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sdtravels Jul 5th, 2013 03:01 AM

Greece-Early Planning, please help
My DH and I (60ish) are planning a trip to Greece for June 2014. We have never been. We want to see archeological sites, great scenery and have a combination of rest and activity. We have a timeshare trade booked for June 3 on Crete for a week and we need to be in Lake Garda Italy on June 27. Those are our only constraints. Here's a preliminary itinerary, starting at the end of May.

Fly to Athens, rest one day.
Mykonos 3 nights
Santorini 4 nights
Crete 7 nights (timeshare trade just west of Heraklion)
Ferry to Peloponnese, drive to Athens and tour as we go 5 nights
Athens 7 nights
Open- 5 nights What should we do?
Lake Garda 4 nights

Here's some question please:
We are only English speakers, will we have any difficulty navigating/driving on our own.
Do we need a car anywhere other than Crete and Peloponnese?
Would you change the number of nights anywhere? More or Less?
If we squeeze out more than 5 open nights at the end we'd like to go to Amalfi or Cinque Terre before Lake Garda. Enough time?
We plan to fly from Athens to Mykonos and take the ferry from Mykonos to Santorini; good plan?
Any recommendations on where to stay around $100 or less? Realistic budget?

Thanks for your help!

By the way, you may have noticed that I was asking a lot of questions about Ireland/Scotland for the same time. Now that I have it totally planned, we decided to save it for another time.

WWK Jul 5th, 2013 04:17 AM

Just a couple of points: You don't need 7 nights in Athens unless you are planning to take several day trips to: Hydra, Delphi, etc.

I would plan on 4 nights in Athens to see the major sights, unless you like to travel at a very slow pace.

Also, I'd highly recommend connecting through Athens to Mykonos on arrival unless you've missed the flights. It's a very short flight ( about 20 min) and saves you some backtracking to and from the airport.

Your budget is extremely limited, especially for the summer months almost anywhere in Europe.

Travel to the Amalfi Coast from Athens is complicated and can be expensive. You have to fly to Rome, then train down to Naples or Salerno. From Naples, you have to either arrange a private transfer to the coast, or take a local train to Sorrento, then a boat ( if available) or bus to your destination.

From Salerno, I believe it's a boat or bus connection to Amalfi, unless you've arranged a transfer.

Heimdall Jul 5th, 2013 04:32 AM

Your plan looks okay to me. The ferry from Crete direct to the Peloponnese leaves from Kissamos to Gythio only once or twice per week, so take that into consideration. Otherwise you will have to go back through Athens to get to the Peloponnese.

You won't have any difficulty with language, as most road signs are in both Greek and English (Latin) characters. Most Greeks who work in the tourism industry speak at least a little English, and many speak it fluently. Few foreigners have mastered the Greek language, so English is the <i>lingua franca</i> in hotels, shops, and restaurants that serve tourists.

A car is certainly an advantage, but I've never found the need for one in Athens or on the Greek Islands. You will want one for Crete and the Peloponnese, but will need separate cars for Crete and the Peloponnese, as few, if any, car hire companies allow you to take one on the ferries.

neckervd Jul 5th, 2013 04:41 AM

Nobody knows the ferry timetables for 2014. They are usually published at the very last moment (sometimes a few days before the ship begins to run) anyway.
Catamarans Mykonos - Santorini - Heraklion are usually not daily before end May. They usually begin to run in the second half of May.
Nobody can tell you now whether the ferry from Kissamos (Crete) will go to Gythion or to Kalamata and wheter it will run once twice or 3times weekly or not at all.
There is a lot to see in Peloponnese. You could use more than 5 days for that.
7 days for Athens (without day trips) is rather too much, even if you visit all museums.
English is the lingua franca in Greece. You will have no language problem at all!
Visit rather another area of Greece than Amalfi Coast or 5Terre. If you have to choose between the 2 latter, Amalfi Coast would be the better bet (for me, it makes only sense together with a visit of Naples and surroundings, however. For that, you need a full week)

neckervd Jul 5th, 2013 04:49 AM

Athens - Amalfi:
either direct Alitalia flight from ATH to Naples
or easyjet etc. to FCO plus train to Roma Termini - Naples
or ferry from Patras to Bari plus Marinobus to Naples,
then Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento and bus to Amalfi
or ferry Bari - Brindisi, train to Taranto - Salerno, bus to Amalfi

neckervd Jul 5th, 2013 04:50 AM

ferry PATRAS - Brindisi, sorry!!!

Heimdall Jul 5th, 2013 05:32 AM

<i>Nobody can tell you now whether the ferry from Kissamos (Crete) will go to Gythion or to Kalamata and wheter it will run once twice or 3times weekly or not at all.</i>

No one can tell you <i>with absolute certainty</i>, but this is a year-round route also serving the islands of Kythira and Antikythira. As LANE Lines has been running that route for many years, it is reasonable to assume it will continue to do so in 2014. Whether it will stop at Kalamata or Monemvassia is a different matter. Although timetables are often published only a few weeks in advance, they follow a pattern that can be anticipated from previous week's schedules, although that is no guarantee.

When planning a trip of this nature you need to maintain a degree of flexibility. I mentioned the infrequency of ferries from Kissamos to Gythio because of your timeshare, which probably has fixed dates. It may not be practical for you to go that route anyway.

Without knowing what your plans are for Athens it would be presumptuous to say that 7 nights is too much. There is enough to do in that city to easily fill the time. :-)

clausar Jul 5th, 2013 05:37 AM

I think it would be better to fly directly to Crete from Athens, then ferry from Heraklion to Santorini-Myukonos and back to Athens.

From Athens you can rent a car and drive to Delphi and then all the way down to the Peloponnese.
Five nights are enough to see the highlights of the Peloponnese.
Drive along the coast from Delphi via Galaxidi and Nafpaktos to Patra, then to Olympia, overnight there.
Drive through the gorgeous mountainous Peloponnese ( Ileia and Laconia) to Nafplio, see Mycenae , Turyns and Epidaurus and then go all the way down to see Mystras and the Laconian and Messinian Mani ( Monemvasia and Elafonisos are both worth a visit too)

You can spend actually more than 5 nights on the Peloponnese, since there is a lot to see.

From Kisamos/Crete you would arrive in Gythio, where there is no possibility of renting a car. Renting one in Creteand taking it to Athens would be very expensive, as you would be charged with a fee for the return of the car to Crete.

WWK Jul 5th, 2013 03:39 PM

Just a FYI: The post above mentions an ALITALIA flight from Athens-Naples. That flight doesn't start before about mid-June, and it's a small plane with bare bones luggage restrictions. How do I know? We looked into it last year, but our dates didn't work.

sdtravels Jul 5th, 2013 04:06 PM

Thanks everyone, great information. How many days do you think we need on Mykonos and Santorini?

There seems to be flight from Crete to Kalamata, that may solve the problem with the order. The problem with going to Crete first is that our timeshare starts June 3 so we can't go before that. If I leave the order the same and cut two days out of Athens, that gives us a week in Italy prior to Lake Garda. If we do go to Amalfi or CT, we will rent a car while in the area. We would probably fly to Verona to be near Lake Garda after that by June 27.

Our budget is a bit flexible so I will adjust accordingly if you have any suggestions especially on the islands.

clausar Jul 5th, 2013 09:23 PM


Are you sure about the flights from Heraklion to Kalamata?
I think you will have to fly via Athens :)

brotherleelove2004 Jul 5th, 2013 10:39 PM

Not only are there no direct flights from Heraklion to Kalamata, you're attempting to plan your itinerary for 2014 based on 2013 information. This is something you can't do with any degree of certainty. To proceed along this path is a HUGE mistake.

Heimdall Jul 5th, 2013 11:28 PM

The safest assumption is: you will have to go back through Athens to start your trip through the Peloponnese, hiring a car at Athens Airport. The flights to Kalamata (high season only, I believe) go through Athens, so that would be no advantage.

Returning to Athens may work better for you anyway, as the flight to Athens is only about 1 hour, and Nafplio another 3 hours by road from Athens. Alternately you could first go to Delphi, then drive through the Peloponnese as suggested by clausar. Either way you can then return your car to the airport, saving yourself the extra cost of drop-off at a different location.

Heimdall Jul 5th, 2013 11:50 PM

I just checked the Aegean Airlines website. Flights to Kalamata this year are from June 14th to September 15th only, and originate in Athens. It's unlikely they will be running early enough for you next year.

sdtravels Jul 6th, 2013 02:17 AM

Thanks everyone. Back to the drawing board. This is such a great forum. Please check back later for my next attempt.

neckervd Jul 6th, 2013 02:46 AM

you are right, LANE is now operating for more than 5 years between Kissamos and Peloponissos, after having suddenly abandoned it's traditional itinerary Piraeus - Milos - Santorini - Aghios Nikolaos - Sitia - Kassos - Karpathos - Chalki - Rhodos.

"The problem with going to Crete first is that our timeshare starts June 3 so we can't go before that. If I leave the order the same and cut two days out of Athens, that gives us a week in Italy prior to Lake Garda. If we do go to Amalfi or CT, we will rent a car while in the area. We would probably fly to Verona to be near Lake Garda after that by June 27. Our budget is a bit flexible so I will adjust accordingly if you have any suggestions especially on the islands."

It's not forbidden to stay a few day in another part of Crete before June 3rd: Crete is a big Island and you cannot visit everythng in only 1 week anyway.

Your above mentioned post shows that you are still at the very beginning of your planning. That's not forbidden as it wouldn't make sense to make any reservation before next April anyway. June is low season in the whole Mediterranean and nothing will be sold out anyway.
In the meantime, you may find out why you need a car in 5Terre.

sdtravels Jul 6th, 2013 02:59 AM

June doesn't sound like beach weather in Santorini and Mykonos. I'm worried we are spending too much time there. Cruises only stop for a few hours. I definitely want to go to Delos. We aren't night scene people. What else should we look forward to?

sdtravels Jul 6th, 2013 03:45 AM

Here's my next attempt.

Delphi/Peloponnese 6 nights
Athens 4 nights
Crete 7 nights
Santorini 4 nights
Mykonos 4 nights
Day lost on getting to Amalfi (Mykonos to Rome thru ATH then drive)
Naples/Pompei/Amalfi area 7 nights
Day lost on getting to Lake Garda
Lake Garda 4 nights

The start date depends on the availability of frequent flyer flights. I know there is a business class flight available on 5/25 but I am going to wait to see if a different airline posts some more flights.

Heimdall Jul 6th, 2013 04:19 AM

Hi sdtravels,

Your itinerary is looking better, and I would stick to the number of days at each location you have now allocated. June will definitely be beach weather in the Cyclades, with air temperatures getting hot, and water temperatures cool but swimmable.

Don't worry about cruises stopping on the islands for only a few hours — that's their loss, not yours. The length of stops has more to do with the cruise ship keeping to its itinerary than how much there is to see on each island. Some cruise ships even stop on Mykonos at times of day when it is impossible to get to Delos.

<i>We aren't night scene people. What else should we look forward to?</i> Leisurely breakfasts at sidewalk cafes; spending days exploring or going to the beach; day cruises; wine tours on Santorini; evening meals at traditional tavernas; drinks at a sidewalk cafe before going back to your room. :-)

Suggest you book your Mykonos > Athens and Athens > Rome flights together rather than separately. That way, in case of delays, the airline will be obliged to get you on the next available flight.

sdtravels Jul 6th, 2013 05:22 AM

Thanks Heimdall, I am liking it better myself. I am now working on the Peloponnese section in detail. Looks like an awful lot of driving. Thankfully DH LOVES to drive.

How's this:
From Athens go directly to Delphi and overnight. We will probably need to get some rest after the flight.
Drive Delphi/Galaxidi/Nafpaktos/Olympia 1 night
Drive Olypmia/Kardamyli 3 nights, Do loop to Philos, Methoni,Kroni one day, Loop to Stoupa,Areopolis,Vathia the next.
Drive to Monevasia via Gytheio 1 night
Drive back to Athens via Mystras, Mycenae, Navplion,Epidavros
The first and last driving days seem pretty long. Any other suggestions on how to break it up? We don't need to stay in one place during this week. Maybe we shouldn't stay in Monevasia and make it further to Mystras that day?

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