For those visiting Athens in small groups or are willing to dish out a little extra cash, you may want to consider hiring a taxi for a day or two to visit places outside the capital. As a sucker for ancient ruins and Greek mythology, my family of 4 (parents, wife and myself) took two separate day trips by taxi to the east side of the Peloponnese (Corinth, Mycenae and Nafplio) and Delphi, some of the most amazing and fascinating places in all of Greece. Here’s what I thought of it.
All-day taxi hire prices in Greece are generally quite reasonable, and there are plenty of services around that specialize in such tours. We went with Greece Taxi (which was the cheapest by a slim margin) but there are lots of others such as Greek Taxi and George the Famous Taxi Driver of Greece
Booking online in advance with Greece Taxi was easy and straightforward. They were very fast in responding to inquiries and wrote and spoke excellent English.
Both tours were also pleasant, though if I were to pick one I would go for Delphi (which I’m told is the msot popular one-day tour). Before I arrived in Greece, I was most looking forward to the Peloponnese trip, but if you were going to visit just one place outside of Athens, I would recommend Delphi.
The Peloponnese (Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplio)
Our driver Bill arrived a little late due to traffic, but when we called up the office to check they were very apologetic and good about it. Bill was pretty funny, and spoke enough English to communicate and tell us a bit about the places we were going to. The funniest thing was that he printed off info off the web for us and added his own comments and corrections to them.
Bill drove like an absolute demon, going up to 160-180 km/h, but for the most part he was in control. The first stop was Corinth Canal, which was spectacular to look for a little while. Then we headed to the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth (at one time one of the 3 major powers in Greece), where we got to see the majestic Temple of Apollo (there seemed to be quite a few of these in Greece). Much of the place was in ruins but there was enough to see (including a small museum) to get your money’s worth. Entry was 7 Euros per person (free for EU students!). About 60-90 minutes was sufficient for us.
Next we headed to the ancient city of Mycenae, also worth a look but probably the one place I would personally skip if there was something else better (and there probably was, read on). The Mycenean acropolis is perched on a hill and you have to walk up to see the various archaelogical finds. The highlights include the Lion Gate at the entry and Grave Circle A, which dates back to 16th Century BC. Roughly 45 minutes to an hour is ample time. Entry is 8 Euros each (students free).
The third stop was the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio, we we had a lengthy albeit expensive lunch, while Bill went to visit his cousin and grandmother. After lunch we went to visit Palamidi Castle up on the hill, one of the most underrated attractions on the Peloponnese. The castle was most probably our highlight of the day, and we spent about 2 hours there as there was much to see and explore. You can go right in and see the well-preserved bastions (as it was built in the early 19th Century) – it was a true architectural masterpiece, and the views overlooking the sea were magnificent. Entry is 4 Euros (students free). We had a feeling that you can easily spend a couple of days in Nafplio.
Unfortunately, Bill told us that time had run out and it was time to head back to Athens. Here’s an important tip: make sure you know what’s on your itinerary. We didn’t, so we didn’t know that we were supposed to visit Epidavros (or Epidaurus) and its famous theatre on the way back. We did inquire about it but Bill told us there wasn’t enough time to fit it in the schedule (even though we stuck to his time recommendations at each location). I had a feeling Bill was trying to get home early for the day, as we arrived back at our hotel an hour earlier (so our trip was 9 hours instead of the 10 we paid for). So it was a little disappointing because I was really looking forward to seeing the theatre, and we actually did have time to go see it but were kind of tricked out of it. Apart from that bitter pill the rest of the trip was awesome.
Our driver today was David, who spoke perfect English (as he was originally living in Melbourne). David also drove like a demon, but he maxed out at around 160 km/h. It took a little while but we eventually reached the town of Levadia, where we stopped to take some photos. There wasn’t enough time to see the Castle there but we did get to see the water wheel, some running water, stone bridges and a nymph statue – all very pretty.
We had another short stop (for coffee) just before reaching the town of Arachova (popular in the winter for skiiers), where we took some fantastic shots of the little houses perched on the hill. Then we drove through the town’s narrow streets and eventually reached the brilliant, must-see archaelogical site of Delphi. In my opinion if you see Delphi then you can live not seeing any other archaelogical sites in Greece. It’s not only huge but also extraordinarily well preserved and there was so much to see (including a small museum). It was, after all, considered by ancient Greeks as the centre of the world, and was where the Oracle once sat and delivered advice from the gods.
The combined entry ticket (site and museum) is 9 Euros (students free again!). For me, the highlights were of course the Temple of Apollo, the Theatre (to make up for the one missed in Epidavros) and the Hall of the Knidians right at the top. The view was amazing and only got better and better as you walked up.
Note that the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaea is literally just down the road, but as we didn’t see any signs pointing towards it we missed it. Make sure you don’t!
We actually spent a little too much time at Delphi (like 3 hours) because we liked it so much, and consequently decided to skip lunch and head back to Athens early. We arrived only a few minutes to the 9-hour limit we paid for due to traffic.
I would definitely recommend getting a taxi for day trips from Athens (or even a couple of days to go further inland like Sparta and Oympia in the Peloponnese or Meteora). The price is reasonable if you have 3 or more people, you save a great deal of time and the drivers are friendly but don’t get in your way. Particularly in the summer it can be great getting back to a nicely air-conditioned car. Just be smart and be aware of your itinerary and the places you want to visit so you don’t miss out on anything like we did. If there are changes you would like to make then it’s best to discuss them up front with your driver.
PS: Due to a request I have enlarged the photos by, wait for it, 2%…seriously, I’m working on it.