A week in Greece--help!

Apr 19th, 2012, 08:26 AM
  #1  
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A week in Greece--help!

Hello everyone, I am planning a 17-day trip to Europe around Labor Day weekend, and I want to conclude my trip with a week in Greece before flying back home. I have never been to Greece, and I have not researched the area extensively as it was never on my travel radar until now. I want to see the major archeological sites in Athens (Parthenon, major museums), but I really want the majority of the time to be spent on the Islands. My boyfriend and I want to spend a lot of time on the beach, as we will be traveling through cities in Scandinavia before we go there. We would prefer a home base strategy, as we don't want to move hotels too frequently. We are youngish (I guess this is relative, hah) at 26 and 27, respectively, and we will want to go out a night or two. I am wondering where is a good home base on the islands, how long should we stay in Athens before going to the islands, and what are some great undiscovered gems along the way, including great hotels, beaches, etc. Also, are there any great resources for boating or exploring the islands on your own?

Again, I haven't researched Greece very much so I really appreciate the insight!!
smithgardner is offline  
Apr 19th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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With your interest in archaeological sites and museums, three days in Athens would probably be about right, but do it at the end of your stay in Greece, if possible. There are also some major sites, e.g. Delphi and in the Nafplio area, that can be done on day trips from Athens, so Athens would be a good home base for the mainland.

That leaves four days for the islands. Your idea of a home base on the islands is sound, but doesn't work out very well in practice. Ferries are rather slow, even the "highspeeds", and tend to arrive on the islands mid-day, not giving you enough time to see another island and get back the same day.

If you want somewhere with good beaches, Naxos would be a good choice. From there you could take a day trip to Paros by regular ferry, or possibly an excursion to Mykonos/Delos or Santorini on Naxos Star or Alexander. This all depends upon timing, as the excursions don't run every day. Bear in mind you will use most of one day travelling to the islands, and most of another going back to Athens, so your four days for the islands may actually be only two.

One fact that seems to escape many people is the Greek mainland has a huge coastline, with beaches every bit as good as those on the islands. Were you to base yourself in Nafplio, you could see the major sites in the area, not have to change hotels, and still get some good beach time.
Heimdall is online now  
Apr 19th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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Excuse my ignorance but when is this "Labor Day weekend" ?
Is this week in Greece 5 full days plus 2 parts of day or 7 full days excluding arrival/departure? I think that even the tiniest island deserves at least 3 nights/2 full days as an absolute very minimum stay, so I hope you realize you do not have time for more than Athens+1 island or Athens+2 islands at most. And yes, I would seriously consider mainland too.
Where you plan to come from and where are you heading next? Not sure where this labor day is but if it's in season, nowdays many European cities offer direct flights to/from some islands, so securing a flight to Athens and a flight from an island or v.v. will save you some backtracking. It is important to book quite in advance to pay a decent rate and insure there are spare seats though!
mariha2912 is offline  
Apr 19th, 2012, 12:22 PM
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Labour Day in the USA isn't the 1st of May, as a European would have imagined, but the first Monday in September, which in 2012 will be on September the 3rd.
clausar is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 05:06 AM
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Thank you for clarifying this clausar .
So I guess plenty of flight options from some European cities to some of the most popular islands such as Crete,Kos,Rhodes,Mykonos,Santorini etc,especially at start of September.
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Apr 20th, 2012, 06:12 AM
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Thank you all for your advice! I think I was wanting to do Athens + 2 islands, and I have a full week of 7 nights to spend in Greece. Ideally, I will do open-jaw into Athens and out of Mykonos or Santorini or vice versa. Could I manage the highlights of Athens in 2 nights? I would want to spend 4-5 on the Isles. I've heard that Santorini is breathtaking, and I really do want to see the highlights on this trip and maybe save some of the smaller, off-the-beaten-path sights for another trip... is 7 days enough for a good introduction to Greece? Thanks!
smithgardner is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 06:59 AM
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2 nights is one day if you add in the time for arriving, getting to your hotel, plus revsrsing this on your way out. 1 day is not enough for Athens, maybe 2 days will give you the highlights.

So you plan to fly to the islands rather than take a ferry? Flying will take less time but you do lose the ferry experience. And you can't fly directly from Mykonos to Santorini; you must go through Athens. So you can take the ferry for this leg; it only takes about 2.5 hours.

But the bigger issue is allowing some ease in your itinerary. Travel in Greece is a bit unpredictable these days. The air traffic controllers threaten strikes, with little notice. This will stop all flights. Other groups strike, like the ferry workers and the bus drivers.

If you're going to 3 destinations in 7 nights/6 days, connections are going to be tight. If there's a strike, your whole trip may crumble. And, in any case, those connections eat up much of your week. For flexibility in these circumstances, I'd put Athens at the end of your trip and stick to one island.
Mimar is online now  
Apr 20th, 2012, 07:09 AM
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I do not think that you can see "the highlights" of Greece in only 7 days, those are not just Athens,Mykonos and Santorini! You just have to do what you can do on a small time frame. agree it is advisable planning to be on the area of departure at least 2-3 nights in advance, of course due to possible reasons mentioned by Mimar, but on my opinion mostly due to possibility of winds or mechanical problems that could cause delays or cancellations on ferries and flights Not an every day occurrence, not unheard off though. Mykonos-Santorini is a seasonal route served on fast ferries that can not sail if wind gets more than 5-6 b. strength, slower ferries are not so much of a problem on September as it gets 8+ b. to face problems.
Anyhow, it would help to post what you have on mind to see and do on each location to get specific advice on how to plan this.
mariha2912 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 07:43 AM
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So...if I only have 7 days I should not go to Greece at all?
I want to see the highlights of Athens, 2 days, 2 nights, ferry to islands, and on the islands I want to hang out on the beach, eat and drink and take pictures--do some water activities, truly just relax, not looking to go to museums or anything. I have some flexibility with getting in and out, so if it ends up being an extra travel day, I am fine with that.
smithgardner is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 07:45 AM
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Thank you all for your insights, I can imagine that given the recent economic volatility and social unrest in Greece it can throw a wrench in the best-laid travel plans.
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Apr 20th, 2012, 07:55 AM
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smithgardner

Heimdall has given you an excellent advice, she knows the islands very well and also the ferry connections between them.

An open jaw would be ideal and would save lots of time.
But i think you should follow Heimdalls advice and use only an island, as a base for day trips, otherwise you will be losing valuable time getting from one island to another.

Mimar

Traffic controllers very rarely go on strike, so this is nothing to be worry about... same applies to bus drivers.

A problem last year were general strikes, the strike of the taxis and the strike of the ships workers unions
clausar is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 08:00 AM
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smithgardener

Maybe you have a wrong impression from the media..
Life in Greece continues as usual, there is no social unrest apart from some demostrations.
Life in Greece is as peaceful, as it's always have been.

Plus if you are not at Syntagma Square in Athens during demonstrations you won't even know they have taken place.
Islands and all the rest of the mainland is not affected but the Athens demonstrations, so there is no reason not to visit Greece.

Millions of visitors did it last year, when Greece hit an absolute record on arrivals....
clausar is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 10:33 AM
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Hi clausar, I am a "he", not a 'she'. ;-)

Smithgardener, don't worry about having only a week. Naturally it would be better to have longer, but we must work with what is available. Two full days in Athens will give you enough time to see the major sites and a couple of museums. Unfortunately it won't give you enough time for a side trip to one of my favourite sites, Delphi.

With such limited time, I strongly recommend flying to Santorini (50 minutes) rather than the 8 hour ferry, which would lose you a day of sightseeing. Whether to do one island or two is a personal choice. Although the flying cat from Santorini to Mykonos takes only 2½ hours, it leaves mid-day — you will spend most of the morning packing, checking out of the hotel, and transferring to the port, then doing the reverse upon arrival at Mykonos. That means the day will be mostly lost in travelling.

Santorini has spectacular views, and for the first time in seven years the Minoan site at Akrotiri will be open. There is also Ancient Thera perched atop the mountain above the black-sand beaches of Kamari and Perissa, wine tours, and enough more to keep you busy for four days.

Mykonos is fun, with a beautiful main town, great beaches, and a lively nightlife. It also has Delos, another of my favourite ancient sites, only 30 minutes away (closed Mondays). Whether it is worth losing a day in travel between the two is up to you. Whatever you decide, you will have a wonderful time.
Heimdall is online now  
Apr 20th, 2012, 10:43 AM
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Heimdall......

so sorry... συγγνώμη...
clausar is offline  
Apr 20th, 2012, 11:36 AM
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Don't worry, I wasn't offended.
Heimdall is online now  
Apr 20th, 2012, 12:06 PM
  #16  
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Thanks you both so much for you insight, I am really excited about traveling to Greece, and you all have really informed on all there is to see and do. I may try and tweak my itinerary a little bit to add a few days so that I'm spending maybe 9 days instead of 7. I realize that Greece is very much still a welcoming place for tourists, but I guess I was just acknowledging that transit strikes are a possibility and to not hem myself into too tight of a schedule.
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