If you are in dire need of vitamin D and are looking for a weekend getaway to the beach, then look no further than Halkidiki, a paradisiac peninsula only an hour away from Thessaloniki. The region offers a plethora of options to keep you busy: head to the magnificent beaches of Kassandra for a beach weekend or explore the stunning landscapes of Sithonia and the nearby villages; find your inner Zen with a spiritual retreat on Mount Athos (for men only) or indulge your epicurean side by exploring the region’s wine routes.
After a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Thessaloniki, you can spend the weekend in Sofia, the quirky capital of Bulgaria. Full of history and with a strong European influence, Sofia is a dynamic city with verdant parks, Ottoman churches, museums and art galleries, as well as a plethora of restaurants and bars. To maximize your time, book an organized tour. Balkan Bites offers a free Food Tour in order to introduce travelers to the best of Balkan cuisine, one bite at a time. Alternately, opt for a bike tour to discover the city from another perspective.
Serres, a charming village, is also a great destination for a weekend getaway. Stay at the Philippos Xenia Hotel for a convenient base and spend the weekend exploring. One of the major things to see is Lake Kerkini, 40 kilometers away. It’s one of the most important wetlands in Europe, a birdwatching destination, and a significant habitat for the cormorant and heron colonies of the region. You can also visit the nearby villages, all of which are blessed with a picturesque and tranquil atmosphere.
With about two direct flights a day, in an hour and 30 minutes you can eat Turkish loukoums while gazing at the Bosphorus in Istanbul for a weekend. The Turkish capital offers just the right change of scenery and attractions for such a short stay. If you want to stay in the city center, opt for a room at NY-IST Suites, a charming modern-styled boutique hotel in Beyoglu, or stay in Sultanahmet at Hotel Miniature Istanbul, conveniently located minutes away from Topkapi Palace, the beautiful Hagia Sophia and the stunning Blue Mosque.
This gorgeous escape, located on Mount Vernon, is one of the 10 most picturesque villages in Europe according to UNESCO. With its stone houses and cobbled streets, Nymfaio boasts charming tavernas and cute cafés and has many nature-oriented attractions nearby, such as Zarari and Cheimaditida Lakes, both listed in the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
Ioannina (or Yannena) is the capital of Epirus, one of the most beautiful regions in the country. After a drive of less than three hours, you can find yourself visiting the town’s imposing castle, one of the country’s oldest Byzantine fortresses. Make sure to visit lake Pamvotis, the remaining mosques and the Pavlos Vrellis Museum of Wax Effigies. Of course, as a vibrant city, Ioannina has countless bars and traditional tavernas where you can enjoy the city’s joyous vibe.
Northern Greece is blessed with many verdant areas, small picturesque villages and stunning natural sites. One of them is Lake Prespa, which is actually two freshwater lakes, located on the border between Greece, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. Another excellent sight for birdwatching, this area is also ideal for a relaxed weekend away from the city. Refresh your mind and soul with walks around the lakes and the nearby area, and enjoy traditional food like grilled fish at a nearby taverna. For a real disconnect, stay at a typical stone house in the tiny village of Oxia, near Agios Germanos.