Taking the car across Greece, i.e. travelling from Thessaloniki to Athens, even caused “my Greek” to raise an eyebrow (or two): “You’re driving all this distance by yourself? You’re not afraid?!” Well, yes. And no, of course not! It has been easy, really easy, if not to say truly fascinating, to drive around Greece – thanks to a myriad of ever changing landscapes and world-renowned historic places, I have to say.
Past Mount Olympus, whose cloud is likened to the breath of Zeus, and on to the world-famous Meteora Monasteries, as well as the city of Thiva just an hour shy of Athens: I just love my road trip through Greece.
Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece located in the north of the country, only sees me for two days this time: Should you need even more information about this unique town, I can recommend you to read my friend Becki Enright’s “Borders of Adventure” city guide on Thessaloniki here.
As I stroll around town, I discover some really cool hipster cafés, take a walk along the seashore, and visit some rather famous monasteries & churches in town (those being the very reason why I’m here: Read more about my project on building sustainable religious heritage tourism in Greece here). If all you have is one or two days in Thessaloniki, here is some inspiration on how to make the most out of your stay.
From Thessaloniki, it is about a three-hour drive to the “legendary” Meteora monasteries. Legendary? Well, yes …
… because did you know that James Bond’s movie “The Eagle’s Nest” already helped to make Meteora famous as early as the 1980s? Or that Social Media provided the last bit of (virtual) proliferation, what with thousands of visitors attracted each year because of beautiful pictures on Instagram? “Don’t get me wrong”, our guide at Visit Meteora muses, “but it really is you posting all these pictures that have people travel here from all over the world, making Meteora Monasteries one of the most popular travel sites in the whole of Greece!”
My travel tip for you is this: Do make sure your car’s GPS speaks English before you go, and do not be afraid of driving in Greece. All the roads in or around Meteora are relatively free and easy to access, countless green hills will line your way and the highways are well-maintained, too.
From Meteora then, it is about another 300 kilometres to reach the Ionian Sea in the west of the country. Here, come to fall in love with Itéa, Delphi, Arachova, or the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hosios Loukas Monastery.
You may already guess it: Having found out about the latter is again due to my research work about monasteries, churches, and religious heritage sites across Greece. The drive from Meteora to these places of worship is again an easy one, taking us past green mountain passes, lavish seaside roads, as well as cute little towns tucked away in the highlands of Central Western Greece. Come check this out.
North of Athens, do stop in Thiva and visit their brand-new art & history museum, as well as the adjacent island Euboea north of the city of Chalkida.
All of the above tips from my Greek colleagues and friends, who have really helped me in putting together a rather personalised itinerary. Sagmata Monastery, for instance, is right on its way to opening up for more sustainable, cultural tourism : The young monk I meet here speaks both English and Italian, and really welcomes the opportunity to meet interested travellers such as myself. Driving further out into Prokopi, Limni or the Monastery Hosios David north of Chalkida may appear to be a little more adventurous (less signs, less infrastructure), but I must say I do feel good, safe and welcome everywhere I go. Can’t help but feel for my Greek friends – and that the best support you can give them, is by visiting them and enjoying their wonderful, wonderful hospitality. Check this out.
If you are wondering how we’ve organised our overnight stays in different hotels or B&Bs on our trip, Booking.com is the (rather spontaneous) answer: Thanks to pre-season travel in late May, we could sometimes book our accommodation even only a few hours before arriving! In Athens, I have enjoyed staying at a small but really cosy apartment through the platform “Homz”: The owner, Flavia, arranges for everything via WhatsApp, and I will certainly contact here again for when I am back.
If you want to know even more about the capital city Athens, and like me wish to join a Food Tour through downtown Athens, then do check out my first blog post about Greece here.
See you soon in beautiful Greece!