I've OVER saturated myself with books, websites, etc. Over saturated to the point where I'm not quite sure what to plan. This post will have lots of questions (and I have looked at and will continue to look at the FAQ sections). Any info / guidance/ advice would be helpful.
This is a honeymoon trip for myself and future wife (I'm 41, she's 31). My first time to Europe, coming from the U.S. We arrive on 8/21 and leave 9/1 (11 total nights). We realize this is the 'high season', but have to come at this time period.
Our interests: some beach time for a couple of lazy days, snorkeling, lots of history / archaeology, a small smattering of night life (not really into a crowded "Cancun" type of experience), a couple of light hikes, photography, charming old towns, and hopefully to experience some real Greek culture (i.e., some quiet time away from the crowds in a small village, if that's possible).
Our budget for the rest of the trip (including everything - transfers, hotels, meals, tourist trinkets, etc.) would be no more than an additional $7000. This is independent of the international airfare to/from Athens.
1) Only want to spend a couple of nights in Athens to hit some main attractions and then head out. My thought was to have this at the end of the trip, so we can just catch our flight back home without having to worry about a connection from one of the islands. Good idea? Or should I plan it differently?
2) Santorini and Crete are definitely on our list. 3 nights sufficient time to experience Santorini? (beach, boat excursion, history site, shopping). I'm anticipating large crowds and not a lot of quiet areas or time.
3) I'm thinking Crete seems like it would lend itself to more opportunities to find some secluded quiet spots (beaches, small villages, or otherwise). I'm attracted to the Western part of the island - Chania town looks very interesting. Good base for us (renting a car) to travel to various beaches, attractions? We do want to hit Knossos, possibly Arkadi monastery (which actually are in Central area, right? how much travel time am I looking at from Chania?). I was thinking 5-7 days here. Should we stay in one town, or is it worth it to split time (East vs. West)? Which leads into . . .
4) Should I try to add a third island in here? That would obviously cut into the time on Crete. I was considering adding either historical Rhodes (which may not be feasible, based on distance) or a smaller, less touristy island to get a little peace, maybe one of the islands ending in "os"? (Naxos, Sifnos, or Paros look appealing) If I added the third island, it would probably have to create a 3 - 3 -3 - 2 night split (2 being Athens). Anybody done this kind of schedule? Did it feel too harried? Would you do it again that way, or spend more time on only a couple of islands?
I would try and fly between islands or do a hydro-foil to save travel time where I could.
Any responses to questions or general advice on where to go, what to see, that may fit this honeymoon are greatly GREATLY appreciated. I figure once I've got this generally planned, I'll start contacting travel agents (and hit you guys up with another question about recommended agencies).
Sorry about so many questions. I'll shut up now. Thanks for reading. :)