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Greece

Old 08-30-22, 05:28 AM
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Chris L
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Greece

Greetings all,

So after a three year wait, I'll soon be heading to Greece for three weeks. After a couple of days of frenzied sight-seeing in Athens, I'm thinking I might ride down to Sounion and back up to Rafina. I'm thinking from there maybe a ferry ride to Andros for a day or two, before possibly getting another ferry (probably from back in Rafina) over to Evia. Perhaps then I'd ride along the isthmus to Chalcis, then perhaps through Thebes, Delphi, Nafpaktos and eventually toward Patras. From there I'd cross the Pelopponese back to Athens for the flight home. I wouldn't mind hitting Kalamata (I love Kalamata olives) and Sparta on the way back.

I have a couple of questions for anyone who has toured in Greece before. Firstly, is there anything special in the area that I might have missed out on in my preliminary planning? I like to keep things fairly flexible, so I'm quite content to change what I've planned to allow for extra time to visit another place (or perhaps skip something that might be a less interesting use of my time).

Secondly, I'm just wondering if anyone has used these people when it comes to storing bike boxes and arranging transport to and from the airport. From my previous experience, by far the most challenging part about touring in a new country is sourcing a bike box at the end of the trip for the flight home, and perhaps storing the one I'll use on the flight over might be a better option.

Finally, what is the feasibility of throwing a bike on a train from, say, Corinth back to Athens at the end if I was running short on time?

Any other useful information is always welcome too.
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Old 08-30-22, 12:42 PM
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I don't know if you are committed to touring alone. One thing that is frustrating about bike touring is finding someone who tours the same way and is interested is going somewhere at the same time. I have not toured Greece. I was supposed to tour there this spring, but it didn't work out. I am a 61 year old seasoned tourist and might be interested in joining you. I usually hunt for bike boxes at bike shops. You can contact me directly at brian@ravellobikes.com
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Old 08-31-22, 04:17 AM
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Hi Brian,

I'm not totally committed to touring alone, it's just generally what I do for largely the reasons you mentioned in your post. I am, however, committed to my dates as I've already booked the airfares in and out of Greece. I'm landing in Athens on September 11 and flying out on October 1.

You're welcome to join me if that also works for you.
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Old 09-01-22, 11:47 AM
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This doesn't answer your questions, but on my 2nd tour of Europe in 2000 (!), Greece was included. Altho they don't have a clue about hygiene/cleanliness (I don't know how they got into the EU), it was a very good country to bike! I don't do mtns, so I stayed on the periphery. Boated from Italy to the Peloponnesian island (enjoyed it a lot), then to Athens (magically I actually ended up in the capital with minimal problems biking into it), and onward to Thessoloniki and then to Turkey. Never had a reason to take the train. I'm sure you can find bike info on their website. Enjoy!!
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Old 09-07-22, 04:52 AM
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The be honest, the only reason I was thinking of the train on the last day back into Athens would be to maybe skip some suburban riding at the end and spend an extra day in the mountains, or by the coast, or whatever I can find. That said, Google maps seems to be giving me plenty of nice riding options between Corinth and Athens for the last day anyway, so it may not be necessary after all.
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Old 09-14-22, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris L View Post
...

I have a couple of questions for anyone who has toured in Greece before. Firstly, is there anything special in the area that I might have missed out on in my preliminary planning? I like to keep things fairly flexible, so I'm quite content to change what I've planned to allow for extra time to visit another place (or perhaps skip something that might be a less interesting use of my time).

...

Finally, what is the feasibility of throwing a bike on a train from, say, Corinth back to Athens at the end if I was running short on time?

Any other useful information is always welcome too.
I've never cycled in Greece so take this all with a grain of salt.

Locally most people use KTEL / coach rather than train by preference. Not sure if this is just where I was going. But train seems less used.

Chartering a taxi is also pretty common but doesn't make financial sense to do alone. By the time you have 3 passengers it is a similar price and very common to charter a taxi sedan or van to get say from Nafplion to Athens in a bit more comfort.

Athens to Sounion was a nice easy day trip by car along the coast, didn't seem too busy (back in 2002).
From Athens to Euboea most people drive to Chalkida but from Rafina there is a ferry and Euboea has some beautiful beach towns. I haven't been from Chalkida to Thiva but Delfi is a beautiful historic site and village.
You can cross the Rio-Antirrio bridge by bike (there is also a ferry ) so no problems there. Patras is well-serviced and the largest town in the area, stock up on anything bike- or camping- specific there (or Athens of course).

Central Peloponese is quite mountainous. I'd forget about central Achaea and Arcadia unless you have a reason to visit (eg ski holiday or family visit). I'm not sure how you're planning to get to Kalamata but if going around the coast you can get to Olympia, out of the way but a great historic site. I don't recall Kalamata having much to see but beaches in that area are nice and are sandy, rather than the more common pebble beaches. Olives are everywhere in Greece, lots of varieties to try! If you're up for it heading down to the caves of Diros is a beautiful trip, but again a bit out of the way. From there you can go to Sparta/Sparti and visit Mystras, one of the last holdouts of the Byzantine / Roman empire. Beautiful, well-preserved historic site. Nafplion and Mycenae are must-dos and pretty much on your way back north.

I haven't visited the Aegean or Saronic islands much so I can't tell you anything other than Santorini is beautiful and expensive! I've spent a lot of time on the Ionian coast but that's well out of the way for you.

Patras -> Corinth has a train line to Athens which might be better than stowing the bike on a bus. The main road is very much a high-capacity highway.

Foods to try - make sure you ask them what their specialty is or you will get generic taverna food (grilled meat, fish, salads, bread and dips) everywhere. Things like bean soup (fassolátha), lentil soup (fakkés), stuffed vine or cabbage leaves (dolmáthes), moussaká, stuffed peppers or tomatoes (yemistá), fricassé (meat stewed with greens), spanakópita (spinach pie) or tirópita (cheese pie) are really popular dishes. In the Peloponese look for lemon-roasted chicken / Arcadian chicken, it is delicious. Bakeries have bread, biscuits, pastries. Pizza / hamburgers / crępes / pork chops / pasta are all widely available. Wine shops will have bulk wine (χύμα / híma) as well as bottled, generally white is better than red at that price point. Retsina is gross. Beers - I like Mythos. If you want to have ouzo, Plomari is one of the better brands and you'd usually buy a 200ml small bottle, with or without mezé (snacks / charcuterie board) to drink over an hour or two, with ice and a bit of water. Coffee is Greek coffee served black which you order sweet (ylikó - best for beginners) / medium (métrio) / plain-bitter (skéto); or a Frappé (Dalrona coffee); or italian-style coffees (which are expensive). Don't drink the last sip of a Greek coffee, it is the coffee grounds which settle to the bottom of the cup.

Most people will be super-friendly if you make some attempt to use some Greek words or take an interest in their culture and their location, and in tourist areas everyone will speak some English. Tipping is polite / generous / appreciative rather than required. Gentle bargaining is fine at markets and retail shops but definitely not at supermarkets / restaurants / "official" shops. Taxis will sometimes offer a fixed price, you can always ask for them to use the meter but usually it's about avoiding declaring the income rather than them trying to cheat you (for me at least what they quoted was pretty much spot on when I asked them to use the meter - but I always chatted to them in Greek and they love diaspora Greeks visiting!).

Again take the above with a grain of salt as I've only travelled in Greece by bus/taxi/ferry.
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Old 10-28-22, 07:50 AM
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I've biked around Greece a couple of times, traveled without car around Greece countless times.

Random thoughts: trains are not very used, and there's very few lines. There is a new train line being built from Kiato to Patras, but for now the line from Athens stops in Kiato, and for the part from Kiato to Patras there is a bus that works in conjunction with the train - same ticket, you just need to transship. No problem carrying the bike on the train, although it can get crowded at times. As someone mentioned, the most common public transport are KTEL buses. There's plenty of them between Athens and Patra (and elsewhere too). Carrying a bike on the bus isn't necessarily allowed, and a few times (very few times) I've had to argue with the driver to let me in. I always managed to convince him.
Athens is quite hellish for biking, with its dense and loud traffic, but it's doable. Athens is quite hellish in general, IMHO.
As soon as you're far from the biggest cities or towns there's many beautiful roads that are just magic. The National Road 6, at least from Ioannina to Trikala, is particularly good for biking, and with very little traffic, especially around the Katara Pass. Also the area north of Nafpaktos - but these are just places I've been, I'm sure it's great everywhere. Areas with more people are always littered with trash, and obviously there's more cars. The road from Patras to Athens, which I've never biked, seems to be quite heavily anthropized. I have a feeling the north shore of the gulf of Corinth is friendlier.
You definitely don't need to go to Kalamata to find good olives
As for the bike box, you can probably find a cardboard packaging at some bike store in Athens. Carrying it to the airport will be complicated, but not impossible (done it myself elsewhere). Not worth buying a "real" bike box IMHO.

Enjoy Greece!

Last edited by fofinet855; 10-29-22 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 10-29-22, 06:04 AM
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So Chris L, what was the experience like?
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Old 11-01-22, 05:36 AM
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Well, that was interesting.

First of all I had a sprained ankle and couldn't train the way I wanted to. Then the bike I was going to take over there developed a rust hole in the frame that I only discovered a week before flying out. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got in touch with the guys at 48x17 Cycles in Athens. Honestly, go and see them if you're planning a tour in Greece. Agi, the owner has so much information and good advice about cycling in Greece, and you can sample some local craft beers while you're there too.

After sampling some local advise, I ended up doing a circuit of the Peloponnese, abandoning the route I had originally planned. I got a train from Athens to Kiato, then headed to the mountains for a few days, coming out at Ancient Olympia. From there I headed south, around the three peninsulas, but also taking some time to cycle over the mountains from Kalamata to Sparta and back (Mystras in the hills above Sparta is definitely worth a visit), eventually finishing the ride in Korinthos before training back to Athens and flying home. Some of my favourite places along the way included Dimitsana, Koroni, Mystas, Porto Kagio (oh heck, the whole area around Mani), Monemvasia, Kyparissi and Nafplion.

All in all, I don't understand how Greece isn't a more popular cycling country. It has everything the likes of France and Italy have, with the benefit of being relatively cheap, relatively unpopulated (once you get outside of Athens), a warm climate (which is apparently important to some people) meaning you don't have to cycle in the peak tourist season to get good cycling weather. I found the Greek drivers on the whole were pretty good once I got outside Athens, and even Athens itself only had marginally worse traffic than Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach.

When I lost the use of my touring bike for this trip, I opted not to camp, instead looking for inexpensive hotels. This didn't present any real problems as I didn't find Greece particularly expensive (take that with a grain of salt. Coming from Australia, I didn't find Switzerland particularly expensive either). I was warned about dogs on country roads over there, but they didn't really bother me all that much. I never felt threatened enough to have to attack an animal, although I did yell at a few of them. I suspect the heat that I had to deal with (probably the biggest problem I had) caused a few of them to give up the chase earlier than they otherwise might have.

All in all I had an amazing time in Greece and highly recommend it for a cycling holiday. I would happily go back and explore some other parts of the country.
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Old 11-11-22, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris L View Post
Well, that was interesting.

First of all I had a sprained ankle and couldn't train the way I wanted to. Then the bike I was going to take over there developed a rust hole in the frame that I only discovered a week before flying out. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got in touch with the guys at 48x17 Cycles in Athens. Honestly, go and see them if you're planning a tour in Greece. Agi, the owner has so much information and good advice about cycling in Greece, and you can sample some local craft beers while you're there too.

After sampling some local advise, I ended up doing a circuit of the Peloponnese, abandoning the route I had originally planned. I got a train from Athens to Kiato, then headed to the mountains for a few days, coming out at Ancient Olympia. From there I headed south, around the three peninsulas, but also taking some time to cycle over the mountains from Kalamata to Sparta and back (Mystras in the hills above Sparta is definitely worth a visit), eventually finishing the ride in Korinthos before training back to Athens and flying home. Some of my favourite places along the way included Dimitsana, Koroni, Mystas, Porto Kagio (oh heck, the whole area around Mani), Monemvasia, Kyparissi and Nafplion.

All in all, I don't understand how Greece isn't a more popular cycling country. It has everything the likes of France and Italy have, with the benefit of being relatively cheap, relatively unpopulated (once you get outside of Athens), a warm climate (which is apparently important to some people) meaning you don't have to cycle in the peak tourist season to get good cycling weather. I found the Greek drivers on the whole were pretty good once I got outside Athens, and even Athens itself only had marginally worse traffic than Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach.

When I lost the use of my touring bike for this trip, I opted not to camp, instead looking for inexpensive hotels. This didn't present any real problems as I didn't find Greece particularly expensive (take that with a grain of salt. Coming from Australia, I didn't find Switzerland particularly expensive either). I was warned about dogs on country roads over there, but they didn't really bother me all that much. I never felt threatened enough to have to attack an animal, although I did yell at a few of them. I suspect the heat that I had to deal with (probably the biggest problem I had) caused a few of them to give up the chase earlier than they otherwise might have.

All in all I had an amazing time in Greece and highly recommend it for a cycling holiday. I would happily go back and explore some other parts of the country.
Sounds rather positive overall.
You're the Aussie/armed forces/lightweight touring guy with the Di2 bike who has travelled in Japan right?
To me the most interesting comment was about the drivers being fine outside of urban settings, that's been my experience in other countries generally, although I know nothing about Greece, so had no preconceptions.
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