Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The best way to visit Meteora from Athens or Thessaloniki, including a stay at the Larissa Imperial



In Greece for the ninth time, living a Travelife, I finally decided to visit Meteora.

Meteora is not very well known to most tourists to Greece, as many people tend to focus their visits on Athens and the islands.

However, to me, Meteora is one of the most amazing sights in Greece.


I'd always wanted to visit Meteora, but the long drive from Athens or from Thessaloniki, which is the second largest city in Greece, always put me off.

Scroll down to read more...




METEORA, FINALLY.
THE TRAVELIFE WAY

But finally, I made up my mind to visit Meteora on this trip.

After looking at this "project" from every angle, I finally found what seemed to be the best and most painless way to visit Meteora from Athens.

Or at least the Travelife way to visit Metora.

ATHENS TO THESSALONIKI
OVER THREE DAYS


Thessaloniki, Greece
If you're like me -- meaning you dislike long drives and you prefer to travel in comfort and stay somewhere in some kind of style -- then this is the best way to do a trip to Meteora, including Thessaloniki into the picture as well.



First, we hired a private car and driver to take us from Athens to Thessaloniki via the city of Larissa and then Meteora.

This entire driving trip took two nights and three days.

THE COST OF A CAR AND DRIVER 
IN GREECE


One of the monasteries in Meteora, Greece

Depending on whom you talk to, the rates of this car hire can range from about 280 euros a day to 350 euros a day, and you will have to negotiate the driver's hotel stays as well.

It's not very cheap, but if you want to visit Meteora privately, on your own time and pace, this is the only way to do it.

And if you are okay with these rates, this is definitely the best way to visit Meteora.



You can also self-drive, of course, as the roads are very good for the most part. However, navigating Meteora in particular can be a challenge, but not impossible.

In our case, however, we preferred to have a driver.

FROM THE SOFITEL ATHENS
TO THE LARISSA IMPERIAL



From Athens, our driver picked us up at the Sofitel Athens Airport hotel, where we stayed overnight upon our evening arrival in Athens.

The Sofitel Athens Airport hotel is so convenient for late arrivals, especially if you are headed onwards elsewhere in Greece, as it's adjacent to the airport.

The healthy breakfast at the Sofitel Athens Airport
was just wonderful.

The rooms are comfortable, the food is good, breakfast is wonderful, and the staff is very friendly.

Breakfast at the Sofitel Athens Airport had everything close to my heart, including Greek yoghurt, raw honey, fresh figs and freshly-boiled sage tea.

Wow, was I happy.

More on this in a later blog entry.

A STAY AT THE LARISSA IMPERIAL
WAS THE PERFECT BASE FOR METEORA


Anyhow, the drive from Athens to Larissa takes about 3.5 hours.

In Larissa, which is a pretty city with a nice pedestrian shopping street, we booked rooms at the Larissa Imperial Hotel

The Classic Larissa Imperial Hotel

This is the best hotel in the city, and it's done in a very classic, old-fashioned way.

It was the perfect base for our trip to Meteora, as Meteora is only about an hour's drive from Larissa.

AN EARLY START FOR METEORA

Breakfast at the Larissa Imperial Hotel

On Day 2, after a good night's sleep and a wonderful healthy breakfast at the Larissa Imperial Hotel, we had an early start for Meteora.

We'd read about a Friday market that seemed very interesting to visit, so we went straight here first to buy raw honey and herbs.



Farmers in Greece are big on organic food and few use chemicals and pesticides. We saw beautiful vegetables and fruits everywhere.

And then we headed off to visit the monasteries perched on top of the mountains.

Read more about this in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine.

A PAINLESS DRIVE TO THESSALONIKI

After exploring the monasteries of Meteora, we headed back to Larissa to spend one more night. This enabled us to avoid too much driving around in a car in one day.

And from Larissa,  the next morning it was a painless two-and-a-half hours to Thessaloniki.

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Thessaloniki is a nice relaxing city by the sea, and you can definitely spend a day or two sightseeing here before heading out elsewhere.

And if you do stop here, stay at the Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki which is such a nice hotel to chill out in, after so much sightseeing and walking.

At the Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is one of Greece's secret gems, by the way, especially as it is near one of the most important archeological discoveries in Greece.

I'm referring to the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, in Vergina, about an hour away from Thessaloniki.

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Many tourists do tiring day trips to Meteroa from Athens or Thessaloniki. Or else they stay in the small hotels and pensions around Meteora for one night.

But if you want to visit Meteora the Travelife way, well, this is certainly what we would highly recommend.




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