Exploring Mainland Greece in September

Old Dec 29th, 2022, 03:40 PM
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Exploring Mainland Greece in September

Trip report: Day Hiking around mainland Greece in September.

This Trip report is a few years overdue, since we took it just before covid in 2019, but I still remember a few good pearls and oops that I wanted to share. Our trip consisted of 2 weeks on the mainland of Greece wandering in September of 2019, then a week in the islands with two other couples. I will concentrate on the two weeks in mainland Greece, as so many have covered the islands. As far as our travel styles go, I love to plan and learn history and culture prior to heading out and my husband prefers a very spontaneous and relaxed trip. I have found that overplanning the possible gives me the joy of learning and a bit of perceived control, and then pick a few must do places for me. I let chance help show us the other possibilities which works well for DH and for us as partners. We avoid arranged tours other than at specific sites. We did have a standing joke about DH having to look at “rubble” everywhere, but he did appreciate that seeing all that rubble in person was much better than seeing it on a TV screen. Both of us enjoy hiking and nature, good cheer and good food so it was easy to have a memorable time in Greece. We experienced some wonderful pearls to share and made a few mistakes we would not want others to repeat. We especially had a wonderful time hiking around the Pelion peninsula and Meteora. My must do list was: the Acropolis, Delphi including the cave and springs, Epidavros especially the medical museum, and the island of Delos including the priestesses from the land where the sun does not set. and learning more about Artemis. DH had to do list: find a Gyro sandwich better than one we had in Paris in 1990. Couple 2 had to do list: The Acropolis, The Antikythera mechanism, the Kotsanas Museum https://kotsanasmuseum.com/museum/?lang=en and Santorini.

Our quick itinerary summary was:

Day 1: Arrive in Athens airport late evening, stay overnight at a nearby hotel with shuttle to pick us up.

Day 2: Head back to the airport and get a rental car. Drive to the Pelion Peninsula and stay in Mouresi.

Day 3 and 4: Explore Mouresi and the Pelion. No prior plans.

Day 5: Drive to Meteora and explore. Had a map of hikes.

Day 6: Explore Meteora.

Day 7: Drive to Delphi. Stay in Delphi.

Day 8, 9, 10 unknown, explore the Peloponnesian peninsula.

Day 11 and 12: stay in Nafplion.

Day 13: Drive to Epidavros, then to Athens to meet our friends. Turn in our rental car.

Day 14: Explore Athens with a rental van with driver, 3 couples.

Day 15: Fly to Santorini. Splurge on a three bedroom cave for three nights in Oia.

Day 16: Santorini

Day 17: Santorini

Day 18: Ferry to Mykonos.

Day 19: Drive to beaches of Mykonos.

Day 19: Boat and tour to Delos.

Day 20: Fly back to Athens. Everyone splits up to do other things. I head to Crete for a 2 week women’s tour, and my husband flies back home for work.

I want to thank Odin for recommendations on the Pelion Peninsula, especially The Old Silk Store, kja for her recommendations on driving and her wonderful trip report, Heimdall for the travel recommendations and to all the others on this forum.
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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 04:29 PM
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Day one: Arrive in Athens on a late flight from Seattle, via Frankfurt. Our initial flights were changed so we were able to replan and were able to add one week to our trip. We used Condor Airlines/Thomas Cook to fly into Frankfurt, then Aegean Airlines to fly into Athens. (Thomas Cook had the audacity to go into bankruptcy right after we arrived, but luckily we only had flights with them, so the German government and Lufthansa stepped in for the flights so were able to get home without a loss. People with full tours with Thomas Cook were not so lucky) We had reservations at a hotel near the airport with a shuttle, but not too close, so the planes did not keep us up all night. The place was ok, for a quick overnight, but nothing special.

Day two: The next morning we took the shuttle back to the airport for an early pickup of our rental car. We used Eli Mano at Swift Rent a car, referred by others on this forum, and all went smoothly for our two week trip with this car, from airport with a return in Athens. Eli Mano has great communication, the maps and GPS worked excellently, and I highly recommend him. But we should have asked more questions, such as…toll roads.

Our first mistake was in choosing the road to drive from the airport to the Pelion. We did not know about the toll roads and someone at our hotel mentioned how expensive it would be to take the toll motorways, (about $100 US they said) so we started out on the toll free road. This took us into Athens, up north through the industrial area, and back to the middle of the country, where we now would get to our hotel in Mouresi the next day if we continued on our route. So we jumped into the toll roads (about half an hour past where we would have started at the airport, but almost 4 hours later via our non-toll route). Now we would be lucky to make it to our place before 10 pm, rather than getting there in a leisurely 6-7 hours with frequent stops. We did stop at a tiny roadside restaurant for lunch. A huge block of fresh feta, about twice the size of one in a grocery store in the states, over fresh tomatoes, onions and peppers, with marjoram and fragrant olive oil caused me to fall in love with the Greek Salad. I do wish I remembered the name of that little place as it truly was the best of the multitude of delectable Greek Salads I had all the rest of the trip. And no olives (I am not an olivophile). Once we turned onto the road to Volos, we did have to stop for jaw dropping views of the Pagasetic Gulf at sunset. The road to Mouresi was now dark, twisty and narrow. I was glad there was little traffic and that we were used to driving mountain roads. I would not recommend driving these roads after dark. We reached our small hotel, The Old Silk Store, about 9 pm for a quick check in and a recommendation to head down a steep and short trail one block for dinner, I think it was the Church restaurant as there was a Plantanus tree and courtyard. The food was buffet style and excellent, even as late as we arrived. https://www.dendrology.org/publicati...ft-for-greece/

Pearls of wisdom:

Use the toll roads if you need to get somewhere. Here is a link for information on the toll roads we wished we saw. https://www.volta4u.com/greece-toll-...-need-to-know/ We probably spent more in gas trying to avoid the toll road than taking the toll road, and by my reading this, think we spent about a quarter of what we thought it would cost.

Learn the Greek Alphabet. We did have a GPS and used it in general but were told specifically not to use the GPS for finding the Old Silk Store. We found it fine just using Jills directions, but it was good to read the road signs some of which were only in the Cyrrilian Alphabet. We never got lost unless we wanted to get lost. I would highly recommend getting familiar with the Greek alphabet prior to driving around Greece. We are comfortable driving mountain roads, and very happy with having a car, but driving on some of the mountain roads would not be for everyone.

Here is information for, Eli Mano, Swift Rental Car in Athens and at the airport. [email protected]+306936674476. He also helped us arrange for van rentals on Santorini and Mykonos.
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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 04:57 PM
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Now that you've given us your itinerary, we are eagerly awaiting the actual REPORT you promised ... how did things go? What things surprised you ? Either by being much better than anticipated, or being a letdown. What unexpected gems... what challenges. Tell all! Your audience awaits!
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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 10:20 PM
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You are welcome! I'm glad you found my recommendations and trip report helpful. And I agree: It is easy to have a memorable time in Greece.
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 08:20 AM
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I posted my request for a summary at the same time you were actually writing of your drive to Pelion peninsula. Now we just need to hear about your adventures in the Pelopponese. Delphi, the Cyclades and Crete... Onward!
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 02:16 PM
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Finding my brothers perfect Christmas gift, why is it the first leg of the first day of a trip.

The joys of taking the long route.

Sunset just past Volos, just before we had the long windy mountain roads.
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 09:21 PM
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Exploring the Mouresi area of the Pelion Peninsula.

Days 3,4 and 5. Exploring the Mouresi area of the Pelion Peninsula.

Yesterday, right after posting, my husband found our lost camera chip with the Greek pictures on it. So last night those pictures got backed up on our hard drive, and today took some time to figure out how to downsize the pictures and post them. So happy, as thought they were lost.

The Pelion Peninsula is lush with steep green hills with ancient mansions hidden in the forest, fortified and with a view of the sea from far up the hillside…the better to avoid the pirates and the Turkish taxman they say. Apple orchards abound up high and olive orchards lower towards the water, with grape vines between the two, in the more cultivated areas, while forest with twisting donkey trails or kalderimis branch between the villages. Walkers can choose between hiking from village to village on these trails, or like we did, stay at one place and find trails to walk along each day, or head down to the Aegean Sea to walk on the beaches. I was not able to find a good walking map for the Pelion prior to heading over to Greece, but we lucked out on picking our place to stay, thanks to this forum. Jill, the owner at The Old Silk Store was an amazing font of information for hiking, with hand written maps of the local trails, and local gardens to explore. She also has a heart of gold with animal rescue and was able to make a great breakfast for us each morning despite my husband’s dairy allergy. I highly, highly recommend staying here. The only glitch we had was in transferring funds from the US to Greece to book the reservation, so needed to use AirBnB rather than booking direct with Jill. We stayed in a cozy one room, one bath room next to the main house, with a tiny alcove for the bed and a kitchen to make lunches and snacks. There is a resident cat who greeted us each day as we opened our doors to the garden.

After several busy days of travel, our first full day in Mouresi was one for relaxing. I did enjoy a solitary walk at sunrise with birds and flowers while my DH slept in. We then had a delightful wander in the Old Silk Store garden while enjoying breakfast, yogurts and honey and berries for me, oatmeal and berries for my DH, then eggs and toast. We walked down the steep road and trails to Agios Ioannis where a rocky beach gave way to a short sand beach, then a trail to another small sandy beach with no one around. After playing in the cool water and beach, we wandered back to the restaurants till we found one to stop at for dinner. An after dinner walk along the beach the other way toward the full moon was memorable. I don’t remember the long hike back up to our place, so it either was exhausting or not as bad as I expected.

Our second full day in Mouresi, we planned on hiking the kalidermis. Jill has given us written directions, which felt like a treasure hunt map when exploring. At breakfast, she also calls up her friend Doris, who has turned her home and extensive yard into a beautiful and quirky garden for visitors. Doris will be expecting us in about 2 hours, so we better get started on our kalidermi walk. It was not so easy. Trails went several directions, and we weren’t sure which clue went with which trail, so had a few wandering moments till we found the the next spot on the list. Lush trails, old schoolhouses, creeks, crossing roads, then at the far end, the town of Tsagkarada with its village square, church, and a 1000 year old Plantanus tree. We had to search with our map and around the square to find the trail downwards to “The Serpentine Garden”. Doris is waiting for us, as it took quite a bit longer than 2 hours of wandering to reach her. She gives us a personal tour of her garden, accompanied by her cats and geese. Unfortunately the sprinkler system turned on and when running to shelter, I impaled my shin on some metal, so Doris took us inside for some first aid. After some more pictures, we were off for the walk home, then a very interesting car ride up to the local clinic in Zagora for a deep cleaning of the wound, and sutures. (There goes my swimming in the Aegean for the next few weeks.) After Zagora we drive down to Chorefto Beach for a late lunch, and then a loop through olive groves and apple orchards back up to the main road and home.

The next day, we pack up, say goodbye to Jill, and head back up towards Zagora again, but turn left at Kissos to check out Pelion Ski Area. Its hard to believe that there will be skiing here in just a few months. The on to Chania for lunch by another plantanus tree and a scenic and steep road down to Volos and then to Meteora.

Doris and the Serpentine Garden. You do need to call ahead to let her know you want to visit Welcome

Hiking info: I was unable to find a good hiking map or GPS map such as Avenza for the Pelion area. The trail in Mouresi was not marked well, and we needed the written directions from Jill. I do not know if the longer or more extensive trail system is better marked. Since then I was able to find a few more websites for hiking, but definitely would want a GPS system or a guide if I were to hike in the more remote areas. Here are a few web sites I found helpful

And I did just find this topoguides to the pelion, and looks excellent.

Morning walk at Mouresi.

Morning walk at Mouresi, close-up.

The beach at Asia Ioannis. Rocks, then sand. Another beach after a trail.

Wonderful dinner then a nighttime beach walk under a full moon.

1000 year old Plane tree, and the babe.

Our treasure map of directions. So fun on how to figure out where to go.

The kalderimi walk.

Serpentin Gardens.

Doris and her playful gardens.

Chorefto beach, sand and a late lunch.

Last edited by karrma; Dec 30th, 2022 at 09:24 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old Dec 31st, 2022, 08:47 AM
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What a wonderful description! I hope that writing it brought back some great memories (but NOT the less-great memory of shin-injury of course!). In Pelion you truly found places almost untouched by the tourist boom... lucky you! Please continue!
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 12:39 PM
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Looking at my re-found pictures, we spent three nights in Meteora also (slight change in my initial itinerary). There are two places to stay in Meteora, the larger town of Kalabaka and a smaller town of Kastraki. We chose Kastraki, and it was easy to walk to the town center for dinners, and to the walking trails around Kastraki. We had great luck in chosing Guesthous Vavitsas for a place to stay. It was delightful with a small but tasty breakfast, walking distance to the town center and dinner, and provided a local map of the walking trails, several very close to our hotel. Our hostess was so happy that we were staying long enough to really see the area, that she upgraded us to her best room, with Meteora views and two patios for ventilation and relaxation. The bed was comfy and all was clean. The entrance to the Monastery of St. George of Mandila, a cave, lies outside our window, the western side of the rock Agio Pneuma (Agiou Pneuma, Agion Pneuma, Agion Pnefma are all spelling of this just in the Wiki site on Meteora) or The Rock of the Holy Spirit. While DH rests, I walk to a small Monastery, the Doupiani Hermitage, about 5 minutes from our hotel, on a curved cobblestone drive, with roses and noisy procreating turtles by the side of the road. The hermitage was small, relatively newer, open, and I was able to walk around inside. https://www.meteora-vavitsas.com/en/index.html

Our view from the room.

Our view of the Monastery of St. George, from our room.

While we did not go into the cave monastery of St. George, as it requires ropes and climbing experience, we had a wonderful exploration of the rest of The Rock of the Holy Spirit as our first hike. With my Avenza Map GPS guide, local directions and signage, we easily found the walking trail on the south side of this rock, in a small valley between it and the next rock. The trail was well laid out and easy, until it curved left and back to go up a path on the south side of Agio Pneuma. At this point there were some large steps and some man made railings to help us up the last part of the trail, a cross between a trail and an easy scramble, up to the tiny monastery of Agio Pneuma with its cisterns, hermit hole. While this felt very comfortable to me, I was unable to explore out to the bell or get a view of the town, while my more intrepid DH was able to get these views.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

The trail is behind us.

Heading back down, we stayed left at the bottom of the the Rock of the Holy Spirit to follow a smaller trail, which was easy to follow in 2019, and led us to the cave called the Monks Prison. The mouth of the cave was about 3 stories tall, and you could see the wooden remains of building there. Dale wished he had a flashlight to explore back in the cave and I was glad he did not have one. From there we continued on a small dirt road to the left, went through a barbed wire gate and walked up the road and a trail to end up at the road where you can look up at St. Nicholas Anapausis. Several parking sites nearby led to trails that went to climbing rocks. We walked down the road to our hotel and had gyros for lunch at the first local restaurant we saw.

Backside of Agio Pneuma, with the Monk's prison as the lens shaped dark area in the lower right of the main spire.

Gyro, tasty, but not as good as our one in France.

We then drove up to the monasteries. It was a Friday, so Varlaam and St. Nicholas were closed, so we saw Roussanou first, then the Holy Trinity Monastery. The walk to the Holy Trinity was delightful; it felt like a pilgrimage. We parked at the side of the road, and went down a wandering road, with others resting on benches as they returned to the world and their cars. At the bottom, we look up at a winding trail carved into the rock, sometimes on the outside, sometimes into tunnels. At each tunnel entrance, people politely waited for others to pass, especially uphill, as we could enjoy the rest. We really felt like we entered through a portal when we arrived at the apex of this small pinnacle, where there was a wonderful tour of old buildings and older buildings, areas of a small farm, where they collect water, and ability to look down on where the tram could bring stuff from the road. I would much prefer walking than to ride that tram. After our tour there, we did go on to St. Stephans but it was closed for the day, so had a walk around the outside and enjoyed the fabulous view. We drove back the winding road near sunset, stopping at one of the overlooks for a view of many people sillouetted as the climbed out to a rock, and watched the sun go down on a wonderful Friday the 13th of September, peacefully among many others enjoying the same. It was dark with a full moon when we walked to Boufidis Greek Taverna for an excellent dinner.

The next morning we drove up early to the Great Meteoron, while there was still parking available. Some busses had just arrived, so the line was long. We walked down to Varlaam for a visit, then back up to the Great Meteoron for a fairly long exploration as this monastery had the most active demonstrations of the kitchens and life of the monks. Walking down about halfway to the y in the road, there is a trail easily seen on Google Maps in the satellite view, going east and then north. Directions on Avenza showed the trail goes to The Thymios Vlachacas statue. The trail was easy to follow and first arrived at rounded hilltop clearing, with the statue on the west and and a large cross on the right. Looking upward and to the left you can see the ruins of another monastery, and looking downwards and to the left is Ypapantis Monastery ruin, which has been partially rebuilt. We walk down the trail and to the left to see the outside of the monastery. There was a sign saying that it was open certain hours, (but not today). However a local who said he was the caretaker, happened to be there and let us in to walk around. With no one else around, walking through this ruin was peaceful, and the caretaker told us about rebuilding it so it could be explored. We continued down a dirt road into an area that looked like there had been an orchard in the past, and turned left to wander by spires with climbers climbing up sheer cliffs and rappelling down the ropes. Guided by our GPS and the trails, we wandered to the road right right where we had hiked to from the other side yesterday. A quick local bus ride up to our car and we drove up and turned left past the monastery road, having read about a place to see the sunset with fewer people. We saw a small roadside shrine, the Church Agios Athanasios, but did not find a place to see the sunset. We turned around and found a spot where everyone was silloutted watching the sunset, until quite dark.

Google Maps Satellite view. Trail is going from middle to upper left of screen shot. On a larger view, follow the trail to the Thymios Vlachavas statue. The Ypapantis Monastery is clearly in view from there.
edit: trail goes to upper right of screen shot.

Looking back up at Ypapantus Monatery

The trail back to the road and town.

We went to the Kastraki’s town center for dinner again. There were still children playing soccer in the park at 10 at night while their parents were enjoying an evening chat and drinks nearby.

The next morning, we checked out, then walked to the Footpath Adrahti, starting at the town center, past the fountain, up a steep road to the Church of Nicholai, and an easily seen trail just to the north of the church, to the Adrahti spire. Just past the spire is a trail up to a small hill where the views were mostly of forest. I walked back to our car and my DH decided to follow another trail towards the monasteries. With cellphones, I was able to meet my then scratched up DH after he bushwhacked through some fairly thick terrain, slightly lost, until he found the road. Note: There can be difficult terrain as well as very easily found trails here.

The easy trail to Adrahti Spire.

Adrahti Spire, with the top of the church where the trail starts.

The hiking to Ypapantis was easy, using Avenza, GPS, Google Map satellite view, but needed to guess where the monastery was. Adrahti, and the Monk’s cave was easy and the trail clear. The hike to Agio Pneuma was moderate, but the trail very clear.

Here are some good links where I did my research on hiking Meteora.


https://meteora.com/meteora-monasteries/ a good description of the 6 monasterier that are still populated and allow visitors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora good description of the past as well as current monasteries in Meteora as well as rocks in Meteora.

https://whympr.com/en/summit/9476-me...ilotera-greece good map of the peaks with names

Last edited by karrma; Mar 12th, 2023 at 12:45 PM.
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 06:11 PM
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WOW. What a wonderful experience... Aren't you glad you found the photos!! THanks so much for brightening this chilly and grey Philadelphia Sunday.
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