The Best Hiking Trails in Greece

Explore the best hiking trails in Greece
Explore the best hiking trails in Greece | © Gareth McCormack / Alamy Stock Photo
Ethel Dilouambaka

With much of its area covered in hills and mountains, Greece is a hiking and trekking paradise. Even the smaller islands have scenic trails that will help you to discover fresh new perspectives. If you want to find out where to hike on your next trip, we’ve put together a list of some of the best trails in this beautiful Mediterranean country.

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The Menalon Trail

At 75km (47mi) long, the Menalon Trail is a mountain hiking path that runs through Gortynia, in Arcadia, at the heart of the Peloponnese region. With a diverse landscape of rugged mountains, canyons and verdant valleys, the trail passes through picturesque villages such as Nymfasia, Elati and Dimitsana, and includes eight sections varying in difficulty, level and length, all of which are worth exploring.

The Viros Gorge

The Peloponnese region also offers a much-loved hiking experience in the Viros Gorge, which begins at the Taygetus summit and takes you all the way to Kardamili Bay. As the trails are quite rough, without many markings, you’re advised to trek only as far as the Viros river springs; any farther and the way ahead becomes much more of a headache. Begin your day in old Kardamili and strike out, following the riverbed into the gorge. Make sure you take a breather at the remarkable monastery of Lykaki, with frescoes dating from 1783. The hike on to the springs takes about 2.5 hours, and along the way you will see caves and cliffs, smell the resinous pines and oleanders and you may even hear owls.

Mount Athos

On the easternmost point of the Halkidiki peninsula lies the mountainous area of Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain (Agio Oros in Greek); this monastic state is home to 20 secluded but imposing monasteries, the earliest founded in the 10th century. Celebrated for its stark cypress-clad beauty, the sacred mountain is a dream for hiking aficionados, liberally laced with paths of varying length and difficulty levels. Wild boar prowl the pines, oaks and cedars; snakes slither in the undergrowth. Note that this religious state does not allow women and young children to visit the Holy Mountain.

Samaria Gorge Trail

A Unesco Biosphere Reserve, the Samaria Gorge is a magnificent national park in southern Crete. The trail is 13 to 16km (8 to 10mi) long and allows you to explore the whole park while following the river. It is a very scenic path that passes through many beautiful Byzantine ruins and breathtaking nature; a few alternative routes are possible if you don’t feel like traversing the whole trail.

Pelion

Halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki rises the Pelion peninsula, a vivid smear of green loved by walkers. The old mule paths, or kalderimis, that once connected villages have been cleared and signposted, now serving as scenic hiking routes suitable for all fitness levels. Trails start from villages including Kala Nera, Milies and Tsagarada. In Greek mythology the area was home to the centaurs, who were half man and half horse; today, you are more likely to come across badgers, foxes and ferrets. The scenery, as you progress, is postcard-perfect, aromatic with thyme, sage and mountain tea, and sprinkled with old stone churches as well as the odd silent ruin.

Pindos/Vikos

Epirus is a humble region of mainland Greece that often gets overlooked, but it has some of the most scenic landscapes in the country. One of the highlights is the Vikos-Aoös National Park in Zagori, a region littered with traditional stone villages and swoon-inducing views of the Pindos mountains. Hiking in the Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world, makes for a memorable holiday, and you’ll be cooled by gentle breezes in summer while the rest of Greece roasts. Trails take you through woods, past silvery streams and into villages where locals drink coffee under the plane trees.

Corfu Trail

Established in 2001, the Corfu Trail, a 220km (137mi) walking route, meanders through the island’s untouched central landscapes, which are often forgotten as the coast demands ever more attention from holidaymakers. The scenery along the way is celestial, taking you among olive groves and rugged gorges and coming down to the occasional cove. Before you pull on your hiking boots, make sure you’ve got a copy of the official guide book, The Companion Guide to the Corfu Trail, which is available as a PDF file and gets you insider access to the secret corners of this very special Greek isle.

Mount Olympus

The highest peak in the country, Mount Olympus, is hiking heaven. Mythology holds that its peaks (52 in total) were the seat of Zeus, the god of gods. Home to diverse flora and birds including wildflowers, black pine, jackals and golden eagles, it opened in 1938 as Greece’s first national park. Today, with an extensive network of trails – more than 257km (160mi) in all – Mount Olympus is a magnificent area to explore, with more glorious views unfolding at every turn.

Skopos trail, Zakynthos

This 14km (9mi) trail starts in the quiet, pretty resort town of Kalamaki, where loggerhead sea turtles nest in its long, powdered cinnamon stretch of sand. From here it winds uphill through herby scrub to the top of Mount Skopos. There’s a steep incline for most of the way and little shade, so take plenty of water to make sure you stay hydrated. Reaching the top brings rich rewards: sweeping views along the coastline in both directions and the picturesque ruins of a Byzantine church and the abandoned monastery of Panagia Skopiotissa.

Seven Villages trail, Naxos

This is one of Greece’s most romantic walking trails, following centuries-old paths through villages, olive groves and vineyards. Starting and ending in the village of Kourounochori, the trail meanders for around 12km (7mi) along ancient ways lined with dry stone walls, paved in places with worn-smooth slabs of Greek marble. You’ll tick off the sleepy, remote villages of Mili, Potamia (made up of Ano, Mesi and Kato), Kalamitsia and Melanes – be sure to stop and take in the eerily time-eroded kouros statues, lying on their backs where they fell in around 600BC.

The Old Strata Route, Amorgos

This 20km (12mi) route is the longest – and also one of the oldest – on the Cycladic island of Amorgos, covering almost half its length. Running along the rock backbone, it follows an ancient trading route that connects the villages of Chora and Aegiali, passing via the extraordinary Hozoviotissa monastery along the way. Like the bow of a giant cruise ship emerging from the red cliffside, this whitewashed structure, with its impenetrably high walls and tiny windows, is the most picturesque place to stop for a good long slug of water, looking out over the glittering blue sea far below.

Mount Hymettus, Athens

Some 20 minutes from downtown Athens, Mount Hymettus (or Ymittos), is a pine forest-clad peak with some of the best views of the Greek capital you’ll find anywhere. The first stop on this two-hour hike is at the beautifully preserved Kaisariani Monastery, a Byzantine gem with original frescoes and cool marble floors. From here, follow the tree-shaded path uphill past crumbling Christian churches, cave-like chapels and refreshment stands selling coffee and cold beer.

Lefka Ori Mountain Walk, Crete

This demanding eight-hour hike is tougher than your average ramble, requiring a high level of fitness and a taste for adventure. It traces a circle around Crete’s White Mountains, named for their perennially snow-capped appearance caused by precipitation in the winter and chalky white limestone in the summer. And it delivers jaw-dropping views of cloud-kissing peaks, a moon-like high desert landscape and thrilling, heart-pumping climbs and descents. Bring a pair of good-quality walking boots, as the terrain is untamed.

Kali Limni Hike, Karpathos

The highest peak in the Dodecanese Islands, Kali Limni towers high into the sky, usually wearing a cap of cloud. But on a clear day, the 360-degree views from the top are more than worth the two-hour hike up. While not technically challenging, it’s uphill all the way, and you’ll clamber over rocks, scrabbling along stony paths, so you’ll need a decent level of fitness – or you could just to take it slow. There is a little shaded cafe at the base of the hiking path, selling cold drinks and home-distilled raki.

The Kalymnos Trail, Kalymnos

This epic, 100km (62mi) trail takes around 10 days to complete in full, and traverses some seriously rugged terrain. Connecting a network of ancient shepherds’ paths with modern walking trails, it winds round the entire island, taking in mountain tops and monasteries, cliffs and castles, beaches and Byzantine ruins. That said, you don’t need to do the full route to get a taste of what it offers – there are easier sections that follow established paths. These head through limestone valleys running with glassy-clear streams, crumbling stone villages and ancient olive groves. Pick up a guide book in one of the island’s shops and select your path.

Alex Allen contributed additional reporting to this article.

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