Where should we go in Greece for 2 Weeks?
May 19, 2016 11:15 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I will be in Greece this summer from June 18-July 9. We're flying in and out of Athens. Aside from staying in the capital for a few days, we're not sure how to narrow down where else to go. If you were us (priorities after the jump), which destinations would you choose?

Our main priorities:

- swimming and lounging on nice sandy beaches that aren't too mobbed
- seeing some natural beauty

Things we want to avoid:

- places that are hard to get to; I'm ok renting a car if need be, but we don't want to spend really long stretches of time on ferries or buses
- Spring Break vibes (we're in our mid-30s)


- 70€/night for accommodations (max, though of course we could offset some nicer places with some cheaper ones)
- Food-wise we'll be looking for inexpensive local stuff as much as possible

As you can see, we're basically just looking to de-stress; on this trip we're fine with going to Greece but not visiting some must-see tourist place. We're fine with just seeing Athens and 2-3 other places.

Thanks for any tips on which towns/islands to go to. I'm guessing the Cyclades and maybe Pelloponese are probably what fit the bill, but even then the options seem endless. Please un-daunt us!
posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation around Greece (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone I know that went to Corfu came back a delightfully changed person.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:18 AM on May 19, 2016

places that are hard to get to; I'm ok renting a car if need be, but we don't want to spend really long stretches of time on ferries or buses

I would suggest island hopping by, yes, ferry. Sitting on the deck of a ferry munching fresh bakes bread, olives and feta out of a bag in balmy sunset weather as an island harbour disappears behind you is one of (at least my) life's great pleasures. I hopped all of the Cyclades, had an amazing time, and never rented a car.

But if what you want is a relaxing no hassle break then I would say to base your Cyclades adventure from Santorini and avoid Mykanos.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:47 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

How far are you willing to drive? The Pelion peninsula is about 3-5 hours drive north of Athens (depending how deep you want to go into the peninsula). This is off the beaten path, for foreign tourists at least, and the beaches are both excellent and relatively quiet, plus it has gorgeous wooded/mountainous scenery. We visited last August (at the height of the summer season) and it rarely felt crowded; we would return at the drop of a hat.

Tsagkarada (or any of the villages in that area) makes a good, peaceful base, with picturesque squares and local walks. There are plenty of restaurants to suit all pockets, with freshly caught seafood a speciality. There are some small touristy type sights (the Pelion Railway is a highlight), but the main reason to go there is to get away from it all.
posted by oclipa at 12:03 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did something a bit like this last year. I spent a few days in Athens and then from there flew to Crete for about a week. I chose what I did because I happened to have a friend in Chania, Crete, I could stay with for free (but I also was not going to Greece without seeing the Acropolis), but it was a fantastic trip that I would do all over again in a heartbeat.

If I had to do it again as a vacation, purely the way I'd want to without factoring in "staying with a friend" stuff, here's what I'd do:

1. A week or close to it in Athens. This gives you time to deal with jet lag if that's a factor, and also potentially the ability to not only see the important stuff in Athens but also make a few day trips. (Sorry I can't recommend anything here, without the time to do any day trips, I didn't get around to researching that.) If nothing else, I definitely would have loved the chance to go to Piraeus.

1a. Athens is great, don't believe the haters. Stay around Monastiraki Square. I personally liked the area around the flea market north of the square, an easy walk to the Acropolis but a bit outside the Plaka tourist crowds. It's full of cute restaurants and shops, and has a bustling local scene.

2. I chose Crete because, again, I happened to have a friend there. I loved Chania, which is an ancient city that passed from Greek to Roman to Arab to Byzantine to Venetian to Ottoman hands over the course of the last few millennia. It's a historic seaport with a gorgeous and quaint "Old Town" centered around a harbor. RyanAir flies there from Athens, and you can take a bus or taxi into the tourist area in just a few minutes. There's a local beach which is fine but not really a Beach Destination. More interesting, beach-and-nature wise are the areas around Chania. I'm not sure what the best way to access those are (it rained the whole week I was there!), but Chania is a major tourist destination for families and people of about your description, and a lot of what they go for is the beaches and hiking and the like. So there's got to be infrastructure to get you to these places.

3. I'd also take a day trip -- or maybe an overnight -- to Heraklion, for the Minoan site of Knossos. Phaistos might also be worth a visit.

I don't have advice on other islands to choose in lieu of the one I happened to visit -- and my little corner of Crete doesn't necessarily offer the main stuff you guys are looking for -- but Crete is great and more people should go there as opposed to Mykonos or Santorini or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Crete!!!! Everything Sara C. said about Crete. There are some really stunning beaches close to Chania and though I didn't go it seemed that you could book a "tour" and bus down for the day or rent a four-wheeler-cars are expensive on the island IIRC. Even just the town beach was nice, though, (I liked it better than Santorini) and the island was less tourist filled than Santorini.

Spend a few days in Athens but maybe not a week-there's beautiful ruins and fantastic museums (especially the one at the Parthenon) but a week seems long. Definitely drive out to Delphi-the most gorgeous ruins I saw my whole trip-but try to stay overnight. It's way up in the mountains and the sunset was gorgeous.

i found Santorini overrated but I am among the few to share this viewpoint. I did love riding on the ferry, however.
posted by clarinet at 12:40 PM on May 19, 2016

I mainly say a week because 2-3 days wasn't long enough in my opinion, even without travel days and jet lag to factor in. To me, a day to arrive/settle in, 2-3 days for Athens itself, a couple day trips (or an overnight at Delphi?), then a travel day to your next destination would be ideal.

3-5 days would probably be ideal if you won't have to factor in travel time or jet lag and end up staying on the mainland such that seeing Delphi or the like wouldn't really count as a "day trip".
posted by Sara C. at 1:05 PM on May 19, 2016

My wife and I went to Greece for a friend's wedding a couple years ago. We spent an extra week there in the end-of-July, start-of-August time frame with very similar requirements to yours.

Athens was a solid "meh". Athens is definitely worth a day, maybe two to see the must-see sights. The list of "must-see" might be long if you're really into Greek History/Ancient Civilizations, but I think most people agree that Athens is not the best that Greece has to offer.

-Crete is awesome.
-Santorini has a quiet side, and if you stay in Firostefani or Imerovigli instead of Fira, it can be pretty cheap. There's a good beach, and it wasn't busy when we were there at the end of July.
-Mykonos is beautiful, but pricey.

We also really enjoyed our time in Thessaloniki. That's where the wedding was, but we found the pace of life there to be wonderful. There are some great beaches at Halkidiki that are public but made to look private/exclusive. We rented a car to get there, but there are probably other options.

If you go to Thessaloniki, go get some trigona (trigono?). They are an amazing cross between cannoli and baklava. Except better.

MeMail me if you have other questions.
posted by KevCed at 1:11 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nafplio, the first Greek capital, is wonderful! So is Paros. Nafplio for culture followed by Paros for lotus-eating - that's my suggestion.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 1:55 PM on May 19, 2016

Milos. Almost as beautiful as Santorini, but less well known and much less built up. It's delightful.
posted by googly at 2:24 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing a lot of the above (time to explore Athens, avoid the crowds at Mykonos, island hop, check out Thessaloniki).

I'll throw in this: Rhodes is a very unique little town / island with a cool old city to explore surrounded by a new city that's equally interesting to explore, and beyond. We went in off season and there wasn't a person at the beach, but I didn't get the sense it would be a lot more crowded in on-season. Highly recommend just getting a scooter rental to get around there.

Have fun!
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Rhodes. Note that the "cool old city" is actually a very well-preserved medieval fortified city, not a Classical era town. It feels very different from the other places people have recommended; not just because of the medieval buildings, but also because it's very close to Turkey (you can see the coast) and has much more of a Muslim influence on the architecture.
posted by asterix at 4:02 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thirding Rhodes. Great history, beautiful medieval city, lovely beaches and forests. If you want a written tour guide by my friend who goes every year for the summer, PM me, and I'll email it to you.
posted by travellingincognito at 6:26 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been researching this too because I'm going next month. I would say Crete, but if you want beaches, you probably want to stay somewhere on the south or east I think?

Not Santorini at your price point unless you are happy to stay in backpacker style accomodation. Also it's known for cliffs, not beaches.
posted by lollusc at 6:27 PM on May 19, 2016

Three opinionated thoughts:

- Rhodos city is spectacular - but super-mass-touristic. The southern coast is very much off the usual radar, and conserves a more authentic side to island life, along with endless sandy beaches.

- An island that you can reach with one local flight, and that's so forgotten it was struck off the maps back when the dictatorship banished communists there - helping the century-old identity of the islanders to quietly flourish in isolation - is Ikaria. Take a look at its two sides (north coast / south coast) and see if what you read speaks to you. We found it quite unforgettable (including a few days in the pristine backwater that is Fourni).

- A larger island, that's perhaps slower to grow on you, but finally similarly singular, is Karpathos; avoid the one larger town, and the secluded bays abound, dotted around the spectacular wilderness of the interior. There were direct, cheap flights from Athens when we were there two summers ago.
posted by progosk at 5:49 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

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