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Help with Greece mainland itinerary


Jul 11th, 2012, 04:07 AM
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Help with Greece mainland itinerary

Hi - We are going to Greece in the last two weeks of August. My 9 year old daughter has been studying ancient greeks this year in school, so we want to go see some of the sites, as well as have a bit of chill out on an island. For the island part, we are planning to stay on Naxos for the second week before heading home, so we are set there.

We tend to be more slow travellers than people who need to rush around and see and do everything, but that said, we would like to do some touring around on the first leg of this trip. That's the bit I'm having difficulty with - figuring out an itinerary for the mainland to see some sites before we head off to Naxos - so I'd like to ask some of the more experienced Greece experts out there for suggestions.

Right now, the plan is to spend 2-3 days in Athens and then head up to Delphi. The question is, what do we do after that? Meteora is supposed to be amazing, but really far away. I've also read that Nafplio and the surrounding area is also great, but it's in a very different area. If we go to Nafplio, I also thought it might be fun for her to go to Olympia (seeing as we live in London and it's the Olympics this year) but that seems a long trek for a day trip from Nafplio.

I would be really grateful for any suggestions or recommendations for the itinerary and also if you have any hotel/restaurant recommendations... We have about a week for the first leg of our trip, which would include the days in Athens.

One thought would be when we leave Athens, we drive to Delphi in the afternoon, spend the night there, visit Delphi in the morning before it gets too hot, then do the long four hour drive to Nafplion, stay there and do Epidaurus and Mycenae one day, spend the night then drive to OIympia, stay there one night, drive back to Nafplio, spend the night then head back to Athens...

Are there any good places to stop along the way between Delphi and Nafplion, to break up the drive?

Going out to Olympia seems like a long drive so it may be out of our way, and we just skip it... or is it such an amazing place we have to see it? Your thoughts?

If we don't do the drive to Olympia, are there any other sites near Nafplio that we could visit as a day trip? Maybe some more minor archeological sites that are still interesting? Is Tripoli interesting, or Megalopolis (they both sound like big, busy, hot cities)? Or Sparta? Or do we just go to a nice beach nearby and relax for a day?

Should we go to Nafplion first, and then head up to Delphi? Delphi is a priority for us...

Should we rent a car and drive ourselves? I've heard it can be difficult to drive around due to signage and poor roads. Would it be better to try to find a driver or take a tour? In some ways, we'd like to not have the stress of driving ourselves, but my concern about the tours (at least the ones I've seen advertised on the net) is that they tend to be too rushed and pack too many things into too many days. However, a driver sounds expensive!

Finally, when we get back to Athens to get the ferry to Naxos - Should we spend the night there (or in Piraeus) and get a ferry in the morning, or is there a night ferry to Naxos?

Many many thanks in advance for your help and recommendations.
trvlgrl is offline  
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Jul 11th, 2012, 06:09 AM
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Delphi is a must as you say. I was quite taken with this place of wisdom for ancient Greeks. As an older adult I even wrote a study paper for a college class wife and I were auditing. Yes, definitely Mycenae which takes you back to ancient times. Also Epidaurus. You didn't mention Corinth en route or in fact Athens itself which has much to see. I think the national museum worthwhile...still remember a security guard having a fit because I leaned against a large urn! Beware that Athens is a big city with traffic and hazards...we had wallets stolen on a bus.

Bill in Boston

Can't say about Olympia, whether it is worth the long drive. I take it you are renting a car, but we found booking day bus trips out of our Athens hotel quite satisfactory. One day we did take a ferry to islands off the coast...Aegina, Poros.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 06:49 AM
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Agree that Delphi (especially the Tholos), Epidaurus, & Corinth with site, museum & nearby Venetian castle are all wonderful. We loved Mike's hotel at Epidaurus right on the sea. We always hire cars but not needed in Athens. Meteora is unique but is a long way. Mystras down south is also interesting but again a long drive. There are lots of other sites in the south of the Peloponnesse - Diros caves, Koroni but you do need time.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 06:57 AM
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Mainland Greece is very beautiful.
Here is a suggestion of what you could do, with a rental car of course.

1. Athens- Delphi
Overnight in Delphi

2. Delphi -Galaxidi ( it's on your way) - Nafpaktos - Rio bridge - Olympia
Overnight in Olypia

3. Olympia - via the mountain road to Nafplio

very nicr scenic drive through a beautiful mountainous region

You can stay longer in Nafplio and use it for daytrips to :


Ancient Corinth you can see on your way back to Athens.

Olympia is a very nice archaeological site, a must see in my opinion, as is Delphi.

I don't suggest taking an organized tour, if you have no problem with driving. This way you can enjoy driving through the countryside, and stop where you want.

On your way from Delphi to Olypia, both Galaxidi and Nafpaktos are very beautiful for a short break.
From Olympia to Nafplio you will pass through many nice villages on your way... it's one of the nicest regions of Southern Greece. ( the prefectures of Ilia and Arcadia)

Tripolis and especially Megalopolis are not worth seeing.

Athens has lots to see, i would recommend spending 3 nights there
You can visit the national Archeological Museum, biggest of the world of it's kind, the Benaki and the Goulandris Museums, the New Acropolis Museum, which is a must, Keramikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the roman Agora, the Philopappos hill, the Lycabettus Hill for it's excellent view over Athens... and maybe also the very interesting brand new Car Museum, which is located near to the National Archaeological Museum.... the list could be longer

For many of the above sites you can buy a ticket for 12 Euro, that will allow you entrance without having to buy tickets separated.

Finally be aware of pickpockets as Ozarksbill mentioned.. never happened to me, but the metro and some squares are full of foreigners that are specialized in wallet hunting

Happy planning
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Jul 11th, 2012, 08:51 AM
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I think Clausar's suggested itinerary is great. I've visited all the places Clausar mentioned except Galaxidi and Nemea and loved them.

Ancient Delphi is beautiful, especially in the early morning, due to the quality of the light. The museum there is wonderful too.

Nafpaktos is right on the coast and is charming. It has a very picturesque harbor/marina and a castle up on the hill. Nafpaktos was the sight of the very important Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Miguel Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) actually took part in the battle, and there is a statue of him at the harbor.

The Rio-Antirrio bridge is quite an amazing sight too and connects the mainland with the Peloponnesian Peninsula.

I thought ancient Olympia was very interesting as well, and the museum is very good. I liked the village/town of Olympia too.

Nafplion was so beautiful. It is on the water too. Be sure to go up to the Palamidi Fortress, but drive unless you fancy walking the nearly 1,000 stairs to the top. You can also drive up to Acro-Nafplion, although it is a shorter climb. I got some delicious gelato there too at Antica Gelateria di Roma, 3 Pharmakopoulou and Komninou (Walk out left side of Syntagma towards water), (Daily 10a-midnight), www.anticagelateria.gr.

You can easily see Mycenae, Tiryns and Epidavros in one day.

I really liked Ancient Corinth too. It is a small site, compared with Delphi and Olympia, but it had a very nice "feel" to it. When I visited, around 5pm, there were only a few other people.

When you're near the New Acropolis Museum, take the time to wander around to see Anafiotika, the area settled by those from the island of Anafi. It has the look of the island homes, white stucco, etc. The winding "streets" are very charming. Your Acropolis ticket will cover entrance to almost all of the sites Clausar mentioned, so hold unto it.
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Jul 11th, 2012, 09:04 AM
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Such a pity you didn't visit Galaxidi, you actually drove through the outskirts of it..... It's much more beautiful than Nafpaktos in my opinion.

You gave the OP a great advice

The Antica Gelateria di Roma opened 3 years ago in Nafplio, owner and his family are Italians, and will take the time to explain everything about each sort of ice cream they have.

Personally i love the Greek ice chain of Dodoni, which is located directly on Syntagma Square ( the main square of Nafplio). They have the unique parfait ice ( Vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) that i have never seen abroad !!!

Anafiotika is my favourite corner of the Acropolis area...
A must visit, and a perfect place for some great pictures
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Jul 11th, 2012, 09:14 AM
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Thank you for you compliment. I'm certainly no Greece expert, but I loved it and hope to return. I've yet to visit any of the islands, and I would love to spend more time in Nafplion (I would visit Dodoni too).

I took lots of pictures in Anafiotika, several with really cute cats too.
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Jul 12th, 2012, 08:21 AM
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Thanks so much for all your advice. It all sounds lovely and I wish we could do everything! Nafplio sounds really lovely. Do you think we will need to book the hotel in advance or can we just find something when we get there? It will be in the third week of August.

Right now I'm thinking about doing a tour to Delphi to cut down on the driving, and then renting a car and going to Nafplio.

Also, thanks so much for the recommendations about Athens. They sound great! The New Acropolis museum is certainly on our list of things to see... and Anafiotika sounds great.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 12:10 AM
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So I guess you plan to skip Olympia, go to Delphi on a tour, return on Athens to get the car and drive to Nafplion area? I would think that a car is needed mostly for the Olympia part of your trip which is the most isolated and hard connected on public transport from your other destinations... If you have no interest to explore around Delphi area (Arahova,Galaxidi etc) and your main focus is museum and ruins, I then have an idea for this part of your trip... Why not to use public bus from/to Athens and enjoy the site on your own pace? Nowdays Ktel Fokidos, the company running the route, features decent air conditioned coaches, covers the routes on about 3 hours one way and there are frequent departures from/to Athens and Delphi. Tour buses run the route on 2 hours, but usually you miss valuable time collecting passengers all over Athens, so it doesn't make much difference. I do not know what time you arrive in Athens on start o your trip, and how tired you'll be... But if it is possible to go from the airport to Ktel station and connect to Delphi straight away, you'll have a nice overnight in Delphi and been able to have an early start to enjoy the sites without too much heat and crowds. I think most tour companies charge about 90-100 euro/person for Delphi day trip, depending if you decide to include a meal or not in the deal, and of course entrance fees and a guide is included. Usually the skip stadium on the upper part of the site, and they skip the whole lower site(!) . I think currently museum and sites combined ticket costs about 12 euro while a Ktel bus ticket one way Athens to Delphi costs 15.10 euro. Nowdays they issue return tickets too, which I guess will cost a nit less than double that : ) If you decide to overnight in Delphi, nowdays you can easily find a room for 3 persons on something like 50-60 euro including breakfast!
There is X93 bus connecting Athens airport to both Ktel (Intercity bus) stations.
http://www.oasa.gr/xmap.php?id=px93&lang=en (Play with the backward/forward direction buttons and click on the + icon next to bus stops to get the names in English)
You need *Ktel Station B on Liossion street* to get to Delphi , schedules here:

I guess you plan to do and see more in Nafplion area, so a car makes more sense there. If Corynth is not a must though, you might want to know that there are some car hire companies locally on Nafplio... So you might want to take public bus Athens to Nafplio, take your time to enjoy this charming town, and hire a car locally when you need it (?) I don't know, just an idea... Bus ride Athens to Nafplio is even more easy and sorter than this Athens to Delphi! You need company Ktel Argolidos, been based on *Ktel Station A on Kifissou Street*
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Jul 16th, 2012, 07:42 AM
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I have come on this discussion late so you have already recieved lots of good suggestions. This is just my opinion and some if it may be repetative. The problem with Olympia is it is a long drive to get there from Delphi or Nauplion and then you need to drive back. That is a lot of driving taking time form other locations closer.

For an alternative plan for ancient sites I might suggest something that is a second best choice but involves almost no additional driving. That would be after Delphi, head to Corinth and visit Ancient Corinth well worth an hour or two then go to Ancient Nemia. It is right at the turn off near Corinth heading south to Nauplion. It was a sister city to Olympia, had its own games and the stadium is still there along with a partially restored temple and a very good small museaum. Bonus is, the bus tours ignore it so it is never crowded. I think the only thing Nemia is missing is a marketing department. You can also take a stop at the Corinth Canal.
Then head down to Nauplion which has a delightful old town and its three Venetian Era Fortresses. Nauplion gives you opportunity to do a day trip to Epidaurus, Tiryns ( the birthplace of Herecules) and Mycaene.
Here are some images of the area I have suggested. This is the first 30 images in the album. The rest is further south of Nauplion in Mystras Monemvassia and Mani which you do not have time to consider.
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Jul 17th, 2012, 12:54 AM
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We stayed in Tolo a while ago instead of Nauplion, with a young child and found it wonderful - within easy reach of Nauplion but very close to the beach and a more laid back vibe, and easy to find a place with a pool that did not cost an arm and a leg. We went into Nauplion 2 nights as there was a good buzz in Nauplion at the weekends and we stayed in Tolo for about 5 nights.

I can recommend the place we stayed very highly - Heliotopos apartments - typical Greek rooms, very basic but very nice. Separate sleeping area in the living room for your daughter, airconditioning, nice pool area on the roof with a lovely view over the bay, easy walk to the supermarket / bakery for breakfast, lots of parking.
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Jul 24th, 2012, 04:22 AM
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Hi everyone. Thanks so much for your great ideas. We are a little concerned about the heat (we were just in Naples/Rome for a few days. It was about 30-35C or Low 90sF and my English daughter was wilting...) I think it will likely be hotter than that in Athens/Greece at the end of August, so I'm starting to think that maybe, other than Athens, we won't do any sight-seeing and just go directly to Naxos...

Thanks so much Mariha for your suggestions about taking the public bus to either Delphi or Nafplion. If we decide to stay on the mainland, we'll probably take the bus to Nafplion and rent a car from there. Great idea.

Do you think we will need to reserve in advance to stay in Nafplio or Tolo, or can we be more spontaneous and decide once we get to Athens and see how we are doing with the weather?

I really appreciate all your advice... I'm starting to think that we may need to go to Greece again when it is not so hot (during the October or May breaks) and explore Delphi/Nafplion then. We are traveling from London so jet-lag is not an issue, just cost and time...
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Jul 24th, 2012, 05:46 AM
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For August I would book in advance if you have specific requirements.

For example I always want a place with a pool and they are not so easy to come by in Greece. We also want a 2-bedroom apartment as we don't like sharing a room with our daughter. On the other hand our relatives (who are Greek) play it by ear largely without any problem, but they are not too fussy

Just this week we booked a few places for August and had no problem getting exactly the rooms we wanted, so I suspect things are not overbooked this year.
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Jul 24th, 2012, 04:28 PM
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Yes, this year is a bit quiet in general, but lots depend on how flexible you are on your requirements. And on specific destination and specifics in general. For example although this summer you may find plenty of accommodation available in Delphi, today there was a very popular theater performance taking place in the area, and spare accommodation was quite limited : )
About the weather issue, it is really a personal call, but I find that with some careful planning, site-seen can be quite doable and pleasant even on the hottest months of the year. An early start is a good idea to visit the outdoor sites early morning, then around noon either have a lunch either visit an air conditioned museum, either return to the hotel or a siesta (do as local do is always a wise idea lol). Late afternoon is ideal for additional outdoor site-seen or an evening stroll, or relaxing on a cafeteria and people watch! of course I guess this strategy often requires maybe a slower-paced trip rather than trying to fit too much in a day, no matter what weather conditions are.
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Aug 15th, 2012, 05:01 AM
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Hi - thanks again for all your suggestions. We have had to shorten our trip for various reasons, so I think this summer, we will just go to Athens for a couple of days and then head to Naxos for a week. We will try to do some of the other places on the mainland on another trip. Many many thanks.

Final question - for the morning ferry to Naxos, would we need to book in advance of leaving for Greece or could we just book the ticket when we arrive in Athens (two days ahead?)
trvlgrl is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2012, 11:20 AM
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What day do you arrive in Athens?
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