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Looking for Suggestions - 12 Day Agenda for Greece

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Sep 16th, 2014, 09:02 AM
  #1
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Looking for Suggestions - 12 Day Agenda for Greece

My husband and I are planning a trip in May 2015 to Greece - we will be leaving Ontario, Canda on May 15th and will be returning Thursday, May 28th. We are looking for suggestions on length of stay at specific islands and what islands to visit - we like to relax and enjoy exploring - we want to see as much as we can, yet, don't want to rushing around as we want to get the feel of where we are. I've heard so many mixed reviews on whether or not to spend time in Athens. Santorini and Mykonos I think are a must - however I'm wondering if we should add a third island and if so which one, of if we split our time between the two - with two nights in Athens if that would be best. My travel agent has suggested the following and I'm looking for feedback - thanks for your time:

On arrival in Athens to connect to another flight to Rhodes
3 nights in Rhodes 16,17,18 May
19 May fly from Rhodes to Mykonos
3 nights in Mykonos 19,20,21 May
22 May take ferry from Mykonos to Santorini
3 nights in Santorini 22, 23,24 May
25 May either take ferry from Santorini to Athens or fly from Santorini to Athens
3 nights in Athens 25,26,27 May
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Sep 16th, 2014, 09:50 AM
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Dseale, you've already got the best Idea ... start your trip going to your farthest point & working your way back. Athens is a wonderful, vibrant city full of famous landmarks -- and it's better to see it at trips end, when you're already savvy about how things work in Greece. Good for you!

My difference with you is about your Musts and many Fodor "regulars" have expressed the same. Mykonos-Santorini are the "cliche twins" of N. American tourists, due to the ceaseless promotion by cruises & package tours -- and thus are most expensive/crowded & touristic even in May. You may get a better experience if you choose just ONE, and another island as 2nd. AND -- due to a special feature, you may be able to "hve your cake & eat it too."

Tweaking your Itinerary -- #1RHODES -- good choice for start. Stay in Old Town, away from the tour-ship area, do Lindos as a day trip... that's about all you'll have time for. #2 NEXT ISLAND -- Now here's where we differ. If u choose ONE of the "super-promoted" islands, I think Santorini is the "must-see", for the caldera view... find a hotel overlooking the cliff. Do note that there are almost no direct flights island to island -- you fly back to Athens, change planes, fly to next isle. There IS a lovely Blue Star Ferry M-W-F leaving 5 pm arr midnight at Santorini.
ISLAND #3 - Yes you could do Mykonos; but it's got same cruise-tour scene as Santorini, with addition of beaches. Both have late-nightclubbing scene but u haven't indicated a priority for partying. Consider NAXOS ... a contrast to the other 2, much less touristic (airport & seaport cannot accommodate jumbo jets or giant cruises!) ... gorgeous beaches, lots of dramatic scenery, ancient ruins, mountain villages. Here's a photo album by another canadian Fodorite -- https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr...7634605629689/ -- "Stanbr" who loves Naxos as much as I do, and also goes there on every trip. I say, spend TWO nights on Santorini, and 4 nights Naxos ... SO much to see/do, and relax & and feel of the culture, as you say you want. THen u can fly back to ATHENS (or take the 6 pm ferry).

NOTE: if you stay on Naxos, you have an option not available on most islands .. a DAY excursion on a dedicated vessel, that visits Delos-Mykonos. You see a sacred site, then boat take you to Mykonos for 3-4 hour, Time for photos & strolling the lovely port town, then you are back on peaceful Naxos by dinnertime. Best of both worlds!
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Sep 16th, 2014, 09:50 AM
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Yes, you should spend time in Athens, 3 days works well.
Mykonos and especially Santorini are heavily touristed and are on the cruise ship itineraries. For a more real Greek experience add Paros or Naxos.
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Sep 16th, 2014, 11:26 AM
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If it were me I would drop Rhodes because of the time it will take to get from there to your next island.
I agree with Jan that Santorini is probably the must island for first time visitors so if you arrive in Athens from Toronto early enough consider booking a flight immediately from Athens to Santorini. I would recommend at least three nights there then hop the Blue Star ferry which travels daily to Naxos where you can spend 3 to 5 nights, perhaps take that excursion to Delos and perhaps a day in Paros which will leave you 3 to 4 days in Athens. In May you can be flexible you don't really have to have advance bookings at hotels so if you love Santorini stay another couple of days then head to Naxos. There will be lots of hotel owners meeting you at the ferry dock with rooms up for negotiation. Be sure to be back in Athens for those 3 nights.
We will be right behind you departing Vaqncouver through Toronto May 17.
Here is why Santorini is so popular and busy
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7632154800782/


Here are a couple of different Naxos albums.
Naxos Town http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7632094558042/
A week in Naxos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr...7645113682278/
The Naxos Delos Mykonos excursion
Day trip Delos and Mykonos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7637922138466/
And why you need several days in Athens at the end.
Athens http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7632121475515/
Once you narrow down your choices we can provide more specific details.
By the way all of this is easily done on your own over the internet.
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Sep 16th, 2014, 11:34 AM
  #5
WWK
 
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It would simplify your itinerary dramatically if you stuck to islands that are close together and linked by boat lines: Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos.

Of those, I think Santorini is a must for a first-time visitor, because it's one of the most intensely beautiful places on the entire planet. And in May, it won't be overrun with hordes of tourists, the way it often is in the summer months.

I also especially love Paros. We visited for a second time in May, and nearly had many of the beaches to ourselves! It's a glorious place to experience a less touristy side of Greece, particularly if you base in or around Naoussa, and rent a car to explore the island.

Mykonos doesn't do much for me. In the summer months it's party central, but may might be OK. I much preferred laid-back Naxos, and loved wandering around St. George, and the fantastic tiny back streets of the old town.

Rhodes is definitely worth a visit, but I'd maybe save that for a return trip to Greece.There's plenty to see there, but if you want to visit Santorini etc., you'll probably have to backtrack through Athens.

Now about Athens... Others may feel differently, but over several visits, I've fallen in love with it. You should try to spend at least three days to see it properly without rushing. Try to find a hotel in or close to The Plaka, so that you can walk to most of what you'll want to see and do.

Once you firm up your itinerary, post again with the specifics and a budget, so that we can make some recommendations.
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Sep 16th, 2014, 11:40 AM
  #6
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BTW, looking at your itinerary, I'd never recommend making Rhodes the first stop. There's a lot of sightseeing to do, and it's not as relaxing as some of the other islands.

Also, with only 12 days, I'd recommend three destinations max, unless you like to move around a lot on your vacation!

So:

Land in Athens, flight to Santorini

Hotel overlooking Caldera

4 days

Santorini- Paros or Naxos

4 days

Paros or Naxos to Athens

3-4 days with day trip to: Hydra? Spetsis? Delphi?

Athens-home
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Sep 16th, 2014, 09:16 PM
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Many people mix seen "as much as possible" with as "many as possible" . Equation quantity vs quality is a difficult one and works different for different people on different trips...

In addition to comments of other posters, I feel that Rhodes is very diverse and huge compared to Cycladic islands and 3 nights/2 full days don't make much sense.

For comparison Rhodes covers 1407,9 km2 (544 sq mi), Santorini covers 90,69 km2 (35 sq mi)!

In an hour driving your can criss cross Santorini from one side to the other while on one hour you can only cover the route Rhodes Town to Lindos.
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Sep 17th, 2014, 08:22 AM
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WOW - thanks for all the great feedback! It really helps! We hope to narrow down the details in the next couple of weeks! I appreciate all the helpful feedback. We do like to be where it's busy, my husband isn't into the beach that much, but does prefer a pool overlooking the beach! So we need to be places where we can take day trips and we don't mind crowds. That being said, we do want to get a feel for the true Greek culture and maybe adding in Paros or Naxos will help with that. I'll continue to do some research!
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Sep 17th, 2014, 09:03 AM
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What you are saying and what you are planning simply don't add up dseale76.

You say, "we want to see as much as we can, yet, don't want to rushing around as we want to get the feel of where we are." and yet you plan to spend 4 of your 12 days moving from A to B. That's 1/3rd of your total time spent NOT being in a place seeing/doing things, rushing around and getting a feel for airports/ferries/taxis.

You say, "we do want to get a feel for the true Greek culture and maybe adding in Paros or Naxos will help with that." NO, moving places will not give you a feel for Greek culture. In fact, with only 12 days, you cannot realistically get a feel for Greek culture no matter what you do. What would give you the most in that regard although it would still be very limited, would be to spend all your time in ONE location.

As mariha2912 points out, quantity vs. quality is often mixed up by people. That's exactly what you are planning to do. To spend 2 days on Rodos is hardly better than spending 2 hours there. That isn't even enough time for the typical tourist 'must sees' and certainly not enough time to get any feel whatsover for Greek culture. It is also nearly a classic definition of 'rushing around'.
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Sep 17th, 2014, 10:28 AM
  #10
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Thanks for your feedback Sojourntraveller - I can only go off of what my travel agent provided me with and that's why I've asked for further opinions/feedback here - much appreciated. My husband and I have never travelled so yes...we are a bit confused on what we want...as we don't really know.
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Sep 17th, 2014, 11:45 AM
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You have to realize that travel agents (bless their little hearts) have to make a living, and its harder these days ... the major "touristy"islands he/she has chosen have more upscale hotels that pay commissions to him/her for booking you in ... also there's money involved in all that travel, via ferries & airllines -- PLUS what's called "transfers" between port & hotel (in other words, you could wave your arm & get a taxi, or take the local bus, for a fraction of what a "transfer" will cost you ... in fact many budget hotels provide FREE transfer to/from ports).

You do NOT have to use your travel agent, even tho he/she has given you a plan (it did not take that long -- they have "cookie-cutter" plans in their computers). Tell them thanks, you'll get back to them. I gather you already have your flight booked to/from Athens, but nothing else. You have 11 months to figure this out.

STEP ONE --Why don't and u and your husband sit down with a calendar, and a couple of guide books (wow! what a concept) you borrow from the library. I suggest "EYEWITNESS: the greek Islands" and "Greek Island Hopping." Doesn't have to be latest editions. Look up islands on your list. Discuss. Cancel, add, substitute, based on what appeals. (Important: these books show linkages between islands too!) Come up with a v. rough budget range for 12 nights of lodgings.
STEP TWO -- e-mail these 3 wonderful travel agencies that are GREECE-BASED. This is a big advantage -- if a glitch occurs, they're right there to deal with it, and the hotels/ferries/etc all know them. They are ALL used to planning for North Americans -- at every budget level -- via e-mail. They don't automatically try to upgrade you to hype their commissions. Check out Trip Advisor Reviews of Dolphin-Hellas, Fantasy Travel and Aegean-Thesaurus. the top 3 in US/Canadian tourist satisfaction!

STEP THREE --Write the same to all 3 -- your travel dates, your island picks, your rough budget range per hotel, whether u want "transfers" or not. IMPORTANT -- also give them some idea of your interests -- nightlife? hiking? exploring small villages? Then see which ones get back to you quickest, and compare their ideas & prices. E-mail back with questions -- they are used to it. I guarantee you you'll come up with a more customized, do-able, stress-free plan than from a N. American agency that must rely on a "cookie-cutter" computer plan.

STEP FOUR -- Once you get the logistics in place, you'll have months to enjoy researching your island choices, and getting ready for a trip of a lifetime.

Kalo Taxidi! (Greek for "good trip") -- TJ
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Sep 17th, 2014, 01:24 PM
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Great advice above.

If you visit Paros, you don't have to spend all your time on the beach. You can day trip to Lefkes ( ancient medieval village), Parikia ( where the ferries arrive/depart, but also home to the famous Church of 100 doors), Antiparos ( boat trip, can visit ancient caves, town,etc)

Naxos has plenty to offer besides the beach, too: Gates of Apollo, old town in St. George, tiny villages scattered throughout the island, and yes, beautiful beaches.

Rhodes is HUGE and out of all the islands we've visited in the past several years, probably my least favorite b/c we stayed at an enormous hotel on the beach side of the island and were greeted every day with massive package tour crowds.
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Sep 18th, 2014, 07:17 AM
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traveljan - thank you for all this information - literally I just recieved my full quote and the amount that I was going to be charged for transfers was crazy! I think I'm going to try and book on my own. My husband and I decided to just do two islands with the following schedule:

We arrive in Athens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 16th, we will fly to Santorini the same day,
5 nights in Santorini
then ferry to Mykonos
5 nights in Mykonos
then ferry back to Athens for 2 nights

Since it is our wedding anniversary, we would like to stay somewhere beautiful in Fira or within walking distance - with a view. However, our budget is $125 euros per night....if anyone has suggestions for hotels in Santorini or Mykonos I would greatly appreciate the recommendations!
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Sep 18th, 2014, 08:45 AM
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dseale good call on doing this trip yourself. There are good hotel booking sites that will give you availability and price along with reviews. Booking dot com is the one I use most often. For the most part it is too early to start looking for next May. All the hotels I have been looking at say they are sold out but I suspect they simply are not even thinking about next year until the season is over in October this year.
I suspect you are going to find your nightly budget to be a little short. Santorini and Mykonos are the two most expensive destinations in Greece so you may find you are going to have to pay more for that famous Caldera View or find a hotel without the view and walk to an overlook spot. Personally I want the view. There appears to be a few options within your price range like Hotel Milos. I am sure Jan has some other good suggestions up her sleeve as well.
If budget does become a problem you may want to consider dropping Mykonos and adding either Naxos or Paros. They both have good beaches the same white and blue buildings that you are looking for but at a price much lower than Mykonos.
Have fun planning
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Sep 18th, 2014, 09:19 AM
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SANTORINI -- I like the location of Firostephani -- it's really the north fringe of Fira ... NO tour busses or noise, but at the same time, you can walk to Fira museums, shopping, cafes, nightclubs in about 15 minutes ... either down the rimside scenic pathway or on a "hidden" flagstone walkway that parallels the main road running down mid of island. Also, to zip to Oia (do this at 8:30 am to beat the cruise crowds!), you can catch the Oia-bound bus at the Firostephani bus stop on that that main road... no need to go to Fira Bus-square.

There are quite a few Firostephani hotels w. beautiful caldera views... Pool hotels cost more. And I always advise looking at TA reviews, including "room tips" which often tell you which are best rooms & less-good, not always clear from websites: Here are some pool-hotel options in your price range:
• HOTEL ILIAS http://www.villailias.gr -- right on Fira-Firostephani border... in May, €80-120 doubles, AND their website says "Join (no commitment) & access special discounts" .. Yay.
•AGNADEMA APTS - booking.com sez right now they have 1 room left fr your dates w. patio/balcny sea view for about 485E - 5 nites
• STEPHANI SUITES - (a "cave room" hotel) - about 630E for your dates 1 rm left
NOTE -- Other Firostephani pool hotels in your price range already selling out ... plenty of nonpool htels available, but if pool is a must, get busy girl. There are FIRA pool hotels with a caldera view... but many of them involve STEEP steps down the face of the cliff, so beware! Also, the minute u climb up to the town surface -- whooops! cruise crowds.

MYKONOS -- I wish you'd clarify your previously statement that you want "to get a feel of the true Greek culture." Doesn't seem to square with continued preference for only the 2 most hyper-touristic islands. One maybe, but both? In midweek, both inundated with 3,000-5,000 cruise influx. plus all week the package-tour crowds. "True Greek culture" exists in isolated pockets but u would not find it. By contrast, we've described the variety you'd find in Naxos & Paros (along with better beaches) plus the oppty to sample Mykonos on day-excursion.

Is it the post-midnight Mykonos party scene you long for? Nothing wrong with that! In that case, go for it! ANd in that case, in May I'd advise not staying at a beach, but in town. Why? well, it's easy to taxi/bus out to beaches by day. In May, beach scene very low-key after dinner, but if you go into town for late clubbing, people tell me that all taxis disappear around 11 pm and they had BIG hassle getting to beach hotels.

A few Myk Town pool hotel options in your price range include: Vencia Boutique, Aeolos Hotel, Hotel Gorgona, Hotel Despotiko. The best are way out of your range. In contrast of course we can give u hotels right on the sands in Naxos & Paros. But that's your option.
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Sep 18th, 2014, 09:21 AM
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As usual my pal Stanbr beat me to it, and more succinctly! But I did list some hotels...
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Sep 18th, 2014, 03:59 PM
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I so agree with travelerjan's comment re Mykonos Town hotels. At the time you are travelling many island hotels will already have moved to high season rates. Not all of course, but many. I know all of the hotels Jan has mentioned and the Vencia is possibly the best. Its views are terrific but the climb up is a bit taxing as it sits above town on the cusp of the Ano Mera road (noisy and busy with traffic which can sometimes make it difficult to navigate).

Just a thought though. You mentioned that your husband likes the idea of a pool facing a beach. That's not really possible in Mykonos town. I know of one hotel at Agios Ioannis, a very beautiful part of the island with views a cross to Delos and only 10 minutes from town using the local bus. Called the Manoulas Beach, its rate for a sea-view double room on booking.com tonight is within budget for your dates and it has a great pool and the beach is right in front of the hotel. All in all this is a good hotel and the views from the hotel, magical.

Its own website is:

http://www.hotelmanoulas.gr/

If it's any help, Agios Ioannis is quiet but there you'll find two full service beach restaurants and another smaller one right across from the hotel. This one also serves snacks etc at very good prices. There is also a very small store where you can pick up essential stuff and also where you buy the bus ticket to town (in May the bus service to Agios Ioannis runs hourly to and from town and the ticket cost is less than two euro).
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Sep 18th, 2014, 04:47 PM
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Great suggestion, Bill--- and so good to see you posting again, good wishes to you!
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Sep 18th, 2014, 04:58 PM
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Thanks Jan. I feel a bit past it now. 74yo and I surely feel it. Didn't manage to get to the island in 2014 but hopefully next year, god-willing.

Bill
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Sep 18th, 2014, 09:29 PM
  #20
 
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SANTORINI:

www.panoramahotel.com.gr
www.atlantishotel.gr
www.goldensunsetvillas.com
www.delfinivillas.com
www.olympicvillas.com
www.villailias.gr

We stayed here in Oia but I think it's over your budget. Has a pool and beautiful caldera view. traditional cave house. www.atrinahouses.com

Things to do in Santorini:
winery tours-
Santo Wines www.santowines.gr
Volcan Wines/Koutsoyannopoulos on the main road to Kamari
Boutari Winery on the road toward Akrotiri

Beaches-
Perissa, Perivolos, Kamari, Red Beach
Amoudi Bay

www.santorinisailing.com
www.santorini-yachts.com
www.sy-eleftheria.com
www.santoriniyachting.com

We rented a car and visited the wineries and beaches on our own. If Akrotiri site is open you should check it out.

MYKONOS:

This is where we stayed. Lovely pool facing the ocean and within walking distance to town. Managed/owned by the absolute best people. One night she made homemade Greek appetizers, her husband taught us some Greek dancing and we had free shots of ouzo. Free pick up from the ferry port or airport.
www.hoteltagoo.gr

www.vencia.gr
www.apanemaresort.com

Take the excursion boat to Delos. Think it's from Tuesday-Sunday leaves from town at 9, 10, or 11 am Need 3 hrs. there.

Sightseeing in town-Panagia Paraportiani Church, little Venice area, the windmills.

Beaches-Kalafatis, Paradise, Paranga, Megali Ammos

ATHENS:

We stayed here. Great location. www.athensgate.gr Views of the Acropolis and Temple of Zeus.

www.avahotel.gr Another great place but nothing available when we went but another good choice to consider.

You have 12 nights which is nice. However, I'd give Athens more than 2 nights. I'd do 4-4-4.
Or 3 nights Athens and then 5-4 for the other 2 destinations.

Not to throw a wrench in your plans but you may want to check out Nafplio on the mainland but we rented a car and went there right from Athens Airport. In Nafplio there is lots to see and do and one of our favorites. We stayed at the Aetoma Hotel with a view of Palamidi from our balcony. www.aetoma.gr
Sights-Bourtzi Island fortress, Palamidi Castel, beaches-Tolo, Karathoma, and Kastraki. Can do day trips to Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus.

This may be a place to consider on a return trip to Greece!

Have a great trip!!
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