Day trips from Thessaloniki are plentiful and varied. The city itself may be relatively small and easy to cover in a day or two.
However, it’s the beautiful beaches, the stunning nature, and the cute villages that await just outside Thessaloniki that make it worth your while to stick around a little longer.
Day Trips from Thessaloniki:
Go it Alone or Guided Tour?
Northern Greece and Central Macedonia remains a somewhat off the beaten path Greek travel destination. The best way to explore this region is via car.
However, if you do not feel confident about renting a car here, you will find that public transport options are limited. Furthermore, some of the destinations listed are tricky to get to independently.
For each of the below destinations, you will find details on how to get there by public transport and via a guided tour. That way you can choose the option that is most suitable for you.
Sometimes, guided tours wind up costing no more than going it alone. This is particularly the case if you are travelling solo in Greece. Not to mention, day tours can take a lot of the stress and logistics out of planning your trip.
The Best Day Trips from Thessaloniki
The day trips from Thessaloniki that are detailed here offer something for everyone. Whether you are interested in history and archaeological sites, or you want to swim in perfect azure waters off the coast, there are countless options available. Most places can be reached in just a few hours’ journey.
Peraia is a beautiful coastal town that is situated 26km south of Thessaloniki. It is home to the closest beaches to Thessaloniki and is a great day trip from Thessaloniki if you want to relax by the sea but don’t feel like trekking to Halkidiki.
Getting to Peraia is made very easy during the summer months by the presence of a sea taxi that runs between the two destinations several times a day. The journey takes just under an hour and the scenery along the way is breathtaking.
Two beaches await at Peraia. They are, the town’s namesake Peraia beach, and the organised beach of Agia Triada.
The former is more of a lay down your own towel and enjoy a picnic kind of place. Meanwhile, Agia Triada is a serviced beach with all the amenities you need.
Several seafront tavernas in Agia Triada offer sunbed and umbrella rentals for the day. The bars let you stay as long as you want at the beach, provided you meet their minimum spend. This is usually just around €3.
Getting to Peraia
Take the sea taxi from Thessaloniki port or White Tower. You can buy tickets online, review prices, and schedules here.
The ride costs €5 each way. You can buy your tickets onboard on the day of travel. However, it can be more convenient to get them in advance and have them sent to your phone.
Kerkini is frequently marketed as being one of Europe’s premier bird-watching destinations. However, it is so much more than that.
The lake is scenically stunning and sits against a dramatic backdrop of the Pelles mountain range. Several hiking trails twist and turn along the water banks and through the woodland. Adorable, quaint little villages are situated every few miles breaking up the walk.
For 10 euros, you can take a scenic boat ride across the lake. This enables you to get up close and personal with pelicans, dalmatian pelicans, storks, and other rare and endangered birds.
Kerkini is also one of the only regions of Greece where water buffalo are still farmed. If you are lucky, you may see the farmers leading their herd to swim in the lake.
Getting to Lake Kerkini
It is possible to take a bus from Thessaloniki to Kerkini. The bus schedule changes with the season. However, it is very infrequent and typically requires an overnight stay.
It is tricky to see the nearby Serres villages if you do not have a car. Lake Kerkini is best enjoyed on a guided tour like this one.
The quaint village of Metsovo is a Vlach settlement that sits high in the Pindus Mountains of Northern Greece. Characterised by red roofs and ancient churches, Metsovo is a popular weekend getaway destination for Greeks.
You can sample the traditional delicacies of Metsovo – including the village’s famous smoked country sausages, and its namesake metsovone cheese. Meandering through Metsovo’s narrow cobbled streets is a pleasant way to while away the time. If you are into hiking, you can spend an afternoon trekking to the abandoned monasteries of Zoodochos Pigi and Agios Nikolaos.
Getting to Metsovo
The KTEL bus that runs between Thessaloniki and Ioannina usually stops at Metsovo. The journey to Metsovo takes approximately 2.5 hours.
Mount Athos is one of the three peninsulas of beautiful Halkidiki. While the peninsulas of Kassandra and Sithonia are filled with scenic beach towns and holiday resorts, Mount Athos is unique because it is a completely monastic territory.
Sailing Around the Monasteries
The area is considered as being one of the most important and spiritual places for Orthodox Christians in the world. 20 monasteries and 2000 monks live here, and Mount Athos is an autonomous state that operates differently to the rest of Greece.
Women are not permitted to travel to Mount Athos. However, it is possible to take a cruise around the region.
Boat tours run several times a day during the summer months. Many of them also tie in a visit to the gorgeous island of Ammouliani.
Male travellers are able to obtain “pilgrimage” visas so as to be able to explore the ornate monasteries. It should be noted though that these must be obtained in advance and only a very limited number of visas are issued per day.
Getting to Mount Athos
If you want to travel to Mount Athos independently, you can take the KTEL bus to Ouranoupoli. From there, make your way to the port and purchase a ticket on a glass-bottom boat.
The price of this day trip from Thessaloniki costs approximately the same whether you choose to book a place on a tour or do everything independently. With that considered, it is often easier to book a tour like this one.
Paradisiacal Halkidiki may well be one of the most underrated places in Greece. This region boasts miles upon miles of white sand beaches that border clear azure waters.
The coasts of Halkidiki can be reached in just over an hour’s drive from Thessaloniki. The area is also serviced by KTEL buses, making it an easy day trip from the city.
Halkidiki villages such as Nikiti and Afitos are great places to enjoy a laid back day relaxing by the sea. You can shop for the infamous Halkidiki stuffed olives and other Greek produce, and sample fresh seafood at the local fish tavernas.
Alternatively, Neos Marmaras and Parthenonas are great choices if you want to hike and get back to nature. If you are seeking adventure, you can opt to rent a boat and sail out to islands such as Diaporos and Peristeri.
Getting to Halkidiki
It is easy to reach Halkidiki by public transport. KTEL buses run from Thessaloniki to several major towns across Athos, Sithonia, and Kassandra. You can check the latest timetables and book advanced tickets via the KTEL Chalkidikis website here.
According to legend, Zeus, his wife, and all of the other ten Olympian gods lived up here. From the top of the mountain, the gods would peer down at humanity and decide their fate each day.
Hiking at Mount Olympus
Today, Mount Olympus is designated as a National Park. It is possible to hike to the peak of the mountain.
Although reaching the top requires overnight camping. The entire trekking time to the peak is approximately 20 hours.
f you prefer a shorter hike you can follow the trails that lead around the base of the mountain, or ascend part of the way up. Various freshwater springs and waterfalls greet you on your trek up the mountain and make a refreshing place to stop and relax.
Don’t forget to pack towels ad swimsuits if you are hiking here during the Spring and Summer months so that you can enjoy the springs. The footpaths here are among the best hiking trails in Greece.
Getting to Mount Olympus
To reach Mount Olympus from Thessaloniki, you need to take the train or bus to Litochoro. Litochoro is 6km from Olympus. From there you should take a taxi.
It may be easier to explore Olympus as part of a guided tour. Several local travel companies offer day trips that combine Mount Olympus and ancient Dion for less than $50 per person.
You can review the information on one of these tours here. Many Olympus tours are led by expert Mountaineers and hikers.
The ethereal-looking monasteries of Meteora make an appearance on most people’s desired Greece itineraries, and for good reason. The name Meteora means “suspended in the air”.
The name is an accurate reflection of how these magnificent monasteries are balanced precariously on a cliff’s edge, thousands of miles up from the ground. Originally there were 24 monasteries at Meteora. Unfortunately only 6 remain.
Each monastery boasts different intricate designs and vivid frescoes. Some advanced research is required, as each monastery opens on different days of the week.
Getting to Meteora
It is easy to reach Meteora by public transport. You can take the train or bus from Thessaloniki to Kalambaka. The journey takes approximately 2 hours 45 minutes and you usually need to change in Palaeofarsalos.
If you wish to travel to Meteora independently, it is best to stay overnight. There are several guesthouses in Kalambaka that boast incredible views over the monasteries, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
Meteora tours like this one are great if you want to go and come back in a day without having to worry about public transport.
The Ruins of Ancient Pella
Pella is an ancient city in Central Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander the Great. While many people that visit Greece venture out to the ancient ruins of Delphi, Pella is just as fascinating and well-preserved.
Somehow it escapes the attention of most tourists. Many of whom have never even heard of Pella.
The city dates back to 399 BC when it was founded by King Archelaus. It became the capital of ancient Macedon and was ruled by Phillip II and Alexander the Great.
As you wander around the ruins, amidst the colonnaded promenades and the mosaiced floors, it’s easy to envisage what Pella once looked like in its finest hour. Don’t miss the Pella archaeological museum which is also on-site and contains an array of artifacts gathered from excavations in the area.
Getting to Pella
It is not easy to reach Pella independently unless you rent a car in Greece. The easiest way to reach the ancient city is by doing a day tour such as this one that combines Pella and Vergina.
Alternatively, you can take the train from Thessaloniki to Edessa. From Edessa, take the bus to Pella.
The Ancient City of Dion
The ancient city of Dion (now Dion archaeological park) sits on the slopes of Mount Olympus and dates back to the 5th century AD. It was once a place of strong religious importance. In ancient times, people would come here to make sacrifices to the Greek gods.
After achievements in battle and notable conquests, Phillip II and Alexander the Great would come to Dion to celebrate. Throughout the year, various sporting events were hosted in ancient Dion.
Dion became part of the Roman empire under the rule of Augustus. However, it was destroyed in the 5th century AD when an earthquake shook the region. This was followed by mass floods which caused the residents to flee.
Getting to Dion
Dion sits at the base of Mount Olympus. It is not easily reachable via public transport.
The best way to visit this historical location is to take a guided tour that stops at both Mount Olympus and Dion. Tours start at around $45 per person.
Kalamaria and the Eastern Suburbs
Kalamaria and the eastern suburbs are still technically part of Thessaloniki. However, they present a different vibe entirely and are well worth exploring.
Upscale Kalamaria boasts countless bars, restaurants, and coffee shop options on the eastern edge of Thessaloniki. Meanwhile, Nea Iraklia is a lovely coastal area where you can escape to the sea.
Edessa & the Pozar Thermal Baths
Edessa town is the capital of the Pella region of Northern Greece. The town is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. Most notably, particularly the majestic waterfalls that encircle the city centre, and the nearby Pozar thermal baths.
The northernmost part of the town is filled with lush green landscapes, towering trees, and beautiful fragrant flower beds. Karanos waterfall can be found here. This is one of the largest waterfalls in Greece.
Numerous hiking trails weave throughout the landscape here. They lead you past waterfall water curtains, mysterious caves, and tranquil woodlands.
The Pozar thermal pools are a natural phenomenon. Their warm waters are said to have healing properties. Soaking in the pools here, amid the breathtaking scenery is a wonderful way to while away an afternoon.
Getting to Edessa & the Pozar Thermal Baths
It is very easy to reach Edessa via train or bus. Trains run from Thessaloniki every two hours, and the KTEL buses also run on a frequent schedule.
The waterfalls are very close to the town centre. It is not difficult to reach them on foot from Edessa bus/train station.
The little village of Drama is not at all touristic. International travellers do not have it on their radar. However for that, it rewards you with a truly offbeat Greek travel experience.
Drama consists of charming districts, beautiful architecture, and grand neoclassical mansions. There are also several points of interests here for history lovers. Various tomb sites around the town limits date back to the Iron Age and are very worthy of your time.
Getting to Drama
It takes 2.5 hours to get to Drama. It is possible to make the journey on a day trip from Thessaloniki.
However, you may wish to choose a cosy Drama guesthouse to stay in overnight and break up your travel. A direct KTEL bus from Thessaloniki to Drama departs several times a day.
Kastoria is a beautiful city that awaits two hours west of Thessaloniki. This was once an important furrier town. Although in the last few decades, demand for this trade has somewhat died out.
The town sits on the banks of the scenic Orestiada Lake. Very few tourists make the trip here. Thus, enabling you to enjoy the ambiance of “real” rural Greece.
Highlights of Kastoria
A scenic stroll or bike ride along the waterfront of the lake makes a perfect setting for a peaceful afternoon away from city life. The footpaths that twist and turn through the area are bordered by dense forests and home to hundreds of rare bird species.
As you walk the circumference of the lake, be sure to stop by Dragon’s Cave. This is an almost ethereal cave complex whose rooms are filled with impressive stalactites and underground lakes. For a birds-eye view of Kastoria and Orestiada Lake, follow the uphill footpath to the Agios Athanasios viewpoint.
Getting to Kastoria
There is a KTEL Kastorias bus that runs between Kastoria and Thessaloniki every four hours. The journey takes 2.5 hours. You can check the timetables here.
Vergina played an important role in the days of the Kingdom of Macedonia -much like Pella and Dion. The important city of Aigai once stood here.
The main reason to take a day trip from Thessaloniki to visit Vergina today is to visit the Royal Tombs. This historic site act as a final resting place for Kings and nobles of Macedonia.
The ancient Macedonians buried their dead in underground tombs covered by mounds of earth. Both Alexander the Great, and his father Phillip II are buried here.
Getting to Vergina
Getting to Vergina is best done via car. Taking the bus from Thessaloniki to Vergina is possible but complicated.
You should first take the 31 or 78 bus from Thessaloniki to Veria. From there, take the bus to Vergina.
The bus ticket from Vergina to Veria alone costs 40 euros per person. With that considered, it may be preferable to take a tour. Vergina tours like this one combine a day trip to both Vergina and Pella for just 45 euros per person.
I would be happy to assist with any questions you may have. Feel free to drop me a comment below. Safe travels!
Geia sou! Melissa xo