An Overly Ambitious (but Doable) 6 Day Roadtrip Itinerary for Mainland Greece

Wow that was a mouthful! Let me start by saying that we were ambitious (perhaps ridiculously so) when putting together and following this itinerary, so while it can be done, it involves driving for long stretches and covering a lot of ground. The upside is that you get to see key historical and archaeological spots around Mainland Greece in under a week! Would I do it again? Yes. But I’d probably add an extra day on either end of the itinerary. I bet you’re wondering, “why 6 days? why not 7? why not 5?” Well, we did it this way because 1) we only had a few days to spare between 2 weddings that we were attending (apparently the summer of 2016 was the year to get married!) and 2) I was desperate to see as many of the top archaeological and historical sites as we could in the time we had.

The key is to have someone to split the drive with you, and make sure this person doesn’t mind you belting out Citizen Cope songs for hours on end. If you’re planning a trip to Greece and want to see the major sights in Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, Athens and Thermopylae on the Greek mainland in under a week, read on!

The best time to visit Greece

The best time to visit Greece is in late spring or autumn when the crowds are less hectic. The crowds are at its worst during July and August – however, we were there in mid-July and while it was sweltering hot, it was still manageable (although it did feel like the entire population of Europe was at the Acropolis with us). There are also good ways to avoid the crowds – read my individual guides to Athens, Olympia, Meteora, Delphi and Santorini for more region-specific travel tips!

Day 1 and 2: Athens

Once you arrive in Athens, hop on an express bus or metro and head to Syntagma Square. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is sometimes referred to as the cradle of Western civilization. The arts and philosophy thrived here, it is steeped in culture and ancient history, and its landscape is dominated by the stunning Acropolis. Spend 2 days strolling from ancient site to ancient site, and grab a sunset cocktail on one of Athens’ many wonderful rooftop bars. Click here for my Athens city guide!

Athens Greece Areopagus Rock
Athens Greece Temple of Zeus
Stay: A for Athens. It is the perfect base to explore all the historic and archaeological sites in the city, and the rooftop bar offers an incredible view of the Acropolis. Click here to book your stay at A for Athens!

Day 3: Olympia

In the morning, check out of your hotel and pick up your pre-booked rental car in Athens (we went with Kosmos and it cost approximately €200 for 4 days). Olympia is a 3.5 hour drive away from Athens, and it is the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Once you have checked into your hotel, grab a bite to eat and then head out for your day of sightseeing.

There are a number of sites and museums you can explore once you arrive: the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, the Archaeological Site itself, the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity and the Museum of the History of Excavations in Olympia. Olympia is an amazing, unmissable place to visit for history, mythology and sports aficionados! Click here for my guide to Olympia!

Ancient Olympia Site Greece 6
Olympia Greece Museum 5
Ancient Olympia Site Greece 1
Ancient Olympia Site Greece 3
Stay: Hotel Europa. The hotel is a quick 3-4 minute drive away from the archaeological site, has free parking, incredible staff and a beautiful pool. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Europa!

Day 4: Drive to Meteora

After a wonderful night’s sleep at Hotel Europa, get an early start and head to Meteora. It’s going to be a loooooooooong day of driving. It will take you anywhere from 6 to 8 hours depending on how many stops you make – it took us 7 hours door-to-door. Once you get to Meteora in the afternoon, settle into your room and grab an early dinner.

Stay: Pyrgos Adrachti HotelThe hotel is only 1 kilometer from the closest monastery should you wish to walk, or a 5 minute drive away from where the other monasteries are located. Click here to book your stay at Pyrgos Adrachti Hotel!

Day 5: Explore Meteora

Once you have regained feeling in your butt and legs, spend the day hopping from monastery to monastery admiring the otherworldly landscape. Located in the central region of Greece, Meteora is home to 6 monasteries and nunneries precariously perched atop massive rock pillars. What’s truly amazing is that these 6 monasteries are still active sites of worship! Click here for my guide to Meteora!

Meteora 15
Meteora Greece 1_small
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Meteora Greece 4_small

Day 6: Thermopylae, Delphi and Athens

I told you this itinerary was insane, are you still with me? At this point I had to wonder if we were insane, but we survived (and absolutely loved) the trip so I promise you it’s worth it!

Your first stop of the day is Thermopylae. Doesn’t ring a bell? What about the Hot Gates? Still drawing a blank? How about Gerard Butler and the 300 Spartan warriors? Yes, I’m talking about 300: the movie. Thermopylae is where the narrow mountain pass once stood, and where the Greek forces fought against the Persian invasion. Being the massive nerds that we are, this was added to our itinerary fairly last minute. Thermopylae is a 2.5 hour drive away from Meteora. There are 2 key sights here (we skipped the museum) – check out the statue of King Leonidas and the memorial site for the Spartans and Thespians. Although you only need to spend 20-30 minutes here, it was worth it to us because it is on the way to Delphi, but you could opt to skip it if you CBF.

Thermopylae Statue of Leonidas
Thermopylae Memorial for Spartans

Hop back in the car and drive for another 1.5 hours to get to Delphi, the sanctuary of the most famous Oracle in all of Greece. It was also once considered by the Greeks to be the centre of the world! There are a number of sites and a museum located in Delphi: the Temple of Athena, the Temple of Apollo, the Delphi Stadium, an ancient theatre and the Delphi Archaeological Museum. Give yourself a few hours to explore Delphi properly. Click here for my guide to Delphi! 

Delphi Sanctuary of Athena 1_small
Delphi Pano_small
Wheel Pose_small
Delphi Sphinx of Naxos_small

Once you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, hop back in the car and head back to Athens (2.5 hour drive). We arranged to drop the car off at Athens International Airport to catch our flight to Santorini, but you could also opt to stay in the city for another night to sleep off all the driving. Alternatively you could stay the night in Delphi.

Click here to discover accommodation options in Delphi!

Essential tips for driving in Greece

  • While we were able to drive on our overseas licenses, you may need to show the police an International Driver’s Permit if you’re pulled over, so I would recommend getting one before your trip.
  • Driving in Greece is really easy – the highways are new and in great condition.
  • Google Maps works very well in Greece and that’s what we ended up using. Add 1 hour to the “estimated drive time” – it ALWAYS takes longer!
  • Make sure you have some change for the many, many toll booths along Greece’s highways.
  • There are plenty of pit stops and gas stations along the way (at least one every 45 minutes to an hour) and the bathrooms are very clean.
  • Don’t be surprised if local drivers zoom past you – it doesn’t seem like anyone abides by speed limits (but you should!). Tailgating is also a big issue, don’t let it intimidate you!
  • Drive on the right hand side of the road and overtake on the left.

That’s it! If you follow this itinerary you’re guaranteed to hit most of the top archaeological sites scattered around Mainland Greece. If you have a few days to spare, you may also want to head to Mount Olympus for some breathtaking hikes. Have you been to Greece before? Am I missing any major sights? Let me know in the comments section below!

Planning a trip to Greece? Head on over for more Greece destination guides and travel tips!

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44 Discussion to this post

  1. Susan says:

    This is so inspiring! I’ve been thinking about going to Greece, so I’m glad to see a ready-to-go road trip itinerary. Looks like you saw so much in your 6 days!

    • Flo says:

      If we had more time I would definitely have liked to add another day on either end of the trip! Mount Olympus is supposed to be amazing as well 🙂

  2. Cynthia says:

    One of the best sites in Greece is Vergina and the underground tomb of king Phillip, skip Olymia and go here instead, no visit to Greece should be without this stop!

  3. Wow! You did see a lot on this ambitious but doable trip. Athens looks amazing, as does Olympia. Actually, all your stops look amazing– I can see why you didn’t want to miss anything. Thanks for the hotel recommendations, too. I’ve found myself passed by local drivers in almost every country I’ve driven in, but I think that’s because I always stick to the speed limit when traveling– I’d hate to get pulled over in a foreign country.

  4. Ivy says:

    What kind of rental car did you pick up in Athens? The one we had in Rhodes was nice and compact but it was SOOOO SLOW, I don’t think we were able to go more than 80km/hr on that thing, and the AC barely worked lol. I love this road trip itinerary- you pretty much planned out the entire mainland Greece trip for everyone!

  5. Chiera says:

    Woah! what an instense road trip! Once I have worked up the courage to drive abroad (other side of the road) I would love to try this!

    • Flo says:

      Haha I was freaking out too! I have driven on the other side of the road before but Greece’s highways are intimidating – people were going 120-140 (KM of course hahaha)

  6. I admire your tenacity to stay on such a big trip in a short time. We went to Greece for 10 days. We stayed at a great hostel in the shadows of the acropolis. It was so great to get on the old streets out of the tourist areas and smell the fresh breads and coffee first thing in the morning. Mom traveled a lot and one of her clients suggested Zinos restaurant in the old section of Athens. Zinos was the highlight of our trip. We were the only non natives there. The only person who spoke English was the cook who had attended Texas A&M. They let us go to the kitchen and see what was cooking. Then we used paid for what they sent. The meals were extremely reasonable and truly authenic. We used Athens as our home base and took trains or boats to the various places that we wanted to see. I would certainly use your blog if I had only a short time. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I’m beginning to recognize you as THE expert on Greece Flo. Now I’m curious, how are the famous Isles? I’ve never been but would to someday!

    • Flo says:

      That reminds me – I need to write up my destination guide for Santorini! Unfortunately I’m no expert but I do hope to travel to Greece again…and again…and again!

  8. Cassandra says:

    LOVED THIS! I am such a big fan of roadtrips, and Greece is so high on my travel list!! I can’t wait to plan a trip with my boyfriend, soon, and use this guide. Thanks for all of the helpful tips for driving around Greece as well! The pictures of Meteora are absolutely gorgeous! <3

  9. Cat says:

    Wow you’ve covered a lot of places in 6 days! That’s what I would do, though. Time is of an essence and I would spend every minute to take in as much as possible! Driving in a foreign country always worries me so it is very nice of you to include those driving tips!

    • Flo says:

      I was definitely panicky for the first hour or so but it gets easier after a while! I hated being overtaken by speeding drivers though haha – very nervewracking!

  10. I have been to many of the Greek Islands but never mainland Greece! I really want to go there this summer. I love reading itinerary posts, no matter how ambitious, as they are so inspiring for your trip and you can chop and change them as you feel best fits. Plus, I’m one of those people who is happy to do really long days so I get to see more! Great post – saving for my future trip!

  11. Alice Chen says:

    I have been wanting to go to Greece for forever!! do you have to rent a car?

  12. Wow, you really got around! If I’d only had 6 days and a car I probably would have done the same. Great photos!

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for checking this out Katie! Yes we covered lots of ground in a short span – would definitely add a day on either side next time!

  13. Laura says:

    What a trip! I’ve been to a couple of the islands but never the mainland unfortunately. It looks gorgeous and I love a roadtrip so I need to get on this!

    • Flo says:

      I’d love to visit more of the Cyclades Islands, in particular Naxos, Paros and Milos! We spent a few days on Santorini but have heard amazing things about the rest of the islands 🙂

  14. danik says:

    Reading this post brought back many memories of my visit to Greece many moons ago, but I only did a day in Athens to check out the historical sights and that was it. was glad to get away from it personally. Loved Thessaloniki in the north and the rugged coastline of Corfu island 🙂

  15. i have to admit that I know nothing about Greece… I am European, i lived all my live here and Greece just have never been on my radar and after reading about your (yeah, full!!!) itinerary, I realize how wrong I was! It seems beautiful and much more than just pillars^^

  16. The pictures are really jaw dropping! This is one wonderful documentation of the must see places in Greece. Greece is so beautiful and you have done a great job creating this itinerary. Thanks 🙂

  17. This is very useful, I’m traveling from Ireland to Istanbul this fall and will pass through Greece. I don’t really want to spend too much time there but want to see a lot. I think 6 days doing something similar to you would satisfy me. Your pictures are brilliant, more than Instagram worthy! I wish I could pull off some of those yoga moves!

  18. Ferna says:

    Wow amazing trip. I am seeing another side of Greece, and you did it well. Good trip and doable travel.

  19. Sutee says:

    Great itinerary! I had no idea that driving in Greece was so easy. It definitely opens up new option and makes it see so much in a short time.

  20. Emily says:

    Wow that’s a packed itinerary, but it looks like you did justice to the main sights. I absolutely love the monasteries at Meteora – incredible! And Delphi with such history has always been on my bucket list.

  21. MUKESH KUMAR says:

    I think Now I will have to travel this place.

  22. Nimesh Kumar says:

    Great pics. Good information.

  23. Susanna says:

    I am renting a car in Greece in January and am finding this guide quite helpful! I might have some more specific questions while planning!

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