The Beauty Of Greece: Under Your Own Steam

Despite a downturn in its economy, Greece happily remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean. Its breathtaking beauty offers a mix of cultural and historical delights, mountain ranges, important archeological sites, sandy beaches and pristine islands. For the traveller wanting a single-destination trip to one of the Greek Islands, or a “cover-all-highlights” tour of mainland Greece, there are many inclusive packages available from a wide choice of tour operators. For the independent traveller who craves adventure, a self-drive holiday is the perfect answer: allowing more flexibility and extra opportunities for exploration than a structured itinerary provides. It is certainly one of the most exciting ways to explore Greece as you discover hidden gems rarely advertised in brochures and immerse yourself in local culture without fear of being hurried on to your next destination. An added bonus is that it can often prove to be the most cost-effective way of travelling.

Here’s just one sample of a mainland Greece self-drive route. This trip could be easily spread over one week, or longer if you prefer. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to visit every element of the itinerary and you can make your own adjustments. If you have your accommodation pre-booked, this is your only limitation. If you’re not travelling in high season, it’s easy to arrange your accommodation on a day by day basis upon arrival at each destination.

Classic Mainland Self-Drive Itinerary

Athens to Nafphlion (via the Corinth Canal and Ancient Corinth):

From Athens, head via the Corinth Canal to Ancient Corinth, which is bursting with archeological sites and fascinating museums. Continue through Argolis in the direction of Myceane, visiting the Palamidi Fortress, the Bourtzi Castle and the Epidaurus Theatre en route. Final destination today is Nafphlion, one of the most exquisite and sophisticated of Greece’s towns and the former Greek Capital. It boasts a blend of Venetian and Turkish architecture. During the weekends, it hosts an influx of Athenians looking to take a break from the city.

Nafphlion to Sparti:

Drive towards Sparti, home to the Byzantine City of Mystra. The Byzantine fortress is a breathtaking sight, nestled on a hill at the foot of Mount Taygetos, and can be seen all the way from Sparti. Enjoy beautiful churches and a convent – you can even climb to the top of the hill, but remember to carry lots of water!

Sparti to Olympia:

This route towards the home and the place where the Olympic Games originated is absolutely strewn with awe-inspiring natural landmarks. Olympia itself offers historical landmarks such as the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Zeus, the Hippodrome and the Stadium.

Olympia to Delphi:

This section of your trip will take you along beautiful coastal areas for most of the way to Delphi, an important archeological site and modern town perched on the terraces of Mount Parnassus.

Delphi to Athens:

Must-see destinations along the route back towards the city of Athens are the olive-producing town of Arachova at the foot of the mountain (it’s also a ski destination in winter), together with the little village of Galaxi.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

Of course, designing the perfect itinerary isn’t the only factor to consider when trying to create a memorable trip to Greece. Driving has its risks, particularly in a foreign country, and it’s vital to prepare yourself for what to expect. You will also need to ensure you have the correct paperwork and that there are no restrictions on your driving licence, for example. Check with your licence issuer and also get to know the rules and regulations of your destination. If you are a holder of a British or Northern Ireland Driving Licence, the current laws state that you can drive in any country of the European Union, Greece included. When you hire a car locally, most car hire companies will include some form of insurance, but you it is your responsibility to check whether this is suitable and that the excesses payable in the event of an accident are not too high. Your own policy from back home in the UK or Ireland may actually cover you more extensively than local policies whilst hiring a car in Greece.

Driving in Greece isn’t for the easily-afraid!

  • It’s imperative to your cool at all times and always drive defensively. Don’t over-react to impatient drivers.
  • Most main highways only have two lanes and on particularly busy roads, there will be lots of attempts at passing, even at points on the road you would deem unsafe. Be on your guard and expect the unexpected!
  • The average speed limit on country roads is 50 kph (30 mph). It is extremely unusual, however, for drivers to travel slower than 70 kph. The same goes for the larger highways.
  • Traffic control signs, such as a “Stop” sign, are generally ignored by Greek drivers. Try not to let this habit apply to you!
  • Seat-belts, when fitted, are compulsory to wear.
  • The minimum driving age is 18.
  • Many fuel service stations close as early at 7 pm.

Recommended Checklist

  • Full driving licence
  • Insurance certificate
  • Warning Triangle
  • Reflective vest
  • First Aid Kit
  • Torch & spare bulbs/batteries
  • A fire extinguisher
  • Headlamp converters
  • Spare lightbulbs for your car headlights
  • Money for motorway tolls (there are 2 in Greece)
  • The National Map of Greece by Michelin

Once your flights are booked, you’ve packed your rucksack and you’ve familiarised yourself with the route and golden rules of Greek driving, you are absolutely ready to hit the road for a trip of a lifetime!