The islands typically tend to be the star of the show when visiting the ancient country of Greece. This comes with good reason, as the Greek islands are truly stunning locations for any kind of traveler. Albeit, the mainland of Greece is a knockout destination that’s typically off the beaten path for any mainstream traveler. In this 7 to 10-day Greece mainland itinerary, expect waterfalls, mighty mountain ranges, medieval towns, bustling and exciting cities, and the mystical home of the Greek Gods.
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Getting To & Around Mainland Greece
This route spans the majority of the mainland, from the southern Peloponnese to the northern city of Thessaloniki, so various modes of transport are possible as well as ideal.
My recommendation is to hire a car and drive throughout your trip. The longest journey time is around 4 ½ hours making driving the easiest, most convenient, and most cost-efficient way to travel around the Greek mainland. You can browse Rentalcars.com to compare options for hiring a car.
A mainland Greece road trip is one of the best ways to experience this relatively undiscovered part of the country by tourists.
If you’re planning on flying into Greece, I recommend flying into the Athens International Airport. The itinerary begins in the capital and it’s the main airport, making flights the most frequent and affordable in comparison to other airports in Greece.
Another option for getting around on this mainland Greece itinerary is by bus. The KTEL bus system is essentially the national bus transport, connecting cities and towns throughout the country.
You can typically find routes for major cities or towns and sometimes smaller places if they’re frequently visited by tourists and locals.
Costs differ, so you can expect to pay between €5 and €25 depending on the route and although tickets can be affordable, if you choose to use the bus as a main means of transport throughout the country it can add up quickly.
Train transport is also another option, but the routes in Greece aren’t as extensive as in other countries in Europe. This means that there may be gaps in transportation, but those can be filled by bus.
The downside to taking bus or train transport is that if you’re hoping to visit more remote destinations in mainland Greece, it can be hard to make your way there from the main transport routes. These tickets can also easily add up to double the cost of a rental car, so keep this in mind if you’re torn between the two.
If you don’t like the idea of public transport or renting a car, you can also find tour groups that go to the majority of destinations, making it a seamless way to travel without the stress of driving or planning.
7 to 10-Day Greece Mainland Itinerary
The mainland of Greece is full of countless treasures. From the rustic mountains and quaint villages of central Greece and the Peloponnese to the hectic and exciting cities of Athens and Thessaloniki; you’re bound to discover countless new jewels in the most undiscovered part of Greece; the mainland.
While the islands are outstanding locations to visit on any dream itinerary, the best way to get to know the heart of Greece and everyday life is through the mainland.
Day 1 – Athens
This mainland Greece itinerary begins with 2 days in the same place where modern democracy began as well as the capital city, Athens. You’ll likely be flying into the Athens International Airport, making the Greek capital a great and convenient starting point.
Athens is a great way to begin as you’ll have the opportunity to get your bearings in a new country, discover Greek foods, and see some of the most important ruins in ancient history.
Although the city is quite small, there’s an abundance of things to do. Because of this, you can decide to mold your time in different ways, from exploration of the Ancient Greek world to the cultural side of what makes modern-day Athens what it is today.
No matter how you choose to spend your time, make sure to not miss a visit to the Acropolis, a wander around the classic Greek neighborhood of Plaka, and a long wholesome meal at a classic Greek tavern.
Other ways to explore further into Athens are plentiful and unique; venture into the southern suburbs of Athens to explore Poseidon’s Temple in Cape Sounio or take a dip in the sea around an hour away from Athens at Schinias beach.
Where to Stay in Athens
Athens Ivy Suites – Located only 500 meters from Monastiraki Square, this hotel is an excellent central place to stay in the Greek capital. There are several rooms, a restaurant, a shared terrace, airport shuttle, breakfast and more to offer guests.
The Modernist Athens – A sleek and modern hotel in the Kolnaki neighborhood, this hotel has a range of cool rooms, private parking, a fitness centre and a superb buffet breakfast in the mornings.
101 Adrianou Apartments – These suites are excellent for those looking for a comfortable, central option. Situated within walking distance of Syntagma Square, there is daily housekeeping and incredible views of the city.
City Circus Athens – Boasting a terrace with an Acropolis view, this hostel is great for backpackers. There are great common areas for meeting other travellers and a range of dorms and privates to choose from.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Athens hotels!
Day 2 – Athens
Spend your second day in Athens getting to know the city a bit deeper. If you spent day one checking off all of the well-known highlights like the Acropolis and exploring some cool, central neighborhoods, consider taking in a museum or two on your second day – such as the Archaeological Museum or the Benaki Museum.
You could also opt to get a bit off the beaten path and explore some cool neighborhoods like Psyri and Monastiraki or even opt to go on a food tour, where you can learn about all of the Athenian specialities.
Day 3 – Nafplio and Epidaurus (Peloponnese)
After getting acquainted with Greece in Athens, you’ll head south to the neighboring Peloponnese region.
The Peloponnese region is an alluring peninsula south of central Greece offering one of the most exciting and unique experiences in Greece. Although this itinerary only offers a taster of one day in the Peloponnese, I highly suggest exploring the region on a deeper level if you have the time.
With just one day in the Peloponnese, you’ll make your way first to the picturesque town of Nafplio. Nafplio is a coastal city in the Peloponnese offering idyllic views and architecture, wonderful food, and a pleasant place to experience the Peloponnese.
After, head about half an hour away to the ancient town of Epidaurus to explore the stunningly peaceful nature of the Peloponnese and the ancient ruins and theatre of the town of Epidaurus.
Where to Stay in Nafplio
Amymone and Adiandi – This quaint hotel in Nafplio is an excellent base for your first couple of days in the Peloponnese. They have a range of bright, clean and comfortable rooms on offer and a great location for exploring the town and the region.
Carpe Diem Boutique Hotel – For those looking for a hip place to stay in Naflplio, this boutique hotel is sure not to disappoint. They have a number of chic rooms on offer, breakfast available in the mornings and plenty of amenities to ensure your stay is fantastic.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Nafplio hotels!
Day 4 – Delphi
Day 4 of this road trip will bring you back through central Greece and to the legendary, and one of the most visited places on the mainland of Greece, the ancient site of Delphi.
Delphi is about 3 ½ hours away from Athens and on the way to Delphi, you’ll also pass through Ancient Corinth and the Corinth Canal connecting central Greece to the upper point of the Peloponnese. Alternatively, you could also visit the ancient site of Olympia, another incredible place in the Peloponnese.
If you have extra time and are particularly interested in ancient history, I recommend making a stop in Corinth to explore the ruins and the grand Corinth Canal and see the blue water of the Corinthian Gulf before heading to Delphi.
Delphi is the first stop in central Greece and once spending time there, you’ll quickly understand why it’s one of the most visited spots in Greece. Take time to explore the archaeological site and museum, witness the famous Temple of Apollo, and find yourself in awe of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.
Delphi is also an area of outstanding natural beauty, so even just spending a few hours in the area is a great chance to connect to nature. Afterwards, head to the nearby town of Arachova to enjoy a local meal for lunch. You could also visit the lovely village of Nafpaktos.
Where to Stay in Delphi
Arion Hotel – Located only about 200 metres from the archaeological site, this three-star guesthouse is a great choice. They have a number of cosy rooms on offer and an unbeatable location for exploring this area.
Amalia Hotel Delphi – This 4-star hotel is an excellent option for those looking for a bit more of a luxurious stay while visiting Delphi. They have several lovely, plush rooms on offer, a wonderful location and a great swimming pool to enjoy.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Delphi hotels!
Day 5 – Meteora
After leaving Arachova and Delphi, day 5 will take you about 3 ½ hours away to one of the best places to visit in all of Greece, Meteora. One of the highlights of taking the time to explore the Greek mainland is that you don’t have to make a choice between visiting Delphi or Meteora.
Meteora is easily one of the most outstanding places to visit in all of Greece, and with good reason. Located next to the small town of Kalambaka, the area is a striking formation of rocks sprawling from the earth with a collection of Byzantine Eastern Orthodox monasteries bravely sitting on top.
With the construction of these monasteries beginning in the 11th century, Meteora is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a gift for all who visit. During your stay, you can either hike to the monasteries or drive above to have easier access and saved time.
Where to Stay near Meteora
Dellas Boutique Hotel – Mid-range travellers will love this 3-star boutique hotel when visiting Meteora. Located in the town of Kalambaka within easy reach of the monasteries, they have a number of lovely rooms to choose from that can suit all kinds of visitors.
Hotel Doupiani House – This is an excellent hotel for those looking for a comfortable and cosy mid-range option in Kalambaka. Well-poised for exploring the splendours of Meteora, they have many rooms to choose from and a great buffet breakfast available each morning.
Meteora Central Hostel – Budget and solo travellers will love this cosy hostel in Kalambaka. Well-located for exploring Meteora, they have a range of dorm beds and private rooms to choose from and good shared spaces and common areas to enjoy.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Meteora hotels!
Day 6 – Zagori
Days 6 & 7 of this route will bring you closer to the northern Greek border and 3 hours from Meteora to the Pindus mountain range and region of Zagori.
The region of Zagori is a collection of around 40 villages cosily nestled in the Pindos mountains and full of tradition, rugged wilderness, and truly breathtaking scenery.
In Zagori, visit the striking Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world in the Vikos-Aoos National Park, enjoy one of the numerous hiking paths in the region and appreciate the unique Zagorian architecture spanning through the villages.
For accommodation, you’ll find all sorts of options from luxurious boutique hotels to affordable bed and breakfasts and mid-range hotel options.
Mainland Greece is truly a haven for nature lovers and Zagori is the prime destination for those looking for a stay off the beaten path.
Where to Stay in Zagori
Guesthouse Gouris – This cosy guesthouse is perfect for mid-range travellers visiting the beautiful Zagori region. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from that feature local rugs and handicrafts and there is also a wonderful breakfast available each morning.
Aberratio Boutique Hotel – Located in the village of Aristi, this boutique hotel is an excellent choice for those looking for a more upmarket place to stay in the Zagori region. They have a number of swanky rooms on offer and an incredibly beautiful location for guests to enjoy.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Zagori hotels!
Day 7 – Zagori
On your second day in the Zagori, take a bit more time to explore some of the places you didn’t make it to on the first day. Enjoy the laid-back nature and stunning scenery of the area and get active on a few of the many hiking trails you can find.
If you’re following the 7-day itinerary rather than 10, this day will conclude your trip. Either head onward in Greece to your following destination or head back to Athens to fly onward.
Day 8 – Mount Olympus
After spending time in the pristine Zagori region, you’ll head northwest to one of the most famous areas in Greece and one of the most famous mountains in the world, Mount Olympus.
Mount Olympus is about a 3-hour drive away from Zagori and although the hike to the top in its entirety is only recommended for well-experienced travelers, you can still enjoy the famous scenery with a nice hike and time in the nearby villages.
Although its fame is due to being the home of the Greek Gods, it is the first national park in Greece and one with some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the country.
The town of Litochoro is located at the foot of Mount Olympus and is a great spot to base yourself to explore the mountain and have a start on many of the trails.
The town itself dates back to the 14th century, has plenty of appetizing restaurants, and still has abundant Macedonian architecture throughout the town offering a unique glimpse into the region and its history.
Where to Stay near Mt Olympus
Kallisto Traditional Guesthouse – Located in the town of Litochoro, this rustic guesthouse is perfect for those looking for a comfortable and traditional place to stay near Mt Olympus. They have a number of cosy rooms on offer and a great location for exploring the region.
To Palio Litochoro – This lovely guesthouse located in Litochoro is an excellent choice for those looking for a great place to stay in the foothills of Mt Olympus. They have a number of great rooms on offer, a beautiful setting and a perfect location in the centre of the village.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Mt Olympus hotels!
Day 9 – Thessaloniki
While the majority of this trip is amongst nature and smaller Greek villages and towns, the last stop for those spending the full 10 days on this Greece mainland itinerary is the second biggest city in Greece, Thessaloniki.
The city itself is about a 2 1⁄2 hour drive away from Mount Olympus and within the city, you’ll find the wonder of the proud Greek mountainous treasure keeping watch over Thessaloniki. The city itself is typically quite overlooked on any Greek itinerary but is worth the visit in its own right.
From the gritty Balkan architecture, to what’s known as the best food scene in Greece, Thessaloniki is easily one of the most underrated destinations on the Greece mainland.
During your visit, make sure to have a fresh bougatsa from a local bakery (a specialty pastry originating in Thessaloniki), wander the seafront and port, stop by the White Tower, and wander through Ladadika, Thessaloniki’s old town as well as Morichovou Square.
Where to Stay in Thessaloniki
Blue Bottle Boutique Hotel – A funky mid0rang hotel in the center of Thessaloniki, there are plenty of bright rooms to choose from, a great breakfast and private parking available to guests.
Teight Hotel – A luxe and modern hotel within easy reach of the top Thessaloniki attractions, this place boasts an on-site bar, room service, great breakfast and a range of spacious rooms on offer.
Zeus is Loose Hostel – A very highly-rated hostel perfect for backpackers and budget travellers, there are lots of dorms (and private rooms) here, great common areas, kitchen facilities and an excellent atmosphere for guests.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Thessaloniki hotels!
Day 10 – Thessaloniki
Spend your final day in Thessaloniki (and the final day of this 10-day Mainland Greece itinerary) digging deeper and really getting to know Greece’s second city.
Take the time to explore some cool neighborhoods, take a lot of leisurely strolls along the waterfront or, perhaps, take a food tour to learn more about the gastronomic scene in this “foodie” city.
Thessaloniki also has one of the largest airports in Greece offering routes connecting to the rest of Europe, making it the perfect departure point at the end of this trip. You can also reach other Balkan destinations from the city, as it’s easy to get from Thessaloniki to Sofia, Bulgaria and other neighbouring countries.
Have More Time?
If you have more time to spend, there are plenty of other points of interest worth visiting.
If you’re keen on exploring deeper into the Peloponnese, you can easily tack on another few days or week and head further south into the region, discovering Ancient Sparta, the crystalline Mani Peninsula, and the Medieval island town of Monemvasia with its beautiful Venetian castle.
After visiting the towns of Zagori, head to Ioannina, the capital city of the Zagori region, to enjoy one of the oldest lakes in the world, Lake Pamvotis.
For those interested in exploring a different region of mainland Greece, I suggest making your way to Volos, a port city in the region of Thessaly full of history, culture, delicious cuisine and the gateway to the neighboring Northern Sporades islands, Skiathos and Skopelos.
Whether or not the mainland of Greece has already been on your dream travel list, it’s undoubtedly a destination that you’ll discover is full of abundance. You’ll explore deep parts of Ancient history, get lost in Greece’s wilderness, and experience what life is like in the country’s biggest cities and smallest towns.
Spending 7 days or more in this part of Greece before hopping over to the islands is a great way to discover Greek culture and Greece without hoards of tourists.
Are you planning to explore mainland Greece? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!