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Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

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Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

I’m hoping to visit Greece for 2 - 3 weeks (depending on how far I can stretch my budget) sometime in the spring of this year. Early April is the most convenient time, but I might be able to manage early May as well. My interests are archaeological sites (primarily from the classical Greek period), local culture, and natural landscapes. I loathe sites or attractions recently built to look old. I’d rather see a genuine pile of rubble than a reconstructed palace. I’m not interested in nightlife or beaches—I prefer a nice stroll on an isolated stretch to basking. I don’t like hopping from place to place, but like to settle down and explore, wandering local streets and alleys. This means I’ll see less, but I’m going into this accepting I can’t possibly see all of Greece that I would like.

My very rough draft itinerary is:

-Fly into Athens and immediately to Chaina where I’ll stay for several days, exploring Western Crete, with a possible day trip to the Samaria Gorge.

-Bus to Iraklio where I’ll spend a day or two taking in the museum (if it’s open) and the sites near Phaestos

-Fly to Athens and KTEL to Delphi where I’ll overnight

-Hit Delphi at the crack of dawn then bus back to Athens

-Spend three days exploring Athens.

-Bus to Nafplio where I rent a car and settle in for three to four days to visit the nearby sites: Nemea, Tiryns, Epidaurus, Mycenae, and possibly Corinth.

-Back to Athens and fly home.

I have some specific questions, but would also be glad of any general advice or recommendations for my particular style of travel. Tear this itinerary to shreds if it needs it.

1) Given my interests, does Crete seem the best choice if I can do only one island? If not, what would you suggest?

2) If I can swing more time, which island would you recommend I add for local culture and historic sites? I had my heart set on visiting Delos, but from what I’ve read of Mykonos, it doesn’t seem to be the island for me

3) Will early April be a fine time to visit, or if possible, would you recommend I hold off to May? I’m particularly interested in catching the wildflowers in Crete.

4) If I am uncomfortable driving on winding, narrow roads, with little or no guardrails, would it be unwise for me to consider renting a car in Crete?

5) Will I see any locals in Nafplio plying anything other than the tourist trade? If not, are there local villages you’d recommend I visit.

6) I’ve read that Greece is a very safe country. As a woman, would I be fine on secluded walks on my own in Crete?

Many thanks!

Susan

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1. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Welcome Susan:) I think you've got a great plan here and considering your 'un'interest in beaches, think April is a splendid time to go (although May would be even better!)..and you will be enjoying everything in full bloom at that time! Although you may get some rain, it's definetely a time when things aren't 'touristy' yet and you'll find the locals getting ready in preparation for the tourist Season! Crete is ideal...the more time you can spend here the better..you've obviously done your research so you know anything under a week would be a waste here! As for the mainland, getting to Delphi is quite easy by bus...You may consider as well to take a bus to Nauplion and rent a car THERE locally to take in all the sites of interest in the Peloponesse (in the area) then dropping the car off and taking local transport back to Athens?! Nauplion is lovely and a great base for Corinth, Mycenae, Epidauros... and yes, Greece is as safe as they come, taking into consideration precautions you'd take anywhere!! Have fun...Enjoy!

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2. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Hi Susan

1)Crete is an excellent choice forwhat you want to do.

2)Mykonos is very different in late April/early May to what it is like in the high season.There won't be too many tourists around then. However,Greek Easter Sunday is on 27th April this year & Mykonos may have lots more visitors that weekend.

You can see Delos in half a day & you really only need to stay on Mykonos for one night if it is not to your liking.

3)If you want to see the Cretan wild flowers then the end of April may be better. I usually go around the 16th May & the flowers are dying off then.

There again if you go into the mountains the flowers will still be in bloom. In May the flowers can be dying off around the coaast but as you climb higher into the mountai villages the flowers will be in full bloom & there is still snow on the mountain tops until the end of May early June.

4) Most of the roads in Crete are ok as long as you exercise normal caution & you really do need a car to see what you want to see.

5)Nafplio is a beautiful base & you will see locals in the main squarein their restaurants & shops but you don't have to go very far out of town to see some ethnic villages.

6) As Litsa says, Greece is as safe as anywhere for single ladies as long as you are sensible.

My wife & I have walked in many secluded areas all over Crete & seen loads of unaccompanied women walkers. Depending where you are staying there are always people you can walk with if you are a bit dubious.

I always think you are safer in the mountains than you are in the cities.

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3. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Thanks, Litsa and Mick! This is a great help to help me get started honing my itinerary.

Susan

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4. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

ll these were recommended to me by Greek folks.

(3) Amari Valley; SE of Rethymno about 25 KM, a "loop" you can drive easily. See this before a modern damsite changes it forever! Also recommended by an ex-Pat; u can stay in a taverna in Thronos with stunning view of entire loop

LP 2002 says --- “If you have your own transport you can explore the enchanting Amari Valley SE of Rethymno between Mts Ida and Kedros. The region harbours around 40 well-watered unspoilt villages set amid olive groves and almond & cherry trees.

“The valley begins at the picturesque village of Apostoli, 25 km SE of Rethymno. The turnoff for Apostoli is on the coast 3 km EAST of Rethymno. The road forks at Apostoli and then joins up again 38 km to the South, making it possible to do a circular drive around the valley.”

IRAKLION - Museum isn't open; just around the corner is 2-room exhibit of the key pieces. Glad u are not doing Knossos; day trip bus to Phaestos more rewarding.

The rest for another post...

Philadelphia
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5. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Whoops! A glitch erased the first half of my post!

The beginning read:

usan, I agree with Litsa and GB that your itinerary sounds terrific. My tastes are similar, better rubble than "fake" restoration. Some "tweaks" --

TIMING --Early MAY would be better, IMO, weather-wise, more sunny days (i've done May 6 times). Still plenty of flowers in Crete.

CRETE DRIVING -- You'll be OK if you don't stray too far off main roads; little traffic to bother with. Here's a GREAT map of Western Crete for planning:

http://66.29.86.75/crete-maps/west.gif

CRETE SITES -- (1) Last May we had 2 nights as far west as u can go, Falassarna. We wer only guests at small Hotel Petalida overlooking beach: fish dinner from owner's own boat was sublime. Also, 5 minutes way a lovely Hellenistic fort/ruin overlooking the sea.

(2)The "Old Highway" from Chania toward Heraklion goes thru many neat small villages. Look at Vamos, a traditional village known for crafts... on the coast nearby from the little village of Almirida. GO inland to Gavalohori, tiny hamlet with a folk-arts museum. All these were recommended to me by Greek folks.

Philadelphia
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6. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

CONTINUED "tweaking"

ANOTHER ISLAND??? If you want history, landscape, classical/archaic ruins, think about Naxos... It has kouros lying around in orchards, Huge arch on an islet outside port, tons of history, mountains etc. Best way to show you is a photo-album from friend of mine:

GETTING to NAXOS -- first time I did it, I took the Friday evening ferry that goes to Santorini-Paros-Naxos then Piraeus. U arrive about 2:30 in the AM. Ah well. You could take a fast-ferry to Santorini 9:45-11:45, and an afternoon ferry (3:15 - 5:15) to Naxos--- and scuttle up to the top to take 3 snapshots, eat a gyro, and go back to the dock.

DELOS -- there's a day-trip from Naxos which gives you about 3-4 hours on delos which is all you'd want.

NAXOS-Delphi ... there's a 6pm ferry to athens arr 10:45, catch a few hr sleep in budget hotel, catch the 7 am Bus to Dellphi.

and finally NAFPLIO:

This is the GREATEST town! No promotion; greeks don't want us to know about it -- a v. greek town, fave Athenian getaway. Ruins ruins ruins ...I prefer Tiryns (right outside town, 10 mins on bus). Renting a car 1 day you can do Mycenae (or Tiryns) and Nemea -- super "games" sight, like Olympia!! and then Epidaurus, all in 1 day. Take a picnic!

FINAL BONUS -- take Tolo bus from Nafplio, ask driver to let u off before Tolo, at Asine crossroads, walk down a lane to lovely beach and super RUINS! You'll be virtually alone in May!

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7. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Thanks, Travelerjan. Great advice and great tips! I've copied them into my travel file.

Would the day trip from Naxos to Delos be available in May?

Susan

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8. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Yes, I believe the day trip to Delos is available in May, probably not every day. So you should check the travel agencies along the paralia (waterfront walkway) the day to arrive, so that you know your options.

I believe it goes around 8 am gets there 10? 10:30? then leaves around 2?? and goes to Mykonos for about 3-4 hours before heading back. -- see, you were worried that you were going to miss your chance to shop for expensive Jewelry and Coach Bags, and Calvin Klein! No no, you'll have that chance! And you can watch cruise passengers taking pictures of each other... or (better) just wander away through the agora maze and up to the left of it up the hill, away from the crowds.

This probably means you'll have a meal there before the boat leaves... If you are in the Maze near the area where the busses turn around --- a place called Marco Polo, tables spread on several streets is a good value.

If you are right by the port, Most tour people eat at Niko's near the Quay. Instead, start into the mazey Agora on Metropolis Street only about 50-75, feet and look to your left. There is a tiny little taverna/ Grill called YIavrouta Estaiatorio. Greeks eat there. Wonderful roast chicken & lamb, their own barrelled wine, and non-Mykonos prices.

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9. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Thanks, Travelerjan! I've been busy plotting itineraries around your suggestion of the Amari Valley.

Susan

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10. Re: Itinerary advice for first trip to Greece

Oh oh oh --- so pleased to hear that the Amari Valley struck a chord with you; I've wanted to go there ever since a friend (in 1998!) who was solo, had only 3 days in Crete, and picked this out of a guidebook as the drive to take... she found it sublime.

I googled Amari valley a couple of months ago, when trying to advise 2 sisters on a car jaunt -- and found this wonderful Crete "blog" entry on the Valley:

…wordpress.com/crete-articles/…

The blogger "Ray" is a really gifted writer (though apparently a retired UK engineer) and I have been enthralled by his tales of Crete over the years. Here is his excerpt of discovering Amari in his 20s in the 1960s--

…wordpress.com/early-days-in-the-island-of-c…

What is more, thru him, i have for you a recommendation for a taverna to stay in overnight in Thronos... one he mentioned belonging to a friend, very welcoming, Very Zorba. I went to a forum "interkriti" and asked if anyone knew Ray, and Up he popped with the contact info -- here it is:

"The Taverna Aravanes and the owner Lampros Papoutsakis is on the telephone: number 28330 22760 and 28310 22644.

"The postal address is:

Taverna Aravanes

Thronos

Amari 74061

Rethymno

Crete, Greece.

"I hope this is what you need --- Ray"

Thronos apparently has one of THE best vistas of the valley... if u go, please report back how it was, then I can go in imagination, anyway!