Ten Best Day Trips from Thessaloniki

The ten best day trips from Thessaloniki include visits to Mount Athos and Mount Olympus, and to archaeological sites such as Dion, Pella, and Vergina

Mount Olympus in GreeceSee Mount Olympus on a Day Trip from Thessaloniki

This is our alphabetical list of the ten best day trips from Thessaloniki, including the distance from the city and the best ways to get there. Many of the sites already have their own pages on Greece Travel Secrets, so we provide links to those too.

Dion

The Thermal Baths at Dion

Dion Thermal Baths
Photo by Juergen-Olymp and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The site of Ancient Dion and the modern town of Dion are just over an hour’s drive southwest from Thessaloniki, along the A1/E75 road towards Athens. You should allow a full day for this as the site is fascinating and there’s also an archaeological museum in the town, a two-minute drive or five-minute walk away. As well as beautiful mosaics, statues and other remains the lush site is a haven for wildlife. Read more on our main Dion page.

Halkidiki

Mount Olympus at sunset as seen from the Halkidiki peninsula in Macedonia, GreeceMount Olympus seen from the Halkidiki Peninsula

The three-pronged peninsula of Halkidiki, or Chalkidiki, is about an hour’s drive southeast from Thessaloniki, depending of course on where you’re going as it covers an area of 2,918 sq km (1,127 sq mi). Take the road out towards the airport and basically you keep going. The two western-most peninsulas, Kassandra and Sithonia, are filled with holiday resorts and are great places to escape to if you want to chill out on the beach. See our separate Halkidiki page for more information. The third peninsula is Mount Athos, the so-called Monks’ Republic. See below.

Lake Volvi

Drive an hour due east of Thessaloniki and you reach Lake Volvi, one of several lakes that are easily accessible from the city. The quickest route is to first drive north out of the city on the E02 road which then swings west towards Kavala. You’ll first pass the Limni Koronia (Lake Koronia) before reaching Lake Volvi.

We recommend this as it’s the second-largest lake in Greece at 12 miles (19 km) long and 6-8 miles (9.7-12.9 km) wide. It’s a wetlands area that is good for birdwatching, or you can also enjoy watersports here. Head to the village of Volvi on the northern shore to wander round and have lunch overlooking the lake for a full day out.

Mount Athos

Monastery on Mount Athos in GreeceMonastery on Mount Athos

Mount Athos is the eastern-most of the three peninsulas making up the southern part of Halkidiki, and you cannot visit this without prior permission. Women are not allowed to visit at all. However, there are some very enjoyable boat trips that take you around Mount Athos and enable you to see some of the twenty inhabited monasteries that look spectacular. See our Mount Athos page.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus, the Highest Mountain in GreeceMount Olympus, the Highest Mountain in Greece

To see Mount Olympus, legendary home of the Greek Gods and the highest mountain in Greece (2,917m/9,570ft), take the A1 towards Athens and you’ll reach the little town of Litochoro, the main base for visiting the mountain, in just over an hour. This is where you can find out about hiking options, which obviously depend on how much time you have and how fit you are. Getting to the top is a two-day effort with one night in a mountain hut, so is not for the inexperienced. Read more on our Mount Olympus page.

Pella

Ancient Pella in GreeceAncient Pella

Ancient Pella is a 40-minute drive northwest of the city, along the main E02 road that goes to Edessa. It was a hugely important city that was made capital of the Macedonian state in the late 5th century BC. It was the birthplace of Alexander the Great. There’s one main archaeological site to the south of the modern town, with other remains around the town, and an archaeological museum in the town. Allow the best part of a day, including travel time. See our main Pella page for more.

Petralona Cave

The Petralona Cave is an hour’s drive southeast from Thessaloniki in the northern part of the Halkidiki (or Chalkidiki) peninsula. Follow the signs for the Makedonia Airport but then continue on the main road past the airport. The cave was discovered by accident in 1959 and extends for about 1,500m (4,921ft), of which you can see about 400m (1,312ft).

In 1960 the most significant find of the cave was made, the Petralona skull. This has been dated to 150,000-200,000 years old, though it could be a great deal older. Whichever it is, the cave is still one of the oldest archaeological sites in the whole of Europe. For more information visit the Petralona Cave website.

Pikrolimni

Pikrolimni is a lake that’s a 45-minute drive northwest of Thessaloniki, leaving the city along Monastiriou and after about 15-20 minutes look for the sign marking a right turn towards Kilkis. The lake covers an area of 450 hectares (1,112 acres) and is filled with salts that are believed to have healing and cosmetic properties with a concentration three times that of the Dead Sea in Isarel/Jordan.

As a result, there is a Mud Therapy Centre here, though the therapies are only available in the summer. There’s also a hotel, a bar, and a restaurant. It’s not a day out for everyone, but certainly is if you love your spa therapies.

Vergina

Entrance to the Royal Tombs at Vergina in GreeceEntrance to the Royal Tombs at Vergina

The ancient site and royal tombs of Vergina are about an hour’s drive west of Athens initially on the A1 road towards Athens then turning off onto the A2/E90 exit towards Kozani and Veria. Just before Veria you exit onto the road for Kouloura which takes you to Vergina. We recommend using satnav as last time we drove there it was not clearly signposted.

Vergina is a comparatively new site, only discovered in 1977. But what a discovery it was, by the archaeologist Professor Manolis Andronikos. What he found was the royal tomb of King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. The tomb contained the king’s intact skeleton. There are other tombs here too, and the site has been turned into a marvellous museum. See our Vergina page for more details.

Veroia

Veroia is about a 15-minute drive from Vergina, retracing your steps back to the A2 road and continuing on it. It’s a historic town and worth a visit if you have the time. It’s an easy lunch stop before or after seeing the tombs, and has some 50 Byzantine churches to seek out.

Where to Stay in Thessaloniki

Other Macedonia pages

  • The archaeological site of Vergina in Macedonia is famous for the royal tombs which were the burial place of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

    The Royal Tombs and Archaeological Site of Vergina in Macedonia

    The archaeological site of Vergina in Macedonia is famous for the royal tombs which were the burial place of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

  • The capital of Macedonia and Greece’s second city, Thessaloníki has a lovely situation by the water, a wealth of history, many good museums, and good food.

    Thessaloniki

    The capital of Macedonia and Greece’s second city, Thessaloníki has a lovely situation by the water, a wealth of history, many good museums, and good food.

  • The Prespa Lakes in northwest Greece is one of the most beautiful parts of Greece with abundant wildlife and also many ancient churches.

    The Prespa Lakes in Northern Greece

    The Prespa Lakes in northwest Greece is one of the most beautiful parts of Greece with abundant wildlife and also many ancient churches.

  • The churches of Thessaloniki are remarkable and include UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, Byzantine masterpieces, and a church dating from the 5th century.

    The Churches of Thessaloniki

    The churches of Thessaloniki are remarkable and include UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, Byzantine masterpieces, and a church dating from the 5th century.

  • Scenic Drives in Northern Greece, Ioannina, Meteora, Kastoria, Prespa Lakes

    Scenic Drives in Northern Greece

    Scenic Drives in Northern Greece, Ioannina, Meteora, Kastoria, Prespa Lakes

  • Philippi is an ancient archaeological site near Kavala in East Macedonia and Thrace and is famous for being the place where the apostle St Paul was imprisoned.

    Philippi

    Philippi is an ancient archaeological site near Kavala in East Macedonia and Thrace and is famous for being the place where the apostle St Paul was imprisoned.

  • Pella in Macedonia is famous for its mosaics and was also the birthplace of both King Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great.

    The Site of Ancient Pella in Macedonia, Greece

    Pella in Macedonia is famous for its mosaics and was also the birthplace of both King Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great.

  • The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.

    Northern Greece Guide

    The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.

  • The Greek city of Thessaloniki in Macedonia has an array of wonderful museums and art galleries, and here's twelve of the best.

    Museums of Thessaloniki

    The Greek city of Thessaloniki in Macedonia has an array of wonderful museums and art galleries, and here's twelve of the best.

  •  Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is in the Mount Olympus National Park in Macedonia, with Litochoro being the best base.

    Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece

    Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is in the Mount Olympus National Park in Macedonia, with Litochoro being the best base.

  • Visiting Mount Athos in Greece requires a permit, but you can see the monasteries on a boat trip around the peninsula, known as the Monks' Republic.

    Mount Athos

    Visiting Mount Athos in Greece requires a permit, but you can see the monasteries on a boat trip around the peninsula, known as the Monks' Republic.

  • Mount Athos boat trips are very popular with visitors to Halkidiki in Greece, as they are the only way most people get to see these spectacular monasteries.

    Mount Athos Boat Trips

    Mount Athos boat trips are very popular with visitors to Halkidiki in Greece, as they are the only way most people get to see these spectacular monasteries.

  • Macedonia and Thrace are the regions in Greece where travelers will find Thessaloniki, Mount Athos monasteries, Halkidiki and sites like Dion and Pella.

    Macedonia and Thrace

    Macedonia and Thrace are the regions in Greece where travelers will find Thessaloniki, Mount Athos monasteries, Halkidiki and sites like Dion and Pella.

  • The city of Kavala in eastern Macedonia is the area's major seaport and the base for ferries to the islands of the North East Aegean, including Thasos.

    Kavala

    The city of Kavala in eastern Macedonia is the area's major seaport and the base for ferries to the islands of the North East Aegean, including Thasos.

  • Kastoria is a lakeside town in West Macedonia which prospered with the fur trade and today has some handsome mansions, museums and many Byzantine churches.

    Kastoria

    Kastoria is a lakeside town in West Macedonia which prospered with the fur trade and today has some handsome mansions, museums and many Byzantine churches.

  • Halkidiki is a three-pronged peninsula near Thessaloniki in Macedonia which comprises Mount Athos  and the holiday resorts on Kassandra and Sithonia.

    Halkidikí

    Halkidiki is a three-pronged peninsula near Thessaloniki in Macedonia which comprises Mount Athos and the holiday resorts on Kassandra and Sithonia.

  •  Dion is a rather wonderful archaeological site in Macedonia,  not far from Thessaloniki, with an archaeological museum nearby in the town of Dion.

    Dion

    Dion is a rather wonderful archaeological site in Macedonia, not far from Thessaloniki, with an archaeological museum nearby in the town of Dion.

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