My trip to Greece last year was full of cheery surprises. All I had in mind was to visit my friend in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and a trip to Athens to dine with the Gods; I didn’t know my fate had many lucky bonuses on cards.
I was in Slovenia and was planning to go to Thessaloniki. Armed with the Eurail pass, I had booked myself couchettes from Ljubljana to Thessaloniki via Belgrade & Sofia. Little did I realize that since Hungary and Bulgaria weren’t a part of European Union (EU), a separate visa was required to enter these countries in the east of Europe; something which I totally overlooked during the trip planning! A week before the journey when I realized the mistake, I was facing a challenge on hand. To reach Thessaloniki via land was just not possible. (Flying in was even more expensive!!) So I changed my itinerary and decided to get to Greece via Italy. That was faster than applying for a visa from Serbia!! So Italy which was not in my original travel plan, a country I plan to visit and explore in my next trip to Europe, came on to my itinerary.
With a brief stay in Venice and Naples, I reached Bari at the tip of Italy, to get on a ship across the Adriatic Sea to Greece. There are many options available for one to use the Euro rail passes for journeys in Ships too. Bari being a prominent sea port I found loads of tourist groups walking around the city. However, most of these tourists are on a short 3 to 4 hours stay while their cruise liners take in a stop.
An overnight ship ride from Bari, Italy to Igoumenitsa in west of Greece costs €17 per person and is a lovely experience. If you are looking at a separate cabin / room for yourself the charges are much higher. There is a full fledged restaurant, coffee shop, bar and casino on board to keep you entertained at an additional cost. There are two stops made by the ship. So if Athens is your destination, Patras further south of Greece is where you need to get down. My stop was Igoumenitsa.
In my wildest of dreams I did not imagine what was in store when I landed at the port of Igoumenitsa, a city which only has the port to boast about. My friend had driven down from Thessolinki to pick me up & thus my road trip to Thessaloniki from Igoumenitsa was packaged with many stops in between at various historical and quaint villages of Greece including Ionnina, Meteora, Metsovo,… etc. all of which I would highly recommend to anyone planning to explore Greece – as a must visit. I have already shared with you my experience at the quixotic Meteora.
There are so many of these small but historic & beautiful places in Greece that one must read up on all the places one is going to visit or take local assistance in planning your trip in Greece so as to make the most of it.
If you were to ask me where you should or rather must go. Then I would say don’t miss Zagora. Zagora, a dream land village on Mount Pelion is a place you can describe as an idyllic getaway from not only the warps and stress of life but you yourself! This enchanting locale totally soaks you up in its tranquility and takes you to a state of magical thoughts.
Possibly the best combination of sea and mountains Mount Pelion has many villages offering different adventures. And the best part is that you can stay in one village and still enjoy what other villages have to offer within few minutes drive! I happened to stay in the largest village and probably the most beautiful – Zagora, thanks to my friend who invited me over for a stay at her dream vacation house in Zagora. My stay here gave me some idea about how Alice would have felt in the wonderland! With each room adorned with frills and superfluities this house was a picture straight out from a fairy tale.
Zagora on Mount Pelion is about 4 to 5 hours drive from Thessaloniki. Right from the time you first get to see it approaching from a distance and then through its winding mountainous roads you get glimpses of what lays ahead, as you drive on wide roads via the city of Volos.
Fresh and clean breeze welcomes you as you ascend Mount Pelion. The panoramic view of the city from the mountains is breathtaking. But more mesmerizing is the beauty all around you.
What to see and do while at Zagora follows in my next post