Think of hiking in Greece and you probably think of coastlines, glimmering turquoise water and picture-perfect beaches. Well, either that, or an elaborate, confusing labyrinth designed by the legendary artificer Daedalus built to hold a Minotaur. The best hiking in Greece is more than just beautiful scenery. It mixes the local mythology and culture with the stunning nature around the nation.
There's no doubt that Greece is best known for beautiful coastlines and ancient mythology (although great pastries, and smashing plates also spring to mind). But look beyond all that and you’ll find Greece also has a whole lot of hiking.
Specifically, you'll find inland mountain ranges almost tailor-made for hiking, and of the most beautiful mountains, valleys, forests and gorges in Europe.
So, where to start? If you’re looking for the best hiking in Greece, then you need to look far and wide, from Mount Olympus to the islands. Consider the below less of a factual list of the 'best hikes in Greece' and more of a cracking way to find out what’s on offer - the perfect place to start the search for your dream hike in Greece.
1. Climb Mount Olympus (2918m)
Mount Olympus: The History
The famous Ancient Greek Gods – Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Apollo, Dionysus and more – were all said to live at the top of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in all of Greece. Pretty cool, right? Not every mountain top can claim to be the Throne of Zeus, but Olympus is indeed the Home of the Gods. And of great hiking.
The place is dripping in folklore, and culture – arguably more so than any other mountain on Earth.
Originally, whenever Greeks would settle, the largest local mountain in the local area would be named ‘Olympus’, and would be thought to be the Home of the Gods, but as it emerged that this particular 'Olympus' was the tallest, it became agreed it was the true seat of the gods. The place is dripping in folklore, and culture – arguably more so than any other mountain on Earth. It’s at the centre of so much of the mythology from Ancient Greece that is famous around the world.
Mount Olympus: The Climb
The hike up Mount Olympus, which is 2918m high, is typically done in two days. All in all, it’s not a technical climb, but getting to the peak can be tricky (hence why only the Gods lived up there back in the day). The final section of the climb takes you from the summit of Skala Peak at 2882m to the peak of Mytikas at 2918m, and is a grade III rock scramble. The climb starts from the town of Litochoro and also includes a stay at one of the mountain refuges, such as the small and cosy Kakkalos Refuge, along the way, around the 2700m mark.
The views are mesmeric – ranging from the rocky summit of all of Greece to views of Plateau of Muses and the lush green forest. There’s no doubt this is one of the best hikes in Greece.
2. Hike the 75km Menalon Trail
The Menalon Trail is a long-distance hiking route which runs from between Stemnitsa and Lagkadia, two mountain villages in Arcadia, on the Peloponnese peninsula, in the very south of Greece. It’s a route which is a lot more off the beaten track than a lot of hiking in Greece, and the 75km route is not only mountainous but also full of valleys, canyons, huge natural plateaus and bare peaks. It’s really a thing of beauty. Just check out Stemnitsa above. You’ll pass the rivers Landos and Lousios, and a high percentage of fir forests and high shrub forests. Keep your eyes on watch for foxes, weasels, hedgehogs, bats, shrews and even jackals and wild boars. If you’re lucky you might even see a few turtles.
This was the first trail in Greece certified by the ERA (European Ramblers Association) and shows off a lesser known part of Greece, and all sorts of flora and fauna. Check out the Menalon Trail official website for a great day-by-day breakdown of the eight-stage route.
3. Follow the Footsteps of Brown Bears in the Pindos Mountains
Where do brown bears live? The first answers likely to spring to mind are the likes of Canada and Alaska. Of course, you’d be right, but a lot fewer people know that there is actually a thriving brown bear population in Greece as well – in the northern Pindos Mountains, which border Albania. There are over 450 brown bears in Greece.
We recently did a full feature with conservation experts Callisto on how hiking is helping brown bears in northern Greece, but long story short, by pairing up with Callisto, you can hike through the dense, beautiful forests of the Pindos Mountains, following the footsteps of brown bears and helping with vital conservation work. Hiking? Check. Helping? Check.
“The Pindos range is a stretch of high mountains and deep valleys and canyons,” brown bear expert Dr. Yorgos Mertzanis told us for our feature on Greek hiking. “It’s very rugged terrain. [Hiking here] is about discovering landscapes most people don’t imagine exist in Greece. About connecting with nature and forest in a Mediterranean country where the cliched picture is completely different.”
If that’s not enough for you, visiting the Pindos Mountains also means the chance to hike the Vikos Gorge – one of the deepest gorges in the world. Remember that nice image from the top of the article? That was the Vikos Gorge. Wow. Anyway, if you like gorges, you’re in luck. Greece is the place to be. There’s going to be a lot about gorges from here on out in this article.
4. Trek the Samaria Gorge on Crete
As you would probably guess, not all of the best hikes in Greece are on the mainland. The islands are also an adventure paradise. We run a kayak and wild camping trip on some of the most remote islands of Greece, but as far as hiking in Greece goes, it’s tough to look past the historic island of Crete. The history of Crete is incredibly rich. It was actually the centre of Europe’s first advanced civilization, the Minoans, from 2700-1420 BC. The Diktaean Cave at Mount Dikti on Crete was also said to be the birthplace of the god Zeus. The labyrinth which kept the minotaur was also said to be on Crete.
A lot of people might think of it as a setting for sit, soak and sun holidays only, but Crete is actually incredibly mountainous too – and the hiking on Crete is some of the best hiking in Greece. We’d recommend exploring more of the terrain if you’re interested, but a great place to start on Crete is with the Samaria Gorge, one of the most beautiful trekking spots in Europe.
Walking from the top of the gorge to the bottom can take anything from 5-7 hours from Omalos, finishing at Agia Roumeli beach, and taking in the almost 15km gorge. At the ‘Sideroportes’, or ‘Iron Gates’, the path narrows to a few metres and the gorge walls rise 500m high. It’s a real humbling feeling strolling through it. You might even see one of the rare Cretan ibex that live there as you walk. The only issue with the Samaria Gorge are the crowds – it can get real busy in the summer, so it’s good to get going as early as you possibly can.
5. Hike the Vyros Gorge and Mt Taygetos
Another hike, another gorge. Greece has a lot of them, and the Vyros Gorge is one of the most beautiful. It’s the sort of place that’s so beautiful it’s probably one of those automatic desktop backgrounds that appear on Microsoft laptops when you’ve left to go and make up a cup of tea for ten minutes. Found in the in the ‘Outer Mani’ region of the Peloponnese in southern Greece, it became a national park in 1973 and is full of rocky slopes, rare flowers and cut by the Voidomatis River. It’s considered to have the clearest waters in all of Europe, and runs for a distance of 12km.
Combine a trip through Vyros Gorge with a hike up Mt Taygetos, the range pictured above, and you’ll find yourself staying in mountain refuges, watch the sunrise over Greece and the Mediterranean Sea from 2,404m, scramble into the mouth of a remarkable gorge which you’ll then travel through, and visit and stop off at cute Greek towns along the way.