I do not normally, at least not on this website, add trip reports. If I have something to say, then a review is posted to the appropriate place on Trip Advisor. This time around, given the WOW factor that I encountered on every twist and turn of the road driven or path, trod, I felt obligated to post a few lines to my blog.
Download maps of the areas to be visited before leaving home on a mobile phone. Most places do not have internet/WiFi reception and, if they do, the signal can be weak.
It is also worth remembering that even if the car you rent comes with a GPS unit unless you can enter places in Greek, most of the time place names entered in English will not be found. This is because there are several different ways to spell Greek names in English.
Having a paper map readily available will also be handy.
Plan a route for at least two weeks
Pelion Peninsula Region 3 Nights
Zumerka region at least 3-4 nights
Zagoria Region 3-4 nights
Kastoria Region, Psards and Edessa Lakes 2-3 nights
Car Rental Having spent days looking for and trying to understand the options available to us when renting a car at Thessaloniki Airport, from both the major international companies and the local Greek operators, I select to rent from a family company recommended on Trip Advisor; Cosmorent Car Rental – http://www.kriopigicars.eu/Our-finest-car-fleet.html. I am delighted that I did.
Cosmorent offers all-inclusive rates – no hidden extras. So often when renting a car, the base price looks acceptable, then come all the extras which, in most cases doubles the base price.
We rented a Fiat 500L automatic, diesel with GPS for an all-inclusive price of €44 per day – NO EXTRAS. The car had just over 14,000 kilometers on the clock and handled well. And, throughout our 12 days with the car, Cosmorent was just a WhatsApp call/message away.
If you are flying into Thessaloniki Aiport and looking to rent a car, Cosmorent must be your first choice. We were not disappointed, you will not be either.
Town visited in the Pelion Peninsula
Afissos, Milies, Tsangarada, Kissos, Zagora.
It's worth visiting and swimming at the beach near Tsangrada called Milopotamos.
On the way, north, take time to visit the towns of Portaria and McKinnitsa and walking the Admans route.
On the way to Meteora, recommend stopping at Larissa.
Stop at Matsovo and continue to Tsumerka or choose overnight accommodation in Ioannina.
When visiting the region, your first choice for accommodation should be the Anavasi Mountain Resort - https://anavasihotel.gr/ - I would recommend booking directly with the hotel. Dina and her husband are perfect hosts, the hotel, grounds, and view are wonderful. We stayed three nights, wish we could have stayed longer.
Things to do
Rafting with Alpine Zone - https://www.alpinezone.gr/ - amazing experience
Cataracatis Waterfall (this is a hard but worthwhile trek over the uneven ground but worth the effort)
Walking from Catarates to Syrko, an amazing route, full of WOWs as you take in the views, which for us at least, prove impossible to catch on camera
Expolore the Rogovo region
Kwiasa Springs (recommended)
Visiting the Vikos Canyon is a must. Two options either trek the length of the Vidomatis River (you will need a car to bring you back to the start of the route or ask the rafting company for a shuttle). You can also trek down into the valley and up the other side, and visit the observation platform.
You can also trek a lovely route that is not difficult about four kilometers, approximately two and a half hours, along another part of the river.
Visiting the villages.
I recommend the restaurant in Aristi Village center, near the kiosk.
Sleeping in Papingo
Make time to visit the town of Kasturia and the amazing Dragon Cave.
Also, a visit to the Psarades Lakes, Edessa is a must.
And then back to Thessaloniki.
I have not mentioned food. We enjoyed many wonderful meals at a range of tavernas during our road trip. The portions were large and the prices reasonable. Freshly cooked, well served local cuisine at realistic prices, what more can you ask for?
That briefly, was our route. Regretfully due to the coronavirus and a national lockdown in Greece, we didn't get the lakes in the north and Edessa. There is always next time.
For a more detailed route, check out Greece and the Islands on the Internet. And of course, take the time to read, research and look at other people's suggestions.
Our flight home with Arkia Airlines was moved from Thessaloniki to Athens. This meant that we had to return the rental to Thessaloniki. Cosmorent were prepared to collect the car from Athens for a fee of €220. I was at first under the impression that had I rented from an international company, I would have had a free drop-off in Athens. Having met other couples who had rented from major car rental companies in Thessaloniki and were themselves faced with drop-off charges of €250 to leave their rentals in Athens, I again appreciated that we had made a good choice in selecting Cosnorent.
From Thessaloniki, we traveled by train to Athens. Normally the journey is simply a train ride. The impact of COVID19 however presented several problems caused by too few trains and too many people wanting to leave the city. We were fortunate that a ticket clerk at the station was able to help us, and after a delay of four hours, we were able to board an express train to Athens, arriving in the city four hours later.
In Athens, we stayed three nights at the wonderful Herodion Hotel, in Athens city center. https://www.herodion.gr/en If you plan to spend time in Athens, this boutique-style hotel should be your first choice. The hotel is minutes from the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum.
Originally I had booked a hotel in Thessaloniki using Star Alliance (Miles & More) frequent flyer points. Given the change of airports, I managed to cancel the original hotel without penalty, I then rebooked using the points at the Herodion. I am delighted that I did.
Bottom-line, I don’t know when we will schedule a return to western/northern Greece, but it is a must for us.