Monodendri to Thessaloniki

Saturday, July 23, 2022 - 20:45

My day started particularly early today, since I got up at 4.30am to move the car from blocking the path outside the hotel down the road after it was fully charged. This wasn't as bad as it sounds, since it allowed me to enjoy the clear night sky with almost no light pollution this far from any significant population centre. This meant I could see the stars and the faint outline of the Milky Way in a way I have only seen before in places like Namibia and Easter Island. I did however go back to bed shortly afterwards.

On waking up properly a few hours later, our mission was to see the Vikos Gorge/Canyon from two different perspectives. The first was just a 15 minute walk from our hotel, through the Mondendri Village Square, and down a path on the other side. It was an easy walk, but the terrain was uneven enough that we decided to leave the buggy behind and take Lucy in the sling. As we walked down the path we walked past a sign which mentioned how the canyon was certified by the Guinness Book of Records in 1997 as the world's deepest canyon relative to its width. Trying to get out head around what exactly that meant, we went a bit further and the canyon started to come into view. It was certainly absolutely magnificent, and I'd describe it as a greener and dare I say it, slightly less 'grand' Grand Canyon. What really struck us was how few tourists were around, and how no one I've spoken to has heard of this place. It really is a hidden gem in Europe, and one we are glad we took a detour to see (the original plan was to go directly from Albania to North Macedonia). Past the first viewpoint we reached the Monastery of Saint Paraskevi which was built in the early 1400s right on the canyon edge, and has a little viewpoint on one side where we could safely take some family photos with the canyon in the distance. The monastery was small but had a couple of rooms for praying, all filled with religious paintings of men and women with gold halos around their heads.

After finishing at the monastery, we walked back to the car and set off for our second viewpoint of the day, the Oxya Viewpoint. This is about 10 minutes drive past Monodendri, on a road which winds further up into the mountains before reaching a dead end where you can leave your car (Google calls it a car park but it really isn't). There is then a 5 minute walk down along a trail to the viewpoint which was even more impressive than the previous one in the village. From here we had a much better view of the dried up river down below, and a wider look out over the whole canyon. We also ventured a bit further on a rather precarious extension to the trail past the main viewpoint, to an overhang which you wouldn't want to misstep on. From here we used the tripod to take what is no doubt the best family photo of the trip so far, right on the edge of the canyon.

Overall, if in doubt about whether to visit both the monastery and the Oxya Viewpoint as we were, definitely do both! You won't regret it since neither takes very long, and both give you different perspectives of the canyon. I should also mention just how pretty the village of Monodendri is, with traditional buildings made of a light-grey stone; the same stone we saw in abundance all along the road to Oxya.

Having finished with Vikos, all that was left to do today was to do the three hour drive to Thessaloniki. This took us on yet another scenic route, first down the mountains on winding roads, then past some panoramic viewpoints along Lake Ioannina, and then on to the A2 motorway which is itself a marvel of engineering. I've been reading about it on Wikipedia this evening, and turns out the motorway has 76 tunnels and cost nearly €6 billion of EU money to construct. It was a seriously impressive road, taking us high over valleys, and right through mountains that look like they shouldn't be traversable. One part near Grevena where we stopped for lunch is brown bear habitat, and there were warning signs showing a bear and its cub just behind dotted every few kilometres along the road.

We made it to Thessaloniki in the early evening but haven't had a chance to see the historic city centre yet. First impressions are it seems a bit like Buenos Aires in places, and it is seriously hot and muggy this evening; still 31 degrees at 10pm as we walked back from dinner!

Electric Vehicle EV Notes: 

We thought we were going to have things easy today with an EV charger one block away from our hotel. However on arrival at the Capsis Hotel to charge, it turned out the four chargers on site were all in the car park and filled with non-EV cars! We spoke to the front desk manager who was actually rather rude (it felt like yesterday all over again) and he said the chargers are only for hotel guests anyway, but either way, the non-EV cars were not leaving until Monday. Very annoyed at the situation and his attitude, we left and found another charger down the road. Really didn't expect Greece to be the most challenging country to charge in so far.
- Blink charger at Warehouse 7 Thessaloniki. Should be 12KW according to Blink app but only delivering 3.5KW.

Miles Driven: 
Holiday Inn Thessaloniki


Seriously tempted (but not in an EV)

A 4.30 start and a rude hotel keeper - you save on petrol but is is it worth it?

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