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Mjneenan Feb 28th, 2015 06:15 PM

proposed two week Greece itinerary
Hello! My wife and I, both in our mid 50s, will be traveling from Chicago to Greece for two weeks this upcoming June to join my 21-year-old son, who will have just finished up his spring quarter study abroad in Athens. All three of us are very interested in ancient Greek history, love to hike, enjoy a variety of great scenery ... and we all want to soak up as much local culture as we can. None of us need night life and while we enjoy great beaches, it's not a focus for this trip. I have spent the last week reading through much of three different guidebooks and scouring forums for advice on how to split up two weeks in Greece.

Here are several assumptions built in to our proposed itinerary:

1. My wife and I, whenever possible, like three nights in any one place to be sort of a minimum stay to avoid time wasted packing up and settling in to another place.

2. We will be staying at airbnb rentals most nights, as they are relatively inexpensive and allow us to rent whole apartments with two bedrooms, so our son can have his whole room and keep his messiness out of our view! We will make use of a kitchen for quick breakfasts in, sandwiches for lunch at least some of the time, allowing us to splurge more on dinners. ... We've had experience with airbnb rentals before (only in the USA) and they've all worked out well.

3. We hope to come back to Greece some day in the future, so we don't feel a need to "see it all" in two weeks, not that would even be remotely possible in just two weeks, anyway.

4. It kills me to not get to Crete! But after much reading, I realize the island is way too big to only spend 2-3 days there, so it will have to wait for another trip, when we can spend at least a week there.

5. This is the opening leg of a six week trip - we're teachers, with our summers off. From our last day in Greece, we'll fly to Croatia (5 days), then 3 days in Slovenia, 8 days in the Czech Republic (extended family reunion!), and finally 6 days in Istanbul to finish up our six weeks. ... It's our second trip to Europe.

6. We've already committed to six nights for Athens ... the rest, we are waiting on to allow for some possible tweaking.

So, if you would be so kind as to scan through our tentative plan, here is the way we see our 14 days in Greece:

1-3 ... Exploring Athens for three days (allowing for the first day to be in a jet lag fog, having arrived the evening before from Chicago), using our son as our guide, as he would have just spent 11 weeks studying there.

4-5 ... Bus trip to Delphi, with one overnight there (that night double booked, since we already have our Athens rental up through the evening of day 5)

6-8 ... Three days on Santorini, with an early morning flight on day 6 from Athens

9-11 ... Three days on Naxos, with a ferry ride there from Santorini early on day 9

12 ... Travel day back to the mainland, starting with a flight from Naxos to Athens and then a car rental with a drive to Nafplio

13, 14 ... Two days in Nafplio area, with a side trip to Mycenae one day and Epidavros the other, with the rest of time those two days for exploring Nafplio and surrounding sights

15 ... Drive back to Athens, dump off rental car, and fly to Dubrovnik in the early afternoon

I am open to any tweaking you might like to offer up. I know that it's sound advice to fly right to the first island at the beginning of the time in Greece for time efficiency, but my wife will actually be arriving in Athens three days earlier than I will be (my arrival is sadly, delayed by thee "snow days I have to make up at the end of the school year), so she is arriving on the same day as our son will be finishing up his program - thus we are committed to staying in Athens first off.

What I am most interested in from Greece veterans is this: Would you recommend shaving one day off of any of our locations, to add that day somewhere else ... or perhaps doing something not in our itinerary yet, instead?

I appreciate in advance any advice! I promise I will do a photo trip report shortly after arriving back home.


joannyc Feb 28th, 2015 06:24 PM

I highly recommend a night in Meteora to see the monasteries!

Mjneenan Feb 28th, 2015 06:37 PM

Thank you for the recommendation! Yeah, I thought long and hard about Meteora and ended up not including it because of the distance from Athens. But I agree - I know we would all love it. Would you recommend three days away from Athens then - to adequately see both Delphi and Meteora. I looked into two day bus trips that include both in their itinerary, but rejected them because I thought they would be rushed and all three of us like to linger at historical sites.

Would you recommend renting a car, then, for 2-3 days from Athens? Or could we pull it off by bus, with two overnights, one in Delphi and the other in Kalambaka?

travelerjan Feb 28th, 2015 06:41 PM

Looks pretty darn good to me, with a tweak or 2.

(1) Since you will arrive on Santorini probably at 9 am n day 6, I would say, since you are not honeymooners, 2.5 days would be enoughfor an isle that's basically 12 miles long, leaving on 3:30pm ferry for Naxos on 3rd day(Day 8). First day, view caldera, see museum, relax. Day 2- go to Oia 8:30 am to beat cruise crowds, leave by 10:30-11. Rent car, drive to Akrotiri, maybe ancient Thira??? Skip beaches. 3rd day, remainder of exploring, go to port by 2:30 for Blue star ferry. This is the ONLY fun ferry ride... it's a "regular" ferry, large, modern, fast, with open decks, so you can get the full view of caldera on departure. All the others are catamarans, closed in, no view at all. On this, yu sit on rear deck whole way, enjoy view & wake, your "mini-cruise." Final Note: re highly-promoted "Oia Sunset" -- unlees u are in high-end hotel with pvt balcony, sunset along rimside path can be a ZOO. Instead I offer -- top-floor roof terrace of Restaurant Stammi in FIra (stop by to pick & rserve table); best of boh worlds.

(2) Drive to NAFPLIO -- if your flight arrival gets u started to Nafplio by noon or so, really worthwhile to stop after Corinth, jump off highway 5 mi. to NEMEA -- a sacred Games site that is a True Gem; the feeling of Olympia (stadium, temple, etc) without the loooong drive. U can see it in under 1 hr, pop back on hiway & immediately turn S toward Nafplio. On either your outbound OR inbound drive, at Isthmia u can jump off hiway for 15-20 minutes to get a good glimpse of the Corinith canal (so narrow! so deep!!). It cant really be seen from Biggie highway and only takes minutes to get off/get back on.

Mjneenan Feb 28th, 2015 06:56 PM

Thank you, Travelerjan for your very helpful specific advice ... In my week of forum research, your name stuck out above all others recently for your generosity in helping clueless trip planners.

I was actually already wondering if our three nights on Santorini might be a bit too much for us, given that we have absolutely zero interest in the party scene. We actually would be arriving on Santorini by air right before 8:00am, so we really would, as you suggest, have that whole first day to explore. Your idea to leave for Naxos from Santorini mid-day on day 8 instead of the morning of day 9 is great for us. That way, I could possibly add a day to our Athens stay to allow for Meteora, as well as Delphi .... by subtracting a day total from our six days on the isles. That way, I don't have to steal a day instead from Croatia, immediately following Greece, which I don't really want to do.

Your advice is very much appreciated!


Mjneenan Feb 28th, 2015 07:12 PM

BTW, Travelerjan, I already had in my notes from seeing your posts in other threads, to make sure to stop off at Nemea. So thank you for that ... and the other specific stops on the way to Nafplio. Do you happen to know why Nemea barely gets a mention in Greece guidebooks? Zero mention at all in either Rick Steve's Greece guide or Lonely Planet ... and just the tiniest paragraph mention in DK Eyewitness Greece guidebook? It sounds great.

joannyc Feb 28th, 2015 07:36 PM

I think the easiest way would be to rent a car for Delphi and Meteora. I don't really enjoy tours so tend to do it on my own. We went quite a few years ago, took the train from Athens to Larissa and then a bus to Kalambaka. Hired a taxi driver to be our tour guide to the monastaries. Stayed one night.

I found that the monks (and nuns) at the monastaries seemed to enjoy talking with me, for some reason. (Have no idea why me! Lol!!!) Being on a tour would not have been conducive to this.

I think 2-3 nights between the 2 sites would be perfect!

If you don't feel comfortable driving out of Athens, there is a rental car company that will actually drive you from the city out to the highway to get you going!

mariha2912 Feb 28th, 2015 11:22 PM

On my opinion all destinations you deserve merrit a longer stay than the one you have planned, but r itinerary provides a decent pace to get a taste of each location.
If you are not happy with too much driving and you decide to use a car hire to visit Delphi, you may consider skipping Meteora and add Hosios Loukas for your Byzantine monastery fix, then allow some time to explore surrounding towns/areas such as Galaxidi or Arahova and Mt Parnassos/Corykian cave...
If you decide to visit Meteora, not eveyone's cup of tea, but somewhere up the mountains along your route between Delphi and Meteora there is a bauxite mine and you may visit part of it.

mariha2912 Feb 28th, 2015 11:30 PM

Excuse typos, grammar and syntax errors on previous post...

My kingdom for an edit button...

Heimdall Mar 1st, 2015 12:09 AM

Mariha2912, your posts are always clear and understandable, so no apologies necessary. :-)

mariha2912 Mar 1st, 2015 01:38 AM

Thank you Heimdall. While I am not fluent in English, my writting is usually more decent than it appears on the Fodors forums. I am angry with myself when I see a too badly-written post. I usually multi-task when I am on line and do not double-check my posts before I hit "submit"... and then I see a mess but it is too late. I find that an "Edit" function would be very useful.

Mjneenan Mar 1st, 2015 04:23 AM

Joannyc, We have decided to rent a car for Delphi and Meteora over three days (two nights), spending the better part of a day at each location and then allowing for the five hour one way trip from and back to Athens. It should be a beautiful drive, based on photos I have seen! We will be cutting one day from Santorini - leaving two full days there, rather than three - to created the extra day for Meteora. I hope those three days allow us some time to explore a few smaller towns around each attraction to get a better feel for Greece off of the main tourist path.

Mariha2912, thanks for the detailed ideas around Delphi! By the way, your English is perfectly understandable ... and infinitely better than my Greek (nonexistent)! But I agree, Fodor's should allow an edit button - I have wished for the same more than a few times. ... I know that we are giving short shrift to nearly all of our locations (I have run into much advice saying that you shouldn't even go to an island if you don't have at least 4-5 full days), but are compromising on some areas to be able to see a taste of each, as you say.

artsnletters Mar 1st, 2015 09:04 PM

I strongly recommend that you get a GPS for your driving days. Street signs are in Greek letters and are typically posted on buildings, some of which are set back a bit from the corner, so they are hard to spot and hard to read quickly. I went to Greece last May, and I would <i>still</i> be driving around in circles trying to find my hotel in Nafplio if it weren't for GPS!

In Kalambaka, you may want to visit Tourist Information and sign up for a half-day tour of the monasteries. I found it an excellent value. They took us to the Grand Meteora monastery, which is about 300 steps each way, and to the Roussanou monastery, which was particularly great - they let us off at the top of the hill and we walked down a gazillion steps to the monastery, then we walked a gazillion more down and they met us at the bottom. It would have been a BIG hike up one direction otherwise. They also gave us a lot of background on the landscape as well as the monasteries, and the tour included a quick trip to a cave where Neandertals had stayed. They have lots of stops for photos, too. I thought it an excellent value.

mariha2912 Mar 1st, 2015 09:54 PM

I am not sure if you will have time, but there is plenty of hiking in Delphi area. It is easy to do some of the routes by your self, but if you need a guided tour, check

joannyc Mar 2nd, 2015 05:40 AM

Mjneenan, glad to hear it! Have a wonderful trip! Will look for your trip report and pics.

Mjneenan Mar 2nd, 2015 04:52 PM

Thank you, Artsnletters, for your very specific advice. I will definitely get a GPS rented with the cars for our two rentals on the Greek mainland. I assume I wouldn't need it for Santorini or Naxos. Could I be wrong about that?

We are SO excited about hiking/touring Meteora! Thanks for your tour suggestion. We decided to make it three full days. First day: drive to Delphi from Athens and spend most of the afternoon in the area, touring the ruins and then drive to Kalambaka, arriving in the evening. Second day: hiking up to the various monasteries all day and soaking up anything else in the area that calls to us. Third day: slow, meandering drive back to Athens, stopping off in any towns to walk around that interest us. Does anyone have suggestions for the drive back, from Kalambaka to Athens?

I appreciate all of the advice in this forum very much. You have helped us tweak our itinerary and for that, we are grateful. Fodorites are awesome!

joannyc Mar 2nd, 2015 05:31 PM

Do you have a portable GPS at home? If so, you can download either Greece or Europe maps. Saves you the fees for the rental and you already know how to use your own GPS. Or else you can buy a used one on eBay. And you'll always have one to take with you.

Mjneenan Mar 3rd, 2015 07:00 PM

Joannyc, We don't have a portable GPS for our car - we use the map feature built into our smart phone. I may have to look into getting one, as you suggest. If we go to Europe without one of our own, do you have any idea how much it adds to the car rental per day to add a GPS system? ... I am assuming about $80/day for car rental throughout Greece - does that sound about right? ... Thanks again for your help!

joannyc Mar 3rd, 2015 07:38 PM

Hi Mjneenan,

No, it should not be anywhere close to $80/day for a car rental! Try or, sister companies who are consolidators based in the US. If you rent through them depending on the length of time, you can qualify for a free GPS... But it costs you about $40 for shipping the GPS to you and back to them. And, if your rental, is in the middle of your trip, you need to work with them on the GPS return date. They'll let you keep it til you get home before returning it, in my experience.

I found for the amount of times I'd be paying that shipping fee that for me it was better to buy my own.... even tho I live in NYC and don't own a car! ;-)

I'm paying around $17/day for a car in the south of France this year in July. Last year, it was $12/day for the same rental but in September.

joannyc Mar 3rd, 2015 07:55 PM

BTW, picking up a rental car at an airport and/or train station often incurs an extra fee in most countries. Compare those locations to an off-airport/train station location such as a downtown location. Dropping off the car at the airport or train station typically does not increase the cost.

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