Although famous for its incredible beaches, Greece’s mesmerizing landscape also includes a number of imposing mountains that make for the best setting for a hike. If you’re a lover of hiking and a fitness fanatic, it is your time to shine as here we will present to you the definite guide for hiking in Greece including the best hiking trails, that will give you the opportunity to appreciate the Greek landscape from up close!
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Lycabettus Hill, Athens
Lycabettus hill overview at dusk - credits: milangonda/Depositphotos.com
Lycabettus is a hill of Athens and the second tallest point in the Athenian basin, with its top extending 277 meters above sea level. The hiking trails on the hill can be found all across its premises and are easily accessible to anyone in the mood for some physical exercise. Stretching all over the hill, there is a pine forest with very special and particularly rich in low vegetation varieties.
Whether you’re visiting at the crack of dawn, in the afternoon with the sunrays playing through the foliage of the trees or at night when the city lights seem to sparkle, a hike up Lycabettus Hill is nothing short of a magical experience. However, in my opinion, nothing compares to the feeling of climbing the lacy, cobbled path to the chapel of St. George at the top, during sunset. The reason why is simple: looking at the sky at this time, will give you the opportunity to watch the colors of the west fall on the Acropolis, the architectural wonder that has been standing there for thousands of years, reminding us the excellence of ancient beauty. After descending from the church of St. George, the path to the east of the hill usually passes around and above the Lycabettus Theater. Another striking element of the hill is its quietness, which is rather surprising if one considers its location right in the heart of Athens. The noise of the bustling neighborhood of Kolonaki disappears as your feet hit the trail. The same is true for the city itself, as it looks much more peaceful from above. Lycabettus has many hiking trails one can choose from depending on what their after, from the Lycabettus Trail Run -about 4 Km, +200 meters positive altitude- to the Hilltop Trail that follows the perimeter of the curb of the hill -2.7 Km, with only +55 meters of positive altitude. The difficulty is, of course, the constant uphill and downhill alternations, but I guess that if hiking is your hobby, you’ll be up for the challenge. The range of terrain is also a hurdle, as one can find from smooth dirt to very uneven ground, full of roots and stones. If you’re planning a hike either alone, with your partner, or with your dog, make sure to stop at the water springs found on on the hill, sip some water, take in your surroundings and enjoy this rejuvenating experience to the fullest!.
The Menalon Trail
Menalon Trail - credits: yiannisscheidt/Shutterstock.com
One of the most popular choices for lovers of hiking in Greece: The mountain of Menalon in the Peloponnese extends from Levidi, Vitina, and Tripoli to Dimitsana and Stemnista with its second-highest peak being Gelati, at an altitude of 1,868 meters. During your visit to the mountain, you can find, among other fauna, foxes, reptiles and boars. Most of Menalo is covered by firs, however low vegetation is also prominent in several areas, while plane trees offer company to Menalon’s many rivers, streams, and springs.
The most appealing for adventurous hikers are the routes that start from Vytina and reach Nymfasia, Alonistaina, Pyrgaki, and Elati. Similarly, the route from Karkalos to Zigovitsi and Stemnitsa is excellent, as well as many others, from every village of Menalo. Famous among hiking fanatics the Menalon Trail is a 75-kilometers-long mountain hiking path that goes through, the heart of the Peloponnese. The beauty of the trail lies in the diversity of the land one comes across when hiking it; from imposing mountains and steep canyons to luscious valleys, and picturesque villages, such as Nymfasia, Elati, and Dimitsana, the landscape is impressive and inspiring at the very least. The Menalon Trail consists of eight parts of varying difficulty both in regard to level and length. It was designed and completed in 2015 and it has been approved by the European Hiking Confederation. Regardless of the route you choose to go for, it is a given that hiking across the Menalon Trail will be a rewarding experience!
Samaria Gorge Trail: The most popular hiking trail in Greece
Samaria Gorge - credits: Panos_Karas/Depositphotos.com
One of the most sought after hiking trails in the world, the Samaria Gorge Trail is difficult, long and absolutely breathtaking. Samaria Gorge is the second largest tourist attraction in Crete after the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the most popular tourist route. The famous gorge has taken its name from the little Byzantine church that stands in its center since 1379 called ‘Saint Mary’. The abbreviation of the name resulted in ‘Samaria’ and named not only the gorge itself but the village located nearby and now lies abandoned by its residents.
Over 250,000 people cross the gorge each year from May to October, however, during winter, the gorge remains closed to visitors due to the unfavorable weather conditions. Samaria Gorge is in fact, Europe's largest in length. It is a park of unparalleled natural beauty with rare flora and fauna surviving in the area, which is why it has been declared a protected region. The mountains that form the gorge are wild, high and steep. Hikers pass through forests of ancient cypresses and pines and descend between vertical cliffs. The trail starts from Xyloskalo in the White Mountains -that reaches a height of 1230m- and ends at the village of Agia Roumeli in the southern region of Chania. An average of 6-7 hours is required from one and to the other, which is approximately 18 kilometers long. In order to enter the gorge, you’ll need to buy a ticket at the entrance of the park that stretches across 48,500, has earned the title of ‘National Park’, and has joined the ‘World Network of Biosphere Reserves’ by UNESCO. On the premises of the natural park, you can find more a number of animal species exclusive to the region, such as the Kri-Kri wild goat, along with over 450 species of flora.
It is argued that Samaria gorge, with its extraordinary formations, was formed around 14 million years ago. Today, the widest part of the gorge is about 150 meters wide, the narrowest part comes up to only 3 meters wide, and the highest rock is around 600 meters high. To avoid the large crowds that flood the gorge during the summer, take the unconventional route and start your hike in the middle of the day, unlike most visitors that start at around 8.00 am. This way, you will reach Agia Roumeli in the afternoon; you can stay overnight in Agia Roumeli and enjoy the stunning beach the next day before your departure.
Please beware: the Samaria Gorge is not a leisurely stroll. The 18km trail may be well maintained, however, depending on your skill and experience, there is a fat chance that it will wear you out. Make sure to wear your most comfortable and lightweight outfit, lather yourself up with sunscreen, bring a hat and sunglasses and give it a go; it is worth every drop pf your sweat!
Imbros Gorge - credits: KVN1777/Shutterstock.com
Another hiking trail found in the largest Greek island, Crete, is Imbros Gorge. It lies near the region of Imbros, from which it was named, and is known among hikers for its striking views and accessibility that makes it ideal for hikers of all skill levels. Imbros Gorge is located in the southwestern part of Crete, in the prefecture of Chania and specifically in the municipality of Sfakia. It crosses the island vertically parallel to the aforementioned Samaria Gorge. It is not too long and approximately 8.5 kilometers of a total of 11 are easily accessible even for a leisurely walk. The entrance of the gorge of Imbros gorge is at the village of Imbros at around 780m above sea level, while its end reached the village of Komitades. The hiking trail of Imbros Gorge -in total contrast to the hiking trail of Samaria Gorge- is relatively easy, and therefore also suitable for children. Due to the low skill level required for hiking across the trail, it is visited by more than 50,000 people each year! The narrowest part of the trail is only 2 meters wide and the gorge remains open even during wintertime -unless, of course, the weather doesn’t allow for it to do so.
The first section of the trail goes through a forest of cypress, holly and maple trees. The slopes are covered by flora that gets increasingly sparse as the altitude drops. After more than an hour's journey, you will reach ‘mesofarago’, where a Venetian tern is kept. From there begins the rest of the hike to the exit. It is the most striking part of the route, with the walls of the gorge so close that they almost touch in many places. It may not be the most challenging of hiking trails but it is definitely one of the most relaxed and fun ones, while it offers the perfect opportunity to introduce your family to hiking!
Kardamyli bay - credits: Lev Levin/Shutterstock.com
Another extraordinary hiking trail can be found in the gorgeous region of Mani in the prefecture of Messinia. Right in the center of Mani, at the west front of Mount Taygetus, lies the imposing gorge of Viros, that stretches across no less than 19 km and reaches an imposing altitude of 1400 meters. Starting from the village of Agios Panteleimon and ending in the bay of Kardamyli, the trail passes through lusciously vegetated landscapes full of walnut, cedar, cypress, fir, and black pine trees that overlook the endless blue of the Aegean Sea.
Apart from an impressive hiking trail of striking beauty, Viros Gorge is a place of historical magnitude. The name ‘Vasiliki Odos’, which translates to ‘royal avenue’, used to be the road that starts from the village of Xerokambi and ends in Kardamyli, connecting ancient Sparta with the port of Kardamili. ‘Vasiliki Odos’was of great importance to Spartans during the Messinian wars, who had the solely the port of Kardamyli under their rule.
Today, Viros Gorges offers to its hikers a wide selection of routes they can choose from, with most of them offering the opportunity to witness the remnants of the various time periods the region has gone through. Please note that because the trails of Viros Gorge are not the easiest and lack a sufficient amount of markings to guide you through, you should probably go only as far as the Viros river springs, unless you’re ready for a daunting adventure. My favorite (and the most beginner-friendly) trail starts at Old Kardamili and goes along the river and into the gorge. If you opt for this trail, you’ll also come across the monastery of Lykaki, where you’ll be able to admire its frescoes that date back to 1783. The hike to the springs may take approximately 2.5 hours, but it is worth every second. Trust me on this one.
The Corfu Trail
The Corfu Trail - credits: Anja Goldstein/Shutterstock.com
We’ve already talked about the hiking potential of another Greek island, the large and in charge island of Crete, however, there there are more hiking treasures that lie in the middle of the Greek sea. Take Corfu, for example, and its wondrous natural setting that offers hikers and climbers a great opportunity for tireless exploration. Corfu’s landscape is undeniably fascinating to every visitor of the island that cares to dig into the island. The luscious flora and fauna, the numerous picturesque villages, and the diverse architecture are only some of the pleasures of hiking in Corfu.
To take full advantage of the optimum hiking conditions of the island, in 2001 the Corfu Trail was established, following the length of the island and covering a momentous distance of 220 km. The trail takes hikers away from Corfu’s tourist traps and into the hidden curves that remain sheltered from the common eye. Passing through parts of the coastline and the charming countryside, a hiker that decides to embark on a hiking adventure on the Corfu trail will leave no stone unturned in regard to not only the nature but also the culture and heritage of the island. From long beaches to olive groves and hilly grounds, the Corfu trail is an absolute treat to lovers of walking and hiking from all around the world. And if all that wasn’t enough, Corfu trail is pretty straightforward to follow too! It is marked with yellow signs with the letters ‘CT’ and an illustration of an arrow on them, while in between signs, there are a number of markings with yellow paint that ensure the hikers they’re on the right track. confirm the route. Since the most dramatic scenery and the biggest concentration of highlights are in the north of the island, the Corfu Trail takes walkers in a south to north direction.
Mount Olympus - credits: S-F/Shutterstock.com
I kept the best -at least the most dramatic one- for last! Mount Olympus may not be the easiest to conquer, but it is definitely the easiest to fall in love with. With its rich flora and exceptional fauna, visiting Olympus during your hiking in Greece is pure magic.
Being the highest mountain in the country, Olympus has been declared a National Park since 1938. As a result, the site has some rules that those who visit it must adhere to, such as the fact that traffic is allowed from sunrise to sunset and only on landscaped trails.
A leading figure in Greek Mythology and therefore extremely widespread amongst the Greeks since antiquity, Mount Olympus is easily the most popular mountain in Greece. It is located on the borders of Macedonia and Thessaly and is known worldwide for being home to the twelve Greek gods. Its highest peak, Mytikas, reaches an altitude of 2,918 meters and, according to legend, it used to be the meeting point of the gods who used to gather there and take important decisions regarding humankind.
If you’re up for a challenge, the first thing you should do when visiting Olympus is to climb Mytikas. Right below Mytikas, the very next place to see is Stefani, the place where according to Greek Mythology Zeus used to throw his thunders from. Of course, both of those hikes require excellent physical condition and years of hiking experience. If you’re not an experienced hiker and would much rather occupy yourself with much more mild activity, you can just enjoy the charming villages you can find on Olympus, such as the villages of Kalyvia, Pythios, Kokkinopilos, among others. Additionally, you can visit Litochoro and Dion.
Unsurprisingly, Mount Olympus's temperature drops to incredibly low, below zero numbers during winter. For this reason, the perfect time to visit Olympus is summer. If you want to climb to the very top, favorable weather is key!
So here you have it: the top hiking trails in Greece that will give you the opportunity to get close to the Greek nature and will satisfy all your fitness cravings. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, I’d suggest you give at least one of those trails -the easiest ones- a try; who know? You may leave Greece not only with a deep love for the country but with a new hobby as well!