Itinerary help for first trip to Greece

Jan 18th, 2017, 08:44 AM
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Itinerary help for first trip to Greece

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Greece together (he was there several years ago, but it will be my first time). We'll be there in early to mid-September and enjoy a mix of historic sites, interesting villages, great scenery, romantic sunsets, long walks, some beach time, and photography. We're in our late 50s and not really into nightlife. We're comfortable with a reasonably fast-paced itinerary but not crazy hectic. How does this look?

Day 0 - flight from east coast, USA
Day 1 - arrive early morning, Athens
Day 2 - Athens
Day 3 - Athens
Day 4 - day trip to Hydra- back to Athens to sleep
Day 5 - day trip (rent car) to Delphi - back to Athens to sleep
Day 6 - ferry to Santorini
Day 7 - Santorini
Day 8 - Santorini
Day 9 - ferry to Naxos
Day 10 - Naxos
Day 11 - ferry to Athens
Day 12 - fly home

Would it be better to go directly to Santorini or Naxos when arriving? I've seen some recommendations on that, but somehow it just "feels right" to me to start with Athens.

We'll probably book private rooms/apartments through Airbnb, but would appreciate restaurant recommendations - modest prices, great food, local atmosphere. And maybe a splurge in Santorini overlooking the caldera at sunset.

althom1122 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 09:00 AM
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We too are visiting Greece in October for the first time. Sounds like a good plan, we have done much research on what to do; we are going to visit Athens for 4-5 nights before jumping on an Azamara cruise for the islands for 7 nights. Just didnt want to repack and ferry/fly to them on this trip. We too plan to do Delphi as a day trip but will probably go with Tours By Locals who will pick you up at your hotel and drive you there; we also plan to use them for Nafplio, Mycenae & Epidaurus (sp?) daytrip, having decided to skip Hydra due to our cruise. We are travelling with another couple so cost will be split. Friends have used them many times and find them reputable, excellent and reasonable. We do not wish to drive in Greece. Also, we always choose to do the more hectic part of a destination first (Athens) and then slow down and relax toward the end (islands). But we usually jam pack our activities into our days, hopefully the cruise will slow us down, as we four are all about 70 (how did that happen?!). Athens Gate Hotel comes highly recommended and online prices are reasonable, location perfect; not decided on it yet, however. Enjoy!
aliced is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 09:00 AM
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Hi Karen,
logistic-wise, it might be better to go directly to Santorini or Naxos when arriving, so that you avoid to go to Athens city center twice and book Athens hotels twice during your trip. But if it feels right to you to start with Athens, then why not. It's a gorgeous city and I also started my Greece trip by it. You have plenty of time in Athens so it's not difficult to arrange it.
FuryFluffy is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 09:25 AM
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Your plan is OK. Its probably not what I would do but your sequence will work. In the end though when its all over you will regret so little time on the islands.

Just some thoughts. Your arrival time suggests a direct flight to Athens. Excellent you will be jet lagged but not severely. There are several connecting flights to Santorini and Naxos. You need two hours to make a connection. Get out to your islands immediately. Getting over jet lag on an island is preferable to doing it in Athens. It is a big loud dusty hot and hectic city. It can be overwhelming at the beginning of a trip. After a few days on the islands you will adjust to Greek mode and it will be much less stressful to be doing Athens at the end of the trip.

Santorini is a 6 to 8 hour ferry trip. Naxos is a 5.5 hour ferry trip. You are essentially using the better part of 2 of your 11 days, to sit on a ferry. Fly. Get there in 45 minutes. Money is not the precious commodity on a Greek trip, time is. Use those extra hours to enjoy Santorini.

By the way I just saw a post saying the fares Santorini to Athens are on sale right now. On Aegean airline web site I am seeing fares of 41 euros plus taxes to Santorini all September and as low as 19 euros Santorini to Athens plus taxes. Fly, you will thank me. You can get your ferry experience on the 2 hour connection between Santorini and Naxos.

Santorini caldera view hotels are indeed a splurge. My budget can only handle two or three days there before we ferry over to Naxos where the pace is slow and it offers you all your needs "enjoy a mix of historic sites, interesting villages, great scenery, romantic sunsets, long walks, some beach time, and photography." Naxos needs three to 4 days if you want to really explore the island (particularly the mountain villages)
Naxos Mountains and Villages
Naxos Town
Trip around Naxos

Depending on flight connections you can fly to Santorini and fly back from Naxos to Athens or do it the other way around both sequences work well.

Arrive Athens, rent the car from the airport. We used Athens Cars rental ACR. They were well priced and bring the car to you at the airport. Drive to Delphi. Arrive mid afternoon. Find a hotel on a walk up basis they won't be full in September so there will be discounted rooms. Use the afternoon to explore the village, visit the Museum and perhaps the lower archeological site. Get up early next morning and get to the gated site at opening. You will have it virtually all to yourselves for about two hours before the bus tours start to arrive. By then you will be way up in the site and it will be another hour before the bus tourists reach you. Walk back down when it gets crowded and drive back to the airport drop off the car and head into Athens for the rest of your stay.
Olympia Delphi Meteora

I excluded Hydra because you need the extra day and will have already had your island experience.
stanbr is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 01:17 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I think we will look into flights - at least one. It does make a lot of sense to fly first to the islands then return and rent a car from the airport and go directly to Delphi. That's certainly more efficient... not sure why I feel drawn to do Athens first. We'll need to give it some more thought.

If not a hotel overlooking the caldera, how about restaurants? Any recommendations for a romantic dinner in Santorini with a great view, good food, and at least somewhat reasonable prices?
althom1122 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 02:24 PM
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I have always brought Newbie friends to STANI overlooking the view, in Fira Town. it's about 1 lane back from the rimside path, but you go up 2 flights to the rooftop terrace and VOILA! I have always stopped by earllier in the day to pick out the table I like best, and reserve it for about an hour before sunset ... they put "reserved" sign on table & DO honor it. Such a serene way (no elbowing crowds jammed on the rim-path at OIA!) to watch the sun go down. Authentic Greek fare, moderate prices -- you can eat a ton of food & have a liter of house wine for €30-35 for 2. Really! Of course no strolling violins, no dancing men in skirts (thank heaven!).
travelerjan is online now  
Jan 18th, 2017, 04:35 PM
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althom I was telling my wife about your desire to see Athens first and her reaction was, "I remember as we arrived in Athens the first time. The traffic was horrid the buildings were all concrete it was hot and everything was so foreign. We caught a glimpse of the acropolis down a side street and said, "good now we can say we saw the Acropolis and we don't have to come back here again."

It was a mind numbing experience, however after a few days at a resort town just outside of Athens we became accustomed to how things worked and the activity and the feel of Athens and have loved it ever since. Somehow that period of adjustment seems to be required before taking on Athens.

Several years later when we brought our teenagers 17 and 18 we did Athens first and they were jet lagged, tired, over stimulated, horrified and absolutely hated it. We took them to Santorini then Naxos and when they returned to Athens it was a completely different experience. They enjoyed our two days before our return flight.

My recommendations and sequence plan will give you the most efficient and enjoyable experience for your chosen itinerary.
stanbr is offline  
Jan 18th, 2017, 08:59 PM
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Agree with above advice, we also left Athens for the end (it also eliminates any stress of making your return flight home, should bad weather for example impair/delay your return to the mainland from the Cyclades).

Consider this : fly into Athens -> connect directly to Santorini by Aegean/Olympic Airways -> ferry to Naxos -> return to Athens by Aegean/Olympic. I'd drop Hydra and add the day to Naxos or Santorini instead. Book the flights well in advance, ferry tickets can be purchased on the go.

My recommendation for a splurge in Santorini overlooking the caldera at sunset - stay in Imerovigli.
ANUJ is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 02:58 PM
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You all are slowly winning me over. It does make more sense to go directly to Santorini upon our arrival. We're about ready to nail down the dates and book flights. I may have add'l questions at that point. Thanks!
althom1122 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 03:32 PM
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You are welcome.
stanbr is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 04:08 PM
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The 'fast ferry' we took last September, Athens to Santorini, was 5 hours. It's a nice boat, with assigned seats. It left early in the morning. I think we arrived at noon.

But, I agree that you are best served by taking just one ferry, if possible.

The inter-island flight and ferry times will determine your schedule.

We loved our caldera hotel, right at Imerovigli. There's a beautiful, romantic paved and lit pathway along the caldera. It's magical. You can walk to nice restaurants and little hotels on the path. With caldera views all along the way.

It shouldn't be too crowded when you are there. Less touristy than Fira or Oai.

I'll see if I can find the name of the fine restaurant we liked best. It is on the cliff side, with full on views. It's small. Best to get a resie there. Really nice waitstaff. It had a French name. Like Chateau or something that doesn't fit. I'll look for it. It's more expensive, but not too much. And well worth it.
Tabernash2 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 04:16 PM
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I would give Naxos more time than Santorini. And you could spend the night at Delphi, a magical experience, and skip Hydra.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 04:28 PM
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Here it is, LA Maison:

We really liked it. Very creative menu, done well and served nicely.

Re: visiting Athens, we did the wrong thing, in retrospect. Because of flights, we ended up with two nights Athens to start; and had to stay over one night in Athens on our way home. One full day in Athens was plenty for us.

We stayed five nights on Santorini, and could have stayed two more, at least. So definitely maximize your island time.

And know that ferries can strike, like they did when we were there. Lots of people were stranded and missed their flights home. See if you can schedule your ferry ride, when you aren't trying to catch a flight after it.
Tabernash2 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2017, 05:49 PM
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standbr, your photos are great! Thanks.

althom, I forgot to say that if La Maison doesn't work, there are at least two other nice restaurants very closeby, on the walkway. We liked La Maison best.

We LOVED Greece. The people we met were very hospitable. And prices are very good.

We had spectacular weather in late September, on Santorini and in Athens. Athens was hot, actually.

Have fun planning your trip!
Tabernash2 is offline  
Jan 20th, 2017, 12:12 AM
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There is no point in taking a ferry from Athens (Piraeus) to Santorini when flights are not much more expensive than "fast" ferries. Nearly all the ferries to Santorini leave Piraeus between 7 am and 7:30 am, so if your flight to Athens arrives mid morning or afternoon you will have to wait until the next day. Flights to Santorini leave Athens throughout the day, and take only 45 minutes.

If you are going to take a ferry, recommend the conventional ferry Blue Star Delos, which is almost like an ocean liner. You can wander around the decks, have lunch in a selection of cafes and restaurants, and walk out on the open deck to take in the views and get photographs. That is especially nice when the ferry stops at Naxos, and when it enters the Santorini caldera. With the highspeeds you are stuck inside the cabin.

Standard economy tickets on Blue Star don't have assigned seats, but you can spend a few euros more for a reserved "air seat" or "aircraft-type seat" as they are called. I always buy a ticket in business class, which is about the same price as an economy seat on the "fast" ferries. In business class you get table service by stewards in white coats, and a choice of sofas or tables & chairs.

I put the word "fast" in quotation marks because no seagoing vessel is particularly fast. The larger highspeed ferries cruise at about 35 knots or 40 mph. That was fast when the old conventional ferries cruised at around 14-16 knots, but the modern Blue Stars cruise at around 24-26 knots, so there is not much difference. And of course every ferry, highspeed or not, has to slow down and stop every time it pulls into port.
Heimdall is offline  
Jan 21st, 2017, 01:38 PM
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I'm already doing some rethinking...

I've read some trip reports here and done some add'l research and am very interested in fitting in Meteora. What about something like this:

Day 0 - leave home
Day 1 - arrive Athens, fly to Santorini
Day 2 - Santorini
Day 3 - Santorini
Day 4 - ferry to Naxos
Day 5 - Naxos
Day 6 - Naxos
Day 7 - Ferry to Athens
Day 8 - Athens
Day 9 - Athens
Day 10 - car to Delphi, on to Meteora
Day 11 - Meteora, back to Athens
Day 12 - fly home

I know it seems a little rushed at the end. We could probably add 1 more day. I considered whether we should get the car as soon as we get back from Naxos, but I'm concerned it will be kind of late in the day. I can't flights from Naxos to Athens - do they only go on certain days or am I missing something?
althom1122 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2017, 01:40 PM
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Disregard the part about flights from Naxos to Athens - not sure what I was doing before, but no flights were coming up on the Aegean site. Now they are. I must have typed something wrong.
althom1122 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 08:15 AM
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Glad you found the Naxos flights. Fly to Athens rent the car from the airport so you don't even have to drive in Athens. We arrived Delphi in the early afternoon which gave us time to visit the museum and wander around the village. Next morning we got up early when the site opened and we had it to ourselves for about 2 hours before the tour buses arrived. When it got crowded we left.
stanbr is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2017, 08:57 AM
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Mid-September will probably be fine for weather. That's when we were on Santorini, and we had good. It was windy one night & the next morning. As that month progresses, the weather can get more windy and rainy. In October, things start shutting down.
Tabernash2 is offline  
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