These are questions I am frequently asked about traveling to Greece. I will ad to this page as time goes on. This page is meant to be helpful in planning a trip. It is by no way to serve as a guide book. I have a list of recommended guide books that you can order from Amazon.com to assist you.
1.0 Where do you suggest going?
1.1 Around Athens.2.0 Getting Around.
1.2.2 Peloponnese tour with assorted islands.
1.3 Ionian Islands.
1.6 Northern Greece.
5.0 Eating out.
6.0 When to go.
8.0 Cultural Differences.
9.0 What guide books do you recommend?
10.0 What is your favorite place in Greece?
1. Where do you suggest going.
Given a perfect world, and an infinite amount of money and an infinite amount of time I would suggest visiting all the islands and most of the historical main land sites as well. Unfortunately, you don’t have either luxury. Though Greece appears to be a small country on maps, her islands are spaced out and the time it takes to get from one part to area to another takes time. Especially by boat! Therefore, I’m suggesting a series of mini tours that can be done in a week to two weeks.2.0 Getting around.
1.1 Around Athens
Most tourists fly into Athens. This famous Greek city is now home to 7 million people! So even though it contains a rich amount of Greek culture and heritage, it may not be a good idea to linger. But if you have a week or less, you might as well see this city and use it as a base of operations for several day trips.1.2.1 The Peloponnese.
You will want to stay in or around Plaka. This is the old city and it is in walking distance of the major archeological sites as well as Museums. Here you will also find numerous shops to suite you needs and tavernas to fill your stomach. This is where all the budget places are. Needless to say, the Tourists congregate here. (There is a rumor that Plaka is cleverly devised to hold all the tourists so the Greeks can enjoy the city themselves.) In Athens, you will want to see The Acropolis, the Agora, Plaka, and the Archeological Museum (it helps to see the sites first then visit on your way out of Greece). Other sites of interest are Likavitós and numerous of little historical museums.
If you only have a few days, you might as well stay in Plaka (which also has numerous travel agents) and arrange day tours to Daphnie, Delphi & Ossious Lukas, and an island or two, the closest being Salaminia, Aegina and Poros. If you have more time, you should take a look at my suggested tours, depending on your liking.
Separated by the Corinth Cannel, the Peloponnese is juts off of the main land and contains many of the famous cities contained in myth and legend. Given the location of the important sites, it makes for a perfect car tour incorporating, sun, “sand” mountains and history. Start by leaving Athens by way of Daphne to the Corinth Canal. From there head to Corinth and see the old city. Spend the night in New Corinth so you can drive along the Gulf of Corinth in the daylight. Drive to Diakoftó . There you will find Vouraikos Gorge. Take the train along the gorge to Mega Spileo.( I recommend it above the end of the line. ) Spend the rest of the day looking around these scenic mountains. In the evening return to your car and spend the evening at the beach. I’d recommend spending the night here, the next “major” town in Patras. There are supposedly springs and underground lakes near by, but I can not find the name of the place. Ask in town, or in Kalávrita (the other end of the train track.) The next day continue along the coast. Stop in Patras if you want a quick hop to one of the Ioian islands (note, it is 7 hours to Corfu this is more than a hop). And continue to Chlemousti. The next day head down to the mountains and into Olympia. From there I would head south to Mystra, preferable along the coast though you could cut through the mountains. Mystra has some of the best Byzantine ruins in Greece. Sparta is near by but is not worth seeing. From there Drive along the Messenian gulf for some of the most scenic coastline in Greece. See Mani when you are down there then drive back towards Nauplion. Spend a couple days taking in the beauty of the city, as well as the beach. You will want to take an excursion to Epidauros. From there Go to Tiryns, and Mycenae, both can be seen in one day. Then head back to Athens.1.2.2 The Peloponnese plus Islands.
There are several small, but scenic islands off of the Peloponnese. You can easily throw in some terrific, though lesser known islands in your trip through the Peloponnese. Kefalonia and Zakynthos are both picturesque islands off of Patras. It only takes an hour or so to travel to them so you are not wasting a day getting to any of them. You can hop on a boat spend a couple days on them and continue your Peloponnese tour.1.3 Ionian Islands.
Another alternative that I would suggest would be the blitz tour of famous Peloponnese cities then spend a week island hopping. The only weakens of this journey is it would be best to travel by public transportation because the islands I am recommending do not allow cars. And I am not sure of the bus service in-between these cities. Start by leaving Athens on the Peloponnese highway. You may want to arrange a rental where you take a car from Athens and leave in Nauflion. Stop in Delphi on your way out of town and stay in New Corinth. There is decent food and logging there. From there take a bus to Old Corinth and then Mycenae. You may want to push on to Argos (home of the Argonots) because the lodgings around Mycenae leave something to be desired. Argos fame is the being the fabled home of Jason and The Argonots. You can get a picture of the Acropolis from the road if you want to skip this town. The old acropolis is all this town offers and it seemed crowed when I went through it. You will want to end up in Nauplion where you will want to spend at least one day, I’d suggest two because of the scenic beauty of this town. You may want to plan a 1/4 day trip to Epidaruous, with the worlds oldest amphitheater. From Nauplion you can catch a boat to either Spetses directly, or to a resort called Porto Heli and then to Spetses. (As the name resort implies, Porto Heli has nice beaches, but is expensive and touristy.) Spetses is a beautiful, island known as the Pine island. Spend a day or two exploring its scenic, hidden away beaches. From Spetses go to Hydra. In Hydra, don’t just shop on the waterfront and swim as most people here do. Take time to explore the town (if you get lost, just start walking down hill and you will reach the harbor). This town is full of traditional buildings. From Hydra go to Poros, Aegina and Salaminia. The amount of time you will spend on each of these places is up to you. I’d spend a day per island. And like I said, Old Corinth and Mycenae and Argos can be done in a day and you could even spend the night in Nauplion.
These beautiful islands are on the Western side of Greece and are not noticed as much because of their location away from the other islands. There is a small air port on Corfu. Corfu can also be reached by boat from Patras, Brendesi (Italy) or even Athens if you want to spend 14 hours on a boat. The must see island is Corfu. I would start your trek by visiting this island and spending a few days exploring all of its picturesque beaches and finding out why its known as the Green island. Then work your way down the chain, (Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaki, Kefalonia and Zakynthos). A nice thing about island hopping, is if you do not like an island, you can hop on the next boat and go to another island.1.4 The Cyclades.
These are the islands of the famed white washed houses (though you can see them all over Greece.) These are the most numerous islands in any group and will take the most amount of time to explore. These islands will give you a wide range of sites to see and things to do. However, traveling between them will also take the greatest amount of time. Must see islands in this group are Santorini, Naxos, Poros, Mykonos, Delos and Sifnos. You can fly into Mykonos or Santorini. Given the most time, I’d see these islands. Get a guide book, from my suggested books, and plan out what sounds good, and visit those islands. Again, if you don't like it, the next island is just a boat ride away.1.5 The Dodecanese.
These islands the furthest east and always under dispute who “owns” them because of their closeness to Turkey. They mirror the Cyclades in styles, and can be seen in conjunction with their sister islands if you have a lot of time. Must see islands are Lesbos and Rodes. These islands use to be part of a land bridge between Asia minor and Greece. A word of warning, be sure Greece and Turkey are not about to go to war before you visit these islands. It is often these islands that they are fighting over.1.6 Northern Greece.
I have not visited this part of Greece and I don’t know much about it. Mt. Olympus and Mt. Athos have scenic hiking. Mt. Athos is a holy mountain with a monastery that may take you in. The only two catches about going to this mountain are 1, you are male (no I am not sexist, that is their policy) and two you obtain a proper permit ahead of time.1.7 Crete
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. The home of the Minitor, the Minions, the Cretins and perhaps the lost continent of Alantis *. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean this island is also the furthest away from the mainland. It can be reached by plane. This girl I once knew was from the island and spoke of all the wonders to visit. From her description this island could easily take a couple weeks to explore alone.
Greek is the land with over 700 islands. Therefore, if you want to do serious exploring, abandon your car and catch the always dependable ferry boats and flying dolphins (hydrofoils). They almost always come and leave on schedule. If you are exploring the main land, a rental car may be the answer, though watch the small print. Some charge per day AND per kilometer! Busses can get you from point A to point B, though they are cramped. Greece has a fledgling train service that is infamous for having problems.3.0 Money
If you are island hopping, it may be cheaper to rent motor scooters on each island. Rental is cheap. Some of the islands require you to have a scooter license though. Its also easier than lugging them around with you.
Though part of the European Union, Greece still uses Drachmas. (They didn’t qualify for the Euro). Inflation is fairly bad there, when I visited in 1997 the rate was 300 drachmas per dollar. The good news is everything is fairly cheap. Because of inflation, merchants love when you pay with travelers checks or dollars. When you go, bring Travelers checks and 2 ATM cards with 4 digit pin numbers.4.0 Swimming.
Greece is surrounded on all sides by beautiful water. It draws you to swim. So go swimming. There are no official nude beaches. Many its O.K. to be topless and a few ignore it if you are nude. Look around first to be sure it is all right to be nude first!5.0 Eating Out.
Greece is loaded with scenic, tavernas. I found the more hole in the wall, the better the food, though this may not always be true. If you order American style, it could be a bit pricey. But if you order a few dishes for a group of people you can eat a lot for very cheap. Also, you are automatically brought bread for between 100 and 300 Drachmas. This is their form of a tip.6.0 When to Go.
Greece is extremely hot in July and August. The major island are also packed with tourists at that time. If you must go at that time do, but stick to the islands. Athens is unbearably hot (the smog helps). You will want to be near water to go swimming.7.0 Accommodations.
Though not the rule in all cities, such as Athens and Corinth, proprietors of hotels, hostels and villas meet boats as they arrive in cities. All offering you great deals for places to stay. Ask around to find the best deal. Most will even drive you to their lodgings. I arrived in Athens from the port of Zea and this did not happen, though I saw people advertising hotels in the main port.8.0 Culture shock and customs.
As I mentioned earlier tavernas automatically bring you bread when you sit down to eat. This is their version of a tip. Also Greeks sit down to eat for a long time, though in Athens they may try to rush you through. Secondly, Greece is an extremely hot place. Often between 1 and 5 everything is closed down for a siesta. This is because Greeks eat large lunches, its to hot, and they stay up late at night. In Athens things remain open, elsewhere, they do not. Sleep during this time, your body will thank you. Greeks also tend to stay up late at night (3 A.M. easily) because of this siesta. In small towns, some shops may not open the next day till ten or eleven, especial on weekends.9.0 Guide books
I’ve listed suggested guide books available form Amazon.com in my guide book section. This link will take you there.10.0 Where is your favorite place in Greece.
If I had to pick one place in Greece it would be Corfu, the green island. It has lush vegetation, rolling hills, scenic coastline and picturesque beaches. However, I wouldn’t give up the rest of Greece either.