Help with Planning Trip to Greece

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Dec 2nd, 2009, 07:01 AM
  #1
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Help with Planning Trip to Greece

My husband and I are begining to plan a trip to Greece for this coming late April/early May for our 25th wedding anniversary. We have always wanted to visit Greece and just haven't gotten there yet. However we are NOT beach people at all. We are not good at just sitting; we like to be wandering around. We are very interested in the historical sites. However I have been told that along with a visit to Athens we should include one or two islands. So, I am looking for suggestions - we were thinking of including Mykonos (with a visit to Delos) and Santorini. And only staying 2 - possibly three nights on each. Do you think this makes sense for non beach people? Is there enough for us to see on these islands or should we find other places in Greece to visit? Any suggestions are appreciated! Thanks, Susan
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 07:36 AM
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If you are interested in historical sites, both ancient and medieval, then you should consider Nafplio (also spelled Nauplion)... a gorgeous Old Town (World Heritage Site) on the sea, uniquely built down the side of a peninsula, surrounded by water, on the mainland. It's less than 2.5 hours by modern hi-way from Athens Airport over the corinth Canal to the Bay of Argos in the Peloponnese. It's the ideal "base" from which you can visit 3 or 4 ancient sites(!) in a day if you wish ... Mycenae, Nemea. Tiryns, Epidaurus. Here's a Fodorite's slide show of what Nafplio & ancient sites look like in May:
http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/551991579dJbWvh

You fail to say how many days (aside from to/from travel days) that you plan to allot for this dream trip. Stanbr (who took those photos) & his bride took 25 days to celebrate their 25th ... I hope you can spare at least 14. I would HOPE you do not fall into the cliche trap of Mykonos-Santorini, which USA first-timers seem to fall for, like lemmings off a cliff. Those are not the 2 BEST island, just the 2 most-promoted. Yes, Santorini... briefly! for the famous View. As one person said here, you wouldn't go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower. Correct. But you also wouldn't pitch a tent under the tower and STAY there for days. See it and move on. Here's the scenario I'd recommend... length of stay in each spot would vary, but it's for people who are active interested in Greek history & culture:

(1) Arrive ATHENS AIRPORT in A.M. or early aft(nonstops from Eastern US arrive before 12; if not those try to arrive by 2). Rent car, drive (modern hiway) to NAFPLIO, explore town, enjoy incredible sunset & dinner.
(2) NAFPLIO - 2/3 days for town and ancient sites. Return car to airport, fly out to ...
(3) SANTORINI - Get room with Caldera View (Firostephani is a good choice for value, yet walkability).. spend 2 nights max; the chief ancient site (Akrotiri) is closed. Mid-day ferry to
(3) NAXOS -- 3? 4? Depends on your total time-budget. It has GORGEOUS beaches but so much more... ancient statues/temples, mountains, graveyards et et etc. Stanbr has a slide show for Naxos also! http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/552001505EYxVYT PLUS! This island offers a day-excursion to DELOS/Mykonos; leave @ 8, back by 7 pm ..
(4) ATHENS - for time-efficiency, either take the "dinner Ferry" (6pm -11:30) or 1-per-day Olympic flight (noon-1). Spend 3-4 days in Athens to see chief sites, museums.

-- That adds up to about 13+ days, a lot to see, but you say u are active people. May is the BEST time to visit Greece... rains are over, Greenery abounds, it's sunny, everything's open nothing is crowded, Greeks are cheery and welcoming. But BEWARE. Greece is ADDICTING.
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 07:42 AM
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Santorini is definitely worth the visit but if the beach doesn't appeal there's not much to see or do on Mykonos other than joining in the party scene and shopping. Be advised that you can also get to Delos by daytrip excursion from either Naxos or Paros, and both are just a couple of hours from Santorni by ferry. The excursion also gives you a couple of hours in Mykonos town for a quick look around. Naxos and Paros both have more to see and do than Mykonos. Don't spread yourselves too thin, however. It takes a minimum of 4 days to explore one of these islands, and you'll lose at least 1/2 day by the time you check out of one hotel, make your way to the ferry port, travel to the next island, find your hotel and settle in.
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 07:42 AM
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Travelerjan - We are can only spare about 10 days for the Greece portion of this trip. We are also going to London to visit our son who is studying there. I should have added that we do not relish packing and unpacking on a daily basis and so would like to have two night minimum's anyway we stay. And since this is our 25th, we would like to stay in very nice places. I am going to check out Naxos right away - thanks!
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 11:51 AM
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With only 10 days in Greece, and your interest in historical sites, you should concentrate your time on the mainland. Athens and the Nafplio area could easily take up most of that time. Delphi is also an interesting site, better even than Delos, IMO.

You've had two recommendations to do the Delos excursion from Naxos, but I'm not sure the boats run that early in the year - perhaps they do, I don't know. Late Apr-early May is only the start of summer season on the islands, and many services don't begin until there are enough tourists to make them profitable. If the Delos boats are running, it will be only 3 days/week - boats from Mykonos go to Delos every day except Mondays when the site is closed.
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 03:07 PM
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Naxos? To be frank I'm weary of its constant promotion on this board. More so I guess than any other at the moment. It is five years since I was there and I found it no more 'real Greece' (and a lot less) than some other islands I have visited.

I would go with Heimdall's suggestions regarding the mainland. No doubt about it.
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 06:41 PM
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OK by me Joe, if they have to cut out something, and they only have 10 days, I would say 4 days in Athens, and 4 days for Nafplio/Argolid area then up to Delphi and back to Athens.
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Dec 2nd, 2009, 06:45 PM
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BTW Joe, what are the "some other islands" that you favor more, for first-timers? I too have visited many many islands... some of them repeatedly; and among the ones I am very fond of are Serifos, Sifnos, Milos, Samos, Chios, Western Crete, Patmos, Kea, Aegina ... the list goes on. but for newbies, with only 10 days ... I don't press them to go to these, especially off-season. You have to stick to the more reachable ones with a short-term schedule. So tell us what you would substitute. Inquiring Minds Want to Know.
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 02:43 AM
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Olympia, Delphi and Meteora are also 'must see's' on the mainland.

Santorini would be a good choice, as it's big enough to hire a car and explore for a day or two. I agree that you should have a hotel with a Caldera view - it is breathtaking.
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 03:36 AM
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>Inquiring Minds Want to Know<

No, inquiring minds have nothing to do with it. It's a little test I guess? Your replies are bordering on patronizing which isn't appreciated.

Once again someone who has inquired about visiting Santorini is subject to comments from you such as 'which USA first-timers seem to fall for, like lemmings off a cliff.' I think that's offensive not only to the inquirer but those that have visited before. The whole world does not revolve around Naxos.

Santorini is spectacular and as someone pointed out to you on here only recently, they are top of the travel agent promo lists for that reason. Let folks go and enjoy the island.

Giving advice is great but it must be balanced. What's good for you (Naxos & Nafplio) may be not be for others and that needs to be accepted.

If I can ask one favor please? When you do reply to folks it would be helpful if you could drop the extensive use of CAPS to emphasise. It isn't needed and it can be awkward for some to read, particularly on a white background.
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 03:56 AM
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I would recommend Athens for the culture but a trip to Corfu Town is also great for shopping and eating Greek dishes. Budget information can be found here:

http://www.gawwk.com/travel/guide/greece
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 05:24 AM
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Joe, I never say don't go to Santorini, I only suggest more balance when one has a limited time, often people allot the lion's share of a short trip to Santorini and then say 2 days for Crete. I know it is popular, when I bring first-timer travel companions along on my trips we almost always go to santorini for 2-3 nights, but crete gets about 5-6 days and Naxos 4. My itinerary for 2010 is similar.
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 06:11 AM
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I think I have come around to deciding that we will visit 2 (I think 2) islands and also add more time to Athens. While we are not "beach people" and don't enjoy sitting still on a beach, we do want to stay in very nice hotels and dine well. And we do want to see the what we have heard is so beautiful. So, I think Santorini is definitely on the itinerary. I was going with Mykonos but cutting the time shorter and adding in a trip to Delos. However, maybe I should re-think this and look at Naxos or Paros instead of Mykonos. Here is my itinerary so far:

Day 1 London to Athens and flight to Mykonos (or Naxos or Paros? if possible)
Day 2 Mykonos (or other island)
Day 3 trip to Delos
Day 4 Ferry to Santorini
Day 5 Santorini
Day 6 Santorini
Day 7 early flight to Athens
Day 8 Athens - trip to Delphi?
Day 9 Athens
Day 10 Athens and late flight to London
Day 11 London
Day 12 London
Day 13 home

I might add another day for Athens here.

Comments? (and the London portion is short because we are just stopping off for a quick visit with our son who is studying there)

Susan
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 11:02 AM
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With your interest in history the Peloponnesean Peninsula would be perfect. Use Napflion as a hub for the Mycenae, Tyrns,Corinth, Epidavros..then south to Mystras. All these areas have nice scenery as well. Also consider Delphi, Olympia. Crete is another place you would enjoy with your interests. Like Traveljan said, look at Santorini's view and move on.It was the only place in Greece where we were surrounded by hordes of Americans and cruise ships.
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Dec 3rd, 2009, 11:25 AM
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Susan, I think you should stick with your instincts and go with Santorini and Mykonos. What can I say about Santorini that hasn't already been said - it is probably the most spectacular island in Greece, and has the sort of hotels and restaurants you seek.

If you want to visit Delos (and I highly recommend it), Mykonos is the best base to do it from. You can take the excursion boat from Mykonos harbour, explore the island in the morning, and be back on Mykonos by lunchtime. I wouldn't recommend using Paros or Naxos for that purpose unless I knew for sure that the boats would be running that early in the season. Even if they are, two days on Naxos or Paros is no guarantee you would be able to get there, since the excursions run only 3 days/week - all you would need is one bad-weather day to scupper your plans. And if you do get there, it would take an entire day, leaving little time to explore Paros or Naxos.

Mykonos has an excellent selection of high end hotels and fine restaurants, and will be livlier at the end of April/beginning of May. Paros and Naxos both have large permanent populations, so there is always something open, but frankly the tourist infrastructure will be almost moribund that time of the year. Hotels and restaurants catering for tourists begin to open in May, some not even until June. I know, because I go there every year in May/June.

BTW, I have a favourite island too, but hardly ever recommend it unless I think it suits the needs of the poster. I try to keep an open mind, making suggestions that fit the situation.
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Dec 4th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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Hi Susan, here is an email I received today from a Paros travel agent in response to my enquiry about Delos day cruises:

Thank you for contacting us.

Kindly note that there is not fixed date yet, regarding the starting date of the new season cruses.

The plan is around the end of April, early May but still we do not know for sure.

If you could contact us a bit later (around end of February) on we'll be able to give you more details.

Thank you and best regards

Maria Cherouvim.

Managing Director. .

Cyclades Reservation Center & Travel

P.O.BOX 85, Parikia Paros 84 400 Cyclades, Greece.


So, as I advised in previous posts, it would be unwise to plan on Naxos or Paros as a base for a visit to Delos that time of year, although you could be lucky. Note that the ships making the excursions (M/V Alexander and Naxos Star) stop at both Naxos and Paros before going to Delos - it is the same excursion from either island.

Mykonos is your only safe choice for an excursion to Delos in late Apr-early May. Even if the boats are running from Naxos and Paros while you are there, you would have little opportunity to explore those large islands in the one day you have left before or after the visit to Delos. Stick with Mykonos and Santorini - you won't regret it.
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