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Thread: Istanbul, Athens, Santorini

  1. #1
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911

    Istanbul, Athens, Santorini

    Thinking of putting a trip like this together in October over a two week period. Too ambitious? Istanbul ok for travel these days? How many days in each?

    Any my and all feedback welcome.

  2. #2
    katva is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Posts: 4,769
    I would probably spend equal parts in each place! We spent a couple of weeks on Santorini and then left only 2 days in Athens--- was not enough time in Athens (although I had been several times before, my husband hadn't, and wished we had more time there). I've been trying to plan a trip to Istanbul as well---and I think I would want more than a few days---I have been invited by a close friend, but am also a bit concerned about travel there now. Tacking on a side trip to Bodrum would be something I would want to do as well. I'll be so interested in your trip to Istanbul if you go! Sorry I can't contribute more. We stayed in Oia on Santorini, in an old but gorgeous cave house overlooking the Caldera. In Athens, we stayed at a great hotel overlooking the Parthenon, which was lighted at night---spectacular!!

    Also, I'll add that we went in mid-late September , and the weather was ideal for the beach and swimming on Santorini ---- not too hot and sunny every day. I'm sure it's cooler in October, but I think the weather is good.
    If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room :)

  3. #3
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 7,961
    We suggest avoiding Athens- it has become crime ridden and retailers are pulling up stakes due to violence and break ins. It is not a happy City with all of their economic turmoil. Istanbul and Santorini are wonderful.

  4. #4
    GramChop is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2007 Austin, Texas Posts: 17,011
    While I've never been to Istanbul nor Santorini, I have to agree with Hopper. My memories of Athens are mostly negative. We were pickpocketed once and stopped several other attempts. We were also involved in a car "accident" while riding in a taxi with opportunists. If the police hadn't arrived when they did I might not be sharing this story. It was a very scary incident. All this while in the crowded "tourist" areas. Also, the lack of respect for property was disgusting. The "tags" (graffiti) on the Parthenon was the most appalling. I left there with a very bad taste in my mouth.
    The waves of the sea bring me back to me.

  5. #5
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Thanks for the input and ideas. Looking like we may not spend any real time in Athens, rather will split the trip between Istanbul and Santorini. We were toying with a ferry ride one way, which would put us in Athens one night to make the early ferry.

    With the feedback, we're now leaning towards end of September, early October - 5, 6 days each spot.

    More to come, and any and all additional feedback welcome.

  6. #6
    seasalt is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Posts: 576
    Hi Deb,
    I have been to Istanbul several times, last time in the summer of 2014. It is one of my favorite cities ever. As cross roads of the world, it is so rich in history, culture, cousin...Great shopping too! I highly recommend staying in Cirkeci Konak hotel. It is centrally located - Hagia Sofia, Underground Cistern, Hippodrome and Blue Mosque are all within walking distance. The staff of the hotel is the nicest and most helpful, the breakfast is super delicious. You will have fun in this part of the world. I don't know Athens much - just visited it once too many years ago. My vote goes to Istanbul and Santorini:) Have fun planning your trip.

  7. #7
    katva is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Posts: 4,769
    I think missing Athens would be fine too---- but my opinion of the city was turned around completely last visit. Although that was 4 years ago.....my husband was awestruck by the ancient architecture, and seeing it through his eyes was remarkable. My personal vote would also be to go to Istanbul!!! Looking forward to your notes!
    If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room :)

  8. #8
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Quote Originally Posted by seasalt View Post
    Hi Deb,
    I have been to Istanbul several times, last time in the summer of 2014. It is one of my favorite cities ever. As cross roads of the world, it is so rich in history, culture, cousin...Great shopping too! I highly recommend staying in Cirkeci Konak hotel. It is centrally located - Hagia Sofia, Underground Cistern, Hippodrome and Blue Mosque are all within walking distance. The staff of the hotel is the nicest and most helpful, the breakfast is super delicious. You will have fun in this part of the world. I don't know Athens much - just visited it once too many years ago. My vote goes to Istanbul and Santorini:) Have fun planning your trip.
    Thanks so much for the hotel recommendation. Had not figured that out yet.

    Hubby had found a wonderful sounding place in Santorini, name of which escapes me for the moment. Anastasis Apartments, I think.

  9. #9
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Sirkeci looks great. Thank you. Huge help.

  10. #10
    katva is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Posts: 4,769
    DebD---yes, that's a great place to stay on Santorini! We toured the property, although we stayed in a private place that's sadly no longer on the rental market. We have looked at Anastasis for a future visit. Great location too.
    If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room :)

  11. #11
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Quote Originally Posted by katva View Post
    DebD---yes, that's a great place to stay on Santorini! We toured the property, although we stayed in a private place that's sadly no longer on the rental market. We have looked at Anastasis for a future visit. Great location too.
    Thanks, Katva.

  12. #12
    infi is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2006 Sydney, Australia Posts: 1,295
    I second Turkey but would add in some trips beyond Istanbul such as to Ephesus, Caves of Zeus , Temple of Artemis, House of the Virgin Mary and more. Turkey has such a rich representation of history and there is so much to see there. Santorini is nice enough but it is on the usual agenda so you can do it on any trip to Europe but Turkey has a lot to offer including the coast like Bodrum or Kusadasi. Worth more than a few days I think.

  13. #13
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 7,961
    A suggestion- fly to Santorini first from the States; and then back to Istanbul. The ferry is a long ways from Athens and can be high seas. The flight is about 60 minutes from Athens. British Air also flies direct from London in the summer but doesn't post these flights until a little later.

  14. #14
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Quote Originally Posted by infi View Post
    I second Turkey but would add in some trips beyond Istanbul such as to Ephesus, Caves of Zeus , Temple of Artemis, House of the Virgin Mary and more. Turkey has such a rich representation of history and there is so much to see there. Santorini is nice enough but it is on the usual agenda so you can do it on any trip to Europe but Turkey has a lot to offer including the coast like Bodrum or Kusadasi. Worth more than a few days I think.
    Thanks. Will check out these other places, especially Bodrum, which now has come up a couple of times.

  15. #15
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Quote Originally Posted by stbartshopper View Post
    A suggestion- fly to Santorini first from the States; and then back to Istanbul. The ferry is a long ways from Athens and can be high seas. The flight is about 60 minutes from Athens. British Air also flies direct from London in the summer but doesn't post these flights until a little later.
    Hmmm. So maybe the ferry is not such a fun idea. stbartshopper, Was the suggestion to go to Santorini first because of the ferry idea? Not sure, are you saying that you can sometimes fly direct from London to Santorini? Can you also fly direct from Santorini to London?

  16. #16
    DaveM is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Jul 2007 Posts: 229
    Quote Originally Posted by debd View Post
    Thinking of putting a trip like this together in October over a two week period. Too ambitious? Istanbul ok for travel these days? How many days in each?

    Any my and all feedback welcome.
    Hi deb.

    If you are avid travelers you can visit all three places, just enough. If you object to lots of unpacking, then repacking, then commuting to next place, then repeat, each taking at least one of your days including to and from the US, and might instead wish to max out the layabout time in Santorini, then I would leave off Athens. But only if you must. Once you are at the Athens airport anyway, it's worth the few extra days.

    My wife and I visited Greece for about 20 days in July 2009 (pre-extreme financial troubles), including Athens and Mykonos, but not Santorini; this time period includes 9 days sailing in the Ionians, so we experienced what it takes to (reasonably sanely) move about the country a bit. We also visited Istanbul for four nights nights in the summer of 2013, with our teenage boys in tow, on the way home from a Middle East trip. Just giving you the limits of our experiences, to try to help.

    First, although there are some contorted ways to get around from mainland to the islands, such as bus to closer ferry, etc., almost always we found you just have to capitulate to fly through Athens to and from wherever you are going, presuming it's an island or a flight from/to the US. If the culture of Greece and the "way of life" of its peoples is of interest, this is the invisible benefit of visiting Athens. The Acropolis and the new museum, and the placka are very cool, not costly, and also force/allow you to make your way through everyday life of the city's citizens, which is educational. I am glad we made this effort.

    We liked Mykonos, and did look at Santorini as well, which I understand to be a bit quieter, but dramatically beautiful, yet less beachy. Can't comment on October versus July.

    Istanbul is a major city to take in. For starters the Muslim culture, along with relevant regional long, long, long history is much of the story, and calls for as much advance learning as you can put forth. Our four nights, with private guides and lots of taxis for two of the days, were not enough. Mass transit is not so great, so getting around is just slow (maybe less in October than summer, though), yet there is MUCH to see. We were there when the main park was being gassed, and experienced minor tear gas one evening, from a distance while at dinner outside, but it was no big deal. I would have no safety concerns right now. Any protesting is still just a small fraction of a very large city.

    One plan might be to fly to Istanbul first, then stay for about five nights after you land; then fly to Athens and spend four nights and try to leave in the AM after your fourth night so you'll be in Santorini with most of an arrival day still ahead of you. The you'd have about six more nights and could still return sanely to the US over the last weekend. Or just chop out Athens if you want more time and less travel efforts in Istanbul and Santorini.

    Good luck and let me know if you want any more info.

    Dave

  17. #17
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    You all are just awesome. Thanks so much. When we started to think about the trip, the first thing I said was, "Let me go to the SBHOnline forum. I'm betting we'll get some great feedback and ideas."

    Tru' dat!

  18. #18
    marybeth is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2004 Pittsburgh, PA Posts: 3,272
    Hi Deb!
    We're in the early stages of planning a trip to Greece this summer, Santorini, Naxos and Athens. We decided to keep the Athens portion short due to the same concerns heard above, but at the same time, to be able to see some of the amazing sites.

    For Santorini, we're looking at Firostefani and Imerovigli as I was worried Oia would be too crowded in high season. That is probably not the case in October. Apparently there is a 10K hike between Fira and Oia that looks amazing.

    Like others suggest, we're flying between most destinations, just taking the ferry from Santorini to Naxos (2 hours.)

    I'll try to remember to post back when we return. Also looking forward to hearing about Istanbul.

    mb

  19. #19
    GayleR is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2002 Toronto, Canada Posts: 1,958
    Ah Santorini...one of my favourite places in the world.

    We stayed in Firostefani at Tsitouras Collection, which was beyond fabulous. It's a former private residence - only 5 rooms. The best room by far is the Nureyev, with it's own private terrace, then Winds and Portraits which are also very nice but no comparison. The pool is brand new and stunning.
    http://www.tsitouras.com/

    The owner Eleni Tsitoura is AMAZING!!! Tell her I referred you. The service is like nothing you've ever experienced. It's like having your own private hotel but with round the clock staff who are incredible yet unobtrusive.

    The property is located right on the edge of the caldera, up very high. It can be chilly at night so take sweaters. It's also super casual, like SBH. It's very private too yet it's a 5-7 minute walk from where the town of Fira starts, which is the very touristy area with all the shops and restos. We walked into Fira every day/night. The hotel is also walkable to lots of very good restaurants. We rented a car so we could drive around and go to the beaches. Eleni's husband runs the car rental company and he was lovely. He brings the car right to the hotel.

    You must drive to Oia, the most westerly tip of the island known for the most beautiful sunsets in the world, though the sunsets from our hotel balcony were identical and totally peaceful. Literally hundreds of loud, belching tour buses arrive in Oia very afternoon filled with German, Dutch and Brits all there to gawk and take pictures. Go to Oia for lunch and to walk around and then head back to Tsitouras for a private sunset viewing from the chairs at the top of the property - the most stunning, unobstructed view of the same sunset but without the crowds.

    Restaurants

    Lunch:
    Lucky's Souvlaki - a whole in the wall right on the main road in Fira heading towards Firostefani. Counter seating only. The best gyros I've EVER had and owner Lucky is a hoot. Super cheap and just fun.

    Dmitris - Ammoudi - For me the best meal of the trip. Ammoudi is past Oia at the far west end of the island. It's a wild drive (not wilder than SBH) through beautiful terrain. Right along the water are a handful of seaside restaurants. Walk right to the very, very end and that's Dmitris. Owned by Dmitris and his Canadian wife, Dawn, she'll take care of you. The fish is caught right there. Don't miss the fish!

    Perivolos Beach is a black beach at the far eastern end of the island. It's filled with beach clubs which are very fun. By far the nicest beach club is called JoJos. You can rent chairs and hang all day listening to great music and eating and drinking. The beach boys serve you at your chairs. Very chill. Best Santorini salad. Big and varied menu. Lots of other restos along the beach too.


    Dinner:
    Aktaion - A stone's throw from the hotel is a teensy, charming, very traditional family taverna in Firostefani. Nothing fancy, but nice home cooked Greek food.

    Il Cantuccio - also a stone's throw from the hotel - very good Italian fare - cheap - pizza, pasta.

    Archipelagos - Fira - carved into the cliff of the caldera with a stunning view if you go before dark. Big and varied Greek menu. More gourmand, superb food. The feta, artichokes were to die for as was the fish. Beautiful and special. Doesn't break the bank.

    Vanilia - my FAVORITE resto by far for dinner. We went 3 times! Two minute walk from the hotel in Firostefani. OMG! Gorgeous, outdoor, romantic, vine covered, charming Greek resto. But the FOOD!!! Ask for the owner Dmitris. Tell him Gayle from Toronto (Jennifer's friend) sent you. He's fabulous. And his two waiters - Niko and Kosta - fabulous!!! Do not miss this resto! Reservation a must.

    Have fun. Book soon.

  20. #20
    marybeth is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2004 Pittsburgh, PA Posts: 3,272
    Wow Gayle, thanks so much. Great info! As Deb said, this forum is the place to check for vacation intel....for just about anywhere!

    Unfortunately the hotel is sold out for our dates...and we better get something booked soon, as I'm seeing a lot of that. We'll definitely check out the restaurants.

  21. #21
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 7,961
    Yes you can fly only in the summer London- Santorini direct. These flights do not post far in advance- maybe 3 or 4 months before. The Hotel we like in Santorini is Mystique

    http://mystique.gr

    which is in Oia, away from the crowds of cruise ships in Fira- only a 15 minute drive and the sunsets are divine there.

  22. #22
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Thanks Mary Beth, Gayle, and stbartshopper.

  23. #23
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Any Bodrum accommodation suggestions?

  24. #24
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    It's looking like 6 nights in Istanbul, 3 nights in Bodrum, 6 nights Santorini. Exciting!

    Tripit should have fun with all these reservations. lol

  25. #25
    Jeanette is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2005 Cambridge, MA Posts: 7,352
    Hi Deb,

    I am late to the game in this discussion. We will be in Istanbul this July for four nights staying at Morgan's Karakoy Istanbul. We wanted to be able to walk to the historic sites and also walk around at night close to our hotel to enjoy cafes, music and nightlife. The Beyoglu area seemed fantastic for that. This article was helpful in choosing our location.

    http://www.wittistanbul.com/magazine...r-sultanahmet/

    We wanted to have different experiences in Greece and Turkey and we were able to find a nine night cruise on a small ship that hit all the areas we wanted to see. We leave from Istanbul and making full days stops at Mykonos, Santorini, Bodrum, Ephesus, Troy/Gallipoli, Meteora, Skiathos, Ephesus and Athens. Our day in Bodrum is Dennis' 50th birthday. I decided to spend just one night in Athens after reading this thread. The information was very helpful.

    I hope you (and Marybeth) have a magical time in Greece and Turkey.
    Liberté, Égalité, Sororité

  26. #26
    marybeth is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2004 Pittsburgh, PA Posts: 3,272
    Jeanette,

    Dennis's birthday trip sounds amazing! Can't wait to hear how it goes. We're looking forward to our trip as well, provided we survive the Fare Thee Well show in Chicago the week before we leave....

    mb

  27. #27
    debd is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2005 CT Posts: 911
    Just now seeing the late May posts. Jeanette, sounds like you have a wonderful trip planned. Maybe you are already there.

    it will interesting to see what happens with the Greece decision today. May not be using the euro there.

  28. #28
    marybeth is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2004 Pittsburgh, PA Posts: 3,272
    Well, we will be using euros for sure. We just ordered them from the bank and contacted our hotels to see if we can charge the balances. We're taking more cash than usual, since we're concerned that we won't be able to rely on ATMs. Leaving Thursday and thinking positive. :)

  29. #29
    stbartshopper is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 7,961
    Yes only in the summer- London- Santorini round trip but you have to wait until they post it on their website.

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