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Driving to Terrific Thessaloniki- Our First Greece Road Trip

The Greece mainland has so much to offer, that one week driving to Thessaloniki and back is a must. Our Greece Road Trip for ten days will make you want to return again and again.


After a few island forays to Chios and Rhodes, we decided it was time to visit the Greek mainland. We didn’t have tons of time, just ten days, so that meant we had to be on our own schedule. We decided to drive Athens to Thessaloniki and back with a few stops in-between. Our Greece road trip was a go!

Motor scooters and goats are definitely things you would see on a Greek road trip.
Motor scooters and goats are definitely things you would see on the road when you get out of the city.

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Our Greece Road Trip Itinerary

We flew into Athens, picked a hotel for three nights, then picked up our rental car and off we went. We first took a quick jaunt down to the Isthmus of Corinth, then on the way north stayed in our Athens hotel one more night before hitting the road. The stops along the way included Delphi, Meteora, Vergina, Platamon, and finally Thessaloniki. From there we hightailed it back to Athens where we flew out.

Athens – 3 nights, seeing the sights and really enjoying the food
Corinth – a day trip from Athens and back to the hotel to spend the night
Delphi – 1 night, a full day visiting the ruins of Delphi
Meteora – 2 nights, 1 full day photographing the monasteries
Vergina and Platamon Beach – no nights just stops on the way to Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki – 2 nights, one day of sightseeing
Athens – 1 night, just enjoying a good dinner, then off to the airport for our flight

Our Greece Road Trip Map

Our Greece Road Trip Map and Itinerary.
Go to our Google Map

Athens

The capital of Greece, Athens, is a natural place to start. When we fly in to do a road trip, we like to visit some of the major museums in the capital, because they have drawn from sites from all over the country. Athens has plenty to do to easily take up a couple of days if not a week; but, no matter what, you have to take in the Parthenon. It’s high up on the hill, and it’s worth every step.

Athens is a must-see on any Greece itinerary.
Athens is a must-see on any Greece itinerary.

Where we ate: Tzitzikas kai Mermigas was our absolute favorite. Since we loved it so much on this trip, every time we return to Athens it’s our go-to place. We love it.
Where we stayed: We love Syntagma Square and the environs, so we always try to stay near there. One hotel we loved was the Electra Metropolis, about a six minute walk from the square. It felt good to come back to a nice hotel after beating the pavement all day long.

We visited the Corinth Canal the day before we officially took off on our Greece Road Trip.
We visited the Corinth Canal the day before we officially took off on our Greece Road Trip.

Corinth

We wanted to see the Isthmus of Corinth, so it seemed natural to take one of our Athens days and head that way. We loved visiting the ruins and seeing the amazing canal. This was an easy half day trip.

The world heritage site of Delphi should be on the top of everyone's Greece list.
Delphi World Heritage Site

Delphi

Getting to see Delphi was very high on our list since we love stories about the Greek Gods and the Oracles; we were very excited to hit this world heritage spot. We stayed two nights so we could maximize our time at the ruins and museum without feeling rushed. We expected to really enjoy the ruins, but what we didn’t expect was how much we would enjoy staying in the town.

So small and quaint, it’s obvious who the tourists are, and the townspeople appreciate you spending time there and really treat you well. I would say we had one of the best evenings of all in Delphi just because the people were so friendly and welcoming.

Where we ate: Taverna Vakchos, so friendly! We loved the local wine and the atmosphere and would go again if we can.
Where we stayed: Fedriades Delphi Hotel which is in the perfect location.

HDR of a monastery at sunset in Meteora.
HDR of a monastery at sunset in Meteora.

Meteora

The rock towers and monasteries make Meteora an awe-inspiring stop, and we loved every minute of our time there. We wandered and wandered photographing the beauty from all angles. We stayed right there in the small village of Kastraki, and once again had a couple of fabulous evenings. We loved the restaurant we went to on the first night so much, we went to the same one the next night. This we rarely do, but then again sometimes you get the formula so right that it’s the best choice.

Where we ate: Taverna Gardenia. We sat outside and loved the appetizers and wine.
Where we stayed: Kastelia Hotel. We loved how close this little hotel was to the rock formations as well as the town. We like being central. It was clean and comfortable.

Platamona Beach was a great stopover on our road trip.
Platamona beach allowed us a nice relaxing swim and lunch after all of our sightseeing.

Vergina and Platamona Beach

On our way to Thessaloniki, we wanted to take it easy. Our plan was to enjoy the sea views of the Aegean, find a great lunch on a beach somewhere then head to Vergina for a quick sight-see.

Our plan worked out perfectly. We rolled into Platamona about 11:00 and headed straight to the beach after taking some castle photos. We all jumped in and had a nice swim before going to the café right there and having some amazing melted cheese and calamari for lunch. It was hard to drag ourselves away from the relaxation, but we had to get on our way.

The entrance to Phillip IIs tumulus and museum in Vergina.
The entrance to Phillip IIs tumulus and museum in Vergina.

We couldn’t pass up another UNESCO world heritage site, Aigai or Vergina (today). It was the ancient capital of Macedonia of Alexander the Great fame. They found a palace and over 500 tumuli (tombs). The most important and impressive tomb was that of Philip II (Alex’s dad). He, too, was a warrior and paved the way for his son’s feats by conquering all the Greek cities.

Today you can visit an underground building housing a museum of items found. It doesn’t take long, but it’s a pretty amazing spot. We spent about an hour there, and even though it was a little out of the way, we were very happy to have stopped.

The Rotunda in Thessaloniki is one of the many Roman sites to see.
The Rotunda in Thessaloniki is one of the many Roman sites to see in the city.

Thessaloniki

We just love Thessaloniki. It’s the second largest city, but there is so much to do and see that’s within a good walking distance that you can really have a great couple of days. The historical sites are all over the place, and the city has such a great café vibe as well. It’s a city we go back to again and again.

Where we ate: Restaurant Elliniko was really starting to fill up when we arrived, but they found us a table and we’re glad they did. We loved the trendy look and feel of the place, and the calamari was out of this world.
Where we stayed: Orestias Kastorias a cute, clean, and easy, this hotel was right smack in the middle of all the places I wanted to see so it was perfect for us.

Greece Road Conditions - the roads are well signed in tourist areas.
The roads are well signed in tourist areas.

Driving in Greece – Road Conditions

Greece has both large roads in pretty good condition (most of which you have to pay a toll) and small roads that wind up and down large mountains with exceptional scenery.  Even though we would rather stay on a road with a view, we always have to take into consideration how much time we have as well, so we normally do both.

As far as driving goes, we were impressed that lane lines were obeyed and there was minimal jockeying for position.  We did see a number of people speed through red lights, usually close to taking out a few pedestrians, and others honking for you to go at the end of a red light.  Other than that, the drivers seemed pretty well trained.

The one oddity we noticed was on the highway.  For some reason, parts of the toll road go down to two lanes for two directions.  During these stretches, cars would drive on the shoulder in order to stay out of the way of faster traffic.  I think the country should add a couple of lanes, but it was awfully considerate of the drivers, don’t you think?

Renting a Car in Greece

Renting the car was pretty easy, and it’s only one of the considerations in the overall budget on what a trip to Greece would cost. Because of this, we try not to rent from the airport, because you always have to pay more taxes if you do. We were spending a couple days in Athens before heading north, so we just rented from an office downtown. We found our way down the office making sure we had our International Driver’s License and passports, and after about 30 minutes we were on our way.

Conclusion

There is so much to do and see in Greece that you can’t do it all. We’ve done a little island hopping and really enjoyed it, but there is quite a bit to see and do on the mainland as well. We wanted to maximize our time so we rented a car. Our ten day trip was very memorable, and our favorite parts were the smaller towns and villages where we had more interaction with the people. On top of that, the historical sights in Greece just cannot be beaten. We hope you plan a trip to Greece in your not-to-distant future!

Ruma Dey Baidya

Friday 22nd of January 2021

For a history and travel buff like me, visiting Greece is in my bucket list. Great article and inspired by your post.