Sunday, August 12, 2018

Island-hopping ~ A Road Trip in Greece

The journey, not the arrival, matters.
     -- T.S. Eliot

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On the road in the Peloponnese

We’ll I just might disagree with Mr. Eliot on that statement after taking a rather posterior-numbing road trip to a Greek island last week.  The arrival was joyous, as after 6.5 hours in the car, it had seemed a long time coming. Especially when the travel time was estimated to be much less.

But the unknowns such as real travel time are what make road trips around here fun and interesting!

Despite the fact that ‘all of Europe travels in August’ (or so we’ve been told) we chose to set out on August 1st. We were living in Europe now and as the old saying goes, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do. . .’

See the source image
We headed north from the Peloponnese
We live south of Kalamata in the dark green region shown on the map above. The Scout had selected the island of Lefkada, (the dark turquoise island to the left of the Peloponnese) as our first stop.

While I usually just tell you about where we’ve ended up, I thought today you might like to join us on the journey itself. So hop in and buckle up: you are supposed to wear seatbelts in Greece.

Hi Ho Silver and Away. . .

Lefkada is part of the Ionian island group (named for the sea in which they are located). The better known island of Corfu – thanks to cruise ships stops – is further north. While Americans it seems have yet to discover the wonders of the other islands in the group, I can assure you they are magnets for European and Asian visitors.

Each is distinguished by its stunning beaches, charming towns are alive with shops, restaurants, tavernas and lounges and more remote villages still provide a touch of old-time Greece.

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Onions anyone?
Just beyond Kalamata we headed west to follow the coastline north. Our route cut through agricultural country. It is harvest time in this area of Greece so passing trucks laden with onions or watermelons and fruit stands lining the road were not uncommon sights.

PicMonkey Collage
Pumpkins and gourds for sale
We were heading to Patras, the largest city in the Peloponnese, located on its very northern tip. There we would cross the Patraikos Gulf/Gulf of Corinth and continue north for another 2.5 hours, our route hugging coastlines, cutting through hills.

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Always travel with a 'map in the lap'
To reach the mainland of Greece on this route, you cross the Rio–Antirrio Bridge. At 1.8 miles long it is the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. It links the town of Rio on the Peloponnese to Antirrio on mainland Greece.

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Approaching the bridge from Patras
It is absolutely stunning as you approach it, and it is simply breath-taking as you drive across it.

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Crossing the bridge is a treat
For those who want to know more about the bridge’s construction, click this link.It is a toll bridge, the cost to cross each way is just under 14-euro.

Then on to experience another feat of construction in this area a few kilometers to the northwest: a tunnel that is nearly 3-kilometers long and that cuts through an entire hill. It is so long they offer a customer service stop and list radio stations on which to get emergency information should something happen in the tunnel. (Not my favorite part of the trip!)

PicMonkey Collage
Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel?
Our journey north took us past a massive lake, through pine forests, past barren, craggy hillsides and through delightful towns – the kind that you make a note, saying you’d like to know more about – and for many miles/kilometers we hugged the Ionian Sea.

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Along the sea our route took us

Driving in Greece

A number of you’ve indicated you plan to visit Greece and many have asked or commented on driving.  So here’s just a bit of information for you folks:

The roads vary dramatically.  For some distance you might find yourself on a two-lane road, the type shown in the first photo.  The mainland and Peloponnese are also laced with an increasing network of divided, four-lane highways – these are toll roads and you’ll pay amounts ranging from 1 - 3+ euros at regular intervals to drive on them.

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Not for the faint of heart or timid drivers
One of the more interesting road types – we first encountered this in Crete – is what we call 'that other kind of road’ which is still two lanes of traffic but also wide shoulders so you simply drive over the outside line and let others pass as they care to chance it.

A Word to the Wise:  This year the Greek government passed a law requiring International Driver’s licenses (permits) in order to rent a car. Travel chat sites and FB have been filled with debate on whether they are really needed or not – some companies yes, others no.

While the rental car companies may not ask for them, believe us (first hand experience) if the police pull you over for a random check of your car’s paperwork – they will want to see the permit.
In addition to the car's registration and insurance papers, the police wanted to see the driver's international permit. For Americans, they are easily obtained from the AAA auto club office near you in most large cities.

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Island ahead. . .
As the afternoon was coming to a close we found ourselves on the causeway that links Lefkada island to the mainland. And next week I’ll show you some of the surprises we found here. Hope you’ll be back and until then, safe travels to you and yours! Thanks for joining us today~

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend

23 comments:

  1. The massive lake you saw on your way is the so called Kaifa lake known too -like Loutraki town in Corinth- for its healing springs. On St Catherine's island in this lake, lies the old "Geranium hotel" one of the most well known healing Spa establishment in Greece, currently under renovation by the government.
    This place's also called "The Centaur's spring".Kaiafa or Kaiafas is known for its sulphurous springs that emanate from two caves in a beautiful setting. While the springs are somewhat odorous due to the amount of sulphur in the water, the two caves – Anigrides and Geranion – are worth visiting. They are where the nymphs lived in mythology and where Nessus the centaur, wounded by one of Hercule's arrows, went to heal his wound.

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    1. Oh what a great bit of information. I had debated about writing more on the lake and didn't. . .I see I should have done a bit more research. But thank you - whoever you are - for providing such an interesting bit to this post. Now, of course, I want to go to the 'Geranium hotel'and see it after its renovation!

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  2. I love the bridge. It looks like the one we saw at the beginning of Portugal (Faro l think) when we drove from Seville. The journey looks lovely. Good tip on the International driver's license, same here in Spain and a reminder that l need to get a new one even though l rarely drive.

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    1. Actually, I once wrote an entire post about that bridge and I think in my research I learned it was designed by either the same guy as the Portugal bridge of that it was patterned after it. Same here, I must make myself start driving after the tourists leave but still I carry my permit everywhere I go.

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  3. Very interesting drive to the Mainland. We will visit Greece in 2020 and hope to finally experience sine if the delightful stories you have told!

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    1. Oh, it is easy to find wonderful routes Carol, I bet you two will be introducing us to many as you report back on your trip!

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  4. I do love the Greek Islands and have been to some lesser known ones or travel to the more remote sides of the known ones. I loved the Greek Island and look forward to going back.

    I bet your road trip, where you hugged the coastlines, was beautiful. Looking forward to seeing Lefkada in next week’s post.

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    1. Wendy, It sounds like you travel these islands as we do. . .and isn't it amazing how incredible they all are especially when you get off the tourist routes!

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  5. Your road trip was so descriptive that I smelled the onions and felt like I was crossing that bridge with you. Did you notice me in the back seat?:-)

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    1. Well, you were a quiet backseat companion. . .until you suggested we stop for an Aperol Spritz along the way! ;-)

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  6. The only Greek island I have been to is Crete. There were some fabulous drives, even if some of the roads were “interesting”.

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    1. Interesting for sure especially in Crete. I still remember a road there we traveled that was so twisting and so steep and no guardrails (on my side of course) that I shut my eyes and opened them only when we arrived in the village we were headed to! Thanks for stopping by, Karen!

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  7. OOO....that beautiful bridge....prettiest one I've ever seen, I think.
    I am not a very good traveler and hate long car trips...I am a little better than I used to be....but 6 or 7 hours just about does me in.....very interesting post....xo

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    1. I did love the bridge and perhaps in cooler weather the car trip wouldn't have seemed as long. Thanks much for stopping by, BJ.

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  8. That bridge is amazing. It reminds me of one we crossed in France years ago. I don't like tunnels. I don't think I would like one that is 3 kms long! Our travel here in Australia is so different to yours in Greece. We could travel for a few hours without seeing habitation of any kind. Happy travels!

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    1. It is patterned after either one in France or Portugal. You do live in an amazingly vast country. . .we need to get back there one day and do some more exploring!

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  9. I wouldn't have liked that tunnel, either! But the bridge is amazing! And, I would be a wreck on that sort-of two lane road -- yikes!

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    1. Well, you do get used to the two-lane driving but I had before setting out said it was time I do some of the driving. When I was reminded of the 'bumper car' feel to it I decided reading the map would be my job!

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  10. Wow road trip capture . Please tell something about my captures on my blog.

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    1. I visited your blog and you've captured some amazing faces and smiles!

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  11. Sounds like the start of a great road trip.

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  12. I always love getting a little Greek geography lesson and a virtual tour of your explorations in Greece when I read your blog, Jackie. Your Greek toll roads sounds similar to the ones here in Portugal and we have a wealth of two-lane roads as well where my decision to pass or not is usually answered with the question of 'What's the hurry?' 🙂

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  13. Thanks for the map with the names in Greek. Very helpful.

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