No doubt that Greece is the birthplace of western civilization is home to some of the famous attractions in Europe, and every year visitors gather in to experience them.
Northern Greece is distinct and magnificent as the rest of the country but still often ignored by the majority of travelers. During my last road trip, I have visited many beautiful places, and here are a few top attractions I would recommend to my readers.
I am Starting my Road Trip From Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is the second-largest and very famous ancient city in Greece that attracts tourists every year. About 500 km north of Athens or approximately 300 km south of Sofia. There are plenty of things to do in Thessaloniki, so I needed a couple of days to experience the city to the fullest extent.
Among the many things I explored, the fantastic architectural hotspots nearby, such as the White Tower, the Arch of Galerius, walking the seafront near Aristotelous Square, touring the ancient Byzantine castles and seeing the museums among the many activities that stand out.
There are also a few excellent day trip destinations to visit, such as Pozar Springs, which is about 110 km north, Mt Olympus, Lake Kerkini, and waterfalls, to name a few.
There are so many exciting places to see, things to do and eat in Thessaloniki, therefore to cover as much as possible, you may definitely need more than a day or two. Here are a few sightseeing activities that can be on your to-do list.
The Arch of Galerius
The Rotunda or Agios Georgios church
Church of St Demetrios Thessaloniki
Saint Gregory Palamas Holy Metropolitan Church
Cathedral Church of Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki
Ancient Theater of Thessaloniki (Roman Agora of Thessaloniki)
Aristotle (Aristotelous) square in Thessaloniki
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
Church of Panagia Chalkeon
Vlatades Monastery of Thessaloniki
Church of the Acheiropoietos
Day Trip to Lake Kerkini from Thessaloniki
Lake Kerkini is only 60 miles (98km) away from Thessaloniki, a great day trip location. The artificial reservoir was developed on a vast marshland. This wetland is homes of about 300 species of birds and rare animals. Definitely worth a visit for its picturesque landscape, the majestic valley of Serres, and Mount Beles in the backdrop.
Where To Stay in Lake Kerkini
Korifoudi Hotel – Lake Kerkini, Kerkini
Ihnilatis is located only 1000ft away from Lake Kerkini in a small village of Korifoudi. Hotel rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV, refrigerator, dining area, coffee machine, private bathroom, and much more.
Explore Mt. Olympus
Mt. Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, only about 78 km south of Thessaloniki, located between the border of Thessaly and Macedonia. Mount Olympus has 52 peaks and deep gorges, a great day trip location not only for casual hikers, and more skilled mountaineers but also for alternative activities, ranging from mountain-biking, rafting, canyoning, and jeep safari.
In addition, don’t miss out visiting the archaeological park of Dion and the village of Litochoro. This place is beautiful only a few miles apart from the sea, a perfect round the year destination.
Where To Stay in Mt. Olympus Area
Soak up in Pozar Springs
Loutra Pozar is also known as Pozar Springs, a popular day trip location from Thessaloniki. Not just that, it’s also a great destination for the tourist driving in the Balkans peninsula, but it is a great holiday spot in the historic district of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great. It is about an hour and a half (110 km) from Thessaloniki through the beautiful rural landscape surrounded by pristine nature where you will genuinely have an excellent countryside driving experience.
1st Stop Pozar Springs
There are about 48 individual baths, six indoor pools, a few outdoor pools, jacuzzi, and spa at the foot of Mount Kaimaktsalan. Nothing can match the experience of the soothing warmth of the hot springs water (37 C) in an outdoor pool between rocks, waterfalls, and wilderness.
Hike to Kounoupitsa Waterfall
Hike along the river, passing by Ramno Bore gorge through the beautiful scenery to the Kounoupitsa waterfall and dive, take a swim in the soothing hot springs water or capture some beautiful pictures.
Visit Caves in Pozar Springs
Climb up the wooden staircase and explore the 17 ancient caves hidden in the gorge formed thousands of years ago.
Enjoy Local Food and Wine
Don’t miss out local authentic food, especially the fish right out of Vegoritida Lake and game hunting in the nearby jungle. Have some popular local red wine from the closeby town called Amyntaio.
Places to Stay in Pozar Springs
On The Way To Pozar Baths Visit Edessa Waterfalls
Regardless if you are staying overnight in Pozar Bath or making a day trip from Thessaloniki, Edessa Waterfalls in something that should be on your itinerary. Only 22 miles (36 km) from Pozar Baths and about 62 miles (100 km) from Thessaloniki. This beautiful waterfall is little more than 70m tall, one of the largest in the Balkans.
Next Stop Visiting Great Meteora Monastery
The UNESCO World Heritage Site Meteora Monastery is 2.5 hours drive from Pozar Springs (230 km about 3 hours drive if driving straight from Thessaloniki). This picturesque site will definitely take your breath away. I highly recommend staying here overnight. It is that beautiful that I wish to stay even more than a day next time I visit that part of the world.
Holy Monastery of Great Meteoro
There are a bunch of monasteries; the Meteora monastery is the largest among them all. It was founded by Athanasios, the Meteorite in the 14th century.
The Varlaam Monastery
Varlaam Monastery is located right across the Great Meteoro Monastery on the top of a huge rock.
Monastery of the Holy Trinity
On top of another huge rock, this Monastery of the Holy Trinity looks beautiful, just wondering how difficult it was to build it in the first place and how hard it is to get up there daily.
The nuns mostly stay at this monastery — another beautiful historical masterpiece on the top of an enormous limestone hill.
Monastery of St Stephen
The Monastery of St Stephen is also housing nuns. Unlike others, it is located on the plain instead of a hilltop.
Monastery of St Nikolaos Anapafsas
The first monastery on the road from Kastraki to Great Meteoro, the Monastery of St Nikolaos was born in the last decades of the 14th century.
The origin of “Anapafsas” isn’t clear, but “resting” in Greek is “anapafsys”, and given the position of this monastery, it could have been a place of repose before completing the climb to Great Meteoro.
This is the first monastery you will see on your way to the Great Meteoro from Kastraki. Such a beautiful architecture to look at.
Kalambaka is the gateway to Meteora, so if you are staying overnight, this is the town that would be your best bet. This historic town is located at the foot of an extraordinary rock landscape. Strolling through the narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful Byzantine-era buildings, and churches, and having great food is a great way to spend a day or two in Kalambaka.
Have Some Delicious food in Kalabaka
Restaurant Protato Traverna
This restaurant is located in the main square of Kalambaka. Food was delicious specially the salad (feta cheese, onions, olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers) and a cold local beer.
Quick Stop at Kipina Monastery, Kalarrytes
If you are driving from Meteora to Ioannina, then a quick stop at the Kipina monastery is an excellent opportunity to see this sacred place. The monastery is caved in the rock. The construction is impressive, seems to be part of the massive rock.
To get to the monastery need to hike a little, the uphill trail that is carved in the rock will lead you to a small wooden hanging bridge that will take you inside. It is worth to visit this fabulous spiritual place.
Beautiful Ioannina Spend A Few Days Here
Ioannina is an excellent place if you like to relax a little during your Northern Greece tour. The city spread out around the landmark lake Pamvotida with a beautiful natural environment.
I started my day by walking along the lake, strolling through the historic old city full of beautiful buildings such as House Matei Hussein, the castle of Ioannina, and more. Also visiting the Ottoman era Aslan Pasha Mosque, exploring the Cave of Perama and trying out the local cuisine at one of the lakeside restaurants is one of the many other exciting things I did during my trip.
If you are heading there from Meteora, then it is only 100 km, driving takes about 90 minutes and directly from Thessaloniki about two and a half hours driving.
Explore Lake Pamvotida in Ioannina
One of the main attractions of Ioannina is lake Pamvotida, commonly known as Lake of Ioannina, and the town is full of art and history. This place is also known as the city of silversmiths and as gastronomical paradise. I would recommend renting a boat in the lake and visit the islet within the lake, which is home to beautiful monasteries and restaurants.
Next – Ioannina Castle in Historic Old Town
Don’t Miss Out Fethiye Mosque
Fethiye Mosque and the castle are the Byzantine and Ottoman heritage of the town. This mosque and the tomb of Ali Pasha is located inside the castle. It was a major intellectual center of the region and home of Ali Pasha during his rule.
Visit the Municipal Ethnographic Museum
The Municipal Ethnographic museum is in the Asian Pasha Mosque that is located inside the Castle of Ioannina. The collection of artifacts such as jewelry, photographs, pottery, costumes, and documents will give you an understanding of the history of the town.
Explore Perama Cave
The Perama Cave is located about 4 km from Ioannina. The cave is huge, but only 12,000 square feet out of a total of 159300 sq ft (14,800 sq m ) is open to the visitors. The guided tour takes 45-minute.
Have Some Authentic Local Food
The best way to spend an evening in Ioannina is by having a delicious dinner sitting next to the lake. There are quite a few restaurants in the old town serving all types of food.
Where I Stayed in Ioannina, Greece
Palladion Hotel, Ioannina
Considering all options like facility, location, and cost I have decided to stay at the Palladion Hotel, located at Noti Botsari right in the center of the town with free parking. The city is beautiful, and one of the highlights is to have your dinner at one of the many lakeside restaurants.
Search for more Hotels in Ioannina
Vikos Gorge The Most Beautiful Part of Greece
About 45 minutes driving distance from Ioannina through the breathtaking mountainous hairpin-like winding roads you will reach at Vikos Gorge UNESCO World Heritage List as a Greek cultural landscape. Perhaps the deepest in the world in some parts as deep as 5200 ft (1600 m). Driving through the Pindus mountains (about 15 km long) was breathtaking and courageous.
My first stop was in Monodendri village part of central Zagoria at an elevation of 3477 ft (1,060 m). This beautiful tiny village with a couple of bars, taverns a few small stores and a few great hotels.
While still in the town I tried original Greek dishes in a lovely environment.
Birdseye View from Convent of Agia Paraskevi
From the parking lot in Monodendri, 15 – 20 minutes easy walk down to the Agia Paraskevi Monastery will reward you a beautiful view of the Vikos gorge. A good 20 – 25 minutes hike back up to the village parking is worth it.
The Oxia Viewpoint
The Oxia viewpoint is amazingly spectacular, particularly in the afternoon. About 10 minutes drive from Monodendri village then from the parking lot only a very short walk that I needed to visit as well. On your way you will go through the beautiful Stone Forest, you definitely need to stop and check it out.
Stone Forest in Monodendri (Vikos Gorge)
From Monodendri village, the best way to get to the stone forest is by car distance is about 5.5 km. It is the forest where you will see the natural rock formation with superimposed flat layers of stone all over. You can’t miss it as it should be on your way to Oxya Viewpoint, the most awesome view of the gorge Vikos on your to Oxya viewpoint.
Drive Down to Kipoi Village
From Oxya viewpoint, I drove down a couple of miles to Kipoi Village to explore few Stone Bridges. There are some beautiful grey stone bridges that worth visiting. The village is at the base of Vikos Gorge, and sites of multiple steep arched bridges. I saw single, double and triple arch grey stone bridges there.
Lunch at Tsoumanis Christoforos Restaurant
If you are visiting Vikos Gorge View Point, then this restaurant is right there. Even perfectly located for the hikers taking the Voidomatis Springs Trail. The food was delicious with a beautiful view. They also have some homemade dishes. Just give it a try.
That Concludes My Northern Greece Road Trip
After a week long once in a life time road trip experience in norther Greece time for me to keep going towards my next destinations. It was such a wonderful trip and hope you got some of the tips that you are looking for.
My Opinion and Last Word
Have you been to Northern Greece? Any cool tips to share?
I loved driving through the northern Greece and want to go back again. Hope my story have motivated you to visit.
Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you to improve my knowledge.
Was this travel guide helpful for you?
If you’d like to help me continue making free guides, here is one way you can help:
- Share This Guide – If you have a friend that would benefit from this guide, share it with them. Or post this guide on Facebook, Twitter or Google+
Your Support would definitely help me making more free guides like this. Thank you in advance!
Affiliate Link – This post in Dizzy Traveler contains affiliate links, which means I receive a referral commission if you purchase after clicking at no additional cost to you. These funds go to maintain the site. Thank you for your support.