Fantastic 50th in Greece?
June 19, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I turn 50 in September and am taking the trip to Greece that I've wanted to take since I was about 10. The problem is, there's so much to see and so much I want to do.... And I'd also love to get recommendations for a fantastic and romantic dinner in Athens on the actual birthday night.

So we have just over three weeks. We are flying into Athens and staying a couple/three days there. That leaves the rest of our time. The problem is there is probably way too much I want to do since this is a trip I've wanted to take for forever. I'm tentatively thinking Athens, Delphi, the Peloponnese including Mycenae and perhaps somewhere rural for a couple nights, Crete, then back thru a couple islands (Santorini, Naxos? Milos?). Is that doable in three weeks or way too much? Are there must sees that I've left out? (Interested in antiquities and beaches and landscapes and eating...) Will we need advance bookings everywhere in September or will we be able to be a bit flexible? Also we will be in Athens for the actual birthday night and I'd love to hear recommendations for a romantic dinner there.
posted by Cocodrillo to Travel & Transportation around Greece (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We did Athens, Naxos, Santorini, and Crete in a week or so. If I did it again I'd only spend a day in Athens - see the sites and then get out of town to the islands. Naxos and Santorini were both great; tool around in mopeds (or quads if you're balance-challenged) if you can. I would have liked to spend more time in Crete; it's a big island and very charming. We booked things in advance because we didn't want to get stranded on an island without a place to stay or a defined route to the airport. We had one dinner in a gorgeous outdoor garden in Athens, but I can't seem to find the name of the place - if I do I'll let you know.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2014

Santorini was one of the few places that was exactly as nice as it looked in the pictures. Get out of Fira a little bit; we went to a winery a little ways out and the countryside is beautiful. Beaches, too. Pretty easy to get around on the bus if that's your thing.

If you're taking ferries between islands, you are better off not booking in advance, IME. The schedules you find online are not accurate or reliable, and it was a big pain for us that we had reservations already, because they frequently didn't align right with the ferries. We traveled at end of July/early August (so high season) and were still able to find places when the ferries left us somewhere weird, so I think you'll be OK in September. I'm sure others can chime in with better info.

We went to Heraklion, Rethimno, and Chania on Crete. Maybe don't bother with Heraklion, which is just a city (and a pretty ugly industrial one); Rethimno and Crete were both really pretty towns. If you can rent a car I would. Crete is a big island and there was a lot we didn't get to see because we were limited to where the buses went.

It's way far (we were coming from Istanbul & Ephesus), but I was really impressed by Rhodes. The town is stupid beautiful, the beaches are nice, lots of museums/antiquities, and it seemed like the food was better but that might be my imagination. Anyway. If you're out that way at all, I'd do it.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:52 PM on June 19, 2014

Three weeks is a great amount of time, but try to build in enough time to just relax. I recommend picking an island region, and sticking to islands that are accessible via ferries that run there. For example, the Cyclades. You could spend the first 3 days in Athens. Then head for the islands via ferry. 2 nights in Milos, 3 nights in Santorini, 5 nights in Naxos, 5 nights in Crete (Rethymno and Chania), then back to Athens for a few more days before leaving. Other mainland places, and Peloponnese/Delphi would not be doable in this kind of timeframe.

The most special places we saw were:
--Santorini, Caldera view hotel, (Hotel Keti) and lunch at the world-class restaurant, Selene.
--Milos Sea Kayaking in caves
--Naxos, wandering around the old city, and renting a car to drive around the island.
--Crete, great hiking with Happy Walkers near Rethymno.
--Chania, Lefka Apartments had GREAT hospitality that you will want to tell everyone about.

One of my fave restaurants in Athens is Mama Roux.

Unfortunately, booking ferries in advance doesn't work so well, so you'll want to get comfortable with the idea of not having 100% of everything planned. Ferry times are pretty variable, so allow a bit of wiggle room for your schedule. You'll have a great time!
posted by oxisos at 3:51 PM on June 19, 2014

Ok, so I've recommended this to pretty much everyone. But if you like sailing or water or boats, I can recommend a Greek Islands sailing trip. I've sailed with this outfit 3 times now (twice in Greece, once in Croatia) and it's alot of fun. If I go again I will definitely include Santorini in the trip. You could ferry your way to Santorini and spend a week sailing back towards Athens, or vice versa.

One caveat: you have to be okay with staying in a tiny cabin on a sailboat. For example, there was a young couple on one trip that was less-than-pleased that they didn't have enough room to get busy, but others admitted to having no trouble in this regard, so YMMV.
posted by cabingirl at 12:34 AM on June 20, 2014

Oh, and if you go to Mykonos eat at Fato a Mano.
posted by cabingirl at 12:35 AM on June 20, 2014

You might also want to consider looking at Mario Batali's recent tweets (@mariobatali); he's currently on vacation in Greece and apparently having a hell of a time. You may be able to glean suggestions from him, or just tweet him directly and ask him for a couple recommendations. He's really, really generous on twitter and responds to a lot of messages sent to him. (Publicly anyway, no idea what he does with DMs).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:48 AM on June 20, 2014

Also we will be in Athens for the actual birthday night and I'd love to hear recommendations for a romantic dinner there.

Athens is a big place, you probably need to figure out where you will be staying before you can answer this. Filistron is a solid downtown choice (you definitely want to sit on the terrace), quiet but in a pretty touristy location so will combine well with other stuff.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:35 AM on June 21, 2014

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