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kja Jan 20th, 2017 09:18 PM

Initial itinerary - 1 month in Greece
<b>Warning: LONG thread ahead!!! </b>

With the benefit of some additional (but still incomplete) research and the excellent advice I have already received -- and with MANY thanks to all who contributed to my initial planning thread:
I am (I think, and hope!) moving closer to a plan for my time in Greece – a month starting in early May and ending in early June. With this thread, I hope to place my trip in context, suggest a rough preliminary itinerary, and ask some questions. Thanks to all of you for your help!

<b>Likes, dislikes, and context</b>:

- I’m a woman with reasonably extensive experience as a solo, independent traveler. Wherever I go, I seek to maximize the diversity of my experiences -- cities and towns, different styles of art and architecture, varied natural scenery, etc…. I typically enjoy art, architecture, museums, ancient ruins, religious sanctuaries, parks and gardens, natural scenery, markets (for their atmosphere, not for shopping), picturesque villages, folk traditions, delicious foods and wines, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.

- I am not a beach person (but can imagine enjoying an hour or so on a beach), am not interested in clubbing or nightlife, and am not looking to relax -- I’m sure I’ll find time for that over meals; instead, I want to take full advantage of every available moment to see and do things I can’t do anywhere else.

- I would describe my travel style as "hard": Once I start my day, after breakfast, I generally keep on the move under there is literally nothing else I can visit or explore on that particular day, and then I freshen up and linger over a long, late dinner (even at home, I rarely eat before 10 p.m.), and, if possible, I like a bit of a walk before turning in.

- I am unlike many Fodorites in that I strongly prefer one-night stays that allow me to move forward rather than backtracking to a base city.

- I like to plan, and typically develop detailed itineraries, but I never consider anything "writ in stone" -- I will take whatever time I feel I need to see the places that I do see in the way that I want to see them.

<b>First cut at an itinerary</b>:

Day 1: Depart US; overnight in flight
Day 2: Arrive in Chania early evening, 1st of 2 nights in Chania
Day 3: Chania
Day 4: Pick up a rental car; hike the Imbros Gorge; 1 night in Rethymno
Day 5: From Rethymno to the Arkadhi Monastery, Amari, and Spili; overnight in Matala
Day 6: Through Phaistos and Gortys (and depending on time, Knossos) to Heraklion – return car – 1st of 3 nights in Heraklion
Day 7: Visit Knossos (if I haven’t already) and a winery or two
Day 8: Heraklion
Day 9: Morning ferry to Santorini – visit Akrotiri, walk part of the caldera ridge and explore some of the villages, sunset, 1 night in Santorini
Day 10: Mid-day ferry to Naxos; explore Naxos, 1st of 3 nights in Naxos
Day 11: Day in Delos if possible; otherwise day on Naxos
Day 12: Reverse of day 11
Day 13: Ferry to Piraeus, pick up rental car, 1 night at Cape Sounio
Day 14: Drive through the Corinth Canal to Acrocorinth, and, as time permits, Mycenae or… 1st of 3 nights in Nafplio.
Day 15 - 16: Nafplio, Epidaurus, and Nemea
Day 17: Through Mystras, drive a bit of the Mani Peninsula, 1 night in Aeropoli (or)
Day 18: Drive through Kalamata to Messene; 1 night near Messene
Day 19: Visit the Temple of Apollo in Bassae en route to Dimitsana; 1 night in Dimitsana
Day 20: Visit a bit of the Lousios Gorge before driving to Delphi via Patra; 1st of 2 nights in Delphi
Day 21: Delphi
Day 22: Visit Hosios Loukas and then drive to Meteora; 1st of 2 nights in Meteora
Day 23: Meteora
Day 24: Visit Vergina en route to Thessaloniki; return car; 1st of 3 nights in Thessaloniki
Day 25 - 26: Thessaloniki
Day 27: Train to Athens; 1st of 5 nights in Athens
Day 28 – 31: Athens
Day 32: Fly home

<b>Key questions</b>:
1. First and foremost, what <b>problems</b> do you see with my plan? Given that I don't have enough time for everything, where am I giving too little time or too much? What am skipping that I should include, or including that I should skip? Which parts of these rough plans unrealistic?

2. <b>Transportation</b>. As noted, I plan to use a rental car for two parts of my trip -- for a few days on Crete and for my route through the Peloponnese and on to Thessaloniki. Anything I should know about renting a car in Greece (I’ll probably work with Autoeurope) or driving there before committing to a plan? What about the ferries (other than their dependence on unpredictable sea conditions) or the train I’m considering?

3. <b>Life style</b>. I am NOT a morning person, don’t deal well with heat, and no longer have the stamina or strength for some of the hikes I’m sure I would once have enjoyed. Any suggestions for optimizing my time in the area in light of these constraints are welcome!

4. <b>Food and Drink</b>. I read, with delight, the recent thread on favorite Greek foods:
If any of you have other favorites, or if there are regional specialties or local wines that you particularly recommend, I'll be glad to know of them!

Of course, I also welcome any other comments, suggestions, or recommendations you care to offer. Many thanks!

sundriedtopepo Jan 21st, 2017 12:50 AM

Well, I can't offer any advice, but will just say, I'm looking forward to the trip report. :)

travelerjan Jan 21st, 2017 08:09 AM

PELOPONNESE - If you want to avoid back-tracking, I think you should look at a good Map this is a fab online map (click & it gets huuuge) - Then maybe re-think your stops on days 14-15.

IMHO, I would skip AcroCorinth, but OK. However, since you omit Olympia from your tour, I'd Strongly advise a quick stop at Ancient Nemea, because it's right on the way to Nafplio. Its about 15 Km? after the Canal, just a few Km N of the Big Highway, just at the point where there is also the exit South (toward Nafplio). In 30-45 minutes you can see an authentic Sacred Games Site, with temple, ruins, a stunning stadium, NO crowds. You list vineyard visits in Crete -- Nemea is the Heart of mainlands major vineyard area -- Nemean Red is my fave! If time & energy permits you can then go on to Mycenae, or leave it til next 2 days.

Day 18 - After seeing Messene, go just a bit farther to spend night with a fine sea view either at Pylos (lovely seafront square) or my secret gem, Gialova, 10 km north on the shore, a tiny enclave on heavenly beach.

MAINLAND CAR RENTAL -- Shop around!! Unlike other countries, in Greece if you pick up in one place (Pireaus) drop off in Another (Thessaloniki) you can pay a HUGE drop-off fee!! (that's because small agencies don't have fleets constantly going back/forth and must send another car with 2 drivers, to pick up your vehicle). Do a web search for rental agencies that offer this service without a huge fee. You'll find several (tho they won't have the lowest daily rental rates).

CRETE/IMBROS -- If you plan to hike this, the deal is to leave your car at the Gorge entry. At the end, you walk another Km to a taverna where there are taxis, you hire one to drive up along the rim road to car.

DAY 7/KNOSSOS -- u can get there w.o. a car, local busses from the station by the ferry pier go there in about 30 mins ... but how do you do vineyard touring w. o. a car?

kja Jan 21st, 2017 11:10 AM

@ sundriedtopepo: I will, indeed, write a trip report! :-)

@ travelerjan: Thanks so much!

I decided to visit Nemea rather than Olympia in part because of comments you have made on various threads. For my days 14 to 15, I will do my best to visit sites with minimal backtracking, but I also want to make sure that I have time to see my highest priorities in the area – and I thought I should plan on several hours at Nemea. Sounds like a much shorter stop will suffice? And I will defintely look into Nemean Red and the option of a vineyard stop in this area!

Gialova looks lovely – thanks!

If there are no easy ways to visit a vineyard or two outside of Heraklion without a car, then I’ll consider holding on to it for one more day. I appreciate the heads-up on that, on hiking the Imbros Gorge, and the tip on mainland car rental. :-)

billbarr Jan 21st, 2017 04:24 PM


I like your itinerary very much but hope you don't mind me giving one wee suggestion. When you are in Nafplio perhaps think of taking the 10 minute drive to Tyrins. This is a very large Mycenaean fortress and always one of my favourites. The tradition is that because the stones used to build the massive walls are individually so huge they could only have been put in place by cyclops. I feel sure if you go and see the fortress you will agree!

This will give you some information:


kja Jan 21st, 2017 04:47 PM

@ billbarr: Thank you for that suggestion, Bill! I had debated visiting Tyrins and had wondered whether anyone would think skipping it an error -- as you did! Do you think I will have time to add it to my plan or do you think I would need to skip something else? If I have to skip something else, suggestions are welcome!

HappyTrvlr Jan 21st, 2017 07:01 PM

Tyrins was not out of the way, easy and worthwhile to see.
Also, maybe one less night in Heraklion.
Crete- the Cretan diet is heralded as the healthiest in the world. Their olive oil is superior and I try to buy it in the US. There is a large indoor marketplace in Chania with lots to see and try. I recall buying some amazing cinnamon rolls there.

HappyTrvlr Jan 21st, 2017 07:04 PM

Day 17: Through Mystras. You will visit this Byzantine city that spreads down the hill won't you? We enjoyed oir time there. It was a strong suggestion from our Greek friends.

thursdaysd Jan 21st, 2017 07:32 PM

I'm not sure you need that day in Heraklion. I don't remember anything of interest there besides the museum, and it doesn't take that long.

I would recommend Monemvasia in the Peloponnese. I was not wowed by Mystras, but had a lousy guide.

kja Jan 21st, 2017 07:39 PM

@ HappyTrvlr: Thanks so much for your input!

I’m glad to hear that it is easy to visit Tyrins and that you also thought it worthwhile. :-)

As a lover of museums, I must admit that I think I’ll find myself hard-pressed to see everything that I want to see in Heraklion in the time I have :-( – really just 2 days, including Knossos and, if possible, a visit to a bit of the wine country around Archanes. In the unlikely event that I feel that I’ve done everything I’d like to do in / around Heraklion, I can always just take a bus somewhere (as long as I can return) or sample some Cretan wines…. ;-)

Chania’s “central market” is high on my list of priorities for that city – I wonder if that’s the one you mention?

And yes, Mystras is a <b>very</b> high priority for me. I appreciate your confirmation of that choice!

kja Jan 21st, 2017 08:02 PM

@ thursdaysd -- Thanks for these interesting comments! :-)

My list for Heraklion includes not only the Archeological Museum (where I anticipate spending a chunk of time), but also the Historical Museum, Natural History Museum, and Museum of Religious Art. I think I'd like to walk a stretch of the Venetian Walls, visit some churches, roam streets and plazas, and prowl through the Odhos market. And, with some time at Knossos, a brief visit to the museum in Arhanes, and -- if possible -- a bit of time in the Arhanes wine country -- that sounds, to me, like closer to 2 days (3 nights) than 1 day. Am I thinking these places will take longer than they will? Or overestimating their worth?

Dropping Monemvasia from my itinerary was one of the last decisions I made, and one of the most difficult. (The other really hard one was dropping Kastoria, which I believe you brought to my attention.) If you can articulate the appeal that Monemvasia had for you, I'd appreciate it!

yiassas Jan 21st, 2017 11:39 PM

Not often I disagree with travelerjan, but I don't recommend you miss Acrocorinth! It's interesting in itself, a huge site & quite a climb, but worth it for the wonderful views :) Last time I went I was struggling with a bad back, I will be going again to enjoy it more now (hopefully!) I am in better health. At least it is only about 1.5 hrs by public transport from home, so I can go when I like, lol!

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 12:36 AM

@ yiassas
& @ travelerjan:

OMG, Acrocorinth is “quite a climb”?!? Why did I think I could drive to the top? I’m crossing it off the list <b>now</b> and will instead google the views from Acrocorinth. BMH! Skipping Acrocorinth should allow me to include Nemea on the way to Nafplio and also free time for me to see Tyrins while in the area – double bonus! Efcharistó! ;-)

Sorry to disappoint, yiassas – but thank you for your thoughts! And best wishes for improving health. :-)

<b>Some updates</b>
• I’m thinking of staying in Agia Galini, rather than Matala, between Spili and Phaistos. Make sense?
• I think there are regular buses between Heraklion and Arhanes that might give me a chance to see the museum in Arhanes and at least see some wineries and olive groves from a distance. Does anyone know of a way to visit one of the Arhanes wineries by public transportation? Or is there a good tasting venue in Arhanes or Heraklion?

yiassas Jan 22nd, 2017 01:37 AM

Sorry if I gave the wrong impression! Yes, you do drive most the way up there, it's just an uphill walk for the remainder, which did seem laborious with a bad back, but my husband had no problem :)
I am uploading my photos to Flickr now, will post the link as soon as.

yiassas Jan 22nd, 2017 02:27 AM

Here they are,
They were taken last January, hence the snow in the distance on some photos :)

yiassas Jan 22nd, 2017 03:58 AM

Here's Ancient Corinth,

TexasAggie Jan 22nd, 2017 06:03 AM

Acrocorinth is breathtaking, but it the approach is quite steep and extremely slippery (the stone path is polished completely smooth). Stick to the sides of the path for a bit more traction!

I'm so glad that Nemea made your list. After you've seen it, if you have a bit of time, drop by one or two of the wineries in the area. Nemean "blood wine" has been famous since antiquity.

Tiryns is quite close to Nemea. It's another well preserved Mycenaean site and there's an intact tholos tomb in an orange grove adjacent to it. If you find yourself with a bit of time when the sites have closed, the tholos tomb is open access. You could visit at any time.

The Argolis in general has quite a few open-access sites. There are brown signs along the roads that point to interesting sites.

Can't wait to see photos and read your trip report!

TexasAggie Jan 22nd, 2017 06:06 AM

Whoops - typing while distracted. Tiryns is quite close to **Napflio!!**

thursdaysd Jan 22nd, 2017 07:43 AM



It's a mini-Gibraltar in the Mediterranean. I really regretted that we didn't get to spend the night there. Good place to chill, maybe too low key for your itinerary. No doubt the same would be true of Gerolimenas, where I would also have liked to spend more time.

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 08:51 AM

@ yiassas: Wonderful photographs – thanks so much! Acrocorinth is back on the itinerary. :-)

@ TexasAggie: What great suggestions!

Thanks for seconding Acrocorinth – and for the tip for reaching it. :-) And thanks for seconding a visit to a winery for Nemean Red – sounds like I can just drop by, no reservation needed?

I love the idea of visiting an intact tholos tomb (and I love learning new words ;-) ) in the middle of an orange grove – and its great to know that it’s among a number of open-access sites: Wonderful!

@ thursdaysd:

You aren’t making my decision about Monemvasia any easier! (But of course, that’s not your job. ;-) ) Thanks for sharing your pictures; looks like you had fun there!

It seems that Gerolimenas is only about a half-hour from Aeropoli, so I should be able to visit it in my brief ramble through the Mani. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! :-)

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