Past weekend, we had a 4 day- long weekend and so we took a very last minute trip to Greece.
Normally with the long weekend around Ascension day, we take a short trip, not too far away from home to go hiking with our dog. The weather forecast was terrible around Europe so we waited until very last minute to actually plan a hiking trip.
A week before the long weekend, the forecast was still terrible and I was just looking on the internet for cheap flights to the sun. I found a flight with good hours and decent prices to the sun and we decided to yolo- go for it. Thessaloniki, here we come!
So we stayed at Halkidiki, a beachy area near Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is a rather ugly, noisy city so we didn't want to stay in a hotel there. Our hotel had a private beach and the area was so tranquil! In this first shot, you see the morning view of our hotel... with the snow on top of the Olympus mountain (
2019 m high).
In this post, I'll take you guys with me, to the places we visited there. One of the places we visited was Meteora. It's been on my instagram-bucket list since ages and when I found out that it was not that far away from Thessaloniki, I was just sooo excited to go explore it.
Day 1: Visiting the Kassandra beaches of Chalkidiki. We stayed at Nea Kallikratia, a town about 30 km from the heart of Thessaloniki. This beach was about 50 minutes away from our hotel. It's about 1h15 minutes away from the city of Thessaloniki.
The sea is so cristal clear and deep turquoise. I'm obsessed with this color!
Also: when we went there, the sea was empty. There weren't any boats so it was super silent there. This made the place even more magical.
After going to this beach, we went back to our hotel, to go to our own private beach. At night we had dinner at the hotel. From my table, I saw a dolphin and a shark. Crazy right?!
Okay, I must admit, these animals were very far away in the sea and I didn't have enough time to shoot them...but still, it was a great experience. I never saw a dolphin in the sea before!
(In the shot: our hotel sunset... I mean, these colors though!)
I'm going to be honest, I did NOT photoshop this photo. The colors are all real. Can you imagine?
Day 2: Bucket listing at Meteora
Meteora is an area in the northern part of Greece, with six anciens Orthodox monasteries.
I didn't know this but Meteora is actually in the high mountains of Greece. In the background of the monasteries, you can even see the snow from the mountains. This is so amazing! The monasteries are all about 500 tyears old and are still in original state. They do a lot of effort to keep them clean and beautiful.
I'd recommend to take the trip they way we did. We visited them by car (they are all in total about 20 km away from each other). We just drove to all of them and went visiting all of them. Important sidenote: make sure to check the opening hours and days. They all have their own opening times (find more on google). There is always at least one of them that you can't visit because of the opening times.
We had the chance to visit 4 of them. The prices are 4 euros for adults to enter. If you don't want to visit them inside, you can just stay on the outside too and enjoy the views.
Inside the monasteries, you can visit the old chapels. They are so beautiful. They all have stunning fresco's and are decorated with a lot of gold. I don't have any pictures to show you, because you're not allowed to take pictures inside though.
We took an entire day to go visit the monasteries. Even though we went there by car, we hiked a lot (all the monasteries are high upon the hills so you can imagine that you need to take a lot of steps to go up there). Some people claim that you'll need several days to go visit this place. I think that this is not so much the case. One day is enough. BUT if you love the area, you can take a couple of days extra, to go to the mountains.
If you're not much of a hiker, then don't go entering all of the monasteries. They're all on top of cliffs and some of these cliffs are even about 200 m high. The trick here is to go to the beautiful panoramic open places. There are rocks, next to the road where you can also go spot the monasteries. Just search for all the tourists...
Something I also want to tell you is to make sure to dress appropriate. You enter a holy, Orthodox place so you need to be prepared for that. In each monastery, you can find shirts and skirts, to wear over your own clothes, but I don't think that's very hygienic. I think that it's better to just wear your own clothes.
Women need to cover their shoulders with t-shirts and need to wear long skirts. My mom was wearing long trousers and they weren't happy about that. It was 30 degreec celcius and she needed to wear a long wrapped- skirt over her trousers. Very hot!
Men need to wear shorts (bermudas) and also t-shirts to cover up their shoulders.
Who can spot the snow in the back?
Pic taken from the largest monastery: Mega Meteoron. Also: if you don't like history that much and you don't want to visit all of them, I'd reccomend to only visit this one. It has the best views and it's the largest one to visit... and also the most interesting one!
On the road back home, we found this cute little river and we wanted to stop by to take pictures. The nature of Greece is so lovely! So tranquil and fierce at the same time.
Oh and did you know that there are bears there??? When we entered the mountain area, we saw a lot of stopping signs for bears. I thought we were like... in the USA! After some research I found out that in Northern Greece there are about 400 to 500 bears! We didn't see any of them, but it's cool to know that they're out there!
Also on the road home, we found this cute little turtle and we stopped by to save it from the road. He was pretty heavy. I guess he was almost the same weight as my dog, so I think he was at least 6 kgs!
So in Greece, watch out for them on the roads and please drive carefully!
And, if you want to save them, make sure to watch out for their pee haha! We took them in the car to drive a couple of meters further away from where we were, to be able to get him off the street...but he started to pee a lot so I picked him up and didn't take him inside the car. There was already a bit of urine in our car haha! Ooops, rental cars!
Day 3: Visiting Olynthus.
We did go to the bach a lot there but we also wanted to visit places (geekalert). We found out that not far away from our hotel, there was this ancient place called Olynthus. All the cultural places in the area are pretty hard to find. Our hotelstaff also couldn't tell us a lot about it. So after google'ing, I found this place. I didn't know what to expect and didn't know if it was worth the trip.. but we decided to go for it.
(also: all the historical sites are not much open during the year, which is sad.. and some of their websites are down...)
Olynthus is a historical site in the northern part of Haldikidi. It's an entire ancient Greek town (founded in the 7th century BC).
You take a ticket to enter the place and then you walk uphills. We found a lot of turtles on this road, enjoying the sun (which was so cute!).
When we went on this road, we thought that we'd only see like one mosaic and that would be it. After a climb of 50 meters, we found the actual historical place. It's still and entire town that you can see. All the walls are still there, with the original water drains! Call me a geek, but isn't that so cool?
There also was still one complete bath tub left and a mosaic.
Walking through these streets is so cool, knowing that people have been doing this for the past 2000 years!
The view of the Greek mainland.
Cutest traveling story: this cutie was not shy at all and walked right to us! We sat down next to him and he came closer. We started petting him and he loved it when we were petting his head. We tried to leave him, but he followed us... so we petted him some more! It's so beautiful that he actually trusted us, humans! I think that we can learn a lot from this experience!
If you want to feed them, they love the "kumquad", which is a yummie greek citrus fruit!
After this, we went to the beach and we went to Thessaloniki at night for dinner.
Thessaloniki city is a rather busy and hectic city and we didn't like it that much. There is a long boardwalk next to the city but that's basically it (if you don't count the musea).
We walked a bit and then had our dinner.
Day 4: Our last day!
They announced bad weather so we stayed at our hotel, because the weather there was super nice. We wanted to go visit the city later in the afternoon but they announced thunderstorms in the city. Because the weather stayed perfect at the hotel, we decided not to go to rainy Thessaloniki and stay in the sun at the hotel.
And to be honest, when you see this beach, can you really blame me for staying at the beach?
Stunning cristal clear water with fishies so close to you that you can even feel them touching your feet... What a lovely last day!
And this was my trip to Thessaloniki! Yay, this saturday, I'm off to Greece again :)