Greece Road Trip – Two Incredible Routes

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Greece Road Trips Planner

Greece is a wonderful country for a road trip if you like the road less travelled. Packed with ancient sites, beautiful beaches and turquoise seas, historic towns and cities, and majestic mountains, a road trip is the best way to travel around Greece and explore all this gorgeous country has to offer.

The landscape of mainland Greece is dotted with ancient Greek monuments and temples, UNESCO World Heritage sites, hot springs, road side churches, lemon trees overhanging the roads, and traditional tavernas where you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Our routes and itineraries of the best road trips in Greece will help you hit the highlights as you go, making sure to visit all the iconic sights and take in the best of Greece from the road.

Best Time for a Greek Road Trip

Spring

April and May will bless you with perfect weather for road tripping Greece. Even into late spring, attractions will still be quiet and you’ll be able to find good deals on accommodation.

Summer

July and August are the hottest and most crowded months, especially in Athens and the islands, when the Greek population also take their annual holidays. This is the most expensive time to plan a trip to Greece, with accommodation charging a premium. Book well in advance if you plan to road trip in Greece during the summer months.

Autumn

Autumn is also a great time to visit Greece. It will be warm in the day, with little rain, and you’ll be able to find good deals on accommodation as the summer season comes to a close.

Winter

Winter can be a good time to visit if you’re happy to live with unpredictable weather. Attractions may not be open and tavernas and bars will be quite, and possibly closed in tourist locations. Winter can bring snow across mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, and driving conditions may not be ideal.

Visit in February for carnival (apokriátika) season. The celebrations span three weeks, ending during the seventh weekend before Easter. Patras Carnival is one of the largest and most flamboyant in the Mediterranean, and the third largest of its kind in the world! 

Greece Road Trip Map

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Athens to Thessaloniki Road Trip

Athens – Delphi – Galaxidi – Nafpaktos – Parga – Meteora – Mount Olympus – Thessaloniki

  • Distance 947km
  • Driving Time 13 hours
  • Duration 2 weeks

Athens

This 14 day road trip on the Greek mainland starts in the capital of Athens. Spend a day or two in this incredible city, which is both ancient and edgy.

The spectacular Acropolis dominates the skyline and is as connected to the modern city as it ever has been. At street level, Athens has become cool and contemporary, with open-air restaurants and live music on every corner.

There is graffiti and street art everywhere, especially on the many derelict buildings, but this is a long running custom here. In ancient Greece, graffiti was carved on walls with a sharp object, chalk or coal and the word originates from Greek γράφειν – graphein – meaning ‘to write’.

Must-sees in Athens include the Acropolis crowned by the spectacular Parthenon, the Ancient Agora, considered to be the beating heart of ancient Athens and a hub of commercial, political and social life, the ruins of Hadrian’s Library, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Aristotle’s Lyceum.

RELATED POST: One Day in Athens – Itinerary, Map, Tips & Guide

If you have an extra few days and want to experience some of the Greek islands, now is the time to hop on a ferry to chic Mykinos, fabulous Santorini or even Crete, and enjoy a bit of Greek island life before starting your mainland Greece road trip.

Ancient Delphi

From Athens, head west through Sterea Ellada (the region of Central Greece) to ancient Delphi. Of all of Greece’s many archaeological sites, Delphi is probably the most important. Built on the southern foothills of Mount Parnassus, the Sanctuary of Apollo is the big draw here, and the heart of the Delphic Oracle, whose advice had the power to start wars, bless marriages and create leaders.

The site is gorgeous, the surrounding landscape is carpeted with olive groves and has stunning views down to the Gulf of Corinth. It is also home to the Delphi Archaeological Museum and the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.

The history of Delphi is the stuff of ancient myths and legends and the site has much to share. Get the best from your visit with a private tour, where your knowledgable guide will take you on a journey into ancient Greek mythology as you explore the site and learn about the archaeological ruins. We recommend this Delphi Guided Walking Tour with Admission Ticket, with an experienced guide who has extensive knowledge of the site.

Stay at Fedriades Delphi Hotel, just a ten minute walk from Ancient Delphi. With glorious views across the Corinthian Gulf and Pleistou Valley, a fantastic Greek breakfast and free parking for road trippers, this is the perfect place to stay to visit Delphi.

Galaxidi

One of the prettiest resorts along the Gulf of Corinth, Galaxidi hugs a coastal mound, with twisting cobblestone streets connecting the harbours at either side. To the south, the newer harbour is a lively hub, lined with bars, tavernas and fish restaurants.

Opposite this harbour is a partially wooded peninsula, fringed with small rocky coves and criss-crossed with walking paths. There are lots of picturesque spots here, perfect for a lazy afternoon – although don’t expect that at the weekend in good weather, when car loads of Athenians descend as they escape the city!

Stay at the Hotel Galaxidi, a two minute walk from the beach and harbour. The rooms are comfortable, the breakfast is homemade, and the parking is free. A great stop all round!

Nafpaktos

Nafpaktos is a delightful town, built around a near-circular walled harbour that was constructed by the Venetians in the 15th century, when the town was called Lepanto.

With colorful boats bobbing about in the turquoise waters that moor at the picturesque harbour, strolling the area is a highlight of this charming this little town. From the harbour starts the beautiful long Psani Beach, the perfect location for a dip in those clear waters.

On a hill above Nafpaktos town sits a well-preserved and imposing Venetian kastro (castle) with breathtaking views of the sea and the opposite coasts of the Peloponesse. It’s well worth the climb for the views alone.

Stay at Hotel Akti, overlooking Gribovo Beach. With light, airy and comfortable rooms, free parking and breakfast made with local ingredients, this is a perfect road trip stop over.

Parga

Parga has to be one of the most picturesque locations on the Greek mainland. Famous for its exotic beaches, beautiful landscape and traditional Greek architecture, Parga is also a good departure point to visit the gorgeous island of Paxos, one of the least commercial of the Greek islands.

Parga itself stretches around a south facing bay, lapped by the turquoise Ionian Sea. Above the town is a Venetian castle built in 1792, which provides a breathtaking view over the surrounding coastline.

Located opposite Parga port, is the tiny Panagia islet, iconic lamdmark of Parga and home to a pretty whitewashed chapel. Take a small boat from Parga to this tiny lush island, or swim out there if you fancy a dip!

The highlight of Parga is the island vibe, which is hard to find on the mainland! Kick back, relax, enjoy the beaches and the lively feel of this enchanting place.

Stay at beachfront Villa Coralli apartments, overlooking Krioneri Beach and 200m from the centre of town. With super comfy beds and sea or mountains views, this is a perfect place from which to enjoy Parga.

Meteora

The name Meteora is derived from the Greek meteoros, which means ‘suspended in the air’. The extrodinary rock formations of the Meteora region seem to do just that, and then to add to the sheer spectacle of these stark pinnacles of rock, many are topped with Byzantine monasteries. No wonder then that the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora is one of the most visited attractions in Greece.

At one time, there were 24 monastries gracing the peaks, now there are just six – Moni Agias Triados of ‘For Your Eyes Only’ fame; Monis Agias Varvaras Rousanou; Moni Agiou Nikolaou; the largest, Moni Magalou Mateorou; Moni Varlaam and Moni Agiou Stefanou.

Kastraki, the nearest village to the monastaries, sits high on the rocks of the region. Above is the Meteora massif, with a road which skirts the rim. The monastries are perched on rocky outcrops of the massif.

You don’t need to climb the full height of each pinnacle, access is via a path and staircase cut into the rocks from the massif, with a typical ascent being around 200 steps. The schedule of which monastry is open and when changes regularly, so check here before making any firm plans.

The dress code is strict and you won’t be allowed to enter if you don’t wear appropriate clothing. That means no bare shoulders, men must wear trousers and women skirts below the knee (wraparound skirts are provided as you enter).

The complete driving loop of the monastries from Kalabaka (sometimes called Kalampaka) to Kastraki and then back again is 20km. If you start early, you should be able to see them all in a day, but we think it’s better to do it across two days, so you don’t feel rushed and have time to stop along the way. It will be busier at the weekends and around holiday times like Easter, when day trippers descend.

If getting a flavour and the best photos beats seeing all the monastries, then take this small group half day Panoramic Meteora and Monasteries Tour from Kalampaka, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit three of the monastries and stop at all the best spots for those iconic Meteora images.

Stay at Pyrgos Adrachti, which has wonderful views over Meteora from the balcony of each room. Polished wood and traditional rugs add to the local vibe, making this an ideal stop for a few nights in the region.

Mount Olympus

Oft shrouded in cloud, or covered in snow, the mythical Mount Olympus is spectacular. Home of the gods and site of the throne of Zeus, Olympus is important in Greek mythology and is the highest mountain in Greece at 2,917 metres.

The base for Olympus hiking and trekking is the typical mountain town of Litochoro, which sits between the foothills and the Aegean Sea, and is within easy reach of the ancient city of Dion.

You need at least two days if you want to scale the peak, and be an experienced climber. There are several local tour companies that offer flexible trekking packages, depending on your abilities and fitness. Check out Olympus Climbing and Vist Olympus for options.

Typical day trips from Litochoro take in Prionia, the highest point you can reach in a car, the cave and old monastery of Agios Dionisios, and the beautiful Enipeas Gorge complete with waterfalls and natural swimming spots.

Stay at the beautifully appointed Mythic Valley Apartments. With friendly staff and great facilities this is the perfect location for exploring Mount Olympus.

Thessaloniki

Greece’s second city will suck you in with its beauty, charm, history and culture. With fantastic cuisine, amazing sea views and incredible beaches just a few miles away, this is a worthy city in which to end your Greek road trip.

Thessaloniki’s neighbourhoods are vibrant and full of life. Old and new blend together, with ancient Byzantine landmarks scattered through the urban terrain, happily sitting side by side with modern cocktail bars and contemporary architecture.

One of Thessaloniki’s highlights is the lively waterfront, home to the iconic 15th century White Tower, a 34 metre building with a murderous past. Just along from here is the award winning new waterfront, which stretches to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. Loved by locals and visitors alike, it’s the perfect place to promenade whilst enjoying an ice-cream!

Egnatia is the main drag through the city, and follows the path of the old Roman road. The Roman monuments of the Palace of Galerius, the Arch of Galerius, the Roman Forum and the renovated Rotunda can all be found along the route.

For magnificent ancient Greek ruins and lesser-visited churches, head to Ano Poli, Thessaloniki’s upper town. The olf Turkish Quarter is the only district to have survived the devastating fire of 1917, which actually started here but was swept towards the sea by offshore winds.

Ladadika, a picturesque quarter close to the port, is the best if you’re heading out for the night, with restaurants, bars and clubs lining the streets.

Stay at the modern harbourside Plaza Hotel in Ladadika, close to all the major attractions. Parking is available off site and must be booked in advance.

If you have an extra few days before leaving Thessaloniki, head south to the popular Halkidiki Peninsula, with its three fingers dipping into the Aegean Sea. Kassandra and Sithonia both have stunning beaches, forested interiors and gorgeous roads. The most easterly finger, Athos, is a tightly sealed semi-autonomous, all-male, monastic community, closed to the rest of the world.

Peloponnese Road Trip

Athens – Corinth – Kalavryta – Olympia – Kalamata – The Mani – Sparta – Nafplio – Mycenae – Athens

  • Distance 818km
  • Driving Time 13 hours
  • Duration 2-3 weeks

Athens

This Peloponnese itinerary and road trip starts in the capital city of Athens. Spend a day or two in this incredible city, which is both ancient and edgy.

Corinth Canal

As you head west from Athens towards Ancient Corinth, you’ll cross the Corinth Canal, which splits the Corinth Isthmus, the narrow strip of land between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, and joins the Aegean and Ionian Seas.

The Corinth Canal was a major feat of engineering when it was built, and it was a long time in the making! The Roman emperor Nero first thought of the idea, and the isthmus was first crossed by boats in 600BCE, when a ship railway was built to carry small craft on wheeled cradles, which ran in grooves. This system was thought to be in use until the 9th century.

Work on the canal began in 1882, and it opened in 1893. The canal has dramatic steep limestone walls that soar 92 metres high, but the canal is only 21 metres wide at sea level! This width was fine when the canal was built in the late 19th century, but it is far too narrow for the vast cargo and passenger ships built today.

In February 2021, there was a large landslide close to the old passenger bridge near the centre of the canal, and it has remained closed ever since, with no date in sight of when it might re-open.

If you want to stop and see the canal up close, take exit 9 from the E94 to Loutraki. You will then cross the Corinth Canal over the old bridge. After the crossing, there is a large parking area with tavernas and shops, where you can stop and take the short walk back over the bridge.

Ancient Corinth

Home to the legendary Jason of the Argonauts, of Golden Fleece fame, Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece, with a population of 90,000 in 400BCE. The Romans demolished Corinth in 146BCE before building a new city in its place in 44BCE, which became the provincial capital of Greece.

Today, Ancient Corinth is an important archaeological site. It is here that St. Paul preached to the people of Corinth in AD 51-52, an experience which later inspired him to write the New Testament books of the First Corinthians and Second Corinthians, often quoted parts of the Bible.

The most important monument in Ancient Corinth is the Doric Temple of Apollo, which overlooks the site from its small mound. The temple was built around 540BCE and today, only seven of the limestone columns remain.

Akrokorinthos lies 3.5 kilometers south of Ancient Corinth. The 575m ascent to the top of this impressive fortified hilltop is made easier by a road, and once inside, the views from the high point at the Temple of Aphrodite, are stunning.

The Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth has three display rooms and a large courtyard. Exhibits are labelled in both Greek and English and help you make sense of what you see around you. The entrance ticket to the site is also valid for the museum.

Stay at Maria’s Boutique Rooms a few minutes walk to the archaeological site. This charming family run guesthouse will give you a taste of traditional Greek hospitality.

Kalavryta

This pretty mountain town is surrounded by fabulous views and has lots to do in the surrounding area. If you’re road tripping Greece in winter, give Kalavryta a miss – it’s also a ski resort!

Unusually in Greece, Kalavryta is best known for it’s more recent history. It is known officially as the place where the Greek War of Independence started, when Greece revolted against the Turks in 1821.

Tragically, it is also the place of one of the worst atrocities to happen on Greek soil during World War Two. In December 1943, the Nazis massacred most of the male population of the village, nearly 500 souls. The hands of the old cathedral clock stand permanently at 2.34pm, the time the German guns fell silent.

Today, you can visit the Museum of the Kalavryta Holocaust, a moving tribute to those residents and the story of the struggle between Greek partisans and the occupying forces. East of the town is the Martyrs Monument – the spot where the massacre took place. Both are difficult places to visit but should not be missed when you visit Kalavryta.

The Diakofto-Kalavryta Railway is a vintage rack and pinion railway between the two towns. The route is incredibly scenic, passes through seven tunnels and twists along the dramatic Vouraikos Gorge, clinging to its narrow ledge over the churning rapids below.

The cog train makes three journeys between the towns every day, each way takes an hour. From the seaside town of Diakofto it is possible to make a return trip to mountainous Kalavryta, when the cog wheel train climbs over 700 metres to reach the town.

Alternatively, you can hike the stunning 22km from Kalavryta to Diakofto along the route of the railway. Luckily, the train drivers are well used to hikers on the track and always give plenty of warning of their approach. It will take around five hours and you’ll need a torch for the tunnels. Time your hike so you can take a rest in Diakofto before hopping on the train back!

The Anerada Hotel is a delightful family run hotel, just outside Kalavryta. With great amenities and cozy decor, this is a good spot for a few days exploring.

As you leave Kalavryta, make sure to set your sat nav for the Cave of the Lakes near Kastria, which is on route to Ancient Olympia, your next stop. The cave has a 500m boardwalk from which you can view the incredible rock formations and thirteen crystal clear subterranean pools formed by millennia of mineral deposits.

Ancient Olympia

Birthplace of the Olympic Games, Ancient Olympia is where the Games took place every four years, for over 1100 years! The Olympic Flame is still lit here for the modern Games.

This is a beautiful, shady archaelogical site is incredibly evocative – wandering through the ruins, it’s easy to imagine the ripped athletes and excited spectactors of its heyday, amongst the magnificent temples and athletic facilities.

A visit to the Archaelogical Museum of Olympia will help put the site into perspective – it was built and developed over one thousand years, so there are lots of periods of history, and their artefacts, to be explored.

If you like something a bit different, book this brilliant Self-Guided Virtual Reality Tour of Olympia, where you can step back in time with an interactive map and see monuments come back to life with virtual reality glasses!

Stay at Prytanio, located a short stroll away from the archaelogical site. With fresh, modern decor, private terraces and parking, this is a lovely spot from which to visit Olympia.

If you have time, when you leave Olympia, set your sat nav for Figeleia, then follow the road signs for the Neda Waterfalls, a popular swimming spot. It will add a 1.5 hours onto the route, but the drive is spectacular!

You need to walk for around 15 minutes from the parking lot to get to the falls (there are actually two) along a narrow and rocky trail, so make sure to wear trainers or boots. Once at the falls, get on your swimmers and cool off in the beautiful water!

Kalamata

The second largest city in the Peloponnese, and famous for its large dark brown olives, Kalamata is a lively seaside town which most tourists drive through, although it is well worth a stop.

Most of the town is modern, after being razed by the 1986 earthquake. You’ll find a long sandy beach, good restaurants and some excellent museums, such as the Museum of Traditional Greek Costumes and the History and Folklore Museum, to keep you busy.

Perched above the town is a 13th century kastro, which miraculously survived the huge 1986 earthquake. There are fantastic views from the castle, which is a haven of peace from the busy city below.

Stay at the Grecotel Filoxenia Hotel, for a few days of relaxing. With direct beach access, acres of lush gardens and pools, bars and restaurants, this is a great spot for some road trip downtime!

Depending on how long you have for your Greece itinerary, you can go one of two ways from Kalamata, or use the town as a base to explore in both directions!

Option One

Take route 82, the Langada Pass, to gory Sparta and the Byzantine capital of Mystras. The 59km road, which crosses the Taygetos Mountains between Kalamata and Sparta is simply stunning, winding it’s way through small villages, rocky gorges and along sparking rivers. The pass itself sits at 1524m above sea level, so if you’re travelling outside of summer, check the weather before setting off.

Option Two

Take a circular route around the middle peninsula of the Peloponnese through the Messinian Mani. Take in picture perfect Kardamyli, home of the famous English writer and Cretan resistance fighter, Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, and the colourful harbour of pretty Gythio. The Mani is a wild and rugged region and the landscapes are dramatic – from tiny villages, historic tower houses, vast olive groves and rocky coves to snow capped mountains, you could spend weeks exploring this part of Greece.

From Gythio, you can head north to Sparta, or across the mountains to Leonidio on the east coast of the Peloponnese. This is a stunning drive which takes you through the traditional mountain village of Kosmas, which has interesting ancient and WWII history.

Nafplio

A charmingly romantic town, Nafplio (sometimes Nafplion) is blessed with pretty streets, elegant neoclassical architecture and interesting independent shops, bars and tavernas. This is a town for wanderers who love to explore hidden corners and delightful squares.

Drive or climb the 911 steps up to the spectacular Palamidi Fortress, built by the Venetians between 1711 and 1714. The citadel stands on a 216 meter high outcrop which dominates the town and gives panoramic views of Nafplio and the Argolic Gulf.

You can take a boat trip out to the tiny island fortress of Bourtzi, which sits in Nafplio’s large bay. The island has served many purposes, including as a pirate deterrent, home for executioners and a hotel! Today the island hosts Nafplio’s Summer Music Festival, providing a stunning backdrop to classical music.

There are a couple of good beaches close to the town. Arvanitia Beach is a five minute walk south of town, past the Akronafplia Fortress, and Karathona Beach is at the end of a gorgeous 3km path lined with fragrant pine trees, that follows the coast south from Arvanitia Beach.

Cool, quirky and very stylish, the Leone Guest House is perfectly located in Nafplio Old Town. Stay here for great access to everything that Nafplio has to offer.

Mycenae

On a hilltop with a stupendous mountain back drop is Ancient Mycenae, home of the legendary (any maybe mythical, but that’s not conclusive) Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and leader of the Greek army in the Trojan War. For four centuries in the second millenium BCE, this kingdom was the most powerful in Greece and gave its name to the Mycenaean civilisation.

Now known as Mykines, myth and history are inextricably linked in UNESCO listed Mycenae, which was name checked by 9th century Homer, who wrote of ‘well built Mycenae, rich in gold’, in his epic poems, Illiad and Odyssey.

Surrounded by huge walls that were constructed by the mythical one-eyed Cyclops, Mycenae is home to many archaelogical treasures, including the Lion Gate, the entrance of the citadel, and the Treasury of Atreus, the vaulted tomb of King Agamemnon. 

Stay at La Petite Planete, perfectly located for visiting Mycenae. Simply styled, with outstanding service and a wonderful Greek breakfast, this is a lovely spot – and there’s a pool!

Greece Road Trip Resources

RELATED POST: Motorhome & Campervan Greece – Complete Guide

Information About Driving in Greece

The quality of the roads and abilities of Greek drivers are mixed. Motorways in Greece have received a lot of EU investment in recent years, and on the whole are in good condition. The same cannot be said of other Greece roads, even the national road network.

Expect pot holes, uneven surfaces and the occasional time when the road just becomes a track, before becoming a road again. Take it easy on your first day until you get a feel for the conditions and driving style.

  • Drivers from non-EU countries may require an International Driving Permit when travelling to Greece by car. If you are from the UK, your UK licence allows you to drive in all EU countries unless it’s a paper licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, then you will need an International Driving Permit for your Portugal visit.
  • You must have at least 3rd party insurance for your vehicle. You do not require a green card to prove you have vehicle insurance cover when taking trips to Portugal in a UK or EU registered vehicle.
  • All vehicles must display a sticker denoting their country of origin. UK registered vehciles must display a UK sticker on the rear of of your vehicle, unless you have a new style UK numberplate which displays the Union Jack flag.
  • Your headlights must be adapted for driving on the right.
  • You must carry photographic proof of ID and a reflective jacket (for the driver and all passengers) travelling Portugal by road.
  • Legally, you must carry a warning triangle, first aid kit and fire extinguisher.
  • The Greek alphabet will appear totally nonsensical to you (unless you speak Greek, of course!). Most road signs translate the Greek alphabet into Latin and all major and secondary roads and motorways have road signs in both Greek and English.
  • You must not carry or use a radar detector and if caught could be fined and the device can be confiscated.
  • In urban areas, sounding the horn is not allowed at any time, except in an emergency.
  • Greece has one low emission zone (LEZ) in Athens. Find out more about it here.
  • Tolls are levied for most motorways, the Rio-Antirrio Bridge and the Aktio-Preveza Tunnel. In Greece, you pay a fixed amount in advance to access to motorway, there are no payment booths as you exit. Tolls can be paid by cash or card, or with an electronic toll tag, depending on where you are in the country. Motorway toll tags are fully transferable between the six toll operators in Greece. You can’t buy these online outside of Greece, but you can stop at a customer service point on one of the motorways. You can find out more about Greek tolls and providers here.

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