When people picture Greece it’s usually the islands or Athens. About 8 years ago, I went to Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, and Athens myself and it was amazing. But some people say that the islands are not like the real Greece and advise that you should see more! In this post, I’ll give you some tips for visiting Katerini and a couple other places in Greece we visited.
Ben’s dad and long-term girlfriend live in Vienna but she is Greek and from the town Katerini, near Thessaloniki (the second biggest city in Greece). Her family is still there and they have an apartment there; we’ve always wanted to go and visit. We had decided a long time ago to visit and also go to the “three fingers”, Halkidiki Penninsula, nearby which are really famous. As always we over-estimated time and decided it would be better to explore closer to Katerini.
So, we ended up spending a few nights in Katerini, a few nights in Litochoro (Mt. Olympus, home of Zeus), and the last few days in Plaka on the beach. It was the first real vacation I’ve taken in a while where I didn’t worry about blogging so it was nice to relax. Prior to that, we had even more vacation time at Ben’s dad’s in Vienna. So, it was basically two weeks of vacation and no blogging! I love to blog, but it’s nice to be abroad and not always thinking about what I’ll write about.
I am not writing about our time in Austria as I have already on previous visits. Since I wasn’t really focusing on blogging, I’m combining all three of these cities we visited in Greece into one blog post!
Getting to Katerini
The easiest way to get to any of the places we visited is by flying to Thessaloniki. It’s a small airport and about 15 minutes outside of the city center. I came from India, so flew Turkish Airlines which is one of online two airlines that do easy routes from India to Greece. I had to go to Alanya for work anyway, so it worked out perfectly. I’ve actually flown TA the last three big international flights I’ve done, and love them.
We stayed at an airport hotel the night we arrived and the night before we left. We stayed at the Ambassador both times. It ranges between $60-$100. Good hotel, amazing pool.
We got a rental car with Sixt at the airport, booking ahead of time. Reason being the other rental car options are really far from the lot and you even have to take a taxi to them instead of a shuttle. I can’t remember the rental car price, but it was cheap! It was supposed to have an option to buy GPS but they didn’t have the devices. So, Ben bought a Vodafone SIM card. It was necessary but still didn’t offer good service.
From Thessaloniki, you can drive about an hour South to Katerini and from there the rest is all close by. Thessaloniki is cool but I didn’t stay long, so won’t write about it on this post.
Tips on Visiting Katerini
Katerini is called the heart of Macedonia. It’s a cute town on its own but also a good base to explore from. From here you can visit:
- Dion. where there are a lot of ancient ruins at archeological sites
- Platamanos Castle. looked amazing from below but didn’t go inside. It actually looked closed when we tried to!
- Olympus. Many people stay here to trek Mt Olympus.
The town center in Katerini isn’t huge and you can easily walk everywhere. Ben new his way around in two days but I’m directionally challenged so would advise GPS here if you are like me!
We spent a lot of time here eating, go figure. We met with Ben’s family in Katerini and they were so nice! They took us to the best place to eat and I ordered just about everything. I got a business card so I could share the name and when I just looked at it- it’s in GREEK! lol I can’t even try to tell you the name.
We also drove to a nearby beach and had a mediocre meal, below – so I won’t bother sharing about the name of the restaurant!
The last night there we ate at another yummy place, that unfortunately, I’m useless and don’t know the name. Like I said, I wasn’t thinking about blogging on this trip. Sorry! But, I had all good food here except one meal, which was still “okay” so I think you’ll be fine just popping in anywhere. It seems all Greeks know how to cook!
Below is the castle that I mentioned above, which was closed when we went to it.
Mt. Olympus / Litochoro Tips
This is really a place to come is you want to trek and hike. Other than that, it’s a cozy town with great views. It is good because you get the views of the sea and the mountains. Our hotel, Hotel Olympus Mediterranean, offered both and I highly recommend it. Click here for rates and reviews.
It had amazing views! You can’t really see through the clouds, but you can see the sea and to the left are the mountains. The room was really old-fashioned looking which I liked. It was the coziest little room! It was a five minute walk to the town center.
When you arrive here, you can park outside the hotel but be warned it is really tiny alleys here so rent a compact car!
We drove to the Mountain because we weren’t all that prepared to hikini (nor were we interested in it). The views were great on the drive up and down and roads were safe. We went to Zeus’s waterfall, which turns out you can’t hike to but have to look at from afar.
The town square had cafes around it and was typically full of local men or tourists in trekking outfits. There were some sport shops, fruit stalls, and random little shops but nothing to buy, really. I liked it more getting lost in the alleys!
Of course, there was a lot of food and we went to Erato Wine restaurant. It was the cutest one from the outside and when I googled ‘best food in town’, it came up first. Easy choice! It was SO tasty, huge portions, and really affordable. I got a bottle of wine for $9. What! Crazy, I know.
Seriously, look at the size of this steak!
Plaka & Nearby Beaches
We really didn’t plan this trip so when we went to the Plaka area, it was because we wanted to see this part of the coast and because we wanted to stay at Cavo Olympo. It was a great boutique hotel (you can see rates and reviews here). We used the hotel as our base and drove to random beaches nearby. Plaka was the best and the others were about the same, some more touristy than others. Olympus Beach was pretty crowded but good if you’re getting bored and want something to do.
This restaurant, Taverna Agorastos, was our favorite place we tried. I fed all my prawn heads to the cats and they went crazy for them! The whole area is really dead; we only saw one other group of tourists on this whole beach while we were there. It was late May, so not a crazy time of year, but I guess still too cold for tourists to want to come.
So, overall, that’s what we got up to! Nothing crazy, but a great holiday in a really quiet beautiful place. If you are looking for loads of culture and a popping nightlife, you might want something more like Athens, but if you just want to relax you can get a wide range of things to do here from archeological visits, to mountain treks, or just chill at one of the many beaches.
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Wonderful article on Greece!! And where did you find that beautiful fringe handbag!! Love
Jeanne they only have the smaller one http://rstyle.me/n/cnf9gnbamgf my tote has sold out, but you can keep an eye on the Etsy shop for more! I have this smaller one in black too
Thanks Rachel!! I will keep an eye out!