Editor’s note: Regarding recent events in Greece, please click here to see the author’s note at the bottom of the page.
For many, Greece conjures pictures of blue church domes and white stucco walls with a backdrop of clear blue waters. It’s common to stay in the sprawling, frantic capital city of Athens just long enough to see the Acropolis and perhaps a few other ruins and museums before fleeing the city for one of Greece’s islands. But Greece offers another form of escape, one off the beaten path through central Greece where travelers will find the heart of the country. By following the road less-traveled on an off-roading journey with Tripology Adventures, travelers will experience a thrilling ride through central Greece’s varying landscapes, visit authentic villages and mingle with the locals, all while following a path rarely, if ever, touched by other tourists.
My husband Romeo and I love to take roadtrips through other countries, as this is how we get to know these countries, see how people live outside the tourist centers, and view the scenery and sites beyond the big cities. When I read the description of Tripology Adventures’ 4×4 off-roading tour through central Greece, I knew this was the trip for us. And it was, seen here in video:
Literally an off-road tour
While we don’t often join group tours, this one offered an experience we would never have found on our own. While we sometimes find ourselves on dirt roads, often accidentally, we decided it would be foolish to put ourselves in that type of situation daily, alone, in a foreign country. Tripology Adventures’ small-group, off-road caravans provide controlled adventure for moderate thrill-seekers. Each is led by an experienced off-roader with the tools to fix any situation that might arise, a knowledgeable guide, and a network of individuals working behind the scenes to ensure a seamless experience.
While off the beaten path, this off-road adventure is not extreme. The 4×4 caravan follows established dirt roads through Greece’s countryside. However, bravery, confidence and an adventurous spirit are required from both the drivers and passengers. Many of the roads wind through hills and mountains. Roads are sometimes only wide enough for one vehicle, there are hairpin turns and steep grades, and the drop-offs are sheer. It isn’t rare to find a herd of cows or a flock of sheep blocking the way or goats skipping along the rocks above.
The trip, in seven days:
Every day brings new terrain and views more stunning than the day before. On our first full day, after having lunch overlooking the Bay of Corinth, we drove through the hills to be greeted by views of Delphi in the distance. On this rare day of seeing other tourists we were provided an exceptional tour of Delphi guided by a celebrity tour guide, if there is such a thing: Penny Kolomvotsou, who previously appeared in an episode of Rick Steves’ show.
Day 2 provided an exciting ride along an actual rally car route. After kicking up dust along the route—though not driving nearly as fast as rally drivers—we stopped for pictures in a place where the sound of the clanking bells of a goat herd filled the air. We continued our drive up into the hills and enjoyed a picnic lunch next to a random church on a mountain overlooking the valleys far below.
The third day provided a stunning drive through Evrytania, rightly known as the Switzerland of Greece. Highlights of the day included views of an impossibly emerald-green lake and visits to small mountain villages originally created by Greeks escaping the Ottomans.
Day four included more mountain driving, a coffee stop by a clear blue river and a visit to Proussos Monastery, which has a chapel built into a cave for the sole purpose of housing the icon of Panagia Prousiotissa, which was saved in the 9th century when icons were banned.
The fifth day brought even more striking landscapes, this time in the form of snowy mountain peaks in the Pindus mountain range. We enjoyed lunch at a family-owned riverside tavern that had been devastated just a few months before by a landslide and flood. We dined on a meal of fresh trout and a soft, deliciously tangy homemade goat milk cheese. Then we headed up into the mountains where we were on top of the world, with entral Greece laid out like a carpet below us. The day ended with dinner in the shadows of Meteora.
Day six unfortunately meant the end of our off-roading adventures and we saw other tourists again when we visited Meteora. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora refers to a series of monasteries built in the 1300s on rock formations jutting out of the earth towards the sky, only reachable until the 1900s by ladders and buckets pulled up by ropes. Again we received an expertly guided tour and also had the chance to view Meteora from another angle by taking a hike down the hill with the rocks and monasteries towering overhead.
Day seven, our last full day, was bittersweet, as what had been a group of strangers just one week prior was now a caravan of friends not quite ready to part ways. We drove back to Athens from Meteora with stops along the way that included lunch by the sea and random attractions like the Monument of Leonidas, the site of battle from the movie 300. We had a final dinner together in Athens with a table covered in Greek food and the sound of live music filling the restaurant.
Meals, hotels and the rest
What makes an off-road tour with Tripology Adventures special is not just the off-roading and the sites. The meals provide the opportunity to taste authentic traditional Greek food at small, (many times) family-owned establishments. These are not restaurants that solely cater to tourists, as are often visited on group tours. The hotels are not soulless tourist hotels, either. They include places like family-run inns and ski chalets in the mountains. In addition to the scenery, real life is seen along the road. Want to know where your yogurt, honey, cheese, and souvlaki are coming from? Along the road we passed beekeepers and sheepherders as well as goats, sheep and cows roaming freely in the hills.
There’s also a sense of camaraderie you find on the road. It sounds cliché, but strangers really do turn into friends. During the drive, CB radios are used to communicate. Our guide Yoav regaled us with stories from Greek mythology as well as information about modern Greece. It didn’t take long before the radios were also used as a way to ask Yoav for stories, tell jokes and rib fellow travelers. After the tour was over, individuals staying in Greece ended up making plans to share a meal or spend a day of sightseeing together in the days that followed.
The trip of a lifetime
Tripology Adventures likes to say it’s not the destination, but the journey. However, in the case of their off-road adventure through central Greece, I would say it’s both the journey and the destinations that make this a trip of a lifetime.
A note from the author on Greece: While the Greeks are definitely going through a very hard time right now, everything I’ve seen from bloggers who actually live in Greece is that traveling to Greece is not a problem for tourists—and should actually be encouraged because they need the financial support of tourism. So far in the tourist areas it seems to be business as usual.
The Tripology Adventures tour featured above in particular is a good choice for people wanting to travel to Greece right now because: 1) the company is not Greek-owned (it’s based in Israel) so the economy doesn’t affect the company; 2) All major expenses like meals, hotels, etc. are included in the tour price, so people on the tour need very little cash: 3) Local and family-owned restaurants and hotels as well as local guides are used for the tour, so the people of Greece are being helped by the tour; and 4) The tour is on mainland Greece, so ferries and local flights aren’t relied upon in the event there are any issues with those in the future.
For more information and to book Tripology Adventures’ off-road tour through central Greece, or any of their other off-road adventures, visit tripologyadventures.com.