Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour
Description of Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour
This fly drive & hiking holiday in Greece takes place within the country’s remote and wild northern region bounded by archaeological sites near Thessaloniki and the wondrous monasteries at Meteora which 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; several Meteora monasteries are still inhabited despite the precarious setting, some 400m above the ground.
Highlights of this fly drive Greece hiking holiday:
Discover one of the world’s most holy places; Meteora literally translates to ‘middle of the sky’ and it’s easy to see why the six inhabited sandstone monasteries that you’ll find here are such an attraction to both religious and cultural travellers.
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.
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, the father of Alexander the Great. Several other tombs and the remains of the Monumental Palace feature in the town’s underground museum.
This region of northwest Greece is packed full 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 gorges providing ample opportunities to take this 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 & 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 guide books.
Our recommended route takes in some stunning mountain scenery as well as numerous historical sites with the overall emphasis 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?
- 7 nights accommodation
- 7 days inclusive car hire
- Detailed route notes, sightseeing and hiking suggestions
- 24hr assistance and emergency contact details
- All local taxes
|Day 1 & 2:||On arrival into Thessaloniki pick up your hire car at the airport and drive to your hotel accommodation for the first couple of nights in the village of Kastraki, lying below 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 on foot around 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. Hiking options include the stunning Vikos Gorge, accessible directly from your hotel.|
|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 footpaths 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 may choose 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. More details of these options on request - of course, you could choose all of them and simply extend your holiday by a few days.|
|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 Dodoni 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. Transfer to Thessaloniki Airport is included.|
4 Reviews of Self drive holiday in Northern Greece, hike & tour
Reviewed on 26 Sep 2019 by Eileen McCarthyThe most memorable part of the holiday was the ancient sites and the mountain walks. Read full review
Reviewed on 23 Sep 2017 by Charles FoxWhilst in Corfu we booked a day trip to Albania which was very interesting and the couriers were excellent. We loved the mountain areas of NW Greece. Read full review
Reviewed on 13 Sep 2016 by Richard TookeyAbsolutely 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. Read full review
Reviewed on 29 Aug 2016 by Penny ThomsonExcellent 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. Read full review
PlanetOur 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).
Since 2015 a percentage of the tour price is donated 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.
People100% 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.