Cycling From Athens To Istanbul

Breakfast spot outside of Lamia, Greece – Cyclon

The Trip

This blog post chronicles my trip from Athens Greece to Istanbul Turkey in July of 2021. The Total distance was 685 miles or 1100 kilometers.

Table Of Contents

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The Setup

Beautiful sunrise a couple miles outside of Thessaloniki, Greece

My Diet While On The Bike

While I would stop and have larger meals during my breaks, the picture represents most of what I ate while I was actually riding. While I was on the bicycle I tried to focus on intake of 3 things sugar, salt and water. During my breaks and during dinner I tried to focus on getting as much protein as possible along with some more complex carbohydrates, I was a huge fan of Dakos salads (Ντάκος) for vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

Diet while long distance cycling
  • The motion drinks are incredibly easy to find and as the day went on and it was harder for my stomach to handle real food I would rely more and more on these drinks. On longer distance days I’d probably drink 6 – 10 of these.
  • For the peanuts I always made sure these were salted, this gave me a lot of salt (as you lose a bunch during the hot days) and also a lot of fats.
  • In the mornings I would usually stop at a bakery to eat whatever sweet baked goods they had as well.
  • The fruit in this picture are dried apricots, very healthy obviously and easy to carry with you for hours but they are high in fiber so if you’re not used to a lot of fiber intake tread lightly.

My Routine For Cycling Days

For those interested in what my schedule looked like on cycling days, check it out!

  • 3am – Alarm goes off
  • 4 – 4:15am – bags packed, stretched out & on the road
  • 8 – 9am – 15 – 30 minute Stop for a coffee or Frappe (when you’re in Greece – those things are delicious)
  • 11am – Noon – 1 – 2 hour stop for lunch, and to get some work done
  • Noon – 2pm – back on the road (if it’s a longer day)
  • 3 – 4pm – 15 – 30 minute break to recuperate and relax before the final push (if it’s a longer day)
Some additional notes on my riding schedule

This was schedule was not followed everyday, I inevitably took many more breaks than this, for the bathroom, to get water or snacks, to refill my water bottles, to take pictures, etc. I also had a couple days where I only got in 4 hours of riding or so and was done by 8 – 9am. On my first day there was a point I thought I might die, haha one of the things I learned from that is the importance of breaks (see my road ramblings #2 video for details on this). As you can see from the article there weren’t too many days I had long rides back to back. I would usually take a day off after a longer ride.

It may look a bit crazy that I got up this early but my sleep schedule didn’t fully adjust for a bit so I took advantage of this and rode super early. I did this ride in July, so it was pretty common for the weather to be 33 degrees or more Celcius in the afternoon (90+ degrees Fahrenheit). Getting up early added on a bunch of extra miles I wouldn’t have been able to cover in the blistering sun. On longer days, I would be about 60 – 70% done with with the trip by 11am the second half of the day my pace tended to be quite a bit slower, I needed to stop more for water, etc.

Day 1 – Athens Greece – Amfikleia Greece

  • Distance – 154 Kilometers – 95 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Very Good
  • Size of Shoulder – 3.5/5 – Varied from place to place but generally I had plenty of room
  • Climbing – 3/5 – Probably about 30 miles in or so there is quite a bit of climbing until you get to Thebes, after that it’s not too bad
  • Scenery – 3/5 – There are definitely some pretty spots, but not the prettiest scenery in the world. That being said if you stop and check out any of the towns the architecture and ambiance is quite beautiful
Ramblings From The Road Day 1

Day 2 & 3 – Amfikleia, Greece

I got my butt kicked pretty hard on day 1, so decided to hang out here for a bit. Watch my video below for the details.

Traveling in Amfikleia Greece
Picture taken about a block from my hotel, super beautiful houses here
Ramblings From The Road Day 2
Pretty rough day yesterday, but I’m still alive in a beautiful hotel.

Day 4 – Amfikleia, Greece – Larissa, Greece

  • Distance – 159 Kilometers – 98 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Very Good
  • Size of Shoulder – 2.5/5 – Overall not nearly as much room as my first day
  • Climbing – 5/5 – This is the most climbing I had the whole trip, it made for some beautiful views! Even being from Colorado (a mountainous state in central US) this was a pretty good day of climbing.
  • Scenery – 4/5 – I liked the scenery on this section more than before. Lots of mountains and even a bay area that’s nice (see picture below). Lot’s of golden rolling hills once you get closer to Larissa, which is nice. Reminded me of the Sting song “fields of gold”….
Travel Lamia Greece
Sunrise right outside of Lamia, one of the prettiest sunrises this trip for sure
Road Ramblings #3
Thoughts around a mentality of defeat

Day 5 – Larissa, Greece – Platamon, Greece

  • Distance – 49 Kilometers – 30 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Very Good
  • Size of Shoulder – 2.5/5 – shoulder size varies, but not incredible – not a whole lot of traffic once you get on the frontage road of the highway though so not a huge deal
  • Climbing – 2/5 – Pretty minor climbing, nothing too crazy
  • Scenery – 4/5 – It actually gets quite green and lush, feels closer to a tropical place there at parts when you’re in the canyon. After that you have the ocean nearby which makes sunrises & sunsets prettier by default.
Cycling Across Greece - Larissa - Platamon
Road Ramblings #4
The minutia is where you find true discipline

Day 6 – Platamon, Greece – Thessaloniki, Greece

  • Distance – 110 Kilometers – 68 Miles please see my notes underneath the first Google Maps photo for details on this
  • Road Condition – 3/5 – There were lots of parts of this road that weren’t in incredible shape, definitely the worse road shape so far in Greece. That being said I only had to walk my bike for probably 50 feet the whole ride, and I honestly probably could’ve even rode through that section. It’s rideable for sure, just not as smooth as what I’ve become accustomed to here.
  • Size of Shoulder – 2/5 – Overall quite small, large parts of the trip the white line denoting the side of the road was the limit to the shoulder. Traffic has been friendly, and given plenty of space (until you get to Thessaloniki, pretty wild traffic there! Particularly be very careful at the busy round-abouts)
  • Climbing – 2.5/5 – Some climbing over the hills of the farms and such, but nothing too wild
  • Scenery – 3.5/5 – It was largely countrysides, personally these types of sprawling farms and old stone houses make me nostalgic of France. So for that reason I like it, but if you’re from Europe it will probably be pretty boring for you.
I had to break this trip into 2 sections in Google Maps for some reason
For the section marked in red I decided to ride on the Toll road, this may or may not have been illegal and I do not recommend it but wanted to be honest with you guys. It ended up saving me probably 2 – 3 hours.
Cycling Greece - Nea Malgara - Thessaloniki
Section 2
Cycling Through Greece - Katerini
Sunrise a couple miles outside of Katerini
Pretty cool cafe I stopped to work at for a bit in Kymina, they had 90’s rap playing the whole time 😎 here’s a link if you want to check them out.
In full disclosure their Wifi did not work while I was there so I had to use my hotspot

Day 7 – Hanging Out (In Reality Mostly Working) In Thessaloniki, Greece

Digital Nomad Hotel - Thessaloniki, Greece
One of my favorite hotels of the trip, Lazart
If you haven’t already, read my article about how I get find fast Wifi anywhere

Day 8 – Thessaloniki, Greece – Kavala, Greece

  • Distance – 163 Kilometers – 101 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Overall, the roads were in pretty awesome shape!
  • Size of Shoulder – 4/5 – There were short stints where it got a bit sketchy, but about 90% of the time there was plenty of room.
  • Climbing – 2/5 – Some climbing once you get closer to Kavala, but overall pretty chill
  • Scenery – 4/5 – Your along the coast for good portions toward the end, it reminded of the French Riviera a lot, a lot of small beach towns and people everywhere. I really wanted to stay in one of these smaller beach towns but the Wifi quality was too poor.
Cycling Through Greece -
Working As A Digital Nomad in Paralia Ofriniou, Greece
Picture from Paralia Ofriniou, there are a lot of really cool shaded spots like this all along the beach in this town. Great spot to relax for a bit.
Road Ramblings #5
Gratitude Bursts?

Day 9 – Drinking Wine In Kavala, Greece

A picture that captures this beautiful city quite well
Source : Cruisemapper
A local wine introduced to me by Lena (pictured here) one of the better white wines I had in Greece, Ovilos

Day 10 – Kavala, Greece – Xanthi, Greece

  • Distance – 53 Kilometers – 32 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Overall, the roads were in pretty awesome shape!
  • Size of Shoulder – 4/5 – There were short stints where it got a bit sketchy, but about 90% of the time there was plenty of room.
  • Climbing – 2/5 – Some climbing right out of Kavala, but overall pretty chill
  • Scenery – 3/5 – Lots of farmland, pretty cool but nothing too spectacular especially after all the time along the coast
Sunrise right outside of my hotel (that coincidentally had very fast Wifi) – Lucy Hotel
Cycling From Kavala, Greece To Xanthi Greece

Day 11 – Xanthi, Greece – Komotini, Greece

  • Distance – 56 Kilometers – 34 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Overall, the roads were in pretty good shape
  • Size of Shoulder – 4/5 – No complaints
  • Climbing – 1/5 – Flat, long straight roads
  • Scenery – 3.5/5 – Some farmland, and you also go through a national park on this route, which has a lot of marsh (I think?) and some massive pelicans, pretty cool area especially during the sunrise.
Cycling Through Greece -
Digital Nomad Cafe - , Greece
Really cool cafe I worked at in Komotini, Theatro Cafe Bar
There were plenty of people there, I just took the photo in between lunch and dinner rush 😂
Harnessing the placebo effect

Day 12 – Border Crossing – Komotini, Greece – Kesan, Turkey

  • Distance – 142 Kilometers – 88 Miles See notes about by route in the 2 map pictures below
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – Overall, the roads were in pretty good shape
  • Size of Shoulder – 3/5 – It varied quite a bit, sometimes there was plenty of room, sometimes there wasn’t
  • Climbing – 3/5 – A decent amount of climbing as you get out of Sapes and into Alexandroupoli and there are rolling hills with some small climbs from Ipsala to Kesan
  • Scenery – 3/5 – Not the most impressive scenery, although as you come out of the mountains into the coast by Alexandroupoli it has some cool scenery
Cycling From Athens To Istanbul - Crossing The Border
I had to split this up into 2 maps, this shows the first leg which I didn’t use any highways
Cycling From Athens To Istanbul - Crossing The Border
This is the second part which I did use highways. I’m not sure of the legality of this while in Greece, however when I got to the border I asked the Greek side if I could get through and he said yes that they allow cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles to cross through at this border crossing. On the Turkish side I saw many other cyclists on the highways and I passed and waved at plenty of police officers so I don’t believe there’s any issues there.
Cycling From Athens To Istanbul - Sunset outside of Kesan Turkey
Sunset outside of Kesan, Turkey
You can’t rely on motivation
Kimotini not Kimonos 😂 not sure how I messed that up

Day 13 – Rest Day In Kesan, Turkey

Not too much to say about this day, lot’s of sleeping, not my favorite town in the world.

Day 14 – Kesan, Turkey – Terkirdag, Turkey

  • Distance – 84 Kilometers – 52 Miles
  • Road Condition – 5/5 – The road was in great shape for pretty much all the ride
  • Size of Shoulder – 4.5/5 – Plenty of room on the shoulders
  • Climbing – 4/5 – A pretty good amount of climbing on the rolling hills, no mountains or massive climbs, but lots of climbs the whole ride.
  • Scenery – 4/5 – Lot’s of sunflower fields, which are pretty cool to see, even Turkish people pulled over on the side of the road to take pictures (see vide below for one of those fields).
Cycling From Athens To Istanbul - Kesan to Tekirdag
Emotional Rollercoasters are maybe better than no emotions 🤷

Day 15 – Terkirdag, Turkey – Istanbul, Turkey

  • Distance – 140 Kilometers – 87 Miles
  • Road Condition – 4/5 – For 70% of the ride or so the road was in good shape – See notes about by route below the map picture
  • Size of Shoulder – 3/5 – It varied quite a bit, sometimes there was plenty of room, sometimes there wasn’t – See notes about by route below the map picture / see notes about riding in Istanbul below the picture of the
  • Climbing – 3.5/5 – A pretty good amount of climbing on the rolling hills, no mountains or massive climbs, but lots of climbs the whole ride – on the way into Istanbul there is a huge hill that you can really cruise on, which is pretty fun.
  • Scenery – 4/5 – You’re along some pretty beautiful coast especially at the beginning
Some Notes On Biking In Istanbul

First off, you are a vistor on the road here. If you are used to having the right of way or for traffic to stop or slow down for you, you’re going to be out of luck here. In my experience you had to stay out of the cars ways and they weren’t going to change speeds or directions much for you. Along the major highways and roads there are frontage roads that run alongside them for slower and merging traffic, I would hop on those as soon as you can once in town, as some people will get angry at you if you don’t. There is also a bike path along the coast once you get closer to the Bosphorus. In my experience it was littered with people waking and taking up both lanes so I didn’t use it for long but it is a cool idea as it threads through parks along the coast.

Cycling From Athens To Istanbul - Tekirdag - Istanbul Turkey
My route is in the blue, but I would recommend the red route. The road conditions were incredible up until the split of the road right before Silvri, after that there were some pretty bad stretches of road. At these times the condition of the road was rideable but pretty poor and lots of time there were no shoulders really at all. I’d imagine that other road had much better conditions as it was a proper highway, and looking at it now it only adds 6 kilometers. Most of the pretty views along the coast are all before Silvri (in my opinion) so you’re really not missing much.
Cycling From Athens To Istanbul - Cycling in Is
Picture of the Ayasofya Camii an incredible mosque.
Maybe the worst thumbnail ever 😂 I intentionally left myself pretty decrepit for this one haha

Looking Back :: Thoughts & Learnings

I’m writing this on my flight back from Athens to the US. Since the bike ride, I’ve spent a week in Istanbul, gone to Santorini (here’s my Santorini guide) for a while and then partied with some new friends in Athens. My bike ride almost feels like a lifetime ago… This ended up being one of my favorite trips actually. The reason why it’s one of my favorite’s is because of the emotional & sort of spiritual learnings I’ve had on this trip.

The first day I rode my bicycle, I was trying to knock out way too many kilometers in the scorching sun and I likely ended up getting heat stroke. Anytime I inhaled I felt very nauseous, I was super light headed, I couldn’t even ride my bike the last 2 miles because it was too hard for my body to manage. I had to walk my bike and I must’ve stopped 4 or 5 times to sit underneath the shade and try to recuperate / take naps because my body just felt like it was shutting down. That day was intense, and honestly there was a thought at one point that I was going to die out there in the countryside. At the end these thoughts came racing in my head about who I am, about what a hypocrite I am, how overly competitive I am, etc. it was like a bad drug trip.

I nearly cried from these thoughts, but fortunately I was able to keep my mind together because if I would’ve gave in to those thoughts I would’ve ended up passing out on the ground out there physically and mentally broken. This day taught me a lot, the most important of which is how much my hyper-competitiveness hurts me and how often this hyper competitive program runs in my mind.

Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to be better than other people at the things I did, I didn’t care much about winning video games or stuff like that but sports or other competitions – I was all about it. In the last couple of years I would come up with these mental acrobatics to feel superior to every other person I met, whether I was in better physical shape, or drove a better car, or made more money, or lived a better lifestyle, etc. and now I don’t want to do this anymore. That day was intense enough for me to recognize this program, a program I had ran most of my life and never really noticed before.

In addition to this, I also have been much more emotionally raw this trip, when you’re riding a bicycle by yourself on the side of a road for hours on end you inevitably are much more vulnerable. You don’t have the doors and windows of a car to shelter you from your surroundings, and you don’t have the protection of a giant metal car. Your days are much longer, what would take a car a couple hours took me an entire day, it forces you to be more humble and more in touch with the world around you. I’ve felt emotions on this trip deeper than any emotions I have felt in years. I would be riding on the side of the rode and be nearly brought to tears by the love and appreciation I have of my friends and family.

The interesting part is this emotional vulnerability continued on even after the bike ride was over. I really invested my emotions and my humanity in the relationships I built with near strangers. For years now I had subconsciously viewed emotions of empathy & sadness as hinderances to my productivity.

If I’m sad or too compassionate all the time it’s more difficult for me to focus on building my business, or giving it the most in the gym, etc. And the pendulum has swung very far to the other side this trip, I’m almost too emotionally raw.

For instance, on one of my last days in Athens I had met up with some Ukranians and we hung out and drank mojitos at the beach all day. I really hit it off with one of them, and at the end of the day it was so hard for me to say goodbye to her, we hugged to say goodbye and after I wanted to hold her hand and stare into her eyes and never let go. We planned to meet up the following night and it didn’t work out and it really ate me alive. I shared so much with her that day. We never even kissed and I didn’t even care if we did. I wanted to be enveloped in this feeling of connection I had with her. Staring at her face and her small imperfections that made her so much more beautiful. Her small scattered freckles and the minor gap between her two front teeth.

I feel as though I’d love nothing more than to remind her everyday that those imperfections are not actually imperfections at all, they make her incredible and that she is incredible. Not because of all her accomplishments (which she definitely had plenty), or her physical beauty but because of her peculiarities and her resilience. I don’t feel comfortable telling her this because I just met her that day, my mind recognizes how outrageous it is to feel such intense emotions for someone I barely know.

For so long, relationships were always circumstantial, if you can benefit me than you’ll stay in my life and the moment you’re not benefiting me I have no remorse in letting you go. I was even proud of this. Now I’m having such difficulty saying goodbye to someone I met earlier that day. I felt this level of intensity for a number of friends I made this trip (obviously it manifested differently for most of the others haha) but the connections were so profound. I recognize how I can start managing my competitiveness, but I don’t know yet how to integrate this emotional intensity into my life. That being said,

I know what I’ve experienced this trip will never leave me the same.

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