Day Trips from Thessaloniki 2020: 12 Wonderful Escapes from the City

 Day trips from Thessaloniki: Water buffalo swim in the waters around Kerkini lake
Day trips from Thessaloniki: Water buffalo swim in the waters around Kerkini lake

Options for day trips from Thessaloniki are plentiful and varied. While the city itself may be relatively small and easy to cover in a day or two, 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?

Day Trips from Thessaloniki: Kastoria
Day Trips from Thessaloniki: Kastoria

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 in driving here, you will find that public transport options are limited, or that 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.

The Best Day Trips from Thessaloniki

Metsovo Village
Metsovo Village

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 in just a few hours’ journey.

Kerkini Lake 

Day trips from Thessaloniki: Enjoying the tranquil beauty of Kerkini lake
Day trips from Thessaloniki: Enjoying the tranquil beauty of Kerkini lake

Kerkini lake sits 90 miles north-east of Thessaloniki, in the Serres region of Greece. The lake is relatively off the beaten path as far as Greek travel goes. Kerkini is frequently marketed as being one of Europe’s premier bird-watching destinations, but 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, with quaint little villages every few miles breaking up the walk. 

For 10 euros, visitors can take a scenic boat ride across the lake in order 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

Metsovo

Day Trips from Thessaloniki: Metsovo
Day Trips from Thessaloniki: Metsovo

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 

The Mount Athos monasteries are best enjoyed on a boat tour

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. 

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. Male travellers are able to obtain “pilgrimage” visas so as to be able to explore the ornate monasteries, however, 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. This takes some of the stress out of managing the logistics of your trip.  

Halkidiki 

Day Trips from Thessaloniki: Halkidiki
Day Trips from Thessaloniki: Halkidiki

Boasting miles upon miles of white sand beaches that border clear azure waters, paradisiacal Halkidiki may well be one of the most underrated places in Greece. 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, shopping for Halkidiki stuffed olives and other Greek produce, and sampling the sumptuous home-cooked dishes at the local fish tavernas. Neos Marmaras and Parthenonas are great choices if you want to hike and get back to nature. 

Those seeking adventure can opt to rent a boat and sail out to islands such as Diaporos or Ammouliani. 

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.

Mount Olympus 

An air of mysticism and magic surrounds Mount Olympus. In Greek mythology, it was here where the Greek gods resided. 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. 

Today, Mount Olympus is designated as a National Park. It is possible to hike to the peak of the mountain, though reaching the top requires overnight camping. (The entire trekking time to the peak is approximately 20 hours). 

Those preferring a shorter hike can follow the trails that lead around the base of the mountain, or partway up. Various freshwater springs and waterfalls greet you on your trek up the mountain and make a refreshing place to stop and relax. 

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 so 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.

Meteora 

The ethereal landscapes of Meteora
The ethereal landscapes of Meteora

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” and 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, but today 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 

The Ruins of Ancient Pella
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, yet it escapes the attention of most tourists. 

Pella 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. It’s not easy to reach Pella by public transport – You can take the train to Edessa, and then take a bus to Pella. Alternatively, you can rent a car for your Greece trip, or join one of the tour companies that run day trips from Thessaloniki. 

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.

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, but it was destroyed in the 5th century AD when an earthquake shook the region, 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

Day Trips from Thessaloniki
Day Trips from Thessaloniki

While technically still part of Thessaloniki, the eastern parts of the city 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. Nearby Pieria and Nea Iraklia are lovely coastal areas where you can escape to the sea without having to travel all the way to Halkidiki. 

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 – 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 – one of the largest waterfalls in Greece. 

Numerous hiking trails weave throughout the landscape here – leading 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. 

Day trips from Thessaloniki that combine both Edessa and the Pozar baths are affordable and take some of the logistics out of organising transport. This tour starts from just $40 per person. 

Kastoria

Kastoria, Northern Greece
Kastoria, Northern Greece

Kastoria is a beautiful city that awaits two hours west of Thessaloniki. Kastoria was once an important furrier town. It sits on the banks of the scenic Orestiada Lake. Very few tourists make the trip here, enabling you to enjoy the ambiance of “real” rural Greece. 

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 – 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 2.5hours.

Vergina 

Like Pella and Dion, Vergina played an important role in the days of the Kingdom of Macedonia. 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 which 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.

Have any further questions about travelling to Thessaloniki or its surroundings? I’ve lived in Greece for three years now, and based myself in Thessaloniki for a month in August 2019.

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 

Disclaimer: This article on Thessaloniki day trips may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through some of the links on this page, I will obtain a small amount of commission. This is charged at no additional cost to you. Thanks for understanding.


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

2 thoughts on “Day Trips from Thessaloniki 2020: 12 Wonderful Escapes from the City”

    • Hey Becky! Yes I agree! I based myself there for a month and didn’t expect that I would love the city as much as I did. There was so much to do in the area that I feel the need to go back again!

      Reply

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