After my stay in beautiful Bulgaria, I felt it was time to relax on a white sandy beach, with a cocktail in my hand as I enjoy my view over the crystal blue shorelines. I drove through Serbia and Macedonia to eventually arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece. During my Greek road trip adventure I visited the homes of some ancients Greek gods, did I relax on one of the most beautiful beaches of Greece, stayed the night at a real local family camping and did I escape a forest fire in Athens!
Staying in Thessaloniki.
When planning the trip I saw that the city of Thessaloniki would be the first city I would cross when passing the border. That it was right next to the ocean and just a small hour drive away from the famous Halkidiki beaches helped a lot. “Perfect!” I thought. “I just need to find a good accommodation and I am ready for my relax time..”
Then reality said: “Yeah.. How about no?”
Once I arrived close to Thessaloniki I learned one thing really quickly: Do not underestimate the crazy traffic jam’s Greece has to offer!
The last 10 kilometers took me over 2 hours and the small (one directions) roads downtown were a challenge to say the least.
Learning about the Greek culture.. In a parking lot!
After searching for almost one hour for a parking spot, I came across an underground parking place right next to a small bakery. It happen to be an amazing place with a great owner. He asked me: “What is this Road Trip Guy? It is such a beautiful green car!” “Where are you from?”
We started talking and I learned about Georgio owning a parking business in Thessaloniki that he inherited from his father. He told me:
“It is a great business, but I am really happy the tourists are slowly coming again. It has been a difficult few years due to the recession and I was not sure if the tourist would ever come again.That was really a scary time, but thankfully all is getting better now.”
He knew the owner of the hotel that I was staying at and offered me right away a 20% discount on my parking fee. I was pleased with his service and happy that I learned more about the hard times of the Greek recession from a parking lot owner. Totally unexpected, but exactly why I am doing this road trip. To meet new people and learn about their lives and cultures first hand.
Spending my days in Thessaloniki
Although the city itself does not have the nicest beaches, the port town does offer a wide variety of activists during the night including great traditional greek restaurants and bars with live music. It was great, as this city avoided the mass “all inclusive” tourism and seemed to focus more on local tourism and tourists from surrounding countries Macedonia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Along the boulevard was a 5 km track that came across White Tower and was great location to get some of my morning runs in. I highly recommend visiting the White Tower for the amazing view over the marina and city, but all the eduction signs and text is in Greek. Right next to the boulevard you will find many drink cruises that offer you a 45-minute cruise fi you buy a few drinks at their bar. I highly recommend this as you basically get a free cruise for just 2 beers!
The Aristotelous Square is just 500 meter from the White Tower and is full of restaurants and delicious ice-cream shops. It does get really busy in the evening, but the atmosphere was very relaxed.
Visiting Halkidiki Beach: The most beautiful beach of Greece
Halkidiki is a region in northern Greece known for its jutting peninsulas, which features some of the most amazing sandy beaches and Mediterranean forest of Greece. Kassandra, the westernmost peninsula, is the most developed, offering modern resorts and nightclubs. The region’s notable archaeological sites include Stageira, Aristotle’s birthplace, and Olynthus, known for its well-preserved mosaic floors.
I set my sights on staying at Sithonia, which according to the reviews had the most stunning private beach and a good beach club for beverages and drinks. I arrived with Louie and the parking was free and a bed with umbrella was just € 5,-. There is no entry fee. The beaches are indeed beautiful and don’t forget to bring your dive mask and snorkel as you have miles and miles of beautiful crystal clear water with a nice variety of aquatic life and rocks.
Driving to the capital of Greece: Athens. What is up with all these toll gates?
Driving from Thessaloniki to Athens was frustrating. This is just an understatement as I stopped counting the amount of toll gates we had to pass. Keep in mind that none of these toll gates take cards so always have Euro’s with you in cash.
I most have encountered at least 12 gates and all with massive lines. But I guess that is the price you pay for traveling by car in the high season. I decided to make stop at a remote village to relax for the night. Little did I know I would end up in one of the best accommodations of the trip!
Camping Sikia. A hidden treasure of Greece.
Camping Sikia is located in the Kato Gatzea municipality and is a run as a family company by two sisters. The camping is located right next to the sea and you have two private beaches where you can relax during your stay.
As the camping is located uphill you will have amazing views over the cliffs and stunning sunsets. Take your time in the family restaurant , next to lagune, and enjoy their local fish dishes and excellent grill. It was a good relax and since I only paid € 22,50- per night, it was also very affordable.
Visiting Athens. Home of the gods!
Finally, it was time to visit some amazing archeology! I started at the temple of the olympian Zeus. If you don’t know who Zeus is, he is the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who ruled as king of the gods of Mount Olympus. He is also the father of the demi-god Hercules after cheating on on Hera with a mortal woman. Such a naughty guy!
Price: € 6,50-
Time: 1 hour
Visiting the Acropolis
This place was the most busy and also expensive. The price is € 20,- per person, but if you visit during the winter (1st of november till 1st of april) you get a 50% discount. Students and children pay just € 10,- . With this ticket you can visit the Citadel, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Dionysus Theatre and some other sights. It is worth it, but do not go in the middle of the day as the sun will be too much. Several people had to get extra help due to overheating.
There is a special package ticket which cost € 30,- , but that is only feasible if you wish to see all the sites. Also check before hand if they are doing any renovations as I did not check before and once I arrived on top I could not take any decent pictures without showing ugly construction materials.
To be honest, I would just pay for the tickets separately. Use the extra money that you save and go have a nice dinner in the city.. With a view of course!