Greece Self Drive 4 - Meteora, Macedonia & Epirus

Sightseeing & hiking in quieter Greece

Summary

One of Greece's remotest areas (Zagori) with vibrant Thessaloniki and the majestic Meteora monasteries.

START / FINISH - Thessaloniki

Activity code: GR-FD-04

Duration: 9 Days/8 nights

Driving through the north of Greece is a real pleasure, the region is rich in cultural and religious history and has an abundance of natural beauty. This popular self-drive holiday takes you on a tour of the lesser-explored regions of northwestern mainland Greece, focusing particularly on the beautiful region of Zagori. Your itinerary also includes one of the most iconic locations along the way - the monasteries of Meteora. The greater regions of Epirus  and Thessaly are still relatively remote and certainly lesser-travelled parts of Greece.

Starting in Greece's second city, Thessaloniki, enjoy a pleasant drive south and inland to the pretty village of Kastraki where you will be stunned by the scale and beauty of the magnificent rocks with mediaeval monasteries perched on top. If you arrive after dark then your first sight in the morning will be simply stunning. After exploring Meteora it's time to drive into the north western province of Epirus and its wild and beautiful national park. There is time in the Zagori region to do some hiking in places such as the Vikos Gorge but you will also love their remote villages & iconic stone bridges. In the middle section of your holiday you can choose to visit the coast and spend a couple of nights in Parga, for example, or you may wish to do some more hiking, such as to the Dragon Lake. Whichever you choose there are so many fascinating places to visit along the way such as Ioannina, Dodoni, Perama caves and the Necromanteion. You may also wish to visit Metsovo and Vergina on your way back to Thessaloniki.

Significant archaeological sites are located close to Thessaloniki making it a good base for exploring the most important attractions of Northern Greece. We feel that the best finale to this holiday is a few nights in Greece's second city where you can relax, enjoy some activities and sightseeing without your car or you may wish to head to the beach in nearby Halkidiki or consider a second week in Pelion or extend your holiday with extra days in Macedonia. 

This is our recommended route and definitely our favourite, it is a tried and trusted itinerary allowing you plenty of time to enjoy the countryside as you travel - we have designed it so that you have the opportunity to do some hiking at each location. If you are looking for any modifications then we will also be very happy to discuss a completely tailor made itinerary. All we would need to know are approximate dates of travel, what standard of hotel you would prefer, and if there are any particular areas or classical sites which you would like us to include (or to exclude!) in your itinerary. Your fly drive can be as active or leisurely as you please. Staying one night at each stop allows the maximum amount of sightseeing; two or more nights will allow you to do side trips, whilst staying in one place will give you the opportunity to relax and explore the local area.

If you would like to visit these wonderful places but don't wish to drive then we have a choice of guided tours or we can offer you a private driver for the itinerary you have chosen.

Not included: In January 2018 Greece introduced an Overnight Stay Tax of 0.50 to 4 Euros per room or apartment per night, which is payable locally - the amount varies according to the category of the accommodation (i.e. most self catering and 1-2 star hotels = 0.50 Euros,  5 star hotels = 4 Euros).

Why not extend your stay in Greece with a relaxing few days on one of the islands or on the mainland. Please ask us for further details or suggestions!

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What's included in your fly-drive holiday:

  • Fully inclusive car rental
  • 8 nights hotel and guest house accommodation
  • B&B basis throughout.
  • Fully detailed itinerary with sightseeing and route suggestions
  • FREE travel app with all your documents, maps, weather and much more
  • You also have the full back up of our office in Greece during your stay.

Itinerary

Collect your car from Thessaloniki Airport and drive south to Kastraki village near Meteora.

Once you are settled into your hotel you might like to start exploring the area. Depending on your arrival time you might like to take a short walk - the sunset here is simply stunning.

[If you are on a late flight we will arrange for an overnight stay in Thessaloniki on the night you arrive to save you driving in the dark!]

Recommended places to stay

Today is free to explore this unique area. This UNESCO site consists of monasteries built on huge rocks, which tower 400m above the valley. Small roads and paths take visitors up and around the monasteries, some still-inhabited, some now abandoned.

'Suspended in the air' (the meaning of Meteora in Greek), these monasteries represent a unique artistic and engineering achievement - to turn this inhospitable area into a place of retreat, meditation and prayer. The first hermits arrived in the 11th century and over the next 600 years twenty-four monasteries in total were built. There were no passable roads and pilgrims (as well as food and supplies) had to be hoisted up the cliff in a net to reach the monasteries.

Today, only a handful are open and admit visitors.

Departing Meteora drive towards the Vikos-Aoos National Park and the Zagori villages. Zagori (Slavic for 'behind the mountains') is a geographical area consisting of 46 traditional mountain villages, pine forests, traditional stone bridges, and a wealth of flora and fauna.

Your stay for the next two nights will be in the village of Monodenri in an authentic, family-run hotel. From this base you'll be able to explore one of the most beautiful areas of Greece.

Recommended places to stay

A day at leisure to explore this very scenic and unspoilt area, either on foot or by car. You may like to visit the Vikos Gorge, which crosses west and central Zagori. It is approximately 12 kilometres long and its cliffs reach 1200 metres high.

If you don't fancy straying too far Monodendri itself is one of the most beautiful and well-known of the traditional Zagori settlements. The large square, manor houses and churches reflect the wealth of its citizens during the Turkish occupation. The settlement is home to the 15th century monastery of St Paraskevi and the 17th century Church of St. Minas.

After your stay in Monodendri we suggest that you move a little bit further north to the lovely little village of Mikro Papigo in the heart of the National Park for the next two nights.

Papigo in western Zagori is built on the sides of Mount Astraka and consists of two areas: Small (Mikro) and Great (Megalo) Papigo - both have kept their traditional appearance with large manor houses, cobbled streets and fresh mountain springs.

Recommended places to stay

Depending on your fitness levels and experience you could explore the peaks of this unique mountainous area, visit the "Dragon" mountain lake or hike easier paths, for example along the Voidomatis River, swim in natural pools between rocks or just relax and enjoy the vistas from the terrace of your hotel! 

  • Coastal option

Travel to the coast via Ioannina and stay at a choice of Parga or Sivota for 2 nights to relax and enjoy the incredible beauty of Epirus' coastline.

  • Inland option

Travel around to the north of the Zagori area and stay a night in Konitsa for some walking in the local area then take the scenic route north to Kastoria for a night by the lake.

On your way back to Thessaloniki you could visit the towns of Ioannina and Metsovo, archaeological sites such as Dodoni and Vergina, the wonderful caves at Perama or many of the traditional villages you will encounter along the way. You can, of course, simply take the new highway all the way to Thessaloniki if you wish to enjoy some time in the city.

Thessaloniki has many historical sights up its sleeve, Roman, Byzantine and Turkish monuments crowd the city centre along with many excellent bars and restaurants.

Recommended places to stay

A crossroads between East and West, Thessaloniki developed quickly to become the second biggest city in the Byzantine Empire. So many Byzantine churches survive today that Thessaloniki has been designated a World Heritage Site.

Thessaloniki is like an open-air museum and as well as these fabulous churches there are ruins and monuments from the Ottoman period such as the White Tower, the city's symbol. These ancient buildings and archaeological sites sit alongside contemporary buildings, modern shops and numerous coffee shops.

After breakfast enjoy some leisure time in Thessaloniki depending on your flight departure time; drive to the airport and drop off rental car.*

* or you could chose to drop off the car the previous evening in Thessaloniki and take a private transfer to the airport.

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Flexible Tailor-Made Holidays

  • We believe passionately that no two holidays should be the same.
  • With our flexible tailor-made holiday options you can travel at your own pace.
  • Rediscover a city, a resort or an island in a weekend or longer.
  • Take a small group tour or embark upon a more adventurous trip.

Trusted Service

  • ATOL cover for flight inclusive holidays.
  • One of us at Rediscover the World is very likely to have visited the hotels and travelled along the routes on your itinerary.
  • Dynamic, comprehensive travel app with all your documents, maps and much more.
  • Full financial protection for your holiday (TTA).

Why book a Fly Drive ?

  • Accommodation choices are small, independent or family-run properties which add significantly to your travel experience.
  • Stress-free arrival & departure transfer service.
  • Detailed driving directions, parking info, suggested routes & sightseeing ideas.
  • Fully protected for your peace of mind & financial security.