Our European Road Trip in a Camper Van Continues!
After 2550 miles of driving through 10 countries, we had finally arrived in Greece! We had certainly seen some amazing places on Our European Road Trip in a Camper Van. Read on to find out what the next 5 days had in store for us!
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European Road Trip in a Camper Van: Day 16 [Total Mileage: 2720]
We had stayed up very late the previous evening, sitting outside the van on the sand. Despite this, we still set the alarm for 05:50 to watch the sunrise. Once awake, we quickly wandered down to the water’s edge where we sat and watched the sunrise over Mount Athos and the Aegean Sea. This was a truly magnificent start to the day.
Once we had taken lots of photographs, we walked back to the van where we did some chores before sitting quietly to enjoy the view. Consequently, we were not ready to depart until 12pm.
Once on the road, Erica drove along the spectacular coastal mountain road to Nea Plagia where we parked up and went for a walk. Nea Plagia was a very busy tourist beach, rather different from our relaxing overnight stop. Consequently it was a very different experience with a lot of atmosphere created by a range of stereo systems in the numerous bars.
We stopped several times on our walk, including sitting on a bench to enjoy the sea view. Eventually we popped in one of the bars where we relaxed with a coffee in the 33 degree heat.
Soon, we retreated to the van and continued our drive to Leptokarya, around 1.5 hours away. Whilst our route took us through Thessaloniki, we decided not to park as it was very busy.
After a few stops along the way, we eventually arrived at Leptokyra at around 18:45. Again, it was absolutely packed with numerous sun burnt people walking around!
Luckily, the temperature had dropped. Consequently, we were able to enjoy a 2 mile walk from the military base where we had parked. Along the way, we bought an ice cream which we enjoyed whilst sitting on the beach.
Eventually, we made our way back to the van and moved it out of the town centre and parked up alongside the beach. Amazingly, we were literally 10 metres from the water!
We cooked dinner inside the van which we then enjoyed whilst sat on the beach! As darkness fell, we decided to play with the camera and tripod. After a little practice we got a couple of nice shots of the van with the stars behind. Eventually we headed to bed around 23:00 with just the quiet sound of the waves lapping against the shore.
European Road Trip in a Camper Van: Day 17 [Total Mileage: 2820]
Both of us slept very well, waking at 06:45. After a simple breakfast and coffee, we hit the road at 07:45 towards Meteora. The drive included many impressive tunnels and a long winding road to the monasteries where we arrived at 10am.
Despite arriving reasonably early, all of the car parks were completely full and we struggled to park! Furthermore, when we did find a spot a car overtook us and literally skidded in behind whilst I was reverse parking. This reminded me of Russ Swift parking an Austin Montego in the classic 1980’s advert. Despite this set back, we eventually struck lucky and found a spot in a lower car park.
Both Erica and I had always wanted to visit Meteora and we felt very lucky to have finally arrived. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Meteora, it is a series of 6 monasteries perched atop large natural rock formations. If you have the opportunity to go, then you must!
Great Meteoron Monastery
The first stop of our visit was to The Great Meteoron Monastery. Consequently, we began the walk from the car park to the beginning of the footpath to the Monastery. Frustratingly, the path first descended to a foot bridge before beginning the climb up to the top of the rock pillar! Eventually however, we arrived at the entrance to the monastery.
The views from the Great Meteoron Monastery were stunning and worth the climb. Whilst very busy, we were able to thoroughly explore the buildings including the kitchens, an exhibition of WW2 posters and finally the main church. Furthermore, the church included many beautiful frescoes, similar to those of Rila Monastery in Bulgaria.
Eventually, we headed back down the stairs to the car park where we bought an ice cream to cool down!
Our second visit was to Varlaam Monastery. Unfortunately we arrived at the same time as several coaches full of tourists. Consequently, it was extremely busy and took us a while to get in.
Once inside, the church was beautiful and looked freshly restored. Furthermore, there was an excellent exhibition including glass cases full of robes and ancient books.
After our visit, we headed back down to the van where we cooked lunch with the addition of a spinach pie from a catering vehicle!
St Nicholas Monastery
Our third visit was to The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas which involved a very steep and long climb. A friendly monk greeted us at the entrance before we entered the Monastery. The building was fascinating as it had literally been carved into the rock.
After exploring the inside of the building, we ventured outside into a terraced garden with a bell tower. One thing that each monastery had in common was the presence of a winch tower. Consequently, goods could be lifted into the building without the monks having to continuously climb the stairs! We were amused by the ironing board on the ground waiting to be hoisted!
Both Erica and I agreed that this Monastery had a wonderful atmosphere, in part due to the lack of people. Indeed, it is in some ways quite sad that these historic religious buildings have become major tourist attractions. However, each monastery charged an entrance fee of 3 Euros which pays for their on-going maintenance and repairs.
Holy Monastery Roussanou
Eventually we made our way back down the steep steps to the van and on to Holy Monastery Roussanou.
Holy Monastery Roussanou had the smallest area to explore. It did however have stunning views either side.
Monastery of The Holy Trinity
By now we had seen 4 of the 6 monasteries. In order to ensure a weekly break, each monastery has one day during the week on which they are closed. Consequently, we were only able to visit one more today. Our final visit was to the Monastery of The Holy Trinity as the Monastery of St. Stephen was closed.
From ground level, Holy Trinity was the most impressive as it was perched on a narrow rock. The walk to Holy Trinity was both long and steep, however it was worth the climb as the views were beautiful. Once at the top, we walked into the simple chapel and along the long narrow hall. As with the others, Holy Trinity had a nice outdoor space from where we could see across the town.
Monastery of St. Stephen
Eventually we returned to the van and drove to a viewpoint for the final, closed Monastery of St. Stephen. By now, it was early evening and so we decided to cook some dinner which we ate sitting in the van’s door.
Finally we made our way up to the main view point for sunset. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea and so it was particularly busy. The views however were truly beautiful as the sun set over Meteora.
We sat chatting at the viewpoint until darkness fell at which point we drove down the hill and parked up in the town of Kalabaka for the night. Erica and I were both tired after the day’s constant walking up hills in the high temperatures. We therefore had no problem getting to sleep!
European Road Trip in a Camper Van: Day 18 [Total Mileage: 2986]
It was silent at our overnight spot in Kalabaka. Consequently we slept very well and woke later than usual.
After breakfast, we departed for our next stop of Delphi. Luckily, the road took us around the base of the Meteora towers giving us one final glimpse of this incredible place.
We continued along our 150 mile drive through the mountains and some beautiful countryside. Around an hour from Delphi, we pulled over for some lunch in the mountains.
Back on the road, we continued our drive right through the town of Delphi and to the top of the hill. Along the way we passed the impressive Church of St. Nicholas. Unfortunately the roads became extremely narrow through the old town and at one point we had less than an inch clearance! It was however worth the drive as the views from the top were spectacular.
After some time enjoying our surroundings, we retraced our route back down the hill and parked up by the Archaeological site and purchased our tickets.
Delphi Archaeological Museum
Our first stop was the air conditioned Delphi Archaeological Museum, giving us some respite from the 40 degree temperatures! There had clearly been a lot of investment in the museum which included many well preserved exhibits. Furthermore, all text was translated into English which gave us an excellent understanding of the history of Delphi.
Delphi Archaeological Site
After our enjoyable wander around the museum, we made our way up to the archaeological site. Once inside, we followed the path which wound its way up the steep hillside though the temples and ruins.
Unsurprisingly, it was extremely hot in the afternoon baking sunshine. Consequently, we took our time and stopped regularly to rest and enjoy the view!
The Ruins of Delphi were truly amazing, especially the Athenian Treasury and Theatre. Furthermore, the mountains gave the entire site a stunning back drop! Indeed, I can’t begin to imagine the incredible atmosphere whilst attending a performance in the Theatre.
Stunning Backdrop for the theatre.
Eventually we reached the 178 metre long Stadium at the top of the site. I was amazed at how well preserved the stadium was, considering it had been there for over 2000 years! Unsurprisingly, it is the best preserved in the whole of Greece.
We sat by the stadium reading up about the site and the Oracle, before making our way back down the hillside to the entrance.
Once outside the entrance, we walked around half a mile down the road to a second, smaller site and home to Tholos of Delphi.
Luckily, we spotted mountain spring on the way where we stopped to refill our water bottles. There is certainly something special about drinking fresh, cold mountain water!
After our tour of Delphi was complete, we made our way back to the van. By now it was late afternoon and so we decided to head for a nearby town called Arachova. Luckily, the local shops were still open and so we were able to stock up on fresh fruit and veg. Importantly, we were also able to buy an ice cream which we enjoyed whilst walking around the town.
We returned to the van and drove a little further along the road where we found a small remote chapel. A family were busy cleaning the chapel after a wedding and we asked if we could stay the night in the car park. Fortunately they were extremely friendly and welcomed us to stay.
The view from the chapel was beautiful and so we spent time sitting, chatting and updating the journal whilst enjoying the view. Furthermore, we were treated to a stunning sunset over Arachova before retreating to the van for the night.
European Road Trip in a Camper Van: Day 19 [Total Mileage: 3125]
We woke early and had breakfast and coffee with the view of Arachova as our back drop! I then took the opportunity to check over the van and swap a tyre as we had developed a slow puncture.
The morning chores took some time and so we were a little later leaving than originally planned.
Once we hit the road, we started on our journey to Corinth. In order to reduce costs, we decided to avoid the toll roads and instead took the scenic route! Frustratingly, after a long diversion we still ended up on the toll road for the last part of the journey!
When we finally arrived at Corinth, we parked close to the submarine bridge with the rear doors open to the sea!
The view was wonderful over the vivid blue sea. Consequently, we couldn’t resist sitting enjoying the view for a short time before walking to the submersible bridge.
There was something quite satisfying about watching the bridge completely disappear below the water to allow the boats through! We spent around half an hour admiring the many yachts passing over the bridge before returning to the van.
From our amazing spot by the water, we drove inland to some old wartime pillboxes. Sadly, whilst we wanted to investigate further, we weren’t happy leaving the van unattended as there was a lot of broken glass on the ground which made us feel vulnerable. Fortunately, we were able to see most of the ruins from the gravel road. It was fascinating to see how weathering had left many of the pillboxes completely undercut!
After exploring the pillboxes, we made our way to a car park at the end of Corinth Canal Old Bridge. We then walked across the bridge and were rewarded with a beautiful view. It was incredible to stand there and realise that human beings had literally created an Island.
Eventually, we returned back to the van and continued on our journey south. Our destination was Mycenae, around a 2 hour drive.
Luckily, there was ample parking near to the entrance and once we purchased our tickets, it was time to explore! The path led us through the world famous Lion’s Gate. I really felt quite emotional at visiting something so spectacular that been standing for thousands of years.
After stopping to take the obligatory photographs, we continued along the path where we enjoyed the cistern tunnels and ruins. Eventually we arrived at the Archaeological Museum of Mycenae. We both enjoyed the museum and its many ancient exhibits.
Tombs of Mycenae
Erica and I enjoyed visiting the museum and ruins of Mycenae, however our favourite part was yet to come!
Mycenae is home to some spectacular underground tombs that are quite easy to miss! We wandered into the first of these tombs and were both surprised by the acoustics. Both Erica and I took turns to stand dead centre in the tomb and stamped our foot once. Consequently, the sound resonated throughout the domed building to the point where it was almost painful. I have never experienced this before and it clearly showed how perfectly formed the tomb was.
Soon we had visited most of the tombs at Mycenae and returned to the van. There was however one final tomb to visit. Consequently, we drove a short distance down the road where we parked up. Our final visit was to Agamemnon’s Tomb. This was by far the most impressive tomb, simply because it was so large inside. It is amazing to think how the ancient Greeks were able to build such impressive structures without modern tools. Furthermore, they have survived for thousands of years!
Soon, we returned to the van and drove to the coastal town of Nafplion where we parked up in the centre. We enjoyed wandering around the narrow, Venetian looking streets. Fortunately, most of the shops were open and so we were able to purchase some lovely pastry including Baklava. Eventually we made our way to the harbour where we sat eating our delicious pastries. Furthermore, we had a beautiful view of the sunset over Fort Bourtzi.
Eventually we wandered back to the van and departed for our over night stop. Luckily, we found a tiny chapel along our route. Furthermore it was open! Of course we couldn’t resist a quick peek inside before parking up and cooking a nice meal.
European Road Trip in a Camper Van: Day 20 [Total Mileage: 3229]
We woke early and set off for Epidaurus soon after breakfast. Consequently we arrived before the site opened and stood at the entrance until we were let in!
Our first stop was the Theatre, the scale of which was incredible. We made our way up the rows and took a seat 10 rows from the back. For around an hour, we sat chatting and researching ancient Greece on Wikipedia. Furthermore, a young couple decided to stand on the stage where they sang Happy Birthday! Coincidentally, it was my Dad’s and Erica’s mum’s birthday and so we decided to send a video to them.
After enjoying sitting in the comfortable theatre, we decided to continue exploring the ruins.
It soon became clear that the Theatre was by far the most complete and therefore impressive part of the site.
Soon we arrived back at the main entrance and walked back to the van. We needed to arrive in Porto Heli by late afternoon as we were meeting Erica’s family for dinner. Consequently, we still had a few hours to spare and so drove to the modern town of Epidavros.
We found a central car park and so went for a walk around the town where we bought some postcards! Furthermore, we managed to buy postage stamps with Mycaene on them.
Once we had finished exploring the town, we made our way back to the van and continued along the road to a car park on Yialasi beach. I can safely say that I have never parked so close to the water anywhere!
We sat eating our lunch in the van overlooking the beautiful water in this idyllic location. Luckily, we still had time for a swim and so got changed in the van before jumping into the sea.
Erica took her waterproof camera with her and got some good shots of the Sunken City. I chose to keep an eye on the van and spent my time enjoying floating around in the salty water.
Erica and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the water, however soon it was time to leave and drive to Porto Heli.
Porto Heli was the location of the family wedding and the destination to end the first half of our travels! The route took us around some stunning mountain roads with spectacular views across the sea. Consequently, we decided to stop numerous times to enjoy the view.
Finally after a quick supermarket stop, we arrived at our destination of Porto Heli. We were both extremely happy to have arrived safely. Furthermore, I felt an immense sense of pride to have travelled in a luxury vehicle that I originally purchased as an oily van. Don’t forget to read about how I built it and the components that I used during construction.
Erica’s family welcomed us with several glasses of wine before setting off in the family car for dinner at a beautiful restaurant whilst watching the sunset. This was one of the most impressive restaurant’s I have ever visited. We felt it was an excellent way to celebrate both making it to Greece as well as Erica’s mum’s birthday!
Together, we spent the evening chatting and eating before being driven back to the van. For the first time in Greece, we had mains power and so could run the air conditioning. Consequently, we both slept extremely well in the cool van and had a lay in the following morning!
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