Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour

“Drive and hike amongst the rugged Zagori region of northwest Greece on a flexible eight day itinerary that features Thessaloniki, Meteora and plenty of choice in between.”

Highlights

Meteora | Thessaloniki | Kastraki | Monastery of St Nicholas | Vergina | Zagori Region | Vikos-Aoos National Park | Dragon Mountain Lake | Konitsa | Ioannina and Metsovo | Dodon and Vergina |

Description of Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour

This fly drive hiking holiday in Greece takes place within the country’s remote northern region where archaeological sites near Thessaloniki and the wondrous monasteries at Meteora form classic cultural highlights against a rugged backdrop of mountain scenery.

Religious heritage threads its way through the foothills of northern Greece just as strongly as the gorge forming rivers in the Vikos-Aoos National Park with several Meteora monasteries still inhabited despite of the slightly precarious setting some 400 metres above the ground.

Highlights of this fly drive Greece hiking holiday:

Meteora
Discover one of the world’s most holy places and find out what it means to worship God whilst living in a vast monastery placed on top of huge granite boulders. Meteora literally translates to ‘middle of the sky’ and it’s easy to see why the six inhabited sandstone monasteries that you’ll find today are such an attraction to both religious and cultural travellers.

Thessaloniki
Greece’s second largest city is often overlooked by casual tourists which is why it’s such a fascinating place to visit. Numerous Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman monuments can be found throughout the city with history lovers spoilt for choice when it comes to ancient squares, cobbled streets and panoramic city views from Thessaloniki’s Ano Poli district.

Vergina
This small town packs a huge punch when it comes to cultural significance with archaeological excavations revealing the buried tombs of the Macedon kings, including that of Philip II, otherwise known as the father of Alexander the Great. Several other tombs and the remains of the Monumental Palace should always feature if you’re in the area with the town’s underground museum definitely worth adding to the culturally historic hit list.

Zagori Region
There are almost 50 villages to be found within the Zagori Region of northwest Greece with numerous ancient stone bridges and cobbled footpaths leading travellers on a unique cultural journey that will usually end up at lunch in a traditional taverna or at a picnic in a picturesque central square. This area is also renowned for its natural beauty with the dense forests, caves, canyons and twin gorges of the Vikos-Aoos National Park providing nature lovers with ample opportunities to take their self-drive Greece hiking holiday to new levels.

Info worth knowing:
All accommodation on this fly-drive Greece tour features small independent properties, often owned and run by local families. Staying at these sorts of hotels and guesthouses will add significantly to the overall experience of exploring a lesser-visited area of Greece as well as giving you the chance to meet local people and find out a few hidden recommendations that won’t appear in the international guide books.

Our recommended route takes in some stunning mountain scenery as well as numerous significant historical sites with the overall emphasis certainly on a relaxed pace in terms of sightseeing, driving and hiking. This is definitely one for history loving families with plenty of time spent outdoors adding to the marvellous myths and legends of ancient Greece.

What’s included in this fly drive Greece hiking holiday?
- Seven nights accommodation
- Seven days inclusive car hire
- Detailed route notes and sightseeing and hiking suggestions
- Around the clock assistance and emergency contact details
- All local taxes

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 & 2:Your hotel accommodation for the first couple of nights is in the village of Kastraki which can be reached by driving to Thessaloniki and then onwards to Kastraki, which is not too far from the monastic rock monoliths of Meteora. If time allows, on the first day, a hike as the sun sets is always a great way to get orientated and relax after your travels. For the second day we recommend visiting the UNESCO Monastery of St Nicholas and exploring amongst the huge rock pillars that dominate the local area.
Day 3 & 4:Today you'll be leaving Meteora and driving to a family-run hotel in Monodenri village which is situated close to Vikos-Aoos National Park, Vikos Gorge and several traditional Zagori villages. The next couple of days are yours to explore the area by car or on foot with numerous ancient stone bridges and beautiful natural landscapes forming the backbone to your stay in the Zagori area.
Day 5 & 6:Staying within the Zagori area for the next couple of days, we recommend that you transfer accommodation to Mikro Papigo village which can be found nestled amongst the junipers and rocky peaks of Vikos-Aoos National Park. Using the hotel in Mikro Papigo as a base gives you a much greater understanding of the natural area as well as allowing access to mountain trails and ancient foot paths along the Voidomatis River. Dragon Mountain Lake is simply stunning and there are also lots of easy hiking tracks as well as several natural rock pools for a bit of wild outdoor swimming.
Day 5 & 6:Alternatively, for the next couple of days, you'll be invited to drive to either Parga or Sivota on the Epirus coast or, another option is to drive to the north of the Zagori region and enjoy an overnight stay in Konitsa followed by a night by the lake in Kastoria.
Day 7 & 8:Your final two days in northern Greece will take you back from the Zagori area to Thessaloniki by way of Ioannina and Metsovo, and the archaeological sites of Dodon and Vergina. It's up to you whether you prefer to take your time to explore in the traditional village and caves, such as Perama, along the way or take the quicker highway route and spend more time enjoying the Roman and Byzantine history of Thessaloniki as well as the more contemporary entertainment options in the city centre prior to heading home.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour

Environment

Our local agency specialises in sustainable adventure and wildlife holidays in Greece. They offer diverse travel packages that allow for flexibility, affordability and variety. Our customers can choose from a small group trip or a completely tailor made option for minimum two persons.

Our aim is to promote ecotourism and sustainable adventure holidays at the same time as providing a unique travel experience and allowing you to enjoy the fantastic nature and scenery of this part of Greece, a world away from busy tourist resorts.

Our treks and holidays throughout Greece, encompassing National Parks, Protected Environmental Areas, Archaeological Sites, Caves & Hot Springs - places that have great natural, geological, cultural, and historical value, and the local guides provide further information about the environment and the benefits of sustainable adventure holidays. All staff have a wide knowledge of local areas that you visit during the trips and, most importantly, they know how to protect them.

The most sensitive animal species in our visited areas are two amphibian species, the Fire Salamander (mainly to be seen in the gorge of Enipeas – upper part) and the Alpine Newt (to be seen in the Dragon Lake of Astraka). We always inform our visitors to watch their steps as these animals can be found on our walking paths. Some endangered species of Birds of Prey like the Golden Eagle and the Egyptian Vulture and also rare mammals like the Brown Bear and the Balkan Chamois are present in the visited areas. Visitors get information about these species as well. Especially during the spring time, we see a lot of orchids in the Vikos Gorge. Although for all of our visitors it is obvious, we inform them that orchids are rare and protected. More interested visitors get details about the Greek Flora and Fauna which is one of the richest in Europe.

We strongly believe in the need to protect and enhance the places we travel to, and in the potential of responsible tourism, to be a positive force in environmental and cultural conservation. Our holiday pack provide lots of information to our clients and encourages them to research and support the two specific NGOs:

1. Archelon - The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece
2. Arcturos - The Society for the Protection of Wildlife in Greece (with current emphasis on the Brown Bear and Wolf).

For 2016 the plan is to donate a percentage of the tour price to maintain ancient paths in the Zagoria area (Vikos National Park) and Pelion.

We ask all our customers to respect the fragile mountain environment by, for example, taking their litter away with them. All our trips are either in very small groups or tailor made for individuals to minimise the impact of large groups on this mountain region.

In Zagoria area, near the Dragon lake, the Mountain Hut Astraka is operated by Giorgos and his wife. Since 2013 the hut uses renewable energy sources (photovoltaic panels).

We strongly believe in the need to protect and enhance the places we travel to, and in the potential of responsible tourism, to be a positive force in environmental and cultural conservation.

Community

100% of our guides and drivers in Greece are local people. We firmly believe that a local licensed guide can offer more insight into the countryside and region as a whole as well as enhancing the local economy. Their expertise and local knowledge will enhance your experience and understanding of the historical context and the environmental impact of your visit. This is preferable, in our opinion, than sending a guide from another country or even from elsewhere in Greece. All food on the included trek is bought locally, which provides employment for local shops.

The accommodation used on the tour is in small, family run establishments which have been in business for many years. Many of these hotels are traditionally built, respecting the local architecture and surroundings. Of course at the same time, these enterprises have to offer high standard of quality in dining and accommodation. Last but not least we have a personal relationship / friendship with all of our providers. Food in the hotels is primarily sourced locally.

In Meteora we stay in Hotel Dellas, which is owned by the family Dellas; they have 5 more employees, all locals from Kastraki and Kalambaka. We have our lunches and dinners at the Restaurant Paradisos, a family run (couple serving and mother is the cook) with 2 more employees. In Tsepelovo village we support Hotel Gouris. It is run by an old lady (Mrs. Anthoula) who has no other income except this little guest house. In Vitsa village we stay at Selini Hotel. It is also a family run little hotel run by a couple (Takis and Maria); the homemade food that Maria prepares is excellent. In Mikro Papigo we stay at Hotel Dias and we also dine there. It’s a family run Hotel and restaurant run by Kostas and his brother; 5 other local people are working there. In the town of Konitsa we stay in Hotel Dendro, eating at the restaurant of the hotel, a few meters away. It is a small family run hotel, run by a couple (Yiannis and Katerina) and their son Christos; 3 more locals are working both in hotel and restaurant.

Generally it is a big help when people visit Greece, especially in these hard times. Doing it with some environmental education, supporting the local economy and small enterprises is even better. Also tourism in small scale is helping the people in these areas to protect their environment as they understand that this is why tourists are coming.

In all of these villages, the main income of the locals is tourism. Since the economic crisis in Greece, the number of the Greeks visiting this area reduced dramatically. There are no official reports to support this statement yet, but we know it. Greeks used to be the majority of the tourists in the area (our estimation is around 80%), now only a few Greeks can afford a trip there. The area of Zagori is already considered to be one of the poorest of Greece.

Reviews of Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 13 Sep 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The opportunity to undertake self-guided walking in areas of fantastic and dramatic mountain countryside, having been thoroughly and expertly prepared by the local tour guide. Our trek to Gamila peak, one of the highest mountains in Greece was truly breath-taking as was our walk through the Vikos Gorge.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Explain what level of walking you are comfortable to undertake and the tour staff are happy to modify the walking programme for you accordingly.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. We stayed each night in small family run hotels and guest houses. They were extremely friendly and helpful. The food served was superb and the vast majority of ingredients used were locally sourced.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Absolutely excellent. I would very highly recommend to anyone looking for superb walking , beautiful food , unbelievable scenery and very friendly and helpful hosts. A brilliant holiday thank you.

Reviewed on 29 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Excellent holiday, we enjoyed it all - highlights were Meteora, where we did a hike to view the monasteries and walking in the Vikos Gorge, stunning, our photos don't capture the majesty of it all.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take a portable GPS! The directions were good as far as they went, but the Greeks seem to be very sparing with their signposts, it took us some time
to find our way in and out of Ioanina (having stopped to eat and go to the bank) in both directions!
We booked a guided walk at Meteora and that was definitely worth doing rather than just arriving at the monasteries by car.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We would hope so, all the accommodation was family run, all very welcoming and anxious we should get the best from the area. We only used the
car to get from place to place and did lots of walks. The area is clearly trying to increase the number of visitors with more hotels etc., but we hope it
doesn't get overwhelmed.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Epic!!

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