TRAVEL Q&A

Greece 101

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 30, 2006

Q. My son would like to take a 14-day trip to Athens and a few Greek islands. Any suggestions for a first-time traveler? Would you recommend a cruise out of Piraeus?

C. Tinelli, Woodbridge

A. With its hundreds of islands and centuries of history, Greece can be like a Homeric odyssey for first-time visitors. In fact, to help newbies assemble an itinerary, Matt Barrett, a Greece travel expert, even set up "Matt's Greece Suggestions" on his Web site, GreekTravel.com.

However, since one trip doesn't fit all, Barrett offered some specific advice for a traveler of a certain age (post-college, pre-professional, mid-partier). "I would spend at least two days in Athens -- one or two at the beginning, and one or two at the end," he says. "Then choose which islands you want to see, but don't try to see all of them -- there are several hundred."

In Athens, Barrett says to visit the Acropolis and other star attractions, then spend the remaining time outside the city. Nearby destinations include Delphi, home of the oracle of Apollo, and the classical towns of the Argolis peninsula: Epidavros, which has summer outdoor performances of Greek tragedies; Mycenae, of King Agamemnon lore; and Nafplio, the first capital of modern Greece.

Barrett discourages young singles allergic to conga lines from taking a cruise -- "the cruises are like Carnival, but smaller, and they are mostly for older people and honeymooning couples." Instead, he suggests kicking back on one or two islands known for their "fun, young-people scene," such as Ios (the Daytona Beach of Europe), Santorini and Mykonos (the latter two mix beach and history). During high season, ferries leave frequently from Piraeus; ticket prices vary, but one way from Piraeus to Mykonos costs about $30.

Besides the island standards, there are some less visited spots equally worthwhile, especially if you want less revelry and more tradition. For example, Milos, the Venus de Milo excavation site, has towering volcanic rock formations and pristine beaches, and Sifnos is known for its top-notch cuisine and beaches.

Info: Greek National Tourism Organization, 212-421-5777, http://www.gnto.gr/ .

My sister and our spouses are planning on driving to Alaska. Where should we rent a vehicle, how much time should we allow, and when should we go?

Kirk Burns, Falls Church

Fill up the car cooler and charge up the iPod for the Iditarod of road trips -- from Canada or Washington state to Alaska -- which takes at least two or three weeks. "Alaska is one-third the size of the rest of the United States combined," says Fiona Brosnan, an account coordinator with Bernholz & Graham, which represents the state's tourism office. "But don't be overwhelmed. There is a trip for everyone, from one day to one year."

Starting in Seattle, you can take a multi-day Alaska Marine Highway ferry from Bellingham, Wash., to southeast Alaska (the ferries accept cars). Or fly into Calgary, Alberta, and drive through British Columbia and the Yukon and into the Alaskan interior to Fairbanks.

If your objective, though, is to explore the Last Frontier, you might want to pick a driving route that originates in Anchorage: to the peninsula towns of Seward, Kenai and Homer; to Fairbanks and Denali National Park; to Valdez and Prince William Sound. Most of these car trips take about two weeks, depending on your interests in wildlife, fishing, cruising and glaciers. Even shorter is the legendary Alaska Highway (or Alcan), a paved two-laner that runs from Dawson Creek, B.C., to Delta Junction. Roadside attractions include the bison sanctuary, salmon runs and the town of Tok, the "Dog Capital of Alaska."

Alaska has only a few highways, but you can stray onto smaller back roads to visit less congested areas with eye-popping scenery. North to Alaska's Web site ( http://www.northtoalaska.com/ ), affiliated with the tourism office, features 10 itineraries, plus a distance calculator. Also, pick up a copy of Milepost, which maps out gas stations, hotels, restaurants and other essentials along the state's roads.

To go the distance, travel during summer, when daylight never ceases and the wildlife is active (be warned, though, this is also the season of construction). However, don't go too late either: After the cruises ship out in mid-September, many hotels and attractions start hibernating for the long winter. Info: Alaska Travel Industry Association, 800-862-5275 or 907-929-2842, http://www.travelalaska.com/ .

Postscript

Milt Collins of Sterling has some additional options for the commute between BWI and Dulles airports (April 16). He suggests the Maryland Shuttle (301-881-8800; $65 for the first person and $5 for each additional passenger) and for public transportation, the 5A Metrobus from Dulles to/from L'Enfant Plaza, then the Green Line to/from Greenbelt and the B30 Metro Bus to/from BWI (total: $8.35 non-rush hour, $9.20 rush hour).

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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