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Turkey & Greece Itinerary help

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My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Greece and Turkey for either this September and October (cannot leave before September 23rd). Hoping the weather will still be fine.

What I like: history, culture, cuisine, nature, beaches
What he likes: beaches, nightlife, cuisine and culture, doesn't like too many museums but is open to other historical sites

I’ve never been to Greece or Turkey before while he has been to Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos and Ios and Antalya/Belek. This is our rough itinerary and we actually need a lot of suggestions as we’re finding it difficult to reach some compromise.

Athens (3 nights)
- Day 1: Acropolis, Ancient Agora of Athens and maybe Acropolis Museum / n1
- Day 2: Parthenon, Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hephaestus, Mount Lycabettus, Anafiotika and shopping for souvenirs / n2
- Day 3: day trip to Delphi / n3
- I would really, really like an extra day here for a trip to Meteora if we remove Antalya
Am I missing anything?

Greek Islands (5 nights)
- this is where we have to choose between 2 itineraries
My plan:
- Day 4: Athens-Mykonos / n1
- Day 5: Mykonos / n2
- Day 6: Mykonos - Santorini / n3
- Day 7: Santorini, Night ferry from Santorini to Rhodes /n4
- Day 8: Rhodes / n5
- Day 9: Rhodes-Bodrum at 5:00 PM Is this legit? I’m confused why “morning departure” is 5 PM

His plan:
- Day 4: Athens-Chania, Crete flight / n1
- Day 5: Crete / n2
- Day 6: Crete-Santorini / n3
- Day 7: Santorini, Night ferry from Santorini to Rhodes /n4
- Day 8: Rhodes / n5
- Day 9: Rhodes-Bodrum at 5:00 PM same as mine

Bodrum (2 nights)
- Day 9: Rhodes - Bodrum / n1
- Day 10: Bodrum / n2

Ephesus (0-1 night)
- Day 11: Early morning departure to Ephesus by bus (should we get a car, we don’t have international licenses). Will we have enough time to explore Ephesus and where should we stay? Can we get a evening train to Pamukkale and stay there for the night instead?

Pamukkale & Aphrodisias (1-2 nights)
- Day 12: Pamukkale & late afternoon Aphrodisias - a car would help here, otherwise we’d have to take a taxi?

Antalya (3 nights)
- Day 13: Pamukkale -> Antalya / n1
- Day 14: Hillside SU Antalya / n2
- Day 15: Hillside SU Antalya / n3
My BF REALLY wants this added onto our trip. He previously stayed at Royal Adam & Eve Hotels at Belek and goes to resorts a lot, whereas I’m not fond of that way of traveling, but he has compromised for me as well. He is looking for other recommendations besides Hillside SU (we saw something about it being permanently closed, but the booking is still open..)

Cappadocia (3 nights) - please give us recommendations on how to spend our time here
- Day 16: Morning flight from Antalya -> Kayseri, Urgup in evening? / n1
- Day 17: Green Tour / n2
- Day 18: Hot Air Balloon Ride/Rose Valley hike / n3

Istanbul (4 nights)
- Day 19: Morning flight from Kayseri -> Istanbul, cooking class, traditional tea, Nevizade / n1
- Day 20: Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, Topkapi Palace, etc / n2
- Day 21: Grand Bazaar, shopping, leftover sightseeing / n3
- Day 22: Galata Tower, Bosphorus Cruise, Nisantasi / n4

1) What would you pick between Crete and Mykonos?
2) Would you rather go to Marmaris or Antalya?
3) How much do we budget for this trip? We will be spending a lot on accommodation (300/n for 2) in Antalya and possibly Bodrum but the others are going to be cheap living.
4) What is the best way to get around Turkey? Do we get a car, especially for the Bodrum -> Ephesus -> Pamukkale -> Antalya journey? Do we need international licenses?
5) Please give us recommendations on how to spend our time in Cappadocia and Istanbul?
6) Are there any favourite spots that you would recommend?

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    When planning your detailed itinerary, be aware that night ferries from Santorini to Rhodes run only 3 days/week.

    Three islands in 5 nights is totally impractical, as you will spend most of your time in transit. Think about flying directly from Athens to Rhodes, and spending all your time there. You may be able to take a day trip or spend a night on nearby Symi.

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    Yeah unfortunately it looks like we have to take one day from an island and move it to Rhodes as the Friday night departure is really "Thursday night" just as 00:50 or something like that. I really want to see Santorini more than Rhodes, so I think if the Rhodes -> Bodrum option is unavailable, we might pick other islands but Santorini is kinda non-negotiable, it's a must for me.

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    I am not sure what you try to achieve with all this moving around on the Greece itinerary, I am not familiar with Turkey to comment but it seems very busy there too...
    I think there is much more to see and do on Athens and it is a pitty people never allow enough time to appreciate this destination. If your boyfriend is into nightlife, try to fit a local venue on one night, that been a live (original) bouzoukia show or a lounge bar or a club... Let him read a bit about all the diverse museums that Athens features, something might strike his interest, there are National Galleries to Museums of Music Organs to War Museums or Ancient Coins Museums and so much more...Maybe allowing half day somewhere in the city away of the very tourist center will be rewarding too, that been a meal on Alsos Papagou or a stroll to Kifissia or a sea food meal on Piraeus or a swim in Lake Vouliagmeni... Delphi is a very interesting place but given the circumstances it may have to wait for a future trip...And I am saying this coming from Delphi and working in tourism industry if this means something.

    Then if Santorini is a must, go to Santorini and try to get a decent glimpse of the island rather than spending just one day there... I have often mention on this forum that on my opinion it is an over-rated destination nowadays and I am not so fond of it, but I still believe that if you make an effort to go somewhere you may as well try to see what this is all about...Santorini is a tiny island but there is still plenty to do and see and you need a few days to appreciate the scenery and ambiance... Vising Acrotiri archeological site, check the interesting museums in Fira which are tiny and your boyfriend will not get easily tired of them, take maybe a boat trip, take your time to appreciate the landscape, check localy for a food tour or visit one of the many wineries, allow half day on the beach, try to visit a couple of the inland villages, walk aimlessly here and there pr stand still and soak the ambiance, architecture and landscape...

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    The Rhodos - Bodrum catamaran will most probably not be daily in October (if even it runs).
    The Kos - Bodrum ferry would be more reliable.

    As you don't plan to stay at Rhodos anyway (for me the best Greek beach destination so late in the year), you may leave the Santorini - Rhodos ferry at Kos and continue to Bodrum from there.

    Bodrum - Selcuk/Ephesos isn't a problem by bus.
    Local transport from either Denizli or Nazilli to Aphrodisias shouldn't be a problem neither, but you may underestimate the time you need for all 3 places (Efes, Hierapolis and Aphrodisias).
    Couldn't you fly out of Nevshehir instead of Kayseri?

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    Thank you both very much!

    mariha2912, thank you for the museum suggestions! We have a friend who has traveled to Athens and 2 Greek islands before for 2 weeks but he spent most of his time in Athens ask he studies ancient philosophy and classic civilization so he knew more about the history and was excited to see all of that in person. We don't have as much historical background so when my bf looked at the itinerary he wasn't really keen on visiting them. I do think a 2nd trip to Athens is in my future to cover what I missed but right now I don't really want to pressure him into missing places he wants to go in favour of doing something he's not interested in. We can give Delphi a miss if he considers the other museums - I really want to go to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

    Should we do Santorini and 1 other Greek island then for those 5 nights? It seems like Mykonos and Santorini would be the best combination but he has already been to both. So he would prefer a Santorini + Crete combo or Santorini + Rhodes combo. Problem is that there doesn't seem to be any direct transport between Santorini and Chania, though I guess we could just take the bus from Heraklion and only stop there to see Knossos. From there we would fly to Istanbul and reverse our trip so that we end in Antalya. Only problem here is weather. Or we could do Santorini and Rhodes for a day then ferry to Kos, spend half the day there and then ferry on to Bodrum.

    neckervd, it seems like that ferry isn't really an option (the one I originally linked to). I've been reading other tour itineraries and blogs and none of them mention that and I can't find that route on any other website, so we'd have to go from Kos-Bodrum if we end up going to Rhodes rather than Crete. You're right about Nevshehir, we are going to do that.

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    Some additional thoughts :

    Bodrum is not that exciting in October. The night life will have left for the season, the upscale villas closed for the year and the city and its satellite villages left to the low budget visitors mostly from UK.

    Fethiye, on the other hand, is a bona fide town, with a large resident expat community and a rich commercial life and quite a few interesting historic sites within reach as well as Hillside SU's sister resort, Hillside Beach and a delightful drive to Antalya, through Tlos, Xanthos, Patara, Kas, Kekova, Symena, Myra, Arycanda and Phaeselis.

    Another big advantage is that Rhodes-Fethiye Catamarans (quite a bit shorter cruise) should be running in October as opposed to Rhodes-Bodrum ones.

    This may mean that you may miss Ephesus, Pamukkale and Aphrodisias, but the trade-off is not as bad as you would think. Just consider it.

    Or, leave Antalya out, do most of the antique cities from Fethiye and drive up to Aphrodisias and Pamukkale, ending at Ephesus from Fethiye afterwards. The distances are not too bad and the roads are good and very scenic.

    Check some of the previous trip reports by Kja, Xyz and others

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    Hello again!

    5 days or so is not a great ammount of time even for small islands and you could allocate this on Santorini alone on my opinion. Crete is huge and if it is Chania you are after, travel logistics will add up and you will have very very limited time to check anything on this island. As far as quite likely you will have to be on Rhodes and/or Kos in order to connect on Turkish coast, (not sure if Crete-Istanbul flights operate on October?) I think you may want to make one of those your second island and save Crete for a future trip.

    Rhodes and Kos have a longer season than most Greek islands and you may enjoy one beach day there or something. Rhodes offers tons of sightseen too, even if you do not step in any of its museums and indoors' sites.(I think you boyfriend will enjoy strolling around the Old Town and/or visiting Lindos Acropolis and take in the scenery). There might be side trips to other islands available and the island its self is very diverse and features a good bus system.
    A butterflies' (well, moths') valley, some spring areas, a spa area, many archeological sites and mosques and ruins of venetial forts, coves and beaches and tons of inland and sea-side villages and resorts and sooo much more to check... Rhodes Town is a large one and there is shopping, a casino and a small aquarium among other things. It is a nice combination of a beach and antiquity and city destination and definately worths a few days visit.

    I have to admit that while Kos is not my favorite island or something, I was pleasantly surprised when I first visited it a few years ago. It has a rumor to be a package tourism zoo and while this is quite true, there is more to see and do than lying on a beach all day or drinking on English-style bars at night. Kos Town features a new yaught marina and a plasant traditional harbour, a venetian fort and some roman ruins among other things. For some reason nearly no-one suggested to me the archeological museum. I discovered it myself and loved it,it is very small but features some very interesting exibits. I felt in love with an Hermes statue with his winged sandals and everything! lol
    A few kms outside town there is an ancient Asclepion (Kos is the island of Hippocrates after all!), easy to visit on local bus or tout-tout train. Two different looong beaches radiate on each side of the town. Tons of beaches all over the island. Among the diverse and many beach resorts there are some sea side villages with tiny harbours and more traditional character. There are a couple of very nice inland villages, nature areas and antiquities and ruins of venetian era forts spread all over the island... Kos is one of the very limited places in Greece featuring a bicycle lanes' network too. Public bus is very decent to explore around. And again there are options to take side trips on near by islands.

    I do not think you will be disappointed on any of these islands.

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    Thank you otherchelebi and mariha2912 for your very detailed suggestions! I really appreciate it and it made us reconsider a few things about our trip. We were trying to decide between Kos & Bodrum and Rhodes & Fethiye, because of the weather we decided to save the west coast of Turkey for another trip where we would have more Greek island cruising during better months of the summer when we will visit Kos and Bodrum. This is what we came up with:

    Athens (F/S/S/M 4 nights)
    - Day 1: Acropolis, Ancient Agora of Athens and maybe Acropolis Museum / n1
    - Day 2: Parthenon, Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hephaestus, Mount Lycabettus, Anafiotika and shopping for souvenirs / n2
    - Day 3: day trip to Delphi / n3
    - Day 4: National Archaeological Museum / n4

    Greek Islands (6 nights)
    Santorini (T/W/T)
    - Day 5: Athens -> Santorini / n1
    - Day 6: Santorini / n2
    - Day 7: Santorini - night ferry to Rhodes / n3
    Rhodes (F/S/S)
    - Day 8: Arrive @ Rhodes in the morning / n4
    - Day 9: Rhodes / n5
    - Day 10: Rhodes / n6
    - Day 11: Rhodes -> Fethiye @ 4:30 pm

    Fethiye (2 nights) (M/T)
    - Day 11: Rhodes -> Fethiye @ 4:30 pm / n1
    - Day 12: Fethiye / n2

    Antalya (3 nights) (W/T/F)
    - Day 13: Fethiye -> Antalya
    - Day 14: Hillside SU Antalya
    - Day 15: Hillside SU Antalya

    Cappadocia (3 nights) (S/SM)
    - Day 16: Flight from Antalya -> Nevsehir, Urgup exploring / n1
    - Day 17: Green Tour / n2
    - Day 18: Hot Air Balloon Ride/Rose Valley hike / n3

    Istanbul (4 nights) (T/W/T/F)
    - Day 19: Morning flight from Nevsehir -> Istanbul, traditional tea, Nevizade / n1
    - Day 20: Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, Topkapi Palace, etc / n2
    - Day 21: Grand Bazaar, shopping, leftover sightseeing / n3
    - Day 22: Galata Tower, Bosphorus Cruise, Nisantasi / n4

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    Cannot comment on the Greek side since I have only been to Athens on business and had a one day tour, and once to Northern Greece.

    Turkey side looks good.

    Since you are doing three nights in Antalya, you may wish to drive up to Termessos one of those days if you have the proper walking gear. I always enjoyed it more than Perge or Aspendos. Check on Google. comfy sneakers with socks and cargo pants recommended for the Termessos adventure.

    Many years (possibly 28) ago there used to be a nouvelle cuisine restaurant at a hotel called Marina hotel (3 restored Ottoman houses and lovely courtyard) in the old town. I know it has changed hands and possibly name but maybe the restaurant kept up with the quality food.
    I still remember the wild mushroom soup with foam of chestnuts and the salmon roll with artichoke which started me on my own fusion recipes. I thought that everything about this restaurant was definitely better than the Michelin star restaurant I had eaten in Paris a few weks prior to the Antalya visit.

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    Yes, that is the hotel.

    It was originally just three buildings and one of the owners was a high school mate. Must have changed hands a few times since then and new property added. The photo shows one of the original buildings and the pool below which we had our dinner.

    The cheff at the time was a young Turk who had been trained in Switzerland and loved what he was doing.

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