Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city. Have you heard of it?! This bustling, yet leisurely, culture-rich city is quickly becoming known as Greece’s food capital, and it’s a melting pot of cultures and flavors, and the people are kind beyond measure. Certainly plan to spend at least a couple of full days in Thessaloniki, but don’t miss these five fabulous day trips that are just a stone’s throw away! Hot springs, beaches, mountains, and lakes await you!
1. Pozar Hot Springs
My most relaxing moments in Greece were surely enjoyed here. Just an hour and forty minute drive from Thessaloniki – you must visit the hot springs. The drive itself is a treat, as you wind through a quaint Greek village dwarfed by massive, surrounding mountains. I suggest renting a car so that it will afford you some autonomy. Bring your International Driving Permit – and to save a little money, rent a manual.
Entry to the hot springs is very affordable – a few Euros per person. While you can rent a towel there, I always chose to bring my own. There are several cafes and local shops where you can buy honey, dried fruits, and delicacies from the region. I suggest you call ahead for the day you intend to visit to ensure that the pools are not closed for construction. Be sure to ask about the outdoor pools, as there are several indoor heated pools too, but they are not nearly as scenic.
If coming from and returning to Thessaloniki, it is very easy to pair a visit to the Pozar Hot Springs with an afternoon in Edessa (up next on my list!).
Edessa is a quaint village most known for its staggering waterfalls. It’s former slavic name translated to “City of Water.” The drive itself from Pozar to Edessa is stunning, and this town has no shortage of cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Both times that I have visited, I have eaten at a delicious taverna called Ousíes – situated just walking distance from the falls. While in Edessa, you can also stop to see the Byzantine Bridge. I recommend planning to spend about 3 hours here.
3. Mt Olympus
There are so many things to do in the Mt. Olympus area. With just a two hour drive from Thessaloniki, it’s an easy trip. Consider canyoning and gliding down the streams of Mt. Olympus, or consider a stunning waterfall hike at Enipeas Gorge.
For Canyoning, I can recommend Baseline Canyoning. This company has wonderful reviews on Trip Advisor, and I can personally recommend Nathan as your guide! Their safety measures were top notch, and as someone with a fear of heights, I felt safe and supported to go beyond my comfort zone. Not to mention that the canyon you descend into is out-of-this-world stunning.
For hearty hikers, climb to the top of Mt. Olympus itself. You can easily hike it in two days, and stay at the Spilios Agaptos Zolotas Refuge. They provide hot meals, steaming coffee, and the works.
4. Kerkini Lake
This peaceful lake is a hidden gem of this region. Kerkini Lake is a national park situated along the Greece-Bulgaria border about an hour and a half drive from Thessaloniki. A visit to this remote village will allow you to slow down and enjoy, and a beautiful boat ride awaits you!
I organized this boat tour through the Oikoperiigitis Hotel for myself and 25 students. (For those interested in learning about roles in international education, be sure to read “Working on Site in Education Abroad.”)
Those who like bird watching are in for a treat as these wetlands are home to flamingoes, purple herons, spoonbills, and more.
Kerkini Lake is also home to the country’s largest herd of water buffalo – which can be seen cooling off in the lake on a hot day! If you’re a foodie and looking to try water buffalo.. Kerkini is the place to be!
Just over an hour away from Thessaloniki are the beautiful beaches of Halkidiki. My visits to Thessaloniki consisted of taking 100 students and relaxing at a seaside beach club – not a bad work day(!!) – but Halkidiki has far more to offer including visits to historical villages, water sports like paddle boarding and kite boarding, and even hiking and biking further inland. Check out the blog Greece-Is for more ideas for your visit to Halkidiki!
Thessaloniki and her neighboring gems await you! A few more things – be sure to check out my post on Thessaloniki EATS – I undoubtedly had the best meals of my life there. νόστιμο/delicious!
Lastly, I stumbled upon the most stunning video launched by the Thessaloniki Tourism Organization to celebrate World Tourism Day in 2020. This campaign was designed to promote the more rural sides of this rural port city and so beautifully highlights life just outside of this fabulous city. For all things Thessaloniki, be sure to check out Thessaloniki Travel. Everything you could want to know is found there – including updates to COVID restrictions, information on farmers markets, extensive lists of things to do, and more.
And for now, Αντίο/goodbye!