Paralia Katerini and Olympic Beach, an affordable summer experience under the Aegean sun

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

For a visitor from the East of Europe, the beach of Paralia may feel like home, with numerous Balkanic languages being spoken everywhere. One should not expect the exotic landscape of a Greek island, but the hospitality of the locals and the professionalism of hotel and restaurant workers make it for a pleasant stay at very low prices. The menus at the local bars is often found in several European languages, and the clubs are opened and busy till dawn, full of Greeks, Romanians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Serbians and many others.

Prices are moderate, there are also supermarkets (Liedl), but the offer at terraces is so rich that is better to eat at the restaurant. With 10 to 15 euros you get two dishes and dessert at a terrace.
Paralia is also a shopping destination. Besides articles foreseeable in a beach resort (handbags, swimwear, mattresses, toys) clothing stores with discounts can also be found. If you are a thrifty man who buys fur coat in summer, in Paralia you can find many shops with clothing, leather and furs. However carefully test the quality of products, who most likely come from Chinese or Turkish bazaars.

Paralia has an effervescent nightlife, with plenty of bars and clubs that resonate till dawn. Some hotels have free access at the pool, if the waves of the Aegean See don’t tempt you.
The architecture of hotels and guest-houses in the two resorts is very beautiful. Buildings that prevail are 2-3 floors, each with a personal air, colorful and cheerful, without sliding toward kitsch. Streets are narrow, crowded, mostly one-way or open to pedestrians only.

Olympic Beach is a newer resort, located a mile and a half of Paralia Katerini (in a straight line along the cliff). The distance between the two resorts can be completed in an evening stroll, by bus or by an amusement train. On this road, which connects Olympic Beach to Paralia Katerini, several clubs and hotels have already appeared, so probably, when Greek tourism will recover from economic recession, the two resorts will end up merging.

Leaflets from agencies highlight the proximity to Katerini City and Thessakoniki, but in fact the two resorts are rather neighbor to some villages. The highway connecting Thessaloniki to Athens is about 2-3 kilometers away from Olympic Beach, and a landscape with fields of corn might feel a little different from what travel agencies presented. If you use a car for trips to neighboring villages (for Mount Olympus, for example) can also take the parallel national road, instead of the highway, which is free and in good condition.

Fortunately, there is a bus which has frequent routes between Olympic Beach, Paralia Katerini and the town, located about 7 km away. Tickets are taken from some machines, depending on distance traveled, costing between 50 cents and 2.5 euro. This bus route is a winding one, going through all Paralia resort, through a few villages scattered along the road (actually urban looking villas) and in 30-40 minutes reaches Katerini city. Katerini is a nice city with the charm of an old settlement. Walking through it is a pleasure, even though no actual tourist attractions can be noted. From here you have two ways to get to Thessaloniki (Salonic), a city that you should not miss. Unfortunately, railway and bus stations are in different points of the city.

Buses and trains leave about every two hours, from dawn to 21:30. Buses run on the highway and surprisingly have fewer stops than the train, but the disadvantage is that the bus’ last station is on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. Instead, the railway station is right in the center of Thessaloniki. Train has the best conditions: air conditioning, impeccable toilets and comfortable armchairs. A train or bus ticket between Katerini and Thessaloniki costs 6 euro with discount for round trip tickets. The train from Katerini city can also be used in the opposite direction, when going to Mount Olympus. The train stops at the following points: Thessaloniki, Sindos, Adendro, Plati, Eghinio, Korinos, Katerini, Litochoro (for Olympus), Larissa (towards Meteora).

If you ask for directions, the Greeks are very helpful, but keep in mind that Paralia actually means “beach”, so you must say the full name of Paralia Katerini, not to get misunderstood when in a different city. Landscape and coastline of Olympic Beach and Paralia Katerini are rather dull. Some rare palm trees and plenty of sun-beds. In theory, the view should be spectacular, as the legendary Mount Olympus can be seen from the shore and from many hotel rooms, but the hot sky with a whitish background will fade the image of the mountain of the gods, which is not too impressive. If you are into truly enchanting landscapes will have to choose one of the islands that brought the fame of Greece, such as Corfu.

The good news is that from the two resorts are organized almost daily trips in each point of interest. The most further you can go is in the capital Athens. The trip starts at night, arriving at Thermopylae, with a guided tour of the city, and in about 24 hours you are back. Costs 40 euros plus 12 euros for visiting the remains of the Acropolis. A guided trip by bus to Thessaloniki is 15 euros.

The most spectacular destination is Meteora, where you can take a tour of the most beautiful monasteries miraculously built by mons on the mountain peaks. It costs 25 euros and is not to be missed.

Another famous destination within reach is the legendary mountain of the gods, Mount Olympus. A bus goes to Litochoro city, from where you can start climbing to Prionia and admire the panorama. Henceforth, you can only climb the mountain by foot. If you catch a clear sky, you can see the Aegean Sea from the top. If the weather is torrid, as often happens in Greece, will be difficult to distinguish sea water from the sky, which has the same color, and landscape will not be as memorable.
If you want to feel the taste of Greek tradition, choose one of the many boat trips to the islands (for example, to Thassos, for 40 euros). Distractions are numerous: learn to dance sirtaki, taste the Greek cuisine, bask in the sun or bathe in see-through waters in spots known by local sailors.

If you want a little more expensive place in the area, you can choose Nei Pori (Neo Pori), about 30 km south coast, the road leading to Litochoro (Olympus). On the way, you can admire the ruins of Platamonas, Panteleimonas and Skotinis. With a more detailed map or a little help from the locals very friendly, the same road you will find wonderful delta formed at Tebi (Tembi) of river Pienios.

Mai multe despre: Greece
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