6 reasons why driving along the main Greek highway is not boring

20 Oct

The highway connecting the two largest Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, is one of the most common routes in Greece. It is 500km (or 5 hours) long so you could probably use a pit stop or two.

Acropolis via www.seemous.eu, Thessaloniki via http://www.gtp.gr/

Acropolis via http://www.seemous.eu, Thessaloniki via http://www.gtp.gr/

This is why I have decided to write a post on the places where it is worth stopping on your way from Athens to Thessaloniki!

1. Kamena Vourla

Kamena Vurla via www.panoramio.com

Kamena Vourla via http://www.panoramio.com

The exact meaning in Greek may sound a bit funny, but this town is certainly worth paying a visit. 177 km from Athens and after a small diversion following the signs to Kamena Vurla, you will arrive to one of the most renowned Greek thermal bath sites. Here, the water is naturally high in Radon and other salts and minerals, making the thermal baths one of the most important in Europe. In the town centre you will find the Ippokrates and Asklipio health spas, while if you go a bit outside the centre towards the Knimi Mountain you will find a variety of thermal baths (Koniavati, Kallintika, Aphroditi). My personal suggestion would be the Aphroditi thermal baths: apart from the natural baths they also have a wonderful outdoor pool.

Extra tip: Don’t forget to stop at Thermopylae (just before Kamena Vourla) to see the famous battle site and the statue of Leonidas.

2. Karavomilos

This little village just next to the highway is famous for its tavernas and especially for the delicious, supersized burgers they serve! Choose the Gklatzounis taverna and make sure you order the beef liver apart from burger, they are both irresistible (and so are the prices!). If you are not a huge meat fan though, skip Gklatzounis and head towards the beach were you will find the Antonopoulos fish tavern, offering fresh and delicious fish and seafood.

3. Farsala

30 km from the highway, Farsala may be more a diversion than a pit-stop but it is worth making. Here they make a unique type of halva, named Halva Farsalon after the town’s name. Halva Farsalon can be found in different shapes and tastes in almost every dessert shop or bakery in the city center. Enjoy!

4. Ambelakia

Ambelakia village via http://www.lastoffertravel.gr

Ambelakia village via http://www.lastoffertravel.gr

In order to reach Ambelakia village you just need to take the left exit at the Tembi junction and continue straight for 5 kilometers. This village is known for the luxurious traditional buildings constructed during a very wealthy era during which the main professional occupation was fabric production and dying with a red pigment derived from the processing of parts of a plant called rizari (Rubia tinctorum). It also worth mentioning that the first ever professional cooperative was formed here in Ambelakia. Stroll around the picturesque paved streets of the village, surrounded by mansions and head to towards the Georgios Mavros mansion that is open to the public. The Saint George church and Folklore Museum are also worth visiting.

5. Rapsani

The wine and a local spirit called tsipouro from Rapsani are famous all over Greece. Some of the wineries are open to the public and I would totally recommend visiting one! The route through the vineyards may be adventurous, going uphill through narrow dirt roads, but it is a unique experience: the sensation of freedom and inner strength you feel admiring the breathtaking view is one you will never forget. Inside the winery one can see the local architecture and the traditional oak barrels.

Extra tip: On your way back to the highway don’t forget to stop at the canteen right on the junction to try authentic souvlaki and traditional sausages.

6. Palaios Panteleimon (Old Panteleimon)

Palaios Panteleimon is my favourite traditional settlement in Greece. It is situated at the foothills of Mount Olympus, 5km away from the new settlement and the highway. A walk around its picturesque streets is totally worth it, as you can find small shops with traditional local goods, while the wonderful sea view and paved central square will surely seduce you! Choose your favourite traditional cafeteria on the square and sip on Greek coffee served with a traditional Greek dessert called “glyko tou koutaliou” or “spoon dessert”!

Extra tip: On your way back to the highway visit Platamonas Castle, and if the weather is nice, head towards the beach and enjoy the wonderful blue-green waters!

Have a nice trip!

Labros Psomodotis

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One Response to “6 reasons why driving along the main Greek highway is not boring”

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  1. 7 traditional villages you should visit when travelling in the Greek mainland | diskaverins - December 2, 2013

    […] foothills of the most famous and mysterious mountain of antiquity, Mount Olympus, the village of Palaios Panteleimon is renowned for its hospitable people. The village, also named “the balcony of Olympus” is an […]

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