More and more tourists are traveling to the Ionian coast and the Ionian islands (Lefkada, Kefalonia ...) are choosing the Niki border crossing (North Macedonian Medzitliya) instead of Evzoni (North Macedonian Gevgelija).
There are conflicting opinions as to whether this is a better or worse option, and we will give you some advantages and disadvantages.
The road across Evzoni to the Ionian coast is about 40km longer, but better, almost the entire its length is the highway, and it takes about an hour and thirty minutes faster than going across Niki.
As an advantage of driving through Niki we would like to give you a new experience and the opportunity to visit Ohrid and Bitola in North Macedonia and Edessa in Greece along the way and enjoy the beautiful and new parts of N. Macedonia and Greece.
The downside is that you drive through Macedonia from the highway exclusion to the border crossing of Medzitliya in North Macedonia, which is not so bad, but much slower than the highway. The regional route through Macedonia is about 2 hours if you respect the sign restrictions (this section is about 120km long).
According to the experience of many of our tourists, the Niki border crossing is not as crowded during the season as the Evzoni border crossing, so this crossing is often a way to avoid crowds on Evzoni. On entering Greece, you take the nice road that looks like a highway all the way to Kozani where you take the Kozani - Igumenica (Egnatia odos) highway and continue on.
If you decide to use the Niki crossing this year, after the third toll ramp in North Macedonia, you will have to turn for Prilep, which will take you 50km regionally in two lanes (one in return). There are also plains and passes in this section. Later, the route from Prilep to Bitola is slightly better and passes through the plain all the time.
Bitola is the administrative, university, economic, industrial and cultural center and the second largest city in North Macedonia. Bitola's history is one of the oldest in Europe.
In addition, Bitola is a very beautiful city, with long promenades, interesting architecture, a beautiful park in the city center. It is also a great place to spend the night on the way to the Ionian coast. You can find accommodation in hotels in the walking area. From Bitola to the border and the North Macedonian border crossing Medzitlija is about 20km.
Once you enter Greece you can reach the highway via Kozani or through one of Greece's most beautiful towns in Kastoria. It is located on the lake and is one of the options for lodging to the destination crane.
All in all, in our opinion, the better option for traveling to the Ionian coast is Evzoni, for the simple reason that the journey is shorter in just over an hour. The only reason we would possibly go over Bitola is because of the traffic jams of Evzoni, which are not usually found at the Niki border crossing.
However, we would always choose Niki for our return trip, mostly because of the on-the-go tours, so if you have a day or two available, be sure to take this route at least once on your return. A trip via Niki can be the most beautiful part of your trip.
Kastoria will delight you with its lake and mountains. Edessa, the city of water, is also a city that should not be bypassed. Impressive waterfalls, beautiful nature, interesting position, promenade, liveliness ...
We wrote about Edessa here.
And then in North Macedonia the beautiful Ohrid, the Galicica National Park, the spring of the Drim river that literally left us without text, the monastery of St. Naum, Prespa Lake, the town of Bitola... Depending on your organization, you can also visit these beautiful places on the way to the sea, but then usually everyone rushes to get there as soon as possible :)
We also stopped in Krusevo and visited the mausoleum of Tose Proeski (late famous Balkan singer), grave and monastery, which also left a strong impression on us.
Whichever route you choose, we wish you a happy journey!