Much Better Adventures

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Track Wild Bears and Hike in Northern Greece

Go bear tracking in Greece's Pindos mountains alongside local conservation experts and hike through the world's deepest gorge.

Location

Greece

Fly To

Thessaloniki Macedonia International Airport

Perfect for

Anyone with a love of the outdoors and a decent level of fitness, able to walk for around 4 hours

Difficulty

Easy

Why it's much better

  • Track wild bears in a rarely visited mountainous area of Greece
  • Be guided by professional conservationists and members of the 'Bear Emergency Team' project
  • Hike trails in the wilderness of an unspoilt and little-known corner of Europe
  • Explore remote bear territory and experience the conservation work done to protect wild bears in the region
  • Stay in local independent Greek guesthouses
  • Hike through the 'Greek Grand Canyon' Vikos Gorge
  • Chances to spot other large mammals such as wolf, European otter and red deer
  • Support conservation: this adventure includes a donation to a bear protection project conducted by a local conservation organisation

What's Included

  • Guides Two expert, English-speaking local guides from a conservation organisation
  • Accommodation 5 nights in local, independent Greek guesthouse
  • Meals All breakfasts and dinners included.
  • Transfers All airport transfers
  • Permits All national park permits and entry fees
  • Conservation The trip price includes a 50 euro per person donation to wildlife charity 'Callisto'
  • Happiness Guaranteed We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it
  • Feel Good Vibes We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Thessaloniki and transfer to Kastoria region

You'll meet your host at the airport and set off for a 2 hour drive towards the town of Kastoria, your base for the bear tracking adventures to come. You'll check in to the guesthouse and have a bit of downtime to gaze at the lake, before meeting up with the rest of the group and your guides for the trip. Your guides work for a local wildlife conservation organisation, so you'll be in the hands of proper experts.

If there's enough time in the afternoon, you'll take a short hike in a nearby area where bears are active.

In the evening you will have dinner with the rest of the group. Your guides will share some bear stories and give you the lowdown on the conservation work that is being done in the area by their charity.

You may want to hold back on the Ouzo this evening as you have an early start in the morning...

2 hours driving

Hiking distance: 5km - Elevation ascent/descent: 100m - Duration: 1.5 hours

Day 2: Bear tracking, wilderness hiking and Nymfaio bear sanctuary visit

So we mentioned an early start and usually that could mean you were off to catch the sunrise. Or do yoga or something. Both are perfectly fine ways to start a day. But early starts on this trip mean one thing and one thing only: bear tracking. You will head straight out, before breakfast, to an area where bears may be active at this time of day, foraging for their own breakfast. If you're lucky, you'll glimpse a wild bear going about its morning.

After your first taste of bear tracking, you'll head back to Kastoria for breakfast at the guesthouse.

No time to waste, after breakfast you'll head North to the great outdoors for a hike in a spectacular wilderness area. This is a section of the Pindos Mountains where your guides conduct regular field research. During the hike you'll learn about radio tracking methods, look for signs of bear activity, measure footprints and watch remote camera traps being set.

On your drive back to Kastoria, you'll stop off for a visit to the bear sanctuary at Nymfaio. Here you will definitely see bears, guaranteed, and up close! The bears here are captive but are kept in a huge fenced area of some 50,000 square metres. The sanctuary does really important work to give these orphaned wild bears and rescue bears a better life.

You'll have a chance to nip into the mountain village town of Nymfaio. Then it's time to head back to Kastoria for dinner at the guesthouse.

Hiking distance: 7km - Elevation ascent/descent: 200m - Duration: 3 hours

Day 3: Hiking the mountain trails of Gramos

You'll get bit of a lie-in today compared with yesterday's pre-breakfast bear tracking. After breakfast, you'll pack your day bag and get ready to leave for the spectacular Mount Gramos (2520m). After around an hour and a half's drive, you'll set out for the day's hike in the mountains.

This is a wild and beautiful area, with pine and beech forests nestled beneath the Pindos Mountain peaks. Four different rivers descend from the peaks into the forested valleys.

After the hike you'll head back to Kastoria for a well earnt rest. Later in the afternoon they'll be a chance to snatch a quick walk around the lake, before a classic Greek evening with dinner in a local Taverna.

Hiking distance: 7km - Elevation ascent/descent: 500m - Duration: 3 hours

Day 4: Bear tracking and wilderness hiking

An early start again today as you head out for more crack-of-dawn bear tracking. That's what we're here for, after all. Bears, bears, bears!

After a good breakfast back at the guesthouse, you'll head out again for another wilderness hike. You'll be hiking in a mountainous area where bears may be active: keep an eye out for paw tracks, droppings, hairs and scratch markings on trees.

Later, it's time to wave goodbye to Kastoria area and hop in the car for a drive to one of the most picturesque villages on the trip: Mikro Papigno. The village is right in the heart of Northern Pindos National Park. You'll have dinner in your new guesthouse at the end of a long day.

Hiking distance: 5km - Elevation ascent/descent: 100m - Duration: 2 hours

Day 5: Hike to Vikos Gorge

Today you will hike through the world's deepest gorge (relative to its width) at a place called Vikos, known as "Greece's Grand Canyon". After breakfast at the guesthouse, you'll set off fro Vikos on foot, straight from Mikro Papingo village.

A small trail takes you straight down to the bottom of the gorge itself. Peer up at the enormous sheer walls of the gorge as you go deeper and deeper, until you reach the Voidomatis river. This is your lunch spot. It's a pretty good one. Here you can wild swim and drink the water straight from the river.

After a proper lunch-with-a-view at the bottom of the gorge, you'll start the ascent back up towards Mikro Papingo village. The later afternoon is free time to explore nearby Zagori, an area of natural beauty made up of two national parks. Wander around the villages and don't forget to check out the connecting arch stone bridges.

You'll head back to the guesthouse at Mikro Papingo for one last Greek feast and a final evening to savour in this gorgeous part of the Pindos Mountains. Feel free to have an Ouzo or two tonight. You've earned it.

Hiking distance: 10km - Elevation ascent/descent: 800m - Duration: 4-5 hours

Day 6: Return to Thessaloniki

Your time in the mountains is winding down. You'll have a final breakfast at the guesthouse in Mikro Papingo before you pack up ready for the four hour drive back to Thessaloniki.

You'll be dropped off at the airport in time for your return flight, or at a hotel in Thessaloniki if you are staying on in Greece. We advise that, if you're flying from Thessaloniki on this day, you book a flight departing after 15:30.

4 hours driving

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

Accommodation

You'll stay in two small, independent and locally-owned traditional guesthouses in and around the Pindos mountains.

Accommodation is based on a twin room basis, same gender sharing. For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked from €120 per person (subject to availability). Please request this at the time of booking.

Kastoria

Your base for the first part of the trip is at Vissinokipos guesthouse just outside Kastoria, next to Lake Orestiada. Here you'll find traditional Greek hospitality in a peaceful and beautiful location, with balconies overlooking the mountains and lake. The views are almost as good as the homemade marmalade!

Mikro Papingo

You'll spend 2 nights at a beautiful Greek guesthouse called Dias, which sits right beneath the towering peaks of the Pindos mountains. A spectacular and very comfortable base for your hikes in this area.

*Note that exact accommodation is subject to change on the odd occasion if availability is an issue

Location

Your adventure will start and finish in the port city of Thessaloniki on the Aegean Sea. Thessaloniki and the nearby coastal areas of Greece make for a great add-on before or after your bear tracking and hiking adventure.

Your base will be in Kastoria, a small Greek city with a beautiful lakeside setting at the foot of the Pindos mountains. A great spot for a sundowner after days spent tracking bears!

The bear tracking and hikes will take place in the wider wilderness area of Kastoria and around the Gramos mountain region near the Albanian border. This is a heavily forested area of birch and pine set against a mountainous back drop, with sub-alpine meadows and clear rivers meandering through the valleys. It is one of the most beautiful and undiscovered trekking regions of Europe!

The final part of the trip takes you to Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world relative to its width, at up to 490 metres. The gorge is home to a varied ecosystem and is a site of scientific interest because of its almost pristine condition.

Meeting Point

Start Point

Thessaloniki Airport

You'll be met at the airport by your local host. They will be in touch before the trip to confirm your arrival time and let you know details about where to meet. You can also be picked up from your accommodation in Thessaloniki if you happen to arrive a day or two earlier.

Finish Point

Thessaloniki Airport

Your adventure ends back in Thessaloniki where your host will drop you off at the airport in time for your return flight, or in central Thessaloniki if you are staying on to lap up more of the Greek sunshine.

If you are flying from Thessaloniki on the last day of the trip, you need to book a flight that departs after 15:30.

Frequently Asked Questions

This trip runs with a group minimum of 5 and maximum of 14.

Yes, you'll definitely see bears on this trip. You will visit the bear sanctuary at Nymfaio where you are guaranteed to see bears up close. As for seeing wild bears, nature can never make any guarantees. You will spend a good amount of time in bear-country while being guided by true experts, so you have as a good a chance as anyone to see wild bears in this part of Europe.

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Travel to/from Thessaloniki
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Lunch each day
  • Drinks
  • Photography equipment

This trip is guided by professional conservationists from a Greek wildlife charity that we have partnered with, called Callisto. They do really important work in the Pindos Mountains to protect both the habitat and the bears themselves. European Brown Bears are on the Greek Red List of Endangered Species, and sadly without human assistance from trained conservationists their situation would undoubtedly worsen. The charity helps manage and improve the coexistence of bears and humans both living in the region. They do this by:

Installing networks of fences, signage and deterrents to protect the bears from traffic collisions on nearby roads.

Operating a project called the Bear Emergency Team which responds to bear & human collisions.

Monitoring the numbers and behaviour of bears and other large mammals in the Pindos mountains. This enables the charity to be directly involved in rural management of the region, preventing areas from being exploited for natural resources.

Educating local farmers and livestock breeders on environmental issues.

Educating children across Greece about the importance of forest protection and the threats the various species face in the Pindos Mountains.

Callisto fund all of this work through a combination of donations and, crucially, income from tourism. The group sizes of the trips are a maximum of 14, one group at a time, and the bears are never, ever baited for the purpose of luring them for tourists. The price of this trip includes a 50 Euros per person contribution to Callisto, this is in addition to money they earn operating the trip itself.

You'll need to have a decent level of general fitness for this trip, but it is a lighter hiking trip. The hikes are a maximum 4 hours long in the mountains, so as long as you are happy walking for a few hours you'll be just fine.

The hike at Vikos Gorge on the penultimate day of the trip is the most strenuous part of the adventure, with 4-5 hours of walking and approximately 500m of elevation descent and gain.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

You're in Greece, the food is incredible! You'll have traditional food at various points during the trip, including classic Greek evenings in local tavernas.

Vegans and Vegetarians can be catered for on this trip, just let your host know in advance.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

Bags

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack
  • Waterproof liner for daypack

Clothes

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals

Other

  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Binoculars
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellant
  • Suncream
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry out)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Reusable water bottle x1 ltr
  • Quickdry towel
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks

Our group adventures are adult only. However, if you would like to bring children along, this can be arranged by requesting a private trip with the host. This trip is suitable for children from age 12 only.

The water is perfectly safe to drink in each part of Greece that you will go to. You can even drink from certain rivers during the hikes. Do bring one or two reusable water bottles with you as you'll need to load on water before the bear tracking and hikes.

Many destinations require a visa and for your passport to be valid for 6 months minimum. Up to date advice for UK citizens can be found here.

You can expect a variety of weather conditions ranging from pleasantly warm to cold, so bring some layers. Expect mostly dry weather (especially June, July, August, September) but there may be an occasional rain shower. Late July and August can be quite hot with temperatures above 30 degrees at times.

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Dates & Prices

Bespoke trips only

There are currently no planned group departures. Please contact this host to request a quote for a custom trip.

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