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margarethewitt Jan 22nd, 2017 10:39 AM

My comments are mostly about your transportation plans. Please, first, research more carefully the viability and the affordability of your rental car plans. As another reply stated above, it's rarely done in Greece for the pickup town to be different from the drop-off town-- and is very expensive when it is done. Maybe money is not an object for you, but, if it is, you may find you have broken your budget if you keep your plans to rent cars in this manner.

Also, especially if you are American, know, first of all, cars are manual shift in Greece and gas prices are very high. And, secondly, that the mainland of Greece has really only one national road. May I suggest that, once you have secured your car rental plans to your satisfaction, you can then fill in your daily itinerary.

Check into the option of flying from Thessaloniki to Athens, rather than taking the train. Since you have done so much driving through the mainland generally covered by the train route (driving from Delphi to Meteora to Thessaloniki via Vergina) you may find the train a bit tedious. Plane trips within Greece, as you will discover, are quite reasonable.

Also the intercity bus system is very good (KTEL) and a fun way to meet other Greeks. While the bus may be a good alternative to an expensive car rental on the mainland, nothing beats doing the Peloponnese by car, however.

An ambitious itinerary! Thanks for sharing.

travelerjan Jan 22nd, 2017 11:03 AM

To continue ..
CRETE - MATALA vs GALINI ... the latter is pretty much a summer-beach place so it could feel awfully deserted in Early May (5/10? or so). It's the beach and that's it. By Contrast, Matala has that fabled ?bluff? with caves in it (which Joanie Mitchell famously stayed in & wrote songs about -- also, over the hill, there's a "dig", Kommos -- supposedly the seaport of Festos. All fenced off but you might find an early-season archeologist to chat up. Thing about Matala, the lodgings right on the beach are totally jammed together and nothing to sing about... in a word, tacky. But about 200 yards back from the beach (it's a Left turn off the road going in) is Dimitris Villa -- — charming, in a garden setting, and = or less than tackyville. Now has small restaurant (and you'll know the meat is good: Dimitri also owns a butcher shop in nearby Mires). Run by a lovely family; one time, we were a group of 5, with no reservation in Chania, and I sat w. Dimitri's wife, while she went down my hotel list and phoned (in Greek) til she found us a GReat place for 30€ double -- Casa di Pietra, which has become another fave of mine (owner JOseph has a vineyard, and keeps a barrel above his desk for free sips!). But I digress..

TIRYNS & the THOLOS -- Tiryns in right ON the road to Nafplio, on your left -- watch for sign, look up, there's a HUGE Rock Pile -- u are there! The Tholos mentioned is NOT that nearby; there's a sign outside the entry with an arrow pointing down the road. But on my first visit to Tiryns, I walked about a mile and, Nada. In 2013, there were 5 of us in a car, so we went on the hunt.... bucketing down a country lane, watching for signs tacked on fences, for about 4 miles. Yes, there it was, in an orange grove, and a perfect Miniature of the famed Mycenae Tholos. The only drawback was Mr. CitrusMan, standing scowling in his orchard, looking to see that we didn't pick a single one of his oranges! (which were very spotty & unappealing actually).

margarethewitt Jan 22nd, 2017 12:36 PM

To travelerjan-- Love your tips! I'm taking notes! Thanks.

travelerjan Jan 22nd, 2017 02:22 PM

margaretthewitt -- I haven't posted a trip report of my own for years, but I post tips and comments on several threads a day -- probably contributed to 1,000+ topics over the years... on Athens, Pelops, Crete and a dozen-plus other islands: click my name to find full list of topics I have contributed to.

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 02:44 PM

@ margarethewitt: Thanks for your very helpful comments!

When I first roughed out an itinerary, I looked at public transportation for the portion of my trip through the mainland, and concluded that the connections didn’t work well enough, so I’d end up having to drop one or more places to make room for the resultant inefficiences. But I’ve tweaked my plan since then, and will definitely reconsider – in part because, like you, I treasure the chance to share public transportation with local people. :-) In a “worse case” scenario, I should be able to hold onto the car for a few days – instead of returning it in Thessaloniki, keep it and drive back to Athens to return it at the place from which I rented it. I will definitely check, and thank you (and travelerjan) for making sure I do my homework. One bright note: I strongly prefer a manual transmission to an automatic. ;-)

I know my itinerary is ambitious – but I hope, realistically so!

@ travelerjan:

Oh, I hadn’t thought at all about how quiet Galini might be when I’m there! Excellent point – thanks so much. I will definitely look at Matala again, and specifically, I’ll look at Dimitris Villa. Your description makes it sound especially enticing!

Thanks, too, for recommending Casa di Pietra in Chania – it looks charming!

I love that you know exactly which Tholos TexasAggie meant. :-) And I’m glad you know it well enough to give such perfect directions! I’ll try to be sure to have a perfect orange with me that I can offer to Mr. CitrusMan, should I see him. ;-)

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 07:57 PM

Please help me with <b>routing options</b>!

With a little more research, I’m pretty sure that I can use a rental car for the Peloponnese and mainland Greece if I keep the car while in Thessaloniki, drive back to Piraeus, and return it to the same place from which I rented it. And I can do that without changing any of my plans for visiting anything, since I had already set aside that day for travel. I don't think I would find it a hardship to do so, as I love driving. :-)

That said, if trains and buses would work for me, I would gladly use public transportation! Unfortunately, I seem to be running into stumbling blocks:

• Return car to Piraeus after visiting Dimitsina – my last stop in the Peloponnese? I don’t think I would be ready to leave Dimitsina until early afternoon – making it too late to reach Piraeus in time to return the car and still make it to Delphi using public transportation that evening – and (boo hiss) I think I would have to skip Hosios Loukas if I do that. :-(

• Return car to Piraeus after visiting Delphi and Hosios Loukas, my first stops in mainland Greece? I should be able to reach Piraeus in time to return the car, but not in time to reach Meteora at a reasonably time that evening. :-(

I suspect there are solutions I’m simply not considering….

travelerjan Jan 22nd, 2017 08:07 PM

When you talk about your driving plans my head goes squirrely ... but if you rent in Athens AREA -- with many rental agencies you can pick up in one of THREE places (Pireaus, Central Athens and Airport) and drop off at one of the others, without penalty. Sometimes people pick up a car from a an agency with a piraeus office, then when they are thru, they are planning to fly, so they do an airport drop-off. NOTE: if this turns out to be what you want to do, you have to comparison-shop to find which agencies do this.

I can't keep up with your changey-changey about cars & public transport... I simply cannot worry with you about all the options -- Wake me when it's over!

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 08:14 PM

@ travelerjan: That the 3 main car rental locations in Athens are interchangeable is the kind of information I need. Thanks!

No need to put your time into the details -- I have confidence that I'll sort them out, and I appreciate that you and margarethewitt have ensured that I think through my options!

I'm far more concerned with the actual itinerary -- whether it is generally plausible, if I'm missing something extraordinary while visiting something mediocre ... that kind of thing. And you've already been incredibly helpful on that front -- thanks so much!

yiassas Jan 22nd, 2017 08:58 PM

Before you make a decision I would do some pricing on car rental, the well known major companies such as Avis etc are likely to have bases in both Athens & Thessaloniki & some will therefore have lower, or no, drop off charges. Local company cars such as (very highly recommended, great reviews & I have several friends that only ever use them) would be a huge drop fee, or even not allow it, but the actual rental is cheaper.
Once you've weighed up the options there you will get a clearer picture of what to do.
I wouldn't give up the car any sooner than Thessaloniki, & as you like driving then return to Athens in it if the fee is too high. Giving it up sooner will limit the latter part of your itinerary, it also gives you the freedom of tweaking your route as you go along (Greece has a habit of sidetracking you because there is so much catches your eye!) Lastly, you get to decide when to stop for a photo opportunity, take lunch, have coffee etc.

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 09:00 PM

@ travelerjan:

BTW, I fully understand your desire to limit your responses! A paticipating Fodorite since 2006, I post almost daily in response to all sorts of questions, including ones about China, Croatia, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey – and less frequently, about other places that I visited some time ago. I enjoy sharing the lessons I learned, but there are some questions that drive me bats. ;-) Still, I find the motto, “give back, pay forward” useful, and have been very grateful for the community of Fodorites who have so graciouly put up with my quirks, forgiven my mis-steps, and offered their advice with such kind and thoughtful generosity.

Please continue answering what you feel comfortable answering and ignore the rest! I sincerely appreciate the input. :-)

kja Jan 22nd, 2017 09:47 PM

@ yiassas: Thanks so much!

I will do more research, and I will ask to see what options they can identify before I make a decision. Gemut deals with autoeurope, and it looks like autoeurope has both Hertz and Thrifty options that should work for me – assuming I keep the car until I return to Athens.

IMO, there are wonderful advantages to having a car. There are also some wonderful advantages to using public transportation! I’m not committed to having a car for the last part of my trip, but I am greedy – I want to take every advantage that this trip affords to see and experience Greece! So if an early return of the car means giving things up, well, I might just opt to keep it – as long as I can avoid a hefty drop-off fee. ;-)

And if I do hang on to the car, I beleive I can plan a route between Thessaloniki and Athens that is qutie different than the route I take to get there: Bonus!

BTW, even as I saw this message, I was looking at options to stay in Meligala (which I believe you recommended) – I think it will be hard to decide whether to stay there or in Pylos or Gialova!

Thanks again. :-)

yiassas Jan 22nd, 2017 11:47 PM

Pylos & Gialova are both nice options, but I suggested Meligala to shorten your route. It is an ordinary working town & you are unlikely to see another tourist there at all, so very different options there :)

WoinParis Jan 23rd, 2017 12:11 AM

Looks quite good to me.
For reasons I still don't fully understand I was stuck in awe by the Corinthian canal.
Then I absolutely loved the samari gorges in Crete - I know you say you don't have the stamina no more and we did it in very early morning and you see another gorge but when I think of Crete that is the first image that comes to mind.
Btw I am not a morning person either but it was worth it.
Have fun !

Odin Jan 23rd, 2017 12:31 AM

1 night in Santorini is very short IMO. There are some excellent white wines produced on the island & local wild greens which appear on menus of traditional places, eg the tavernas at Amoudi.
Re: Greek food, much of it in restaurants can be very mediocre, same old menu, moussaka etc, the best meals I find are in the back streets, not often are there restaurants with both a great location & great food (exception is Amoudi).

kja Jan 23rd, 2017 12:52 AM

@ yiassas: Those waterside places seem enticing, but you are absolutely right -- shortening my route through this part of my journey seems worthy of consideration! And I must admit that I like to include at least one no-other-foreign-toursists-come-here place in a trip of this length! ;-) But unless I’ve made a bunch of typos (certainly possible!), neither nor tripadvisor show anything for Meligala(s)…. I see that there’s a place right at Messene, the Messana, which looks like it could be quite pleasant. I’m sure there are places in Meligala itself, and that I could just show up and get a room, but are there lodgings you know and recommend?

@ WoinParis: Thanks for chiming in!

Much to my regret, I really don’t think I can commit to the Samaria Gorge, :-( particularly because it would be so very early in a long trip. I think it would be incredibly foolish to take the risk of injury when I would still have nearly 3.5 weeks of priceless travel days ahead. (There are times that I truly miss the sense of infallibility that comes with youth -- not to mention, of course, the strength and stamina of those ages!) But I am thinking about trying to hike just the lowest portion, perhaps going in as far as the Lion Gate and back…. Any thoughts on that idea?

I will, for sure, take a moment to appreciate the Corinthian Canal! :-) I firmly believe that both my father and my mother's father would have treasured the chance to see this canal, and each of them would be thrilled to know that I actually do so.

Heimdall Jan 23rd, 2017 01:05 AM

Another tip for Greek food in restaurants: many tavernas have a display case, or will even let you back in the kitchen to see what has been prepped for the meal. I hardly ever order off the menu anymore, because I have discovered many delicious foods that way.

For seafood you can look at what is on display, choose the fish you want, then ask the waiter to weigh it to determine the price (fish is priced by the kilo on the menu). If you know what to look for you can see whether a fish is fresh or not.

While on the subject, starters can be ordered to share family-style among people at your table. Each diner will be given an empty plate, and you can divvy up three or four different starters between you. I love eating the Greek way!

kja Jan 23rd, 2017 01:14 AM

@ Odin: Thanks for weighing in!

I agree -- 1 night is very short, indeed, for Santorini, and probably just barely sufficient for my highest priorites there -- Akrotiri; a bit of a walk along the rim; some time exploring a few of the towns…. If I had another day, I would certainly want to visit a winery or two.... Is there a day in my itinerary that you think I could skip to make time for another day in Santorini? And what do you think I should make my highest priorities if I were to do that?

Thanks for making sure I look for local wild greens on Santorini’s menus -- I will definitely do that! :-) I’m fortunate to have access to some excellent white wines from Santorini where I live and am looking forward to indulging in them – at a lower cost ;-) – while there.

BMH, my google search is showing several “amoudi” options – are you referring to the Sunset Ammoudi Taverna in Oia? If not, please give a clue (or link)!

kja Jan 23rd, 2017 01:25 AM

@ Heimdall – I’m glad to see that you, too, are offering comments!

While I love the idea of shared appetizers, they are a bit of a … uh … challenge for solo travelers. ;-)

The idea of asking to see the day’s options is intriguing – wow! I love that you do that. :-) And even if asking for the weight of a fish in advance seems obvious, I’ve never done it – and have been rather unpleasantly surprised more than once in the past. =-O

Thanks so much for these great tips!

yiassas Jan 23rd, 2017 01:34 AM

I did a quick search for Meligala, I couldn't find anything either! I didn't expect it to feature on any major booking sites as it's not on the tourist trail, but I know we've seen a couple of small places when we've ben there or driven through.
However, Messana looks an excellent choice, it's in the village of Mavromati which overlooks the site, go for it!
While you are there make sure you drive a few kilometres west from the village to the Arcadiad Gate, part of the walls of the ancient city.
Here's some photos of the site, the Arcadian Gate & the village,
this is a great place for a meal, overlooks the site & the food is good too!

TravellerJan, take a look, you are in some of these pics :)

yiassas Jan 23rd, 2017 01:35 AM

That should be Arcadian Gate, doh!

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