We’d stuffed ourselves with cheap (and delicious) gyros before leaving Meteora. Risa lasted less than 15-minutes before passing out in an afternoon nap, while I tried my hardest not to also succumb to a food coma. Thankfully there was enough action happening in front of us to keep me alert. We had to follow the same 50km of winding, dual-laned mountainous road, with the same frustration at being stuck behind trucks. It brought us back to the same expressway, with the same set of tolls for being an over height vehicle – but at least the driving was stress free.
I had found a campsite that sounded really nice on the island of Lefkada. It was right on the beach at the northwest of the island, and I was trying my hardest to arrive in time to catch the sunset. Along the way we needed to stop for fuel, water, and food. Plus, our satellite navigation made some less than spectacular decisions, sending us down some super narrow lanes. I couldn’t quite understand why, until I realised that the only way onto the island was via a €5 tunnel.
The sun set as we started driving on Lefkada, and we continued on with just the remnants of the twilight. Thankfully it wasn’t too much further to reach our campsite, but it was still quite dark outside by the time we’d arrived, making navigation of the sandy off-road trails tricky.
We parked up on an access road right by the side of the ocean and enjoyed the lightshow with our dinner, then moved the van back to a slightly more sheltered (and level) park for the night.
I haven’t stepped outside of the van much at night recently, but doing so tonight I was amazed to see the Milky Way so clearly. It also brought up memories that my tripod was stolen in Estonia, so there was no way for me to photograph the stars in the sky.
As it was quite dark already by the time we’d arrived last night, it came as a little surprise to see the area with clarity this morning. We were on a giant sandy peninsular, which seemed to stretch around and beyond our field of view. It was long and sandy, but it wasn’t so beautiful that we wanted to stop for a swim – especially not with our trip to see what could be some of the most incredible beaches in Greece – a country known for beautiful beaches.
However, getting there proved a little more challenging. Looking at the map, it was a maze of tiny interior roads. These roads twist and wound their way through the hills and villages of the island. They were both steep, and tight, though thankfully they weren’t also busy, so we didn’t have many problems with other traffic. The interior of the island was far more rugged than I had expected, with dense pine forests covering much of land.
We caught a few occasional glimpses of the coastline, but for the most part, we were landlocked. The roads seemed to get smaller and smaller the closer we got to this beach, but at least there were signs, so we knew that at least we were headed the right direction.
But, when we were less than 2km from the car park for the beach, we came across a sign advising us that the road was closed ahead. I refused to believe that we couldn’t access the beach, so I continued on anyway. Sure enough, the road was closed ahead… but luckily we were in an area that it was possible to turn around without too much effort/danger, and didn’t have to reverse all the way back up the steep/narrow access road.
We knew that we were approaching something quite popular judging by the number of signs we saw, and the slow but steady increase in tourist related buildings. Sure enough, a few moments later we came to the access road to the car park. We were far above the beach and already absolutely stunned by the beautiful turquoise waters.
The access road to the car park was a series of switchbacks and tight corners, thankfully we were the only ones on the road, so it didn’t cause any problems. We parked in the empty car park and got our stuff ready to go for a swim. An attendant eventually made his way towards us, in mismatching footwear, letting us know that it was €5 to park for the day, and a further €5 to stay the night. We hadn’t really thought about spending the night, but now that we were here, and faced with these views, I couldn’t imagine a reason to want to leave.
We moved the van, as suggested, and now had a living room that looked out over this view. It was perfect.
We grabbed our things, and made our way to the beach, where we spent the next six-hours, sunbaking, floating about in the lazy waters, and realising just how incredibly lucky we were to be here. It also gave me a rare chance to read up and make plans for our final leg of the journey, through Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary.
We might have bought food, but that didn’t stop us wanting another gyros lunch, after the amazing ones we’d had in Meteora yesterday. There were a few shops here, and while they essentially looked the same, only one still had ingredients to make us gyros. If this had been our first stop, we’d not have thought that €4 was expensive, but it was more than double what we’d paid yesterday. Still, it was tasty, and easy, and we weren’t about to go broke any time soon.
I spoke with the guys working in the shops at the tops of the cliffs, and found out that this was the last weekend of the season. There were a few other motorhomes that eventually joined us, and a few families/couples that came down for the day and left by sunset, and that was it. There was so much space for us to enjoy, plus perfect weather.
The sun made the white cliffs glow a vivid pink, and soon that was the end of the day. The last of the day trippers had left, and it was just us motorhomes left.
We woke to another sensational day, with perfectly clear skies filled with relaxing warmth. It was a little early in the day for a swim, but what else do you do in a place like this? There were a few other families already down there enjoying the calm waters and sunshine.
We were as relaxed as we would become, so we continued on our journey towards Athens. It was just after noon when we finally navigated up that steep access road away from the car park, once again free of oncoming traffic. I’d heard from the guys in the shops that during peak season not only are the car parks below full, but there are cars parked all the way up this access road, and then up to 1km along highway. It must be absolute chaos, and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would come at a different time of year – this was perfection.
Somehow we took a different path back towards the mainland. The road was much flatter, smoother, and straighter. It was positively easy driving, cruising along without a hint of stress. We were pretty hungry, and hoping to capitalise on another cheap gyros lunch. We passed through several towns, each time hoping to find a fast food place, but no such luck. We eventually got to the point that we were happy with any restaurant, as long as it served food. We could smell an incredible smell wafting out of one small café, so we walked in hoping to order some of that for ourselves. There was a tiny old lady standing behind the counter – though her small size meant she was hidden from sight – eating her lunch. We tried to tell her how good it smelt, and that we’d like to order some, but it was her lunch, and she wasn’t selling/making anything for others…
We knew that the main town on the island, also called Lefkada, would have plenty of options, so we tried to forget about the hunger pains. Sure enough, it was a major tourist town, with a boardwalk lined with gyros restaurants, including one, called Gyro Gyro, that had exactly what we were looking for – and for only €2.50.
It was now well into the afternoon. We hopped into Gunter, Risa dozed in and out of consciousness, and I followed the mountainous roads towards Delphi. It was slow going, and a long afternoon of driving.
The sun set behind the mountains of Kalamata, but we still had further to drive this evening. I’m still amazed at how many mountains are here in Greece. It’s not quite as bad as Austria for lack of flat land, but there aren’t many views without mountains in sight – at least so far on our journey.
The park we’d found for the night was by a small beach in a calm bay, a little further along the coastal road. The light continued to fade as we continued to drive. Much like the one we’d just come from in Lefkada, this beach was at the bottom of a long access road, which felt much more treacherous in the pitch dark. Though, I was actually more scared to see a tortoise walking his way down this same road than the road itself.
For the second time in three days, I caught the sunrise here in Greece. It had been completely dark when we’d arrived, so hadn’t had the opportunity to appreciate the location. We’d heard cats making all kinds of noise during the night, and they came to visit us (and the other campers) this morning. Risa had a few pieces of dried fish/squid that had seen better days, so she shared with the less discerning cats. I could tell how hungry they were by the fact that they ate anything we gave to them – even some vegetable scraps…
By the time we’d had breakfast and showered for the day, the sun was well above the horizon, and it was almost getting warm enough to have a quick swim. By the time we got to Delphi, I was regretting the decision not to.
I’d heard about the Oracles of Delphi, but didn’t know much more than the name, so thought it would be an interesting place to come and visit. In the simple comprehension of the history by my mind, this was a temple that people would come and visit to get guidance about future decisions. However, the reality of it, made me roll my eyes a little. These (young female) oracles would enter a cave and inhale the noxious gases that were present there – basically, either asphyxiating or getting so high they were unable to speak. After entering this state induced by this gas, they somehow communicated/gestured something, which was then understood and translated by the priests, who then provided feedback to the pilgrims. Call me sceptical… but intrigued.
I didn’t realise that the old temples were up in the mountains, and not just in the foothills, but right up in the mountains. It was a beautiful scenic drive, climbing higher and higher.
Entrance was via a €12 combination ticket, that also included entrance to the neighbouring museum. The ruins started quite underwhelming, looking little more than rubble strewn around a hillside. The descriptions were long and difficult to imagine. I wish they would just include a few more illustrations.
There was essentially zero respite from the sun, or the heat once we entered the park, and after climbing a few levels of stairs, we both were sweaty. It was nostalgic, but only temporarily so.
The ruins became more complete, and eventually a picture of the entire location started to form in my mind. We started seeing more of the smaller details, like the stones in walls being covered in carved text, or stones being cut into obscure shapes to keep them in alignment.
The main temple itself was little to look at, and reading the information plaques did little to help. The foundations gave a good impression of the size, as did the few sections of the columns that had been collected and stood up.
The amphitheatre was enormous, and quite complete. It might not have been much more than stones for seats, but it was easier to imagine hundreds of people seated here, rather than looking at foundations with a few fragments of columns. The vistas also became more incredible, and looking back down the complex, at the ruins and rugged valley beyond was amazing.
At the very top of the complex was the ancient stadium. It was now that I learnt that a stadium was actually also a distance (185m), and it was built to watch ancient sporting spectacles – like Olympics.
Delphi Archaeological Museum
When we bought our tickets for the ruins, I didn’t want a ticket to the museum, but after stepping inside, I instantly realised that this is probably more important than the actual ruins! Also, it was air-conditioned.
Inside was a collection of all the good findings from the site, with an amazing assortment of relics and artefacts. They had also moved some of the more detailed parts of the ruins here, including stone statues and facades. It genuinely still amazes me when I see these 2,000+ year-old marble carvings. Not only the detail that they were able to do, but also that it still remains in so clear.
I lost it again when I saw the full sized bull, made from silver. Looking up close at this was incredible, seeing the way the metal was fixed and worked. The same went for the golden ornaments, and amazing carvings in ivory.
The highlight was a bronze sculpture that had details that I didn’t even know was possible – eyelashes! There were also ceramic eyes inserted, almost bringing the statue to life, and really giving it a feeling he was watching you.
In reality it was very little walking, but we were unnaturally drained by this exertion. Fortunately we had plenty of time to rest on the drive south to Athens.