Wednesday 31 October 2012

Cycling into Athens from Corinth and the Peloponnese

View 2xtandem - The Route So Far in a larger map

Distance cycled from Bridgwater, Somerset, England to Athens, Greece: 5,226 km
Time taken: Nearly six months, but time spent relaxing on the beach in Croatia and on Corfu
Number of punctures: Eight, all in the first few weeks before we upgraded the tyres to Schwalbe Marathon Dureme Tandem
Worst city approaches for cycling: Venice
Favourite cycling destinations: Greece (Peloponnese), France
State of backsides on arrival in Athens: Mike 9 (out of 10), Judy 7.

We hope the following will be of interest to other cyclists contemplating cycling into Athens from Corinth and the Peloponnese.

By Judy the Stoker/Navigator
We approached the ride from Corinth with trepidation, after reading accounts from one or two cyclists online who said it was dangerous and difficult with the traffic. With that in mind, we decided to break the journey so we could arrive in Athens late morning/early afternoon to avoid the worst of the traffic. We rode in on a Thursday, the 25 October 2012. In the event, we had no problems.

Judy standing on the old bridge across the Corinth Canal.
When ships want to get through, the bridge is lowered
beneath the water, rather than raised.
Here’s how the two days unfolded. We crossed the Corinth Canal at the bridge just north of Isthmia, on the Old National Road which hugs the coast for most of the way to Athens. The key phrase here is once crossing the bridge “go straight” as someone told us, through the towns of Agil Theodori, Kineta and Nea Peramos. Then turn right (hard right) as you approach the shipyards before Elefsina. You can’t miss the shipyards, they are a giant blot on the landscape but possibly quite interesting if you are into ships and engineering. The right turn goes downhill towards the yards.

All the way to this point the road was quiet during our ride – we could even take a pee on the side of the road without worrying about vehicles coming along. From the shipyards, the road takes you to Elefsina, where we stopped for the night at the Hotel Melissa (2 star, they have cheaper rooms in the old wing).

The old road is sandwiched between the motorway and the sea.
From Elefsina it’s around 25 km to the centre of Athens but the road changes from the standard 2-lane variety to what is at times, a six lane highway with a median strip. Part of this road has a shoulder, part doesn’t. The traffic moved fast, but we found enough room to keep out of trouble. It probably helped that we both wore hi-viz vests and flew a large flag off the back of the tandem. If you have a mirror, you may spot the truck’s wing mirror before it clips your ear. We also wore helmets.
On much of the Peloponnese and on the approaches to Athens, the number "7" or "G7" has been painted on walls.
It refers to Gate 7, and is a reference to the gate used by the Piraeus football team. They must have an awful lot of fans. 
.The good news is that it’s possible to turn off this busy highway about 8 km short of Athens centre.
Look out for a signposted monastery and a road leading off to the right as you cycle uphill. The road is called Iera Odos. Once onto it, it quickly has a dogleg and continues uphill for a short spell before you begin a long, steady descent into Athens. Iera Odos is a main suburban road with a fair bit of traffic but is pretty easy to negotiate.

We turned right off Iera Odos into Megalou Alexandrou which leads into Karaiskaki Square, where our hotel (the Katerina) was located.
To sum up: A pleasant cycle to Elefsina on the Old Highway which is sandwiched between the motorway and the sea. Good views in places, a bit grotty elsewhere. A bit hairy for about 12 km  between Elefsina and the Iera Odos turnoff, about half that stretch had a shoulder.

After that, plain cycling.
Stoker and Captain safely in Athens

1 comment:

  1. Thrilled you've had such a wonderful trip through Europe. Roll on SEA. Happy travels. xxx


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