Road trip around Greece
Greece is most famous for its historical sites and Greek philosophers, however should be also considered as exciting place to visit on vacation especially
when it is comes to a beautiful landscape and relaxing atmosphere.
Greece is big country to explore therefore, before I started planning our holidays I had a dilemma choosing between Greek islands and mainland. Turned out that with a bit of planning we have seen both.
We spent 10 nights in 5 different hotels, exploring Greece, enjoying regional food and meeting fantastic people along the way.
Greeks are warm, friendly and famous for their hospitality. They are cheerful, helpful and chatty making your visit memorable so don't be surprised if your bill came accompanied by shots of greek alcohol at a restaurant. Food is always very personal experience and some restaurants were better than other but in general Greek cuisine is tasty and portions are huge. Myself and my hubby, we chose different dishes and desserts to share. This allowed us to taste most of typical Greek cuisine. The most popular dishes are: octopus, sea urchin, moussaka, tzatziki, stuffed vine leafs, souvlaki, gyros, kebab, stuffed tomatoes and peppers, different kind of meat cooked in a clay pot, grilled meat, fishes, feta and cheeses, zucchini fritters, baklava, ravani, galactoboureko (filo pastry), loukoumades (fried ball of dough pastry), frozen greek yogurt and many more to choose from. Greek wine is also quite good, we tried red and white from different regions of the country. Even though I am a red wine lover, in Greece I enjoyed more white one.
Our journey started at the airport in Athens. We visited Mykonos Island, Meteora / Kalampaka, Delphi, Galaxidi and we finished back in Athens, where we enjoyed the last 3 nights of holidays. Driving a car in Greece - even though Greek drivers have very bad reputation - wasn't challenging or in any way difficult. Car gave us freedom of seeing places at our own pace and planning the whole trip the way we desired without any restrictions.
How I planned our trip
As I have mentioned before, we landed at airport in Athens. To get to any of the islands you have to pick between plane or ferry. There is two ferry ports
available, the main one is located in Piraeus and smaller in Rafina. On Saturday afternoon, only ferries from Rafina go to Mykonos Island. Rafina Port is located about 35 minutes ride by bus which departs from bus stop located opposite Arrival's exit - just
opposite Sofitel Hotel. Cost of the trip is €1.60 per person and ticket should be purchased directly from bus driver. Check the schedule online. If your ferry goes from Pireaus Port take X 96 bus stopping just outside Arrivals.
Rafina is very small port with few restaurants along the pier where you can await your ferry enjoying Greek food. There is no need for online pre-booking unless it is a high season. You should arrive at the port at least 30 minutes before departure.
There are few different ferry companies and journey to Mykonos Island takes between 3 to 5 hours. Golden Star Ferry departs to Mykonos at 5.10pm every Saturday afternoon. The journey takes 4.5 hours and costs between €29 and €45 depending on accommodation type. I highly recommend you to pay few euro extra for air seats. Those are comfortable and considering long trip, you will appreciate them. Golden Star Ferry is quite a big boat with restaurants, business lounge and area to seat outside where you can enjoy the sun or - if you are on the afternoon ferry - to watch sunset.
Ferry docks in the new port in Mykonos (I will write about Mykonos in my next post).
We spent three nights in Mykonos and on Tuesday morning we flew back to Athens with Ryanair. The flight takes about 30 minutes and it's worth considering because we paid only €35 for two of us.
In Athens, we collected pre booked car from Drive Car Rental Company and drove to Meteora which is about 440 km from the capitol. We used TomTom Go navigation app and it worked well for us in Greece. For most of the Athens to Meteora drive, we chose very well maintained motorway. You can exit the motorway in Lamia town or you can drive straight to Larisa town and then take exit. The remaining of the journey is combination of dual carriageway and two-way road. Whichever road you choose, don't be afraid of driving in Greece. Main roads are in good condition and wide even in the mountains where two uphill lanes are common.
I read on the internet an advise to stay on the motorway and that's the only reason we chose the 80km longer drive to Larisa but based on our experience, I would recommend you to go for way shorter and cheaper secondary road. The whole trip took about 5 hours with one stop for coffee and cake. The combined motorway tolls cost us €24 to cover 370km distance which is very expensive considering that 200km in Ireland could cost you less than €2. If you use sat nav, input Kalampaka instead of widely used on the internet Kalambaka.
We spent two nights in Meteora / Kalampaka and after Thursday's lunch we drove to Delphi.
Tips on how we managed to visit 5 out of 6 open to public monasteries, I will write about it in my next post.
The distance from Kalampaka to Delphi is 240 km and toll cost us only € 0.60. The journey took about 3.5 hours with roads kept in good condition. The last part was winding through the mountains but still wide and well maintained. For those of you who have a luxury of sitting on passenger's seat, your idle time will be rewarded with stunning views.
We reached Delphi in early evening hours with plenty of time to explore that very small town. We booked one night there only but this was enough to visit archeological sites and have a lunch in nearby ski resort Arachova. More about Delphi in my next post.
Our next stop was Galaxidi, a small town with picturesque mountains and coast views. This coastal town, located only 20 km from Delphi has absolutely lovely atmosphere. We spent there one night and that afternoon hours we drove back to Athens. Road along Gulf Of Corinth is spectacular, reach in winding mountain parts and easy to navigate. The road includes motorway with total toll cost of €7. The whole length between Galaxidi and Athens is 240 km and took us 2.5 hours drive.
We returned car to rental company, took a taxi to our hotel located in the very centre of the capitol and spent there the last three nights enjoying its
beauty. I will write a separate post about Athens.
One island, one capitol and one thousand kilometers drive later, we came back to Ireland rich in new experiences and filled with beautiful memories.