Better-known for its pristine beaches and Instagrammable islands, Greece is also a superb hiking destination. Usually people head to places such as the Samaria Gorge on Crete, but there are wonderful hikes to be found on the mainland as well. No matter what your skill level is, be sure to try at least one of them on your Greece vacation.
You don’t need to head too far from Athens to experience nature and tranquility. Just a 50-minute drive outside the capital of Greece, fir and pine forests hide over 34 wild mammal species (including deer and boar) and 1,100 recorded plant species in Mount Parnitha National Park. Routes range from easy walks through the woods to hiking the mountain itself at an elevation of 4,600 feet.
You'll also see several monasteries inside the park and the fascinating abandoned Tatoi Royal Estate, where many locals come for the day to wander among the ruins and picnic.
Mount Parnassus and Delphi
Approximately two and a half hours from Athens by bus or car, you'll come to Mount Parnassus, famous for the archeological site of Delphi. Follow the footsteps of the ancient pilgrims as you trek the ancient ruins and admire uninterrupted views of the Corinth Gulf and distant Peloponnese. It’s not too steep, but wear hiking boots or sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water, particularly in the summer months.
The Pelion peninsula lies halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki, and is semi-famous for appearing in several beach scenes in “Mamma Mia." One of the best things to do is hike to the traditional mountain villages. Base yourself in Volos, the main town, if you want to be by the sea. Or, start out in one of the villages and follow the kalderimis (old mule paths) that connect one village to the next.
It’s best to do this over a period of a few days in order to see all of them. Expect to come across churches, monasteries, and ruins along the way. In the villages themselves, you'll find small squares, cafés, and women's cooperatives selling homemade jams and honey.
Arcadia, running through the heart of the Peloponnese, has a 47-mile mountain hiking path known as the Menalon Trail. With eight different sections ranging from easy to difficult, it connects several villages across the region. You’ll pass through valleys, mountains, and traditional stone villages around the slopes of Mountains Klinits and Menalon. Along the way, you’ll find several natural drinking fountains, traditional church squares with cafés, and stone bridges.
Vikos Aoos National Park
Near the Albanian border is Vikos Aoos National Park, nestled within the Pindos Mountain Range. On the southern slopes of the 8,200-foot Mount Tymfi, you can hike the Vikos Gorge—reputed to be the world's deepest gorge relative to its width by the "Guinness Book of Records." Between 390 and 1,600 feet deep, the gorge is surrounded by steep mountains and thick forests.
There’s a variety of wildlife here—deer, brown bears, wolves, and wild cats—plus over 1,700 species of plants. Hikes between the villages range from two to six hours. Base yourself 19 miles south in the regional town of Ioannina, home to many museums and medieval fortresses.
Leaving from Athens, a four- to five-hour car or train journey will bring you to Kalampaka. Based at the foot of the stunning Meteora pinnacles, the rock formations here formed over 60 million years ago by a series of quakes. On top several of them, you’ll find the 11th-century monasteries of Meteora. A UNESCO World Heritage site, six of the original 24 monasteries are still in operation. Trekking the region between these monasteries makes for spectacular views to write home about. It can take approximately four to five hours, with several local trekking companies offering tours.
For those planning to go inside any of the monasteries, women should take a shawl to wrap around their shoulders or legs; pants are not allowed, but wrap skirts are available to borrow on entry. No shorts for men, either—only pants.
Halkidiki is a peninsula in Macedonia, one hour from Thessaloniki. Traversing a mixture of woodland and paved pathways, olive groves and wetlands, there are several trails between the area’s villages. These can take up to five hours to hike.
The highlight of this region is the famous Mount Athos, home to 20 monasteries. Do note that the sacred mountain is only accessible to men, as religious reasons keep women and children from hiking it.
At an elevation of 9,570 feet, Olympus is the highest peak in Greece. Situated on the borders of the Macedonia and Thessaly regions, it has several trails through pine, beech, and fir forests that cover a total distance of 99 miles. All trails are well marked as this is a huge hiking destination in the country. You can stay in various "refuges" if you want to take your time and go on a two- or three-day trip. Fully staffed and offering rudimentary facilities, the stone houses come with several bunk beds and log fires.