+2100km ⛽️ 5 countries 3 days ⏱
+1700km ⛽️ Peloponnese – Athens – Sofia – Bucharest 4 days ⏱
Greece is my fail-safe summer destination: excellent food, decent prices, beautiful beaches – guaranteed R&R. We wanted to escape for 2 full weeks, but we couldn’t actually stay in one place for the whole period, so we built ourselves a three-part road trip. In the first part we travelled towards Greece via Serbia, on a route I explained in detailed below for those of you who are passionate drivers. The second part is not as interesting, because it involves 11 days in Lefkada with too much tzatziki drowned in ouzo and dangerous amounts of sun. The third and final parts is again of interest for you because it includes a route from Lefkada to Peloponnese, then a short visit in Athens and the road back home to Bucharest with a pitstop in Sofia, Bulgaria.
So wether or not you are the planning type, I wrote a few ideas for the road trip I just explained. It’s the kind of trip which can get really spontaneous – just be careful with the roaming costs! If you like this kind of article or if you have other road trip ideas please let me know in the comments below!
[DAY 1] Romania to Serbia, ~800km
✨ Highlight: Danube’s Boilers, the face of Decebal in stone (you know it from Lord of the Rings, see it in my previous post) and some beautiful buildings in Calafat.
⛽️ We chose a route through the South of Romania, one of the poorest regions in our country. It was an eye-opening experience, especially following the events in Bucharest on 10th of August. Anyway, we found some hidden architectural jewels from another era and an eerie silence, in what seemed to be an infinite flat field. My thoughts were that we are witnessing a total lack of culture and style in architecture, as if we’ve forgotten or discarded everything previous generations built (swipe to see what I mean). Danube was sharing its goodness to the fertile lands surrounding it, but people seemed to be rather self-sufficient than proactive or industrious (“harnic” in Romanian is such a nicer word). Nothing announced the majestic views that were expecting us just around the corner, after passing the border to Serbia on the Iron Gate I in Drobeta Turnu-Severin.
[DAY 2, part 1] 3 hours in Belgrade
✨ Highlight: A lot of cute Zastava’s on the street, a cool clock-facade and an even cooler and very strong urban branding example.
⛽️ We didn’t expect Belgrade to be this beautiful, but then again we found out it was the third largest city in Eastern Europe. It has very nice old buildings (and dirty streets, for when you’re looking at your feet) and Stari Grad (the old town) is built on a lot of hills, so you can enjoy some interesting perspectives if you stray away from the touristic path. It has a busy pedestrian street with restaurants and shops which ends right in a park. From there you can see the new part of the city which is separated by Sava, one of Danube’s longest tributaries. You can visit the citadel, which seemed to be a very strong reminder of the recent war of Yugoslavia which decimated the nation. I was honestly impressed by the branding of Belgrade on touristic merchandise: “Destroyed and Rebuilt”. What a statement…
[DAY 2, part 2] Serbia to Kotor, Montenegro ~550km
✨ Highlight: Definitely eating an amazing Pleskavica and drinking a turkish coffee somewhere in the middle of a forest after Valjevo + some really good roads (and by good I mean curvy as hell ).
⛽️ What seemed to be a very long and boring road starting from the suburbs of Belgrade towards Montenegro actually turned out to be a spectacular road for enjoying the real #autoemocion my Leo can offer (and I love him because he only “ate” 5.6l/100km this whole roadtrip). Nothing much to say here, except I’m still thinking of that Pleskavica.
Pro Tip: maps.me is a great app for when roaming is too expensive.
[DAY 2, part 3] Durdevica Tara Bridge in Montenegro
365m length and 170m clearance below
✨ This one deserves its own post – after going up and down on the mountain roads, we found ourselves near (or in) Tara Natural Park. We didn’t know what to expect until we passed this amazing viaduct – only to find out later that it’s one of the top 10 most beautiful bridges in the world! It was scary high & I got a little bit dizy.
[DAY 2, part 4] still on the road from Serbia to Kotor, Montenegro
~550km and a fucked up schedule
✨ I love this pic so much I had to post it separately as well. We caught a lot of breathtaking sunsets on this road trip, but it wasn’t planned: I was too lazy to wake up when we were supposed to…so our schedule was off by a few hours every day since we left home 4 hours late. Don’t do this! Still, the roads in Serbia and especially Montenegro were perfect with Leo . I loved the fact that they had A LOT of traffic signs pointing out traditional food spots (I didn’t see any signs for monuments though, just goat cheese, farms and more food)
[DAY 3, part 1] Around the Kotor Bay.
~45km in 2 hours. With a lot of stops for pictures and a traffic jam in Tivat.
✨ I woke up like this. We stayed in Prcanj, on the other side of the bay from the famous Kotor. This is the more quiet and pitoresque part of the bay, which made the morning coffee very enjoyable.
The road here is creepy narrow and the parking spots are just crazy. The architecture gives a colonial vibe. Overall it’s more expensive than Greece, but we will definitely come to stay here for a few days.
⛽️ Pro tip: The petrol prices rise as you go further on this route, Greece being the most expensive. We filled up the tank in Romania just before the border, then in Tivat and again in Greece.
[DAY 3, part 2 and the last] Kotor, Montenegro – through Albania – to Monodendri, Greece
~650km and about 13 hours of driving
✨ This is the last part of our roadtrip and also the most amazing one to drive on. To start from the beginning, after Kotor, Budva is the second touristic destionation Montenegro and has some serious Monte-Carlo vibes. The whole coast was very crowded and the traffic was bad, so somewhere we made a left turn and went towards Albania on some very pitoresque mountain roads. We bought figs and apples and enjoyed a good turkish-like coffee in a Lukoil gas station.
Second, Albania has some crazy traffic. Their highways are not exactly highways because food vendors are standing right on the edge of the motorway, selling fruits and grilled corn. My first impression about the country is that it looks a little bit dusty, but I can’t say much more. The seaside is a whole different thing though. The road from Vlore to Sarande is INCREDIBLE! You start from sea level, climb a mountain, then descend on a road that competes with Transfagarasan. Definitely a destionation worth exploring.
Our last landmark was Monodendri, a remote village in the mountains North of Greece. We arrived late at night, but we still found a very hospitable taverna who gave us beer and ouzo.
Only in the morning we found out why this place is so famous: it has the deepest canyon in the world. Lucky that during breakfast we saw a rusty old panel which said “Guiness World Record” and lots of people walking into the forest on a small path.
The Vikos Gorge in Greece – World’s deepest canyon: 900m deep and 1100m between its rims.
Second part – Lefkada
The road from Monodendri to Lefkada has about 200km and you can drive it in about 3.5 hours, including lots of toll points on the highway. Petrol is very cheap in the south of the island so there’s no need to fill it up in the mainland. Even in Lefkada we drove about 50km every day, because we wanted to check out a different beach daily.
We laughed our hearts out when we read the 1-star reviews on google maps for some gorgeous beaches only because “the road was too narrow, dangerous or inaccessible”. If you come with a camper maybe some roads that go to the western beaches are too much, but with a regular car you can really enjoy lots of rally-like roads. I don’t have lots of highlights, but here I go:
- In Vasiliki there is a brilliant pastry shop right on the main road, before you reach the main shopping street. They have a home-made ice cream that reminded me of childhood, when my grandmother received some powdered strawberry ice cream which you could cook with milk. Plus a portokalopita to die for. Yes, you can take it back home in a freezer.
- I am really scared of water when I cannot see the bottom of it – so anything more than a mountain spring makes me cringe (even though I know how to swim). Still, a Romanian waiter told us if he were to choose only one must-do in Lefkada, that were renting a boat. So finally Tudor convinced me in the last day to rent a small boat and tour the eastern part of the island around Nydri, near Scorpios and Meganisi. Believe me, NOTHING compares to having your own private mini-beach and even a floating chair in the middle of any gulf you can see. The whole experience wasn’t as scary as I’d imagine because we sailed for about 6 hours through a very calm part of the sea. I understand that in the western part of Lefkada things are quite different…Anyway, it’s good we did this in our last day there because we already exceeded our budget and the boat cost us 100 euro/day + 25 euro gas + 250 euro guarantee (you don’t need a skipper license).
- Don’t miss Frigadeli – lamb liver covered in fried bacon, cooked on a spit.
- Don’t leave without olive oil and orange honey (or any kind of mountain plant for that matter). You can buy directly from local farmers on the roads in the west, towards Kalamitsi.
Basically 3 food recommendations for every landmark is the best I can do for the travel section of my blog.
*I really have to do a little bit of product placement because my Michelin Primacy tyres earned their praises on and on in the last 4 years. They have suffered from so many gravel roads that I cannot believe they are still in one piece. I am very pleased with their grip on tarmac, they still brake excellently and I think a little bit of Leo’s efficient fuel consumption is owed to them. Because now I can see the difference even better between Leo’s purpose (a reliable car for holidays, efficient on the bumpy roads of Bucharest but also during rally recce) and Sean D’Or’s purpose (the race car which only has to go fast), I believe that Primacy is a wise choice for my summer tyres.
The last part of our road trip took place in some very beautiful areas, but we had too little time to explore. The road from Lefkada to Peloponnese took us through Patras – we crossed to the peninsula on the most impressive bridge I’ve seen so far. We visited the ruins of Epidaurus and its famous amphitheater, then spent the night in Ermioni at some friends. Next day we left for Athens driving on the Corinth channel. One of the unexpected costs of our road trip were the highway tolls during these last 2 days, which were precisely 67.35 euro.
Surprisingly we reached Athens by noon so we checked in the hotel and embraced our tourist status walking towards Acropolis. It was crowded, but you cannot remain neutral. The Acropolis Museum is a must because the building itself is a landmark. We dined on the terrace of a restaurant in Monastiraki from where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. These very few hours in Athens don’t qualify me to give you any tips, but feel free to tell me what should we visit next time.
On our way home we made another pitstop in Sofia where our rally friend Daniel Popov showed us that there is more to the Bulgarian kitchen than Shopska, my love.
This is the story of our 2018 summer road trip. What your next trip?
*To be honest, I have a more urgent question: where are you spending New Year’s Eve? :))
PS: Each and every photo in this article was made and edited with an iPhone X with Moment lens attached.