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Athens, looking for suggestions on private tour


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Hello all,

We will be staying in Athens for 2 full days before our departure on a cruise and I am looking for suggestions of a tour company that can organize a private tour for us with licensed guide (I would like to have a guide inside the monuments with our group, not just driver talking in between visits). Ideally, the company should take care of all the tickets/entry fees in advance and have the "bypass the line" privileges (is this even a thing in Athens?). We have done similar tour in St. Petersburg and it was worth every penny of extra $$$ spent.

Has anyone done something similar in Athens? I know it is pretty easy to DYI everything there (vs St. Petersburg for example), but we had such a great experience with no waiting lines (in June in St. Petersburg, unheard of!) and amazing guide that truly cared about her city and customized her tour to fit all of our interests, that I would rather spend extra and have similar experience in Athens.

All the companies I can find on Tripadvisor offer only "driver" tours, ie driver doesnt go with you to the sites. Frankly I am not sure we need a driver since we are staying within 6 min walk of Acropolis entrance.

Thank you for recommendations in advance!

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On 11/14/2019 at 10:12 AM, BubMunkeyBles said:

We used PK Travel last year and they were great. Booked again with them for in a couple weeks.

Absolutely PK Travel...we used this company last May !!!

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  • 2 months later...

Do the PK Travel guides provide detailed information about what you are seeing?  It's not clear from their website if they are just providing travel to the various sites or are also leading you through the sites with commentary.  Thanks.

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8 minutes ago, bobmacliberty said:

Do the PK Travel guides provide detailed information about what you are seeing?  It's not clear from their website if they are just providing travel to the various sites or are also leading you through the sites with commentary.  Thanks.

they cant accompany you on to sites 

they can tell you details on way and liase to pick up local guide at sites eg Pantheon

it depends how much detail you want

do you want qualified guide at extra cost who can answer every question or are you happy to wander through with a guide book and bit of pre knowledge from travel company?

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Thanks.  PK Travel confirmed what you said in your reply and offered to arrange for a licensed guide to join us...either for the entire day or just for the Acropolis.  We would likely only want a guide for the Acropolis, assuming that they can add enough value (we generally enjoy using knowledgeable guides rather than doing our own research).  I've also read that there are guides readily available at the Acropolis and some suggest just getting a taxi from the port and then paying for a guide.  Using PK Travel would certainly mean riding in a nicer vehicle with a driver who can speak English and offer commentary while driving.  I'm trying to decide if that alone is worth the cost.  Am I missing anything in trying to make this decision?

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1 hour ago, bobmacliberty said:

Thanks.  PK Travel confirmed what you said in your reply and offered to arrange for a licensed guide to join us...either for the entire day or just for the Acropolis.  We would likely only want a guide for the Acropolis, assuming that they can add enough value (we generally enjoy using knowledgeable guides rather than doing our own research).  I've also read that there are guides readily available at the Acropolis and some suggest just getting a taxi from the port and then paying for a guide.  Using PK Travel would certainly mean riding in a nicer vehicle with a driver who can speak English and offer commentary while driving.  I'm trying to decide if that alone is worth the cost.  Am I missing anything in trying to make this decision?

 

I find Athens quite easy to do on your own. There are very good options from the port in Piraeus including a HOHO bus, dedicated express bus, and the metro. A taxi into Athens is about 25 euro and well worth it if you want to get to the Acropolis early, ahead of the crowds. Yes, tour guides are available at the gate -- I have generally seen a few waiting near the ticket kiosk, but of course it is luck of the draw. Most of the licensed guides are very good (may even be too much detail for some, but I enjoy a thorough grounding). They have a fixed rate -- you can opt to pay it all and have a private tour or wait until the guide can gather a small group, making it less expensive per person.

 

Getting around the rest of the historic area is quite easy on foot; many of the streets are pedestrianized and there is good signage. I highly recommend visiting the Greek and Roman agoras, in addition to the Acropolis, also the theatre of Dionysus if not included in your tour. The Acropolis museum (located at the foot of the acropolis) is very modern and an excellent complement to the other sites. 

 

More unsolicited advice:

 

I find the changing of the guard to be no big deal unless you are there on a Sunday morning when they put on more of a show.

 

Do make time to see the Temple of Jupiter, the scale of it is incredible.

 

The Panathenaic stadium is also pretty if you are into Olympic history.

 

The little museum in the Greek agora is lovely; I really enjoyed seeing the pottery shards (ostraka) that were used to ostracize political leaders, even the most famous were not immune (like Pericles).  And it gives a great background on how democracy worked in action in ancient Greece.

 

Finally, the temple of Hephaistos (at the far end of the Greek agora) is amazing and far more complete than the Parthenon.

 

 

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2 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

Do make time to see the Temple of Jupiter, the scale of it is incredible.

 

 

 

Oops, should've correctly said the Temple of Olympian Zeus above. Too much time spent thinking about Roman gods, not Greek ones.... Jupiter (Roman) = Zeus (Greek)

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Thank you CruiseMom.  You are such a wealth of good information.

We are def. wanting to do a post cruise tour with PK.  

Too bad to learn that, since we will be doing this on a Friday,  (Greek Orthodox Good Friday),  so would not see the better Changing of the Guard on a Sunday.

To limit costs, we were thinking of booking a transfer and 1/2 day tour, from the ship, and ending at the hotel near airport.  The full day would give us a bit more time, plus time to eat and explore the Plaka. (sp???)

But, I will have to look at the sites you recommend, and see how much we might see if we book the full day.  

 

 

Edited by Wishing on a star
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On 1/26/2020 at 11:50 AM, cruisemom42 said:

I find Athens quite easy to do on your own.

 

Would you suggest a DIY tour to a family of 5? I assume the regular taxi's will not take us, and two taxi's double the cost. Are buses each enough to navigate? I am currently booked with PK Travels, but am wondering if we should do it on our own pace.

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1 hour ago, jennyumaa said:

 

Would you suggest a DIY tour to a family of 5? I assume the regular taxi's will not take us, and two taxi's double the cost. Are buses each enough to navigate? I am currently booked with PK Travels, but am wondering if we should do it on our own pace.

 

Depends on how keen you are to DIY. 

 

You can take the express bus (X80) from Piraeus port cruise terminal to the central historic area for only 4.50 euro per person for a round-trip ticket. There are several stops in Athens but if you want to go to the Acropolis first thing, get off at Akropolis stop. It's about a 30-minute trip.

 

There used to be a number of good posts on itineraries for doing Athens on your own in a day. You may be able to find one if you're a good hand at searching.

 

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4 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

Depends on how keen you are to DIY. 

 

You can take the express bus (X80) from Piraeus port cruise terminal to the central historic area for only 4.50 euro per person for a round-trip ticket. There are several stops in Athens but if you want to go to the Acropolis first thing, get off at Akropolis stop. It's about a 30-minute trip.

 

There used to be a number of good posts on itineraries for doing Athens on your own in a day. You may be able to find one if you're a good hand at searching.

 

 

Thanks!

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8 hours ago, jennyumaa said:

 

Thanks!

 

It also occurred to me that you may want to factor in the time of year/weather. I usually travel/cruise off-season because I prefer to stay away from the most crowded and hot times of the year. But if you will be in Athens during the hottest part of the season, it may give you the stamina to keep going (!!) if you have a driver with a nice A/C car, cold water, etc. to give you a bit of rest between main sites....

 

I still would prefer to do it on my own but would try to strategize:  Go to the Acropolis first in any case, to avoid the crowds and heat. Then afterwards to the Greek agora (which is just to the east, almost across the street from one of the Acropolis exits), which is still outdoors but has a little shade.  Then I would go on, sort of clockwise around the Acropolis hill to the Roman forum -- not spending too long there, mainly to see the beautiful Tower of the Winds. This puts you near the Plaka at lunch time, easy to find a nice eatery and take a deserved break. After, continue clockwise around the Acropolis hill to reach the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Arch of Hadrian -- stop here for a quick marvel at the size and some photos, and finally end up at the modern (and cool) Acropolis Museum. You will have made a circuit of 360 degrees around the base of the Acropolis. The express bus stop is nearby to take you back to the port. 

 

(For those not wanting to take the bus, there are also usually taxis waiting around the same area: across from the Arch of Hadrian, where there is a statue of Melina Mercuri.  

 

 

 

Suggested itinerary:

 

7:45 am  Leave the ship

 

8:30-9:45  Walk up Acropolis hill and see the sites (allow a bit longer if you plan to engage a guide; if you prefer you can download an audio tour free from Rick Steves that is briefer).

 

9:45-11:15  Walk to Greek Agora, see Temple of Hephaestus and Agora museum (in one of the stoas)

 

11:15-12:15  Walk through Roman Agora to reach the Tower of the Winds

 

-- Lunch break in the Plaka --

 

2:15-3:15  Continue walking clockwise around Acropolis to reach Hadrian's Arch and Temple of Olympian Zeus (quick stop)

 

3:15-4:30  Go to Acropolis museum to finish your day back where you started and see the items from the Acropolis.  

 

4:30 Catch the bus back to Piraeus (bus stop is nearby)

 

 

If you wanted to shorten the day, you could skip lunch in the Plaka and walk directly back to the Acropolis museum, have a quick lunch on the terrace there and see the museum, then either decide to head back on the bus or take a quick look at the Temple of Olympian Zeus (or do a little shopping nearby the museum).

 

(Edited to add):  It is easy to map this all out ahead of time on Google maps; most of the area is pedestrian-friendly.

Edited by cruisemom42
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1 hour ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

It also occurred to me that you may want to factor in the time of year/weather. I usually travel/cruise off-season because I prefer to stay away from the most crowded and hot times of the year. But if you will be in Athens during the hottest part of the season, it may give you the stamina to keep going (!!) if you have a driver with a nice A/C car, cold water, etc. to give you a bit of rest between main sites....

 

 

Wonderful information! Thanks again. Yes we'll be there in the summer...

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