Greece has some of the most scenic train trips in Europe. Unfortunately today, however, there are few who explore this type of travel. Yet, what they are missing is some of the most fascinating scenery in the country.
The Greek countryside, though often unknown, is as stunning as its world-renowned islands and coastline. For that reason, it is something that everyone should have the chance to one day explore. In regard to travel, it is also more sustainable.
Certain routes are easier than others, however. Below is a list of the best trips for first time train travelers.
The most scenic railway journeys in Greece
Athens to Thessaloniki
Athens and Thessaloniki are two great cities joined by one train line. That is what perhaps makes it one of the most exciting for those experiencing a train ride through Greece for the first time.
There is also something exciting about waiting at the station to board a train. Fortunately, as of this year, there are two options for traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki, the ICE and the IC. The ICE is best as it runs twice a day. A trip takes around four and a half hours.
As it is the newest and fastest way to travel between the two cities, it is also a bit more expensive. What it offers, however, is better service, carriages, and views.
Another reason it is worth making the trip is that Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece. Moreover, it is not only known for its architecture and history but also its food. It would, therefore, provide a great opportunity to try some of the local dishes.
The coastal region of Chaldiki is also known for its exceptional beauty and should, therefore, be visited time-permitting. There are several small towns with beach resorts in the area as well for every budget and lifestyle.
Stavroupoli to Toxotes
The trip from Stavroupoli to Toxotes is also a good option for one’s first train ride through Greece. It is a wonderful way to continue the trip from Athens to Thessaloniki since it connects the latter city with Alexandroupoli in Northern Greece.
The journey from Stavroupoli takes one through the towering mountains of Greece and past the narrow straits of the Nestos River. This area is home to the region’s national park and thus full of waterfowl, otters, wild horses, eagles, and rare fauna.
Yet, the shortest part of the trip is the most magical, as it passes through the countryside’s old stone tunnels past the stream. There is the abandoned village of Livera to see, too. For nature lovers, one can enjoy horseback riding, kayaking, and tracking once at Toxotes.
Diakopto to Kalavryta
The Peloponnese is one of the most gorgeous regions in Greece, and Diakopto and Kalaryta are two of its most beautiful towns. A trip by car or train is the only way to visit the countryside as well as the seaside villages and towns in the area. Taking the train, nevertheless, is much more romantic.
There is also an exceptionally unique train ride called Odonototos, which means ‘toothed’ and it is one of the last of its kind around. The rack railway line, located in Archaia is indeed one of the most unique in the Balkan region. Its cogs date back to 1889.
The twenty-two kilometer journey runs along the Vouraikos Gorge. It takes one through the area’s stone tunnels, fragrant pine and oleander forests, and past majestic waterfalls. Though the ride takes only a little more than an hour, the trip is definitely worth the time.
The port town of Katakolo is as charming as its name. Located in the Western Peloponnese, it houses Ancient Olympia, which is now a popular archeological site.
The forty-five minute journey that goes through Pyrgos is perhaps the second most romantic and memorable trip since it lies at the birthplace of the Olympic Games, the Temple of Zeus, and the sacred ruins of Olympia, home of the gods.
There is a trip every morning from Katakolo to Olympia and another three between Olympia and Pyrgos. The rail line is closed, however, on Sundays and public holidays. The cost of the trip is a mere ten euros, though it an enchanting and delightful ride.
Mount Pelion is said to have been the home of Olympian Gods, making it the perfect destination for those wanting both a cultural and historical vacation. The region is also lined with quaint villages, and the views throughout the journey are amazing.
The railway itself is said to be one of the narrowest in the world. Also interesting is the fact that it was built by the Italian engineer Evaristo de Chirico, the father of the great surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico.
Mountzouris, as the tiny train of Pelion is called, was briefly closed in 1997 but reopened in 1996. In 2010, a diesel engine replaced the original steam engine that used to pull the four carriages on the uphill train ride. The journey is around ninety minutes and is a wonder for explorers and natural lovers who would like to take a trip back in time.
Trips on Mountzouris are only possible on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year.
Traveling through Greece by train
The Hellenic Railway Organization is the national railway service in Greece responsible for the maintenance and operation of the country’s railway lines. Hellenic Train runs the railway line train services and offers a number of exciting and delightful routes through Greece for those who would like a different kind of vacation.
One of the routes on its primary line is Athens to Thessaloniki. Its secondary rail network offers trips such as Thessaloniki-Edessa-Amyntaio-Kozani / Florida. In the Peloponnese, one can journey from Athens to Kiato via Corinth, Kiato to Patras, Patras to Olympia, and Corinth to Nafplion and Kalamata through Argos and Tripoli.