if you can make it. I agree with you: they get to follow my plans, if they want! Though in all likelihood it'll only be known places - so, Athens.

    It's #2 who is getting the hard sell - he was an archaeology major, and we've had fantastic times in Guatemala & the Yucatan. Family kept him from traveling the past two years (for me, it was Tunisia and Naples). The man better not miss out this round, and he will want to visit every major site we can, and will linger in each for hours. The good thing is, we keep each other going. He can't plan for beans, but I have no problem planning with him in mind.

    So there are lots of 'secondary' sites on my/our driving route: Olympia, Thermopylae, Messene, Acrocorinth - the more I read, the more I'm amazed that mainland Greece isn't a major destination on par with France and Italy. The islands are, but the impression I get is that the Peloponesse is off the radar, at least for Americans.

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    You are quite right -- Mainland Greece SHOULD be up there w France & Italy (but ssh! don't tell anybody! It will be Spoiled). Reasons I can list:

    • Religion Draw - LOTS of Catholics in the world, not as many Greek Orthodox. Some people just travel to visit churches & shrines of their own particular religion (altho there are a number of Greece-based tours for christians that follow the steps of Paul).

    • Ethnic Draw -- At least in US, LOTS more Italian-Americans than Greek-Americans (atho the latter are VERY much more loyal, generations after their forebears came here).

    • US Tour company Promotion -- Americans are unsophisticated travelers so they go to the places that cruise companies and tour packages promote. These companies can make a LOT more money pushing people to Santorini, Mykonos, etc. than to the marvels of the Peloponnese, which dont include pricey resorts, luxury spas, etc.

    • Greece Promotion -- The Dept of Tourism in Greece is famously incompetent, largely because during the past 25 years the 2 major parties used it as a jobs program for party hacks. Also -- the Greeks (outside of government failure) are NOT that good at marketing their own goods ... for example the Greeks produce FAR more olive oil than Italy or even Spain, AND it's a proven higher quality (less acidity) ... yet there's almost no Greek Olive oil marketed prominently in the US. Greece ends up selling its oil in bulk to Italy, who then sell it to US in their label. Same deal with Greek Yogurt -- Fage made the market, then others have swooped in. Sigh.

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    I like your itinerary but wanted you to rethink dropping Saloniki because it is worth the time and effort to visit. I spent 4 days on my visit there and went to the museums, the churches, and some very good restaurants. I took the bus to Vergina (Aigli) to visit the tomb there but I missed Pella & Veria (lots of churches with frescoes).

    Maybe you should save the north for another trip but there is plenty to do in Saloniki and the surrounding area. Edessa, Ioannina, Metsovo, and the Zagoria Villages are other interesting northern Greece destinations, but that is really out of your way.

    I Have a great trip.

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    I would be very interested in how this turned out for you.. what would you change if you had more time. We will be spending a month on the mainland and are very interested. Also would be interested in knowing if you contemplating crossing the border into bulgaria at all?

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    Steveanolon -- don't hold your breath. People who are one-timer Greece travellers very seldom come back to report on their trips, and once they have gotten the information they want from the "regulars," they seldom return even to say thank you.

    If you want to get in touch with a previous inquirer such as the Original poster, sometimes when you click on their name, there's an e-mail or other way to contact. However, Michael does not list anything so unless you can track him down in Honolulu, you are out of luck.

    I hope you will not follow his example and disappear without reporting, once you have gotten the advice you need. Feedback helps keep us motivated.

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    Travelerjan, we are planning our next trip.

    We have been to Sicily, but only for a few days, so want to return, but were also considering Crete or Puglia, Italy. We have access to very easy, cheap airfare to those places and know our way around.

    However, I just looked at images of Pylos and it looks like a wonderful place to spend a week or so, just hanging out, eating in the square in the evenings, etc.

    We have been to Athens, Mykanos and Santorini, also Corfu and Rhodes. We like architecture and archeological sites and evenings outside, sitting in the same square or plaza several times, getting to know one place.

    We are in our 70s. DH is still a good driver, but doesn't like dealing with city traffic and I hate driving through mountains or on cliffs. I will need to check the age for renting a car in Greece. I know I could do the research, but you seem to be pretty much an expert, so hope you won't mind a couple of questions.

    Based on things we enjoy, if we wanted a great place for a week together to walk, eat, etc. would you recommend Pylos over our other choices, especially considering that it would likely cost a lot more and certainly be more time consuming to get there? We wouldn't mind the cost to see a place we haven't been if it is truly beautiful and even romantic. Is there an easier way to get there than driving from Athens? We don't really wish to visit Athens again and would not enjoy driving a long round trip. Could we do without a car once there? Thank you for your opinions and advice.

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    Sassafrass --
    Gialova... the place just N. of Pylos where I have stayed 2x --- is SO relaxing, that 3-4 days there seems like a week. A week could seem perhaps too long, although I see English people there who have settled in for 2+ weeks.

    The last I went there was at the END of 2 stimulating but exhausting visits to Greece. [footnote: because I'm retired on a pitiful pension, I manage to keep going back to Greece by taking, on most trips, 3-4 Newbies as my "travel pals". I take them through the ferry adventure, to places I enjoy, plunk us in tiny pensions by the sea, orient them to the sights etc, then let them run free for each day. In return they each pitch in a bit that defrays part of my costs. I enjoy doing this because it's always fun to show people stuff that I love and have them be awestruck too. However, they are eager beavers age 50s-60s, and I'm way older. So after 16-17 days, & I wave them off on a plane, I'm SO tired... I spend 4-5 days recuperating.

    I do not drive. So I went straight to the KTEL bus station, armed with snacks & a good book and spent a restful 4.5 hours crossing Pelops. After Tripoli bus went onto tiny roads, stopping outside of vineyard to let kiddies leap into arms of happy grandparents. At last stop, Pylos, I took a €10 taxi ride to Gialova. While there, another guest (who had a car) and I went to pylos for drinks & dinner. I also took a bus up to Nestor's castle (It's closed for renovations but I had an 'in" with the archeologists there). Took a bus back... spent an hour waiting, in a cafe, talking w greeks who knew almost no english. I find this to be fun.

    Here's a description I copied for a similar query by someon on the rick steves travel forum.
    "If you don't go to Kardamyl, you can continue to PYLOS, beautiful small town with a remarkable small square looking out at the sea(designed by the FRench, n'est pas?). Stop for a drink, then continue on 10Km. There is a little sign "Gialova"... turn left on a dirt road about 200 yards & u are on a glorious beach. Gialova is only about 10 football fields long. On the beachfront lane 3 hotels I think, about 7 tavernas, a small Grocery. U will see a HOtel Zoe, with a palm grove in front. http://www.zoeresort.com (don't be scared; it is NOT a resort, some web-designer must have talked them into adding that word; it's a lovely family-run hotel).
    "Reserve ahead, in the front (original) building, for a room facing the sands, with sea view balcony with canvas awning. Take a nap. The sea is aquamarine. In the Palm Grove are deep wicker chairs, cushioned. Older British people sit there, reading novels by Virginia Woolf. There is a pier with no boats. At 5 pm, cars pull up & park there. Greek daddies, coming from work, get out with their children and play in the water. When the sun goes down, lanterns light up under the trees, where there are tables. Have dinner. Zoe will tell you what's on that night. She's pretty, college-educated, in her 20s, fluent in 3 languages. Her granddad named the hotel for her. The next day you can drive or take a taxi to the most remarkable beach in greece -- Vodakilli. Perfectly round. No sunbeds. No kiosks. No tour crowds. You will remember it. Or just walk down the beach in front of zoe for 4 miles or so.... " The Zoe website tells all about the amazing wildlife refuge, the castle ruins, the Battles of the Bay of Navarone (both the Ancient and the Independence War). All this is more interesting than those wacky Mani castles the RS book loves.
    ON WAY BACK -- Stop at Ancient MESSINE ... right off highway. These were the oppressed people who finally revolted against the awful SPartan opressors, then to defend themselves built the Biggest wall in world next to Great Wall of China. U don't need to walk it; just look it up on Wikipedia... go to most picturesque part, go to taverna right in the site &have a cold Mythos &l look at the view and move on. (Note this equires car or a tour).

    So no, wonderful though it is, its a long way for you. But lookng back, I see that you have never been to Nafplio!!! What???? It totally has everything you want ... romance beauty best sunset in greece, culture, walking, shopping, museums, wine ... a central square marble-paved, where children play soccer by moonlight. That's where you MUST go. MUST MUST. And you just take a KTEL bus (reserved-seat, cushioned, comfy, A/c), 2.5 hours from athens on modern highway, scenic almost all the way, by the Saronic Gulf to Corinth Canal, then thru orange groves and vineyard to Ta-da! an amazing Venetian golden-stone architecture heaven on a peninsula.

    In my first trip to Greece in '99 I was leaving mykonos and said to the artist Id visited there, Now I'll stayinAthens and do 3 daytrips. And she said NO. You'll jump on a KTEL Bus and go to Nafplio. You will Thank me. I've been there at least 5 times now.

    You can land in ATH, take a Express bus to the KTEL Kissifou station and --shaszzam -- you are there. One can spend at least 2 full days just exploring Old Town. A local bus takes you in 15 mins to a great beach ... or you can enjoy the little stony "town beach" on the other side of the peninsula. There are at least 4 "Four-star" ruins within 15 miles around ... and there is NO traffic -- at least in May or June or September which are the months I travel. U could rent a car for 1 day, and mosey down lanes' the whole area is in a lovely valley no driving challenges.

    Heres the best comprehensive website -- http://www.visitnafplio.com -- noncommercial, created/run by a fab Norwegian expat there. Read everything on it, then start a new thread saying "tell us all about Nafplio". BTW Nafplio is popular year-round because its a favorite weekend getaway for Athenians (thus all the shop are SO chic); good tavernas, music too.
    I rest my case!

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    Travelerjan, you are wonderful. Thank you for taking so much time to give me all that info.

    My DH is retired military, and, if we are lucky, once in a while we can get free or super cheap flights to Sicily, Naples or Crete, then look for cheap flights or ferries to other places. It is very last minute. We never know until an hour or so before flights if they will have a space. Then it is take whatever we can get to whichever place they are going. I do lots of research on several possibilities, so am somewhat prepared for wherever we end up. I make it work if I can. We are never bored and can spend days in simple places. It has been three years since our last trip to Europe, so want it to be special.

    I will research Nafplio. I know a little, but had not considered it until you recommended it. It does sound exactly like what DH and I enjoy.

    BTW, how do you find the people you take on tours? Friends, a website?

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    Hi Sassafrass,

    I am retired from USAF and about the same age as you and your husband. Greece is the perfect place for people who travel with no fixed dates, especially if you avoid going during high season. Unfortunately there aren't many Space A flights to Greece, except maybe some to Souda, but it's not expensive to fly there from the UK where I live.

    You don't need to book ferries in advance, and rooms are available on the spot when you get off the ferry. Although I'm a very good driver, I prefer using public transport in Greece, simply because it's cheaper for a solo traveller. If you go to the area in the southern Peloponnese described by Travelerjan, it would be almost essential to have a car. Lucky for me I have friends who live in the area, so took the express bus to Kalamata and was driven everywhere from there in return for a contribution to the fuel costs.

    There is a new superhighway from Athens to Kalamata, so driving there would be very easy. The coastal road east and west of Kalamata is very good, and there are many beautiful seaside villages and beaches apart from Pylos. In fact, the whole coastline of Messenia and Laconia is dotted with beautiful places. There are local KTEL buses to get you from place to place, but a car would be more efficient. I don't know of any age limitation for rentals, but you need an International Driver's Permit (IDP) if you have a US licence.

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    Heimdall, knowing comparisons are hard and preferences are personal, I bet you have also been to Crete and Sicily, along with Greece, so it would be interesting and appreciated to hear your observations of all three.

    Your imput as a space-a traveler is also useful. I will check cost of flights to Athens from other space-a locations. We used to fly into England, but I don't think there are many space-a flights from the states anymore.

    Space-a is tight everywhere, for retirees. We have not used it in 7 or 8 years, but I was hoping we could this year. Now we have family that is ill, and I am a caretaker, so putting things off for a few weeks. I am planning anyway. It gives me happiness just to look at places and map out plans.

    If we can get seats, Sicily is an easy flight for us and there is a lot I want to see there that we missed first time around. Otherwise, we are more just find a pretty or interesting village or two and plunk ourselves down for a few days for walking. We love walking late at night in quiet (or busy) small towns. Chania looks like it would be great for that.

    Of course, easy flights aren't everything. Travelerjan now has me thinking space-a to Crete, stay 3/4 days to walk and relax, fly to Athens, drive or bus to places in Greece, and reverse. Would be a fantastic trip if we can get the time.

    Throwing one more place into the mix, depending on time of year, is flying into Spain (also an easy flight) and spend a week in Morocco. I love exotic Turkey and it looks as if Morocco has a similar feel.

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    Sorry, can't help you much with Sicily or Crete, but there are good flight and ferry connections from Athens to both Heraklion and Chania. Lots of people make their way through the Cyclades island group by ferry to Heraklion on Crete. You don't have to go to an island to enjoy a trip to Greece, though. In fact, most of the best sights are on the mainland.

    There aren't as many Space A seats to England now that most of the bases here are closed, but I still see C-5 and C-17 aircraft on the flight line when I go to RAF Mildenhall, so there must still be some. You would probably have better luck looking for Space A to Ramstein.

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    Sassafrass, if you can get a flight to Souda that is not in high season, that would be a GREAT combo with Nafplio. The bus system in Crete is Super . You could spend a few days in the Chania area (my fave in Crete), take KTEL bus to someplace on south coast for a day or two ... From Heraklion you could take a "promotional rate" flight perhaps, on Aegean, back to ATH -- or an overnight ferry (Knossos Palace) to Pireaus. A room for 2 would be less than an Athens hotel & its' your transport also. If you are super-budget the 2 of you could part for the night and each take a berth in an All -M or All - F cabin for 4. MANY options -- and none that you have to plan far ahead. If u get that last-minute Souda flight, we can all help u with budget lodging lists.

    Heimdall, I didn't know you were ALSO one of those retired "floppy-cap" guys! I"ve met several ex-USAF in Greece... first one was in Paros, on my 2nd trip. Quiet guy, dining alone, so my friends & I invited him over. From Dayton OH, and NOT the kind of world-traveler you'd expect. He said his wife was such a homebody, wouldn't leave her bridge club o see the Taj Mahal, ha ha, so he just takes off on his own all over the world. This was his 3rd time in Greece, said he got flights to Souda.

    Sassafrass, I also benefitted from the friends Heimdall mentioned -- Sally & Phil drove me to tour Messene, and she is a true Ruins-buff (did some time as an archeology volunteer in UK). So yes, for an extended stay in that area, a car is a help. The bus worked for me the last time, because what I needed was recuperation. For you guys -- Nafplio is perfect. As I said, when u want to know more, start a new thread, and you will be showered with specifics from all the Nafplio-lovers on this forum.

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    Sassafrass -- to answer separate query: how did I find "fellow travelers?" Actually, mainly word-of-mouth. It started when my Indiana Sister called up and said, "3 friends and I want to go to Greece but we haven't a clue. If you'll be our "trip mama", take us all around, make the arrangements etc, we'll pop for your airfare." I thought, wow, this could work -- and it did. Of my 12 trips, 9 have been taking folks along, mostly 3 or 4, no more (because a non-van rental car has passenger limit of 5).

    FIrst it started with friends in my CT Quaker meeting & my book club, then word got out among former co-workers in NYC. For a while I had website a friend created for me, and i listed the link in my "profile" on various forums to which i contributed, and people contacted me to ask how I traveled. It was v. informal, because it was not a "business" -- I didn't do it to make money, in fact the modest planning=fees only partially defrayed my costs. I guaranteed every "travel pal" that he/she could cover all basic costs on €70 per day, and often less. It's all about going outside of peak season, knowing the small modest lodgings with great locations, and various $$-saving tricks like picnic lunching.

    Why did I do it? As someone on her own, I love showing my favorite discoveries to newcomers, thus seeing sights through fresh eyes. Since trips were basically my own vacation, not an enterprise, I only took along compatibles-- people who love ruins AND beaches, who are funny and flexible, budgeteers not luxe types. Tend to be creatives or educators, in their 50s-60s, although travel pals have ranged from 37 - 73. Spa-fanciers, compulsive shoppers, right-wingers, no. It was fun! My last bunch in 2013 was Splendid -- we still get together. Yet I realized regretfully that my pep quotient wasn't up to it any more, so 2013 was solo and if I return (I hope!), it will be alone or just with a friend.

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    "Steveanolon -- don't hold your breath. People who are one-timer Greece travellers very seldom come back to report on their trips, and once they have gotten the information they want from the "regulars," they seldom return even to say thank you.

    If you want to get in touch with a previous inquirer such as the Original poster, sometimes when you click on their name, there's an e-mail or other way to contact. However, Michael does not list anything so unless you can track him down in Honolulu, you are out of luck."

    This was unduly harsh. If you had clicked on my name you would have seen that I always post trip reports. You should also note that I thanked people who posted advice.

    As next fall hasn't arrived yet, I don't have anything more to post - though it's starting to look like work will interfere with travel & I'll have to delay this trip until 2017.

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