Greece Elliniki Dhimokratia

Area: 131,940 sq km

Climate: temperate; mild, wet winters; hot, dry summers

Terrain: mostly mountains with ranges extending into sea as peninsulas or chains of islands

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m highest point: Mount Olympus 2,917 m

Geography—note: strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands

Population: 10,707,135 (July 1999 est.)

Ethnic groups: Greek 98%, other 2% note: the Greek Government states there are no ethnic divisions in Greece

Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%

Languages: Greek (official), English, French


Alexander the Great was born about 35 km northwest of Thessaloniki in Pella. A student of Aristotle, he started his military career at the age of 16, when he defended Macedonia from invaders, left in charge by his father Philip, king of Macedonia. Succeding his father at the age of 20 he reunited the Greek factions and invaded Asia Minor. He then continued to conquer the rest of the known antique world, overthrowing the Persian empire and going as far as India and Egypt. His route was largely to the south of our rally route, but he also went up to Samarqand. Again, has got a map.

Route notes of the rally:

…coming from Italy.

Friday 5th May - Day 5 — Igoumenitsa to Thessaloniki 354km

Early morning will see you cruising south close to the mysterious coast of Albania before docking at the northern Greek port of Igoumenitsa. The long climb into the snow clad Pindos Mountains must stand as one of the finest drives in the World and after reaching the top of the 6000ft Katara Pass an exciting gravel section awaits before Kalambaka. The strange rock pinnacles and perched monasteries of the Meteora were a backdrop for action in a James Bond film… when more than just monks winched themselves up to the top in baskets… these roads were also classic stages of the Acropolis Rally… then we strike out across country on little used roads - through remote, unspoilt villages. Greece at its best… a truly stunning drive. But another demanding dirt section through the mountains will test your vehicle before you hit Asia, and the two nights that await in Thessaloniki will give you a chance to bolt the bits back on that have fallen off!

Saturday 6th May - Day 6 — Thessaloniki

Rest Day for all: Thessaloniki is the second largest town in Greece and is built in a great sweep along the shores of the Aegean. The superb facilities of the Macedonia Palace Hotel right by the sea will provide a welcome rest.

Sunday 7 th May - Day 7 — Thessaloniki to Istanbul 684km

The main road east to Turkey along the coast is usually heavy with trucks so we have found some lovely, empty fast roads just inland. Eventually we join the coast before Kavala with the mountainous island of Thassos looming offshore. Through the Turkish border and then it is a fast run along the coast of the Sea of Marmaris to the fabled city of Istanbul.

…moving on to Turkey.