Our family of 4 spent a month travelling through Greece and this is the 10 day Mainland review of our trip.
Part 1 includes a review of the 8 night we spent in Athens
We left Athens Tuesday morning following our relatives out to the main highway. Once out of Athens, driving was very easy throughout Greece. You just drive hugging the shoulder when someone drives up behind you. We had intentions of stopping at the Corinth Canal. I don’t know what happenned but we completely missed it. How can we miss driving over a canal?
Ancient Corinth was my favorite archeological site. It was peaceful, uncrowded and full of shady trees. You could take your time, walk through a city, sit on a rock and gain appreciation for the writings of the Apostle Paul.
We drove to Nafplion where we encountered our only hotel problem of the trip. We had booked a two bedroom apartment with Pension Acronafplio for 2 nights. Upon arrival we were told our apartment had been given away and lied to that our credit card had been denied and that he had emailed us. The owner just seemed shady and was unapologetic. If it was just the two of us, we would have left, but after complaining he gave us 2 regular rooms which had maintenance issues. One of our doors had a huge gap along the side that people could have seen right in. Thankfully it was just us and our kids in that particular building. Completely unrelated to the hotel, our car parked right in front of our rooms, got keyed quite badly.
Nafplion’s village outskirts felt very Miami beach chic with its big outdoor cafes and big screen tv’s. Inside the village, the street are quaint and narrow. I couldn’t believe they allow cars to drive through the town.
We met up with our relatives who have a cottage here and had drinks under their olive trees. I’m not sure what happened here...but all our plans of visiting Mycenae and Epidavros vanished as we chose leisurely breakfasts and fredditos in the town square and shopping instead. I guess we had just burnt out abit. The 2E gyros at Mary’s corner were really good. Our relatives took us to a beautiful nearby beach with mountains in the distance. The water was very warm here.
Thursday we took off for Olympia. The drive was long but beautiful, especially the village of Lagkadia. There are stretches of road you can’t go faster than 20km/hr. Once in Olympia we checked into hotel Pelops. We booked a 2 bedroom room for 4, booked for 120E. It was one of the nicest hotels we stayed at. The boys went swimming at the 'shared pool and we headed out for supper. There wasn't too much to choose from. The town seemed to be shutting down for the summer but we did find somewhere to eat. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but the dolmathakia (?) were abit different and the taramousalata was white and much more fishy tasting.
The next day we visited Ancient Olympia. This was very interesting and had a beautiful museum.
The next morning we took off for Parga. After we crossed the Rio bridge, the scenery became very dull. I started getting worried. Had we seen too much beauty so far that everything else would pale in comparison? The minute we emerged from the Preveza tunnel it was breathtaking and it just kept getting better.
We got to Parga and settled into our hotel room at the Maistrali. One room with 4 beds for 80E per night. Parga had been a pain to book a room. Hotels seemed to be all booked up a year in advance (by tour package companies I assume). I don’t think they like booking rooms to people for less than a week. I managed to make a reservation with Achilleas hotel on Piso Krioneri beach, only to have them email me a month before, cancelling my reservation due to demand from tour companies. I then booked and put a credit card deposit on a hotel with Parga.net. A few days later Parga.net emailed me to tell me there was a mistake and the hotel was all booked. I tried to work with them but all the hotels on their website which showed availablity did not. The hold on my credit card was taken off but I would strongly suggest not dealing with them. Finally, I booked a room with the Maistrali. As with many hotels in Parga, I had to send one night’s deposit through to their bank. The hotel’s location was perfect, away from the crowds but within easy walking distance to the harbour. Unfortunetly, the walls were paper thin. We could hear people talking and their baby playing next door, and the beds were the most uncomfortable of our trip. However, the hotel had a very comfortable atmosphere with a great terrace that had lots of comfy sofas to curl up in. The owners are very family oriented and were in the bar/terrace together all the time. At one point I asked where the laundromat was and they offered to do our laundry, free of charge. Very nice!
We had a room at the rear of the hotel with a partial sea view. For some reason the wi-fi couldn’t reach our room, so if you have a laptop, you need to sit on the terrace or the upper balcony facing the street.
As we walked down to the harbourfront it felt like a sleepy little beach town. As soon as we turned the corner it was full of people and activity......just very lively and all beautifully lit up. It just felt like a carnival every night.
We walked around and ate at Zorba’s. We felt the food here was just okay. They did have the tastiest tomatoes in their salad though. Another night we ate at Pizza Egli, across the street from our hotel. It had the best pizza, better than any we had in Italy. We also had hot chocolates, one night at the castle overlooking the harbour.
At this point, the temperature started to turn cold for the rest of our trip. Parga and the surrounding area is breathtaking. The old olive groves were beautiful. They are huge and over 450 years old. All the trees were entertwined on the ground, with black netting....miles and miles of it, rolled up, waiting for November, to be spread out, when the winds knock the olives down. We drove up to the castle and at one point, we all got a bit sick. None of our ears would pop. Hubby and son visited the castle while my daughter and I waited for our ears to adjust. We then drove down to Sarakiniko beach and Wow....the beach was beautiful. Thankfully it had warmed up abit and the kids and hubby had a swim. The water was the bluey-greenest, clearest water we’ve ever seen, and we’ve travelled throughout the carribbean. The taverna connysir had recommended, taverna Tou Christou, was right there on the beach. We had a meal of appetizers. We agreed it was one of our favorite meals in Greece. The food, the setting.....so yummy. We made our way back to our hotel in awe of the olive groves, passing by herds of goats and their shepherds in the streets.
That night, back at the harbourfront, we stumbled upon a family having some sort of celebration at their restaurant. They had a greek trio, singing and playing zeimbekiko. The children were running around the harbourfront with balloons and doing handstands. The little girls in their dresses were chasing and hitting the boys.....and one little girl was spinning herself silly trying to dance. It was magical....my favourite day of the trip! We sat up on the wall and listened to the music, the bouzouki....the woman singer ...amazing....and the man singer with his deep raspy voice.....I loved it...I could have stayed there all night but my husband finally dragged me away.
We checked out of the hotel. They claimed we never sent a deposit. Thankfully, I had brought our bank receipt with us, and that settled that. We left for Metsovo having stops planned in Dodoni and Perama caves. We followed connysir’s detailed directions and avoided getting lost in Paramithia. The new highway will be amazing. It is an incredible undertaking. Some of the stretches were complete and in some places the speed limit is 130km. The road to Dodoni was closed with no no detour instructions. We got lost and found our way stopping for directions in an old tiny village with roofs made of slate. Directions do not really matter because people always forget to tell you about forks in the road. You just have to go in the general direction, and ask again, which we did. We stopped at a coffee shop where I interrupted 5 men deeply involved in an intense game of cards. We bought some yummy frappes, I thought, the best, and I asked for a bathroom only to be directed to a little room, off the side of the building, with a hole in the floor. I decided to pass on that. We finally found Dodoni and it was quite interesting. The site was full of archeologists busily working away. Part of the amphitheatre had collapsed and was being restored. It also looked like new areas were being dug up.
On the way to Perama, we missed a turn and got stuck driving through Oiannina. We had lunch on the lake at a restaurant called Ithaki, I think, and I had an amazing chicken casserole dish.
We visited Perama caves. The road from Perama to Metsovo was a bit of a nailbiter. It was all zigzags, sometimes going down to one laners, in rain and clouds. When the clouds cleared we had the biggest rainbow ahead of us. It was spectacular.
We got to Metsovo and checked into Hotel Victoria. A room with 4 beds for 98E including breakfast. This hotel is beautiful and rustic. Besides one other couple, I think we were the only people there. The owner was so polite and kind...he seemed out of a movie. By 9pm the temperature had dipped down to 9 degrees. We had dinner, by the fireplace, at the restaurant connected to the Galaxy hotel. The food, especially the lamb chops were very good. The next morning the scenery was amazing. With the cold weather, the clouds and the chimneys smoking, it felt like a different country. Waiting for us was a huge buffet breakfast and a table for 4. We had the best yogurt with our breakfast. We went to town bundled in every piece of clothing we could layer and shopped for linens and wooden toys.
We watched all the men gathering together in the town square with their kombolois in hand. This place truly felt like time had stood still. I would recommend everyone spend a night here.
We left for Kalampaka. Everyone had told us about the Katara Pass being the most dangerous road, and I’m not sure what they were talking about. It seems to me the road the day before was much more daring. Either way it was a beautiful drive. Throughout Greece, I was amazed at all the shrines, big and small, built along the sides of the road. Some of them were huge, with chimneys and elaborate mosaics.....some so old...they must have been there for decades.
We arrived at Kalampaka, where our relatives met up with us. Meteora was beautiful and unique. Giant looking fingers and mushroom stems that looked like they had been pushed up from the earth. I was surprised at how abruptly they appeared in the landscape...completely unique and awe inspiring. We drove up to Grand Meteora to get a good view the area. The monastery was closed that day, but we were fortunate to be there as a monk and someone else crossed from the parking lot to the monastery in a basket on a wire.
We checked into our hotel, Alsos house. Our room had beautiful views of Meteora right out our window. The hotel was okay but they were building an addition on the ground floor and men were busy cutting tiles from 7:30am to 8pm everyday. I’m sure by next year the hotel will be very nice. Our relatives took us to Trikala for supper and for ice cream in the chic coffee area/bar. Trikala felt very urban like we were back in Athens.
The next day we visited Grand Meteora. It had an interesting museum with very old manuscripts of the bible and literature including works from Plato. I was amazed at how patriotic the monastery was. One monastery visit was enough for us. We headed off to Pigi to visit extended family and to see a beautiful arched bridge. We came back to Kastraki where our relatives were staying. Their hotel/apartment was very nice. I believe it was called Plajkas. The owner also has a restaurant behind the hotel and we had the best chicken souvlaki there.
The next day we drove back to Athens and handed our car in. So far we have not been charged our deductible for the vandalism that occured on our car, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed about that one. So ends our Greece 10 day roadtrip. We drove 1200km. Although tiring, we are very happy about the places we visited. Every town was so unique and provided a different facet of Greece. People ask me what my favorite place was and although I would pick Parga to go back for a longer visit, I can’t pick a “favorite” place. They were all beautiful.