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So I bought a time machine … well it looks more like a plane ticket!
August 29, 2014 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I’m going to be in Greece for around two weeks in mid-September, and am hoping for some advice in how to best immerse myself in Classical and Hellenistic history and art – as well as the practicalities and logistics of the present day!

I’m a student (with a student’s budget!) and essentially I could have gone earlier in the year as part of a study group but prefer to travel alone (which I’ve done to various European countries in the past) but am a little unsure of how to structure my trip. I prefer to spend more time at fewer places and really experience them rather than feel rushed – but at the same time want to make the most of it!

I fly to and from Athens and am thinking of spending around half my time there, with around a week in the middle spent visiting some other sites. Does that sound like a reasonable distribution of time? The sites that have immediately occurred to me are Delphi, Olympia, Corinth – where else could (or should) I go in that time period? And are there any less obvious places you’d recommend within Athens or a day trip (by public transport) away? Or specific tips on when and how to visit places perhaps? As I say above the main focus of my trip is the Classical period – but that doesn’t mean I want to ignore everything else! So more general recommendations of what is worth doing and seeing are welcome as well.

As far as transport and accommodation goes, given that, as a typical student, I’m definitely prioritising affordability over comfort, is that something I can sort out as I go or should I be planning in advance? Any advice on that front would be very gratefully received!

This is quite a loose question I know, but I hope it gives some idea of the type of trip I’m planning – so if anyone can give me the benefit of their experience or point me to resources on any of the areas I’ve mentioned (or anything I might not have thought of!) that would be great!
posted by an opinicus to Travel & Transportation around Greece (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try this book: Ancient Greece, An Explorer's Guide.

It gives you several itineraries with descriptions of their relations to which periods they're associated with. Really well written, too.
posted by Capri at 10:52 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I fly to and from Athens and am thinking of spending around half my time there, with around a week in the middle spent visiting some other sites. Does that sound like a reasonable distribution of time?

Yes, definitely! I visited Greece solo two summers ago and my trip looked a lot like this, though for my middle chunk of "away from Athens," I visited Crete. (Took the ferry there overnight for cheap, spent I think four nights there, returned on another overnight ferry - saved a lot in hotel expenses.) If you're open to something beyond a day trip from Athens, I highly recommend Crete.

Either way, I think this format (sandwiching non-Athens stuff between Athens stuff) is perfect. There is so much to do in Athens that you will hear about or remember during the first few days of the trip, and making another visit there before flying out gives you a chance to do those things you may not have planned for. (Or, if you're like me, you'll have to get one last look at the Acropolis before you leave.)

And are there any less obvious places you’d recommend within Athens or a day trip (by public transport) away?

The highlight of my trip was hiking up to the top of Mt. Lycabettus and taking the funicular down. Altogether, this took much of the day - I walked from my hotel to the bottom of the mountain, hiked up, and after taking the funicular down, walked back to my hotel. Such a fun way to see Athens from multiple perspectives, and a great break from being surrounded by loads of people at the more touristy sites; I cannot recommend it enough.

As far as transport and accommodation goes, given that, as a typical student, I’m definitely prioritising affordability over comfort, is that something I can sort out as I go or should I be planning in advance? Any advice on that front would be very gratefully received!

I sorted everything (which for me was really just hotels and ferry tickets) out in advance, because I am a person that likes Plans. But the internet is very reassuring about one's ability to do this on the fly, booking and making arrangements as you go. If you have a laid-back personality, I think you could definitely sort everything out as you go. I found the Greeks to be incredibly kind and helpful.


Have fun! Greece was utterly amazing, and just reading your post makes me want to do it again.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:11 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


haha, sounds like schroedingersgirl did almost the exact same trip I did. Athens, ferry, Iraklio, ferry, Athens. I also recommend that, right down to Lykavittos.

Places I didn't get to go that I wanted to : Mycenae, Ithaca.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:20 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


My number one piece of advice is not to skip Delphi -- for me it was the highlight of my trip.

Athens was interesting and had some things that were essential to see but also had some problems -- demonstrations and strikes occurring while we were there (when are they ever not?) and also crime and safety issues (three individual members of the group of about 15 relatives and friends we were traveling with were robbed: one pickpocket, one subway mugging, and a snatch-and-grab.) I recommend balancing your trip with some travel outside the capital if you can manage it. I wouldn't have skipped any of the time that we spent in Athens but I enjoyed just about every other site we traveled to more and I also enjoyed seeing a variety of sites around the country -- there's considerable variation and every place has its own local history.

Thira (Santorini) was beautiful but overly touristed for my taste (but then I live in a town that gets inundated every day in season with thousands of cruise ship tourists and so I don't really have to travel to get that experience..)

Crete was more laid back and had nice beaches.

Epidaurus was cool. Corinth was worth a stop if you're traveling by, but I maybe wouldn't do an excursion there solely for it. But it combines well with other sites that are in the same general area.

Mycenae was very interesting and in a beautiful setting.

But I'm still going to have to stick with Delphi as my favorite part of the trip. Don't miss it.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:33 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


You didn't mention Mycenae, but definitely, definitely Mycenae. It's my favorite place in Greece (I like it better than Delphi), and in Athens, be sure to go to the National Archaeological Museum to see all the things that have been taken from the actual sites (like the Mask of "Agamemnon" from Mycenae). That museum has by far the most impressive collection of ancient artworks I've ever seen (impresses me more than the Met, the Louvre, the Vatican, etc.). Also, don't miss the New Acropolis Museum in Athens; it is an AMAZING physical space, a modern museum done absolutely right. Have a frapé on the outside deck of their cafe under the Acropolis!

The Oxford Archaeological Guide for Greece is a really great book to have along when you're going to archaeological sites, especially if you don't have a (good) tour guide. (And there are definitely tour guides who are better than others in terms of knowledge and, um, accuracy.) I dismantled my copy into sections before travelling to Greece the first time so that I never had to bring the whole (hefty) book anywhere and brought only the sections for places I was going.

If you're doing islands, it might not be as appealing, but I really enjoy staying in the little town of Tolo on the coast. I highly recommend the Flisvos Hotel there (it's right on the water).
posted by lysimache at 2:37 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


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