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2 week Greece itinerary - Athens + islands, but which ones??

2 week Greece itinerary - Athens + islands, but which ones??

Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 11:06 AM
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2 week Greece itinerary - Athens + islands, but which ones??

My fiancee and I are planning a two-week trip to Greece at the end of September for our honeymoon.

We both agree that we want quality over quantity, so we're interested in deeper/longer experiences in fewer places. Not interested in packing up and moving every two days. But it's so hard, there are so many amazing places to go! Neither of us has ever been to Greece. We are interested in culture, food, wine, history, natural beauty, and generally exploring. Beach resort lounging is great, but is not a priority - we can do that much closer to home.

The plan is to fly into Athens, immediately go to some islands for about 10 days, then head back to Athens for a few days (I hear this is a good idea in case any travel craziness happens, give yourself a buffer of a few days in Athens before flying out). The question that is eating my brain is, which islands? How many, for how long? I've been looking at Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos. Santorini is definitely in. I'm thinking of scrapping Mykonos because I've heard it's a lot of cruise ships, overpriced shopping, all-night partying, which is all great but just not what we're looking for in this vacation. Any thoughts on that?

Of the remaining, Crete, Rhodes, and Naxos, any thoughts on any of them being not-to-be-missed? Or any of them maybe not as high a priority if I have to whittle it down?

One issue with Rhodes is that it seems to be more difficult to get to than all the others I listed in terms of ferry schedules (only a few a week) and flights (you have to fly through Athens to get from other islands to Rhodes??). But it looks so beautiful and interesting and I've read a lot of impassioned people say this is their favorite island.

Then something I've heard people say about Crete is that it's so large and there is so much to do that you need 2 full weeks there and it's not worth it for just 3-4 days. But I don't understand the logic of that at all, as it seems like it would be much cooler to experience some of it than not to experience any of it.

I guess at the moment, an itinerary that seems to make sense would be to fly to Athens, take an overnight ferry to Crete, then 3-4 days each in Crete, Santorini, and Naxos, and then back to Athens for 2 days. I am just sad not to go to Rhodes from what I have heard people say about it.

And not to complicate it further, but would anyone recommend only spending maybe 7 days in the islands, and then adding another mainland or Peloponnese destination??? I hear great things about Olympia, Parga, Meteora, Delphi....

Anyway, I would be curious to hear some people's thoughts and opinions on this. Thanks!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 11:15 AM
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Oh, forgot to add, the only thing really attracting me to Mykonos is the day trip to Delos, which my friend said was one of her favorite things in Greece when she went a few years ago.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 11:35 AM
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It sounds like quantity over quality to me. I understand that you want to see as much as possible, but you won't be doing yourselves any favors by sticking to this plan. I strongly suggest that you choose 2 islands close together and Athens for the best experience and use of your short time.

3-4 days on Crete is hardly long enough to relax, let alone see much of anything. Will you be flying form the States? If so, your first day or two will be a blur from the jet lag. And you'll need a rental car if you want to see more than one area and don't want to rely on the bus schedule.

You can also take a daytrip excursion to Delos from Naxos and Paros which includes a stop in Mykonos Town for a couple of hours. If you go from Paros you'll spend less time on the boat. Paros is a lovely island within easy reach of Santorini. Both islands are on the same ferry route back to Athens and both islands have airports.

To help you choose, get a copy of T. Cook's "Greek Island Hopping" for a good source of island information. Check your library.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 11:56 AM
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Laszlo, you will get the most helpful advice if you can be quite specific. Examples:

• Where are you from? Advice for someone who flies in exhausted after a 24-hour trek from Western Canada, would be different from advice for someone who's taking a quick 1-2 hour hop from the Balkans (well, your name IS Lazlo). Unless u are in witness-protection, please say -- and how long your journey may take.

•Does your 2 weeks INCLUDE days coming & going? Then it's really 12.5 days, not 14.

* If u have booked your flght or have 1 in mind what's the date AND time of day? Why? Cuz i affects if you could get a bargain domestic flight right away to your farthest destination -- or whether u could start your trip with a stop in the Peloponnese.

* Brotherlee is right, that book is a good start especially in showing you what island link-ups by ferry are logical. TIMING is crucial to be time-efficient; for instance, on the right day, you could get an overnight ferry Santorini to Rhodes (sail as you sleep!), then fly back to Athens.

You DO have to prune your wish list. For example, do-able scenarios might include:

(1) Fly on Day 1 to Santorini; night of day 3, ferry to Rhodes; Day 4 - 9 Rhodes; fly or night ferry back to Athens for 4 days.
(2) Fly day 1 to Chania Crete; 5 days in crete; 3 days santorini; 3 days Paros (1 as daytrip to Delos/Mykonos); fly to athns for 2 days. (VERY rushed).
(3) Drive Day 1 to Nafplio area (Pelops) Day 4, return car to Airport, fly to Santorini (Day 4-7) Day 8 - 10 Paros (Delos?) fly to Athens for Days 11-14.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 11:57 AM
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PS. Crete is a COUNTRY ... 150 miles long. I have been there 4 or 5 times, 5 days each, and haven't gotten to the eastern part yet.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 12:01 PM
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If you really want to see Rhodes, why not? It's true that Blue Star goes between Santorini and Rhodes only about every other day, but it shouldn't be too difficult to plan around that. All the islands, including Mykonos, will be quiet by the end of September. If you want "deeper/longer experiences in fewer places" then it would be best to limit yourself to two islands, e.g. Santorini & Rhodes, Crete & Santorini, or Mykonos & Santorini, plus Athens at the end.

You say "Santorini is definitely in", and "I am just sad not to go to Rhodes". How about this: Fly directly to Santorini upon arrival in Athens, ferry from there to Rhodes, then fly back from Rhodes to Athens to wind up the trip.

Blue Star Ferries have already published their timetables through Oct 31st, which can be found at http://www.bluestarferries.com/site/...?sel=624&loc=2. Click on the Piraeus-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Rhodes & Syros-Santorini-Amorgos (Katapola)' link, and go to the 05/09/2011-31/10/2011 dates. A ferry leaves Piraeus on Tue, Thu, & Sun, departs Santorini just after midnight, and arrives on Rhodes early the next morning. Book a cabin and you can sleep your way to Rhodes.
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Old Mar 25th, 2011, 04:00 PM
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Thank you all for helpful replies! We are from New York City. We did already book our flights. We leave at 11pm on Friday Sep 16th from JFK and arrive to Athens around 6pm on Saturday Sep 17th after a short layover in Istanbul. Then coming back, we are leaving around 8am from Athens on Sunday Oct 2nd, arriving to JFK some time in the evening. So we will really be there for 14 full days, plus an evening when we land on the 17th, although I wasn't planning to do much that night.

It's difficult; I am battling two parts of me, the part that wants to see everything, and the part that wants to have a good relaxing time and not feel rushed. I have this exciting Lonely Planet book full of great things to see and do. But then another part of me almost wants to just pick one island and spend 14 days there!

If I am going to limit myself to two islands--which does sound like good advice--are there two that are more complementary? In other words, maybe Naxos and Paros and Santorini are similar in some way that Rhodes is not, so I would get a more varied experience if I did Rhodes + Santorini, or something like that? If you were going to recommend two islands to a person who had never been before, are there two that come to mind? I have been reading these forums and I understand that it is a matter of taste and personal preference and everyone has a different opinion. But I wonder, if you guys were at a bar and met a stranger who was planning a Greece trip, would you say "If you are going to do the islands, you absolutely MUST go to ____________"?

The good thing I keep reading in these forums is that there's no bad choice here, we'll have a good time wherever we end up going.
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Old Mar 25th, 2011, 06:10 PM
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We all have opinions but we can't answer for you with anything more than what we like. We don't really know what you'd prefer, we can only guess. Culture, food, wine, history, natural beauty, and general exploration applies to EVERY island.

I love Santorini. I recommend you couple it with another island nearby for convenient access, such as Naxos or Paros. I suggest Paros so you can get to Delos as well as Antiparos for daytrips.
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Old Mar 25th, 2011, 08:05 PM
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What kind of history appeals to you? Rhodes has the history of the Crusades in its sites ... and it also has a whole western side that is not touched by tourism. THe architectural look is goldens stone or stucco, and terracotta roofs ... The other islands mentioned are "classic cycladic islands" -- the ones on the calendars, white cubes of dwellings, blue shutters, red flowers, blue sea & sky.

WIth 14 full days you could see a lot: Coming in at 6 pm, you can't do much in Athens so why not stay nearby the airport at a modest place & fly to an island early next AM? St Thomas B & B @ l00€ has a small pool & big breakfast, Peris Hotel has no pool, but free shuttle to/from airport. Olympic Air has a 50-minute flight to Naxos at 7:30, a 50-minute flight to Paros at 10:30, both about 88€.

• Stay Paros or Naxos 3 days, relax, get NYC out of your system: since it's off-season stay at or near main town for more lively time... get car or scooter to explore island on 1 day.
• Take Blue Star Ferry (daily, mid-day) to Santorini... you can stand on the open decks for the famous caldera view as u arrive. Crowds gone, Fira town still buzzing, stay 2-3 days.
• Take overnight ferry on a midnight (wonderful new Blue Star I or II) wake up in Rhodes harbor! Enjoy Old Town 2 days, rent a car & explore rest of island 2 days
• Fly back to Athens for final 3 days to experience its famous landmarks & museums

That's not a rushed trip, but u get contrasts of landscape, food, types of people.
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Old Mar 26th, 2011, 07:40 AM
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If you have 14 full days you can easily do the trip suggested by jan.

9/17 arrive Athens. stay overnight Athens.
9/18 fly or ferry to Paros. From Pireaus there is the Blue Star Naxos which leaves at 7:25 am and arrives 11:40 am or later leaving 5:30 pm and arriving 10:30 pm. From Rafina there is the Sea Jet 2 which leaves 7:30 am and arrives 10:30 am. Paros overnight.
9/19 Paros overnight.
9/20 Paros overnight. This is a Tuesday so could go to Delos?
9/21 Leave Paros-Blue Star Naxos ferry to Santorini leaves 11:30 am and arrives 2:30 pm. Santorini overnight.
9/22 Santorini overnight.
9/23 Santorini - Catch the overnight Blue Star which leaves midnight and arrives 7:40 am on 9/24.
9/24 Rhodes overnight.
9/25 Rhodes overnight.
9/26 Rhodes overnight.
9/27 fly from Rhodes to Athens. Athens overnight.
9/28 Athens overnight.
9/29 Athens overnight.
9/30 Athens overnight.
10/1 Athens overnight.
10/2 fly home.

With so much time in Athens at the end of your trip you could consider some easy day trips from Athens.

Go to www.openseas.gr for ferry schedules. If you are thinking about Santorini and then Rhodes the ferry only goes on 9/23 or 9/27 for the above itinerary.

You can play around with the order, dates, etc. Since getting to Rhodes from the other islands is tricky you should start there if you want to include Rhodes. Or you could fly from Athens on 9/18 to Rhodes and plan the rest from there. There is a ferry that leaves Rhodes on 9/21 at 5:00 pm arriving Santorini that same night at midnight. But then you'd be checking into your hotel real late and paying for that night.

What I learned when planning my trip is that if you decide to use the ferry system at all you need to plan around those schedules. I ended up switching my itinerary order as I couldn't get to Rhodes by ferry from Santorini on my dates. Have fun planning!!
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Old Mar 26th, 2011, 08:12 AM
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The Blue Star Ferry travels between Santorini and Rhodes 3 times each week in September, arriving Santorini from Athens/Piraeus at Midnight on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, arriving at Rhodes at 7:40 the next morning.
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Old Mar 26th, 2011, 09:12 AM
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One source of confusion with those overnight ferries is day of departure from Santorini. As brotherleelove wrote, in September Blue Star departs Piraeus on Tue, Thu, & Sun, arriving on Santorini at midnight. But, since it departs at 00:20 am, departures from Santorini will be shown as Wed, Fri, & Mon on the ferry websites. A minor point, but remember that when booking your hotels.
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Old Mar 26th, 2011, 01:53 PM
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That's right!! I totally forgot that since the ferry departs at 00:20 am it gets in to Rhodes the SAME day at 7:40 am. This is the problem I was having. In order to ferry from Santorini to Rhodes I would have had to spend less time on Santorini than I wanted. Ferry schedules can be a pain in the butt or very easy.

Since this is your honeymoon definitely visit Santorini and try to stay at least 3 nights.

You can print out a blank September calendar and plan your days. http://www.printfree.com/Calendar_fi.../092011rwb.htm
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Old Mar 27th, 2011, 06:15 AM
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Thanks again for all the helpful replies! Since we are not going during peak season, is it important that we book hotels and ferries ahead of time? Or would we be fine just getting in and making our arrangements on the fly? And do you need to rent a car on most of the islands or is there mass transit?
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Old Mar 27th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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Also, what would you say are the significant differences between Naxos and Paros if I am deciding between them as my second Cyclades island?
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Old Mar 27th, 2011, 08:32 AM
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For me the only 'significant' difference is that from Paros you can take a daytrip to Antiparos on the frequent local shuttle ferry. Both islands have excellent beaches and their main port villages are interesting with lots to see and do. Both have mountain villages and some historical sites. You can get to Delos/Mykonos from either island but the trip is shorter if you go from Paros.
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Old Apr 9th, 2011, 05:17 PM
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Bookmarking.
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Old Apr 13th, 2011, 08:13 AM
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I did 2 weeks last June with my girlfriends after college graduation. it was my 3rd trip to greece and their 1st time. i planned the trip: 2 nights athens, 3 nights mykonos, 4 nights santorini, 3 nights crete, 1 night on ferry back to Athens. and let me tell you, that was a LOT of packing/unpacking and traveling. If it was my honeymoon I would probably do 2 or 3 nights Athens, 5 or 6 nights crete or mykonos, 5 or 6 nights santorini. in Crete-stay in Chania, which is close to the beautiful Elafonisi Beach. In Santorini stay in Oia. Rent a car to drive to the other beaches around the island, some wineries, etc.
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Old Apr 8th, 2014, 01:04 PM
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Great information! We are planning a trip for Sept. as well.
We aren't that big on the ruins and all that but we are really want to focus on beaches, camping, small b&b's and getting away from the tourist traps. Any suggestions?
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Old Apr 8th, 2014, 02:08 PM
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fcjoseph, I suggest you do some careful and in-depth research regarding the camping you've mentioned. Not every island has a campground and "free" camping on the beaches is illegal. A few islands have inexpensive hostels.
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