Beautiful, hospitable, surprising, enchanting, overwhelming, radiant and dramatic. Greece is all these things and a whole lot more. Here, in the land of Gods and Monsters piercing blue skies kiss the Aegean sea on the horizon, ancient ruins that have stood the test of time bleach under the constant glare of the sun and jagged mountains soar to the sky – looking as though the Gods themselves have pulled them from their roots. Often hailed as the ‘cradle of Western civilisation’, Greece leaves a lasting impression with its remarkable ancient history, breathtaking beauty and uncomplicated culture. The Greeks, kind and open by nature take you under their wing to make every experience feel like you’re on a 5 star cruise ship dining at the captain’s table. The entire country is socially spirited, the focus on living the best life – cafes, restaurants and town squares overflow with gatherings of family and friends animated in deep discussions and sometimes heated debates. Then, there’s the culinary journey within the motorcycling journey, food is a passion, every night a show of interesting herbs, lush mountain greens, seafood drizzled in ouzo, fresh bread baked with olives and melt in your mouth feta. 

2019 saw the release of the Greece: Wonders of the Ancient World tour, a trip to encompass the mountains that cover 80% of the country, the ancient sites that dominate Greek mythology and the best roads for a motorcycle. Not on most rider’s radar, Greece is utterly brilliant on a bike. The tour will see you walking in the home of the ancient Gods, exploring the birthplaces’ of Helen of Troy, Hercules and the Olympics, contemplating the oracle’s insights in Delphi, marveling at the exquisite rock formations and monasteries that crown them at Meteora, standing in temples made for Gods and Goddesses and trying not to run over the endless supply of turtles that congregate on the roads! An exciting addition to the Magellan adventures, the historic sights and cultural experiences are only surpassed by the empty mountain roads and untouched natural beauty. 

Aegean Coast Road and Langada Mountain Pass 

Twisty, breathtakingly beautiful, unspoilt and empty, the Aegean coast road delivers on its promise to amaze anyone who finds themselves on it. The smooth ribbon of road with a collection of thrilling hairpins and sweeping bends cuts an impressive divide between the glistening Aegean sea and sheer cliff faces draped with lush green trees. The green hue of the trees against the backdrop of dazzlingly bright turquoise waters creates a luminous intensity under the haze of the sun that is so vivid it’s almost blinding. With cobbled coastal towns, small coves and historical ruins the Aegean coast road will surely enchant any who explore this area. 

Heading south from the seaport town of Nafpilon, Magellan ride down the east coast of the Peloponnese peninsula following the epic Aegean coast road for 50 miles. On a fantastic riding day all round we then climb into the mountains passing the ancient site of Sparta to tackle the Langadha mountain pass 5,000 ft above sea level. 

Located in the Taÿgetos Mountains, in the Peloponnese region of Greece, the Langadha pass  is one of the most scenic routes in the region, if not the entire country. Linking Sparta and Kalamata, Route 82 steadily climbs and dips with views of the changing landscape and seascape below readily available around every corner. The most epic section begins 20km west of Sparta where the road suddenly looks like spaghetti as it clings to the cliff face around the Langada Gorge. Overhanging cliffs, gorges, coastal scenery and amazing road contours make this drive one of the most breathtaking in Greece. 

Mount Olympus

The highest mountain in Greece and the mythological home of the Greek Gods – Mount Olympus dominates the skyline with its 52 peaks, some of which soar to the dizzy heights of 9,570 ft. The mountains are littered with deep gorges where legend has it the Gods lived in their own luxurious palaces with magnificent marble pillars and gold furnishings. In ancient Greece it was believed that the universe was ruled by 12 Greek Gods and Goddesses called the Olympians, the most important God being Zeus, who is said to have lived in the biggest palace on Mount Olympus after overthrowing his father. The palace allowed panoramic views of the world, granting the Gods vision to see events unfolding on Earth.  According to ancient stories the mountain was created after the epic battle between the young Gods, the Olympians and the older Gods, as the victors of this war, the Olympians created their home on the mountain shrouded from human eyes, by the clouds which obscured its peaks. 

All 12 Olympian Gods resided at Mount Olympus: Zeus – God of sky and thunder and his wife Hera – Goddess of marriage, women and family, alongside Athena, Poseidon, Artemis, Apollo, Demeter, Hester, Aphrodite, Hermes, Hephaestus and Ares. They ruled Olympus until the 100 headed fire breathing dragon Typhon attacked, where all but three Gods fled. Eventually Zeus defeated the monster and banished him to Tartarus. 

We ride around the mighty Mount Olympus on the afternoon of day 8, though you will start to see it in the morning due to the sheer vastness of it – the mountain has a circumference of 150 kilometres (93 mi), an average diameter of 26 kilometres (16 mi), and covers an area of over 500 square kilometres (190 sq mi). The ancient legends of Zeus hurling lightning bolts from the summit is understandable, as the central peak is often wrapped in violent thunder-storms during the spring and on summer evenings. The pass that winds it way around the mountain is simply stunning with twisty roads and epic scenery. On last year’s tour it was unanimously voted as the best riding day across the whole trip. 

Suspended monasteries at Meteora 

The otherworldly rock formations that rise up to 550 metres from the plains of Thessaly in central Greece are unmissable. Adorned with Byzantine monasteries a landscape of enormous sandstone rock columns reach for the heavens in an astounding spectacle of exquisite beauty. The ethereal – almost alien phenomenons that tower above the Earth were regarded as the perfect place to achieve absolute isolation, peace and harmony in man’s everlasting desire for spiritual ascension and connection to the divine. 

Meteora, which literally translates to ‘suspended in the air’, was originally settled by 11th century monks, who occupied the local caves. By the end of the fourteenth century the Byzantine Empire’s reign over northern Greece became increasingly threatened by the Turkish, seeking control over the fertile plains of Thessaly. The monks, with the rising number of attacks on Greece found the inaccessible and completely vertical faces of the Meteora to be an ideal refuge and began building their monasteries as high as God would allow. They painstakingly hauled everything from people to building supplies to the top using only baskets and pulley systems, living in hollows in the rock towers – some of which rise 1800 feet above the ground. There were no roads, pathways or steps until the 1920’s, nearly 400 years later. Of the original 24, only six of these monasteries remain. Four of those six are still in use today housing fewer than 10 individuals. The monks who separated themselves from this world on the plain between heaven and Earth succeeded in a task that was near impossible, a task that would not have been possible without faith and are today the living history of Byzantium.

Magellan has a rest day, where if you’re up for a lot of steps and walking you can visit these amazing buildings perched precariously on the thick columns. On the ride down to the hotel on last year’s tour, it became very clear just how huge the Meteora is and the thunder storms that intermittently roared above the landscape can only be described as biblical. Only in the land of Gods would you see something so dramatic and spectacular. 

The Corinth Canal

The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. With a width of 23 metres it spears a narrow passage through Corinth and separates the Peloponnese peninsula from the Greek mainland, making it an island. Cut through solid rock, the canal is over 6km long, its vertical limestone walls rising 90 metres above the turquoise water. 

The canal, though built in the late 19th century, had been a 2,000 year old dream that started with Periander, the tyrant of Corinth and one of the ‘Seven Sages of Greece’. The project turned out to be too complicated given the limited capabilities of the 6th century BC and when it came round to Macedonian King Dimitrios Poliokitis, circa 300 BC, he was warned that if a connection between the seas were made, the Adriatic would flood the Aegean. This would also stop Julius Caesar and Emperors Hadrian and Caligula. When Nero threw his hat into the ring in 67 AD he had 6,000 slaves who would attempt the construction, however, he was murdered before the plans were finalized. Fast forward to the 19th century,1830 to be precise, and the newly appointed governor of Greece, Kapodistrias was the first to consider the canal after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This time it would be money that would stop proceedings. Coming in at a steep 40 million French Francs, the project was far too expensive for the newly established state. In 1869 Parliament authorized the use of a private company to build the canal headed by Austrian Etienne Tyrr, but when work began in 1882 the company’s budget was insufficient. Once again the project was closed. Restarting in 1890 the Corinth Canal was finally completed and used for the first time on October 28 1893. 

On day 11 of our epic journey we have lunch close to the canal, where you can take a short stroll to the main bridge for spectacular views of the imposing cutting and vivid turquoise waters below. The bridge is a famous site for bungee jumping, seeing brave souls jumping 90 metres down into the canal trench but fear not, an extra slice of cake is as crazy as it gets for lunch time activities at Magellan. But, spectating is always fun! 

Ancient Olympia

Sprawled amid low, wooded countryside at the junction of the Alpheios and Kladeos rivers, the birthplace for an institution that would eventually become an international sporting event sits in ruins as one of Greece’s most influential ancient sanctuaries. Here, in this corner of the Peloponnese peninsula, an event in which the whole Greek speaking world took part, started in 776 BC. The site at Olympia was primarily a shrine dedicated to Zeus, and while his impressive gold and ivory statue centrepiece – once considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world no longer stands, the remnants of the games held in his honour are still spectacularly spread for the modern world to marvel at. 

Held every four years, the Olympic games were more than just athletic competitions. They took precedence over anything else occuring at the same time, even wars, with an Olympic Truce enforced and any hostilities between city states suspended. Over 1200 years from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD, the site was constantly developed until invading tribes in 267 AD led to the site being fortified and material robbed from its monuments. Despite the destruction, the Olympics continued to be held here until the last Olympiad in 393 AD, after which the Emperor Theodosius implemented a ban and the games were ceased.  

Olympia is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece and has dozens of remains including temples built for worship and sporting events, with a museum that holds collections of priceless artefacts. The ancient stadium where the most important competitions took place, sees you pass under the archway where the most high profile people in Greece rubbed shoulders with one another to watch their heros compete. To the south lies the hippodrome used for chariot races and in the museum the greatest marble sculptures of all time are exhibited in all of their glory. 

In August of 2004 the Olympic Games came home when Athens hosted the modern competition. The stadium in Olympia witnessed the ancient sport of shot put, where some 1,611 years after the last games took place, men and women from all over the world competed amongst the ruins that shaped a sporting event so important, it has stood the test of time and lives on today as one of the most championed festivals in our civilisation. 

Magellan has a day off the bikes to explore ancient Olympia where a full day of sightseeing is on the cards, just remember to take lots of sun cream and water! 

Come and explore Greece with us on one of our most cultural and historically rich tours to date.  For a detailed daily itinerary head on over to the tour page or just call one of our office team members who are always on hand to answer any and all questions. 

Testimonials –

‘Greece by motorcycle feels like an achievement more than anything else, the landscapes are among some of the most beautiful I will ever see in my lifetime and the people you meet couldn’t be more welcoming. Speaking with the locals is something you will do every time you stop, they are blown away at how far you have ridden and make you feel like a gold medallist. It took me a few days after the trip for everything to sink in. Truly spectacular’ – Andy.  

‘They say that Greece is the most mountainous country in Europe and fortunately for us, that is spot on! Many trips offer cultural days out in some form or another, but none I have ever been on come anywhere near to Greece and its ancient sites, sensational in every respect. Thanks Magellan for one of the most incredible tours I have done to date.’ David. 

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