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Istanbul and Greece this October

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DH and I are going to a conference in Istanbul, in late October, and will be there for 5 nights, in a hotel close to the convention center. Then we have 9 nights on our own, to explore Greece, and fly home.

Greece seems confusing, with so many places to visit, and different ferries connecting them. We don't like moving around too much, so are thinking we'd stay in two places after Istanbul.

Will the Greek ferries still be running regularly, and restaurants open, in early November?

Is Athens the only international airport for flying to the US? The flights I found all leave Athens at 6 a.m., which sounds like a PIA. (I will try to use United Mileage Plus for my ticket.) Or should we fly to Rome from a Greek island, and go to the US from there, maybe even stay a couple of nights (DH has not been to Rome, but I have).

We are most interested in seeing the smaller places in Greece, the ocean views and beaches. Not sure about staying in Athens.

Would we be able to take a ferry from Istanbul to a Greek island which would be good for a multi-night stay, with day-trips to other islands? Or is it better to fly? And to where?

Clearly, I am not knowledgeable about the Greek islands, but I'm working on it! Got my Fodor's book on Greece, in fact.

Can Fodorites help me create an itinerary, please? We are not interested in nightlife, but we like good restaurants with fresh fish. We are looking at this trip as our beach escape vacation. We aren't lay-in-the-sun types, as we prefer to be on foot, walking all day to see the sights and the ocean views. We love being by the water, and having views from the hotel. Would consider snorkeling, but maybe the water is too cold in November?

Where should we begin?? We are very excited to have this blank canvas to plan our first visit to Istanbul and Greece.

Thank you for your help!

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