Kalí méra & welcome back to our blog! After the successful border crossing into Greece we head into the direction of Thessaloniki. First to-do is grocery shopping and we find a well-known supermarket, which is everywhere around Europe: Lidl. With astonishment we note that vegetables and bread are sold in supermarkets, one of the things you consider as normal at home but which get your attention again while travelling. The temperature is far above 30 °C and the sun is burning, so after the air-conditioned shopping stop we drive to a beach south of the city. It is marked as a campspot on park4night, but in our opinion it is way to close to the apartments and hotels at the other side of the promenade. As Greece is a camping paradise and a lot of campervan travellers stay here during the winter, we'll find more of such 'campspots' during our time here. Regardless of the season we think it is a matter of respect not to camp where it might bother others. Our afternoon simply looks like this: swimming, sweating, swimming, sweating.. before we move to find a place for the night.
Halkidiki is a region south of Thessaloniki known for its finger-like headlands and a popular destination for locals and tourists. At one of it's long beaches along the coast and we find an open space between the first and second finger at Agios Mamas beach. As the area is quite sandy we can test the capabilities of a Ducato and a Defender – you can probably guess who pulled whom out of the sand. After both cars are safely parked we enjoy a relaxed summer night with a delicious Spagetthi Bolognese.
Our first day in Greece and our first of many beaches
When you already wake up sweaty it is a relief to only take a few steps to dip into the sea and have a swim. Best way to start your morning in summer Greece! We drive on to the 2nd finger of Halkidiki which is less populated and offers sheltered bays next to mediterranean forest. Some bays are only doable with 4x4 and some are well accessable for all kind of vehicles like beach Azapiko, where we end up that day. The beach is also a festival location so you can imagine how spacious it is. When we arrive we spot some other campers, which does not surprise us, but we cannot believe what we see: caravans setup like they'll stay forever. Awnings, floaties, seatings and even a motorcycle (probably to get to the closest supermarket) are in front of three caravans which didn't look they moved the last days.
Guess it is neccessary to say that camping is legally prohibited in Greece but tolerated by the locals and we read a lot of comments about fines from the police especially at this place. Now we totally understand why! It is antisocial to exploit the tolerance that makes it possible to travel Greece in this wonderful way and totally understandable that people behaving like the beach is theirs make locals angry. We instantly hope that the majority of the vanlifers is reasonable and respectful, but such behaviour of course leads to restrictions for a whole community. There is one guy though who makes a penny out of it. He sells his vegetables and fruit out of his little truck, driving on the beack and adverstising his goods via speakers: patatas, bananas, super nektarinas... A melody which will stay in our heads forever. ;) When a small group of people wander around and intensively inspect the surroundings we are curious and ask what they are doing. Turns out they are on a location scouting of WarnerBro's, so maybe we see Azapiko beach in some movie, unfortunately they were not allowed to tell us which one, soon. When the men go searching for firewood (no stereotyping) and wander around the little woods close to the beach they make a suspicious finding. A scary cross is situated at the top of a small hill surrounded by trees. Why scary? Because a doll is hanging on it. Maybe a sign for all careless campers...we'll never find out.
The next morning we move on to the Eastern side of the headland, enjoying the coastal road with the view on the amazingly blue sea. In a little seafood shop with a wide selection we buy fresh croaker to grill it in the evening. Next location, next beach. Much smaller than Azapiko but not less pretty we find a bay where three campers are lined up already. The atmosphere is very relaxed though and everybody just doing their thing, so we decide to spend the night here, too. Our Italian camping neighbours help us out on kitchen foil – mille grazie! A dip in the sea, a happy baby and grilled fish – what do you need more in life? The crew will part again as our friends go ahead to Corfu and we'll follow after a detour to a special campspot and into the inland.
One big advantage of sharing your journey on social media and following other travellers is that you quickly get in contact sharing handy advice and campspots. As a swiss couple which we have been in contact with have been travelling Greece just a few weeks ahead of us they share a promising campspot on Halkidiki which we want to visit. It is the southern most point of Sithonia, the 2nd Halkidiki finger. Sithonia cape is actually two beaches that look like the waist of an hour glass with a small hill in between the two. There is one tricky part about it: the way to get there. An earthen path leads us past other bays and at the end down to the cape. The last 100 metres are very steap and washed out. We take a look by foot first and in the end we are not sure who has better grip – Rosie or us. With excitement we make it down to the beach with our home on wheels and enjoy this remote place all to ourselves. In the next two days some 4x4-owners come for a day trip to the beach and a polish overland crew stay for a night at the other end of the bay. When someone arrives or leaves all eyes turn to the tricky road they are about to tackle, luckily everybody makes it latest by second try. The greek sun is burning and we enjoy having the sea right in front of us. Days of reading, topless sunbathing and swimming into the sunset. This spot is nearly perfect. Why nearly? One of the unlucky events in this place is that Jonathan gets stung by a jelly fish passing. Unfortunately not by an harmless one as the mark it leaves behind is a proper burn. After a night of stomach pain and barely any sleep we suggest his body is fighting the poison of this little bastard. For poor Jonathan it's a Coke and Elotrans breakfast before we leave this beautiful place not in the best shape but with almost only good memories behind.
Next place up to explore is the Katara pass E92 which is a mountain pass in the Pindus mountains in northern Greece.With the opening of the Egnatia Odos motorway which passes through tunnels further south, traffic has sharply declined and when we arrive it's quite mystic to enter this abandoned road. Sometimes it is closed due to the lack of maintanance, but when we arrive it is open. So let's go! Along the way the only human being we meet is a sheperd with his cows strolling along these quiet green hills. The juwel of this area is the Aoos spring lake. It is a beautiful artifical lake at an altitude of 1.350 meters in the heart of the Pindos mountains. With it's curvy shore and little islands it is an awesome spot to spend the night. Up here it is pleasant 29 C° (yes – you read it right, this is quite cool for us at the moment) and we enjoy an evening without sweating from breathing. This place is magical as it is so silentnt, the only thing we hear is the wing beats of little bugs flying past. Defintely worth to take this mountain pass when it's accessable. After a restful night we follow the last kilometers of the pass towards the main road, which leads us through agricultural fields which watering systems hit us through Rosies open windows. Thanks for this refreshment!
On an abandoned road at Katara Pass
We queeze ourselves to the shores of Aoos lake
While escaping the heat we find one of our best campspots
See for yourself!
Next destination is Igoumenitsa as we have a ferry to catch. We are very close to the Albanian border, which meanwhile opened up again, wondering how it would've been crossing here directly as planned. However we are not sad at all about the detour into North Macedonia and our first week in Greece. We do not want to miss those great experiences and this is what our way of travelling is all about. Flexibility is key especially during these uncertain times and we trust it will turn out well at the end, if you 'go with the flow'. On our way to Igoumenitsa harbour we do a Covid test while driving to be all ready for: Corfu! Our friends are already on the island as they have a visitor from home, a good friend and godmother of their baby. We'll probably meet them soon and are exciting to visit our first Greek island!
Travel period: End of June 2021