Greek Mainland Itinerary

Old Sep 24th, 2015, 10:00 PM
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By the way, I am not sure if your friends have anything to say on your plans so far?
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Old Sep 25th, 2015, 12:15 PM
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Nope, they don't get a say!
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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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Old Sep 25th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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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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Old Sep 25th, 2015, 08:25 PM
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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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Old Sep 26th, 2015, 12:14 AM
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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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Old Sep 26th, 2015, 12:50 PM
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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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Old Sep 30th, 2015, 10:52 AM
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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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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 12:16 PM
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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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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 04:46 PM
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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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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 05:17 PM
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Travelerjan, I so appreciate all the advice you gave in this thread. It makes me want to include in my trips, some of the places you mentioned.
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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 05:48 PM
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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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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 06:46 PM
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Sorry. See I misspelled Mykonos.
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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 08:07 PM
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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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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 09:00 PM
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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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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 01:10 AM
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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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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 06:18 AM
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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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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 08:51 AM
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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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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 10:02 AM
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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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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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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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Old Apr 12th, 2016, 08:08 PM
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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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