I don't like being forced to "greet" a place quickly. If I like and satisfy a place I must have the opportunity to enjoy it to the last. Along this itinerary there will be many moments in which you will want to stop, one of these the day at Meteora.
I will summarize all the useful information to organize this tour in Greece, in the meantime take a look at this interesting 4 day tour in mainland Greece.
Mainland Greece tour: general aspects and costs
Period: 8 -> 13 November 2016
Total nights: 5
Flight to Greece: used the Milan Orio al Serio - Athens route with Ryanair both outward and return. About 60 euros round trip without baggage in the hold.
Car: chartered with from spain via Rentalcars.com , a gasoline Volkswagen Polo from the Goldcar company. All perfect.
Greek areas concerned: Athens, Meteora, Peloponnese
Car rental cost: € 96 (including limitation of the excess) + € 25 for additional driver. Total rental days 5.
Km traveled: About 1150
Unleaded petrol fuel cost: variable from 1,30 to 1,50 euros. In total I spent 110 euros.
Road signs: I must admit that it is not the best. The road markings in the villages are completely faded and sometimes it is difficult to understand who has priority. Vertical signs are sometimes ambiguous. The car parks, Athens aside, are mostly free but the color of the stripes is an optional, often not even there.
Motorway and bridge costs: very tall! I would say more expensive than in spain. The toll booths are directly on the highway, they are not on the exits. Sometimes you simply drive about ten kilometers and you have to pay figures from 2 euros to 4 euros. The upside is that on this mainland Greece tour, tolls will be relatively low as from Lamia onwards they will be normal roads. The Patras bridge has a mind-boggling price / length ratio, 13 euros for about 1 kilometer. The maximum speeds allowed on motorways vary from 90 to 130 depending on the sections.
Driving license required: the European one is fine, obviously valid.
Hotel booking: accommodations all booked from spain using Booking.com . Being low season I found some very nice hotels at cheap prices. All the rooms were double and the price around 40 euros per night including breakfast. A credit to the Pan Hotel in Delphi which had spectacular views across the bay.
Classical Greece and Meteora: 5 days itinerary
The days I had available were not 6, but 4 and a half because the flight from Milan Orio al Serio arrived at about 15.00 in Athens. Time to complete the paperwork for car rental and departure from Athens airport was around 16.30 in the afternoon. I also state that the itinerary of this tour of mainland Greece was circular, from Athens to Athens. Initially I had planned an itinerary ending in Thessaloniki but this would have entailed significant expenses regarding the drop-off for the return of the car.
Day 1: Arrival in Athens, car rental and transfer to Meteora
From Athens to Kalambaka / Kastraki, the villages at the foot of the Meteora, are about 4 hours of abundant travel without stopping. The first 200 km are of motorway and the sum of the tolls amounts to about 14 euros. The remaining 150 km are normal roads which sometimes become two-lane. In any case, travel times are significantly reduced compared to motorways.
If you can find a flight that lands in Athens in the morning, you will have much more time to reach Kalampaka and, why not, go straight up to the Meteora to try to see them at sunset, which must be exceptional.
- Athens airport -> Kalambaka (Meteora): 353 km - 4 hours
2nd Day: Visit of the Meteors -> Transfer and night in Delphi
I dedicated the second day of this tour of mainland Greece to visit the length and breadth of all the Meteora. The 6 monasteries still open fascinated me and I photographed them from every angle, although the weather was not the best. I dedicated 3/4 of my day to this natural paradise. Honestly I would have stayed another night to do some trekking but, you know, time is running out and unfortunately I had to mediate for only one day.
I left Kalambaka for Delphi at 17.00pm in order to arrive in the early evening in Delphi, ready for dinner and for a comfortable bed. After a day up and down the steps of the Meteora, the mattress was a great satisfaction. Be careful that from Lamia onwards the road becomes a succession of small "mountain passes" in the dark. I did it in the evening but if you prefer to do it with the clear hypothesis to leave much earlier.
I spent the night in Delphi al Hotel Pan , I recommend it because it has a crazy view of the gulf.
- Kalambaka -> Delphi: 231 km - 3 hours and 20 minutes (indicative, will be something more)
Day 3: Visit of the archaeological site of Delphi -> Transfer and night in Nafplio
On the morning of the third day I visited the archaeological site of Delphi. A stone's throw from the town stands this important site famous for his oracle and to be considered in the past the navel of the world. Indeed this important icon of classical Greece is particularly interesting. It climbs the mountain from which you have a spectacular view.
For see Delphi and the oracle were enough a couple of hours, then I left for Nafplio via the bridge of Patras. As I mentioned a few lines above, the bridge is very expensive. 13 euros for a simple crossing. Unfortunately, it cannot be done without. To reach Nafplio, go along the sea almost to Corinth and then take a few more kilometers of normal road to reach the beautiful seaside town before sunset. The city lends a lot to photographs.
- Delphi -> Nafplio: 307 km - 4 hours and 30 minutes
4th Day: Visit of Nafplio, Mycenae, Corinth -> Transfer and night in Athens
This has been, and will be for you if you do the same tour in mainland Greece, a particularly busy and busy day. Nafplio is very beautiful is there Palamidi fortress it is absolutely worth seeing and discovering in each of its towers. From Nafplio I moved to Mycenae to visit the archaeological site, then to Corinth which is famous for its canal. Not only that, I recommend you take a tour of the fortress of Acrocorinth from which you will see the whole coast.
The day ended in Athens after several kilometers on the highway. In my case I had planned to arrive in the Greek capital in the late afternoon, just the time for a shower and a good dinner.
- Delphi -> Nafplio: 307 km - 4 hours and 30 minutes
5th Day: Full visit of the city of Athens
Athens is the icing on the cake of this tour of mainland Greece; a city to be discovered completely on foot. I have traveled miles and miles around the Acropolis and I must say that I did not expect such a beautiful city.
What to see in mainland Greece: other possible detours
If you have more days at your disposal, Greece still offers a lot to see both from the point of view of nature and from that of the high-sounding Greek history.
You could also include in the itinerary:
- Thermopylae: just before Lamia it would be interesting to visit the famous monument dedicated to the battle of Thermopylae. An important page of Greek history was written in this place, a failure that gave the moral strength to Greece to defeat the Persians. With very few men, Leonidas managed to maintain the passage of Thermopylae for several days until the Persians managed to encircle him thanks to a tip from a local that indicated a further passage. If you want to know more about this battle I suggest you read this interesting article.
- Thessaloniki: the second Greek city. It is part of Thessaly and is not really on the itinerary I have indicated to you. If you have time, it would certainly be an interesting detour.
- Mount Athos: in the Halkidiki peninsula, not far from Thessaloniki, there is this mountain with monasteries like the Meteora. The difference is that women cannot enter here.
- The Zagorohoria area: I would have liked to include it in my itinerary of mainland Greece. Unfortunately, it would have taken me another day, so I had to postpone a future trip. It is a very characteristic mountain area. It is made up of 46 still rural villages and extends to the border with Albania. It is not a very popular place for mass tourism and it is precisely for this reason that I am so sorry I was not able to visit it. If you can, absolutely go there.
- Olympia: instead of immediately descending to Nafplio, from Patras go to visit the place where the Olympic torch is lit every four years, a very important archaeological site in classical Greece.
- Monemvasia: in the deep south of the Peloponnese there is another place that I would have liked to include in the tour of mainland Greece. Also in this case it is necessary to dedicate a whole day to it.
- Epidaurus: not far from Nafplio and Mycenae you can visit this other archaeological site. You will find the Theater of Epidaurus, famous for having exceptional acoustics.