Hiking in Greece is one of the most rewarding activities you could do on a European vacation. Between the mainland, with its ancient capital, Athens, and the many islands, Greece’s diverse landscapes offer beguiling views of archeological ruins, rolling vineyards, and the sparkling Ionian and Aegean seas.
With mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes, you will also get to enjoy some of Greece’s awe-inspiring nature on a hike. This lush country is dotted with more than 300 mountains, with the highest, Mount Olympus, recognized in Greek mythology as the home of the Gods, lying near the border with Macedonia.
From unsung coastal paths to mountain trails covering easy routes to strenuous treks, Greece has a walk for every level of fitness. Here are some of the best hikes in Greece to try.
Parnitha Mountain, Athens
Parnitha is the tallest mountain in Attica, peaking at over 4,500 feet. Less than a 90-minute drive from Athens, and with multiple routes, it’s the perfect hike to enjoy on a day trip from the capital.
You could walk or opt to bike sections of designated trails. Climbing is popular, too, and there’s also a cable car that goes to the summit.
Some 30 species of animals live in the pine-clad forests that carpet Parnitha Mountain. The most common are deer, rabbit, and fox that wander freely among the 800-odd types of herbs and plants that grow here. Listen out for the birdsong of some of the 120 bird species in this designated national park, too.
Parnitha Mountain, one of the best mountains in Greece, is dotted with many beautiful churches and monasteries, including Aghia Triada, Kleiston Monastery, and Agios Kyprianos Monastery, which conveniently punctuate some of the area’s fabulous hiking trails.
Another highlight is Panos Cave, near the remains of the 4th century BC Filis Fortress in Western Parnitha. You’ll need to climb a reasonably difficult pass through a gorge to reach the cave, but it’s worth it to witness the decoration of stalagmites and stalactites.
Lycabettus Hill, Athens
Lycabettus Hill is arguably the best urban hike in Greece for the dazzling views of Athens that greet you at the top. Located a short distance northwest of the Acropolis, Lycabettus is the highest hill in Athens, towering above the city at over 900 feet.
Pass an abundance of green cactus, pine trees, and other native shrubs that line the zigzagging path to the summit. It’s a short but worthwhile trek for the extraordinary views over Athens, stretching as far as the Saronic Gulf beyond the port of Piraeus.
The whitewashed Holy Church of Saint George, built in 1870 on the site of a former church, stands at the top of the hill.
Stop for a refreshing drink or bite to eat at the top or make your way down Lycabettus on foot or via the cable car and head for one of the stylish restaurants, cafes, or bars in Kolonaki, the fashionable area around the base of the hill, populated with wine bars and laid-back neighborhood eateries.
Read: 10 Unforgettable Day Trips From Athens
Samaria Gorge, Crete
The Samaria Gorge trail outside Chania lies in Crete’s beautiful White Mountains National Park. Not only one of the best hikes in Greece, but Samaria Gorge is also considered one of the most spectacular hiking destinations in Europe.
The downward trail covers a 10-mile canyon—the longest gorge in Greece—from the plateau beneath the mountains to a remote beach on the Aegean.
The towering gorge features soaring rock formations. It’s roughly 10 feet wide at its narrowest and almost 500 feet at its widest, with the path crisscrossing over a shallow, rock-strewn river. Look out for Samaria’s mountain goats, often spotted grazing on the thick shrubs or hopping between rocks.
A staggering 450 types of flora and fauna, including 70 endemic to Crete, live in this UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve. The scent of pine, cypress, and holly trees, a series of freshwater springs, and churches and abandoned villages in Crete are among the highlights of Samaria Gorge.
Mount Eros, Hydra
Hiking in Greece can often be challenging, including the 12-mile loop of Mount Eros on the photogenic island of Hydra. The whole lap takes roughly six hours, depending on your fitness level and the number of stops you make.
Take your time and enjoy glimpses of the Peloponnese and the Aegean Sea coming into view as you ascend the mountain to reach the summit, passing scenes of dry-stone walls that crisscross the grassy hillside.
Stop at the Monastery of Prophet Elias, just below Mount Eros’ peak. Take plenty of water on this hike as there’s little shade on Hydra and it’s easy to dehydrate.
Lindos Acropolis, Rhodes
The ancient town of Lindos is one of the prettiest on Rhodes, making it one of the most satisfying places to enjoy a hike on the island. The east coast town is dominated by its Acropolis, which shines on a clifftop dotted with olive and cypress trees, overlooking the azure Aegean Sea.
Begin this short but hilly hike in Lindos’s beguiling old town. Meander through the whitewashed buildings up a series of steps to reach the fortress walls that surround this post-Hellenic Acropolis.
Reaching the summit of Lindos Acropolis, explore the various ancient Greek ruins, including the 4th century BC temple of the goddess Athena Lindia and the Byzantine chapel of Saint John. Most impressive of all are the lofty Doric columns.
Add on a downhill walk to Lindos’s sandy beach to extend your hike, which will take you back through the old town, with its abundance of restaurants, bars, and gift shops.
Read: 7 Days in Greece: The Ultimate Itinerary
Skaros Rock, Santorini
The volcanic island of Santorini offers some of Greece’s most thrilling hikes. Try a headland hike from Santorini’s whitewashed capital, Fira. Start in Santorini’s picturesque old harbor and set off north to Skaros Rock, which is around three miles along a marked walking trail.
Climb Karavolades Stairs, a zig-zag staircase that is guaranteed to give your lower body a good workout. Watch out for donkey trains clattering past you on the trail. Pass the Greek landmark Three Bells of Fira church and Church of Saint Gerasimos, with their gleaming turquoise-domed roofs.
Skaros Rock is a jagged outcrop where you’ll find the ruins of an ancient Greek castle and impressive rock formations. Reward your efforts with a mouth-watering mezze platter and refreshing drink in Imerovigli village, where you’ll find a selection of restaurants to choose from.
A bus service operates from Imerovigli to Fira if you prefer a more leisurely return journey.
Mount Olympus National Park, Thessaloniki
Mighty Mount Olympus—the mythical home of the gods—stands tall at 9,570 feet, making it the highest mountain in Greece and one of the best hikes in Europe.
Near the Gulf of Thérmai, Mount Olympus is often snow-capped and sometimes draped in clouds. Rivers and waterfalls, wooded canyons, green-covered hills, and remote villages are all characteristics of this beautiful hiking area.
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1981, Mount Olympus National Park offers 20 hiking routes that range in difficulty and length. Consider opting for the Prionia to the Monastery of Agios Dionysios route via Agios Spilaio, an easy hike covering just under four miles, which should take roughly two hours.
One of the highlights is the picturesque Enipea waterfall and its sparkling pool, reached before crossing the Enipea River over a rickety wooden bridge towards Agio Spilaio.
Cradled in an emerald-hued forest, the ruins of the Greek Orthodox monastery are located at the Enipeas ravine. Built in 1542, it was partially destroyed during World War II. Restoration works are currently underway to patch up the monastery.
Have your camera ready to capture some of the remarkable flora of Mount Olympus National Park, with more than 1,700 species of plants recorded here, including 26 plants found nowhere else in the world.
Look out for the purple-flowering jancaea heldreichii, while lilium calchedonicum sprout pretty red flowers and the orchis pauciflora burst into golden hues.
That’s not all; around 150 birds have been recorded in the park, including birds of prey—eagles, hawks, kestrels, and falcons—that seek shelter on higher ground.
Roe deer, wild boar, and even large carnivores such as the brown bear and wolf live on the mountain and its foothills. You’re most likely, though, to spot the Balkan chamois of the goat-antelope family, found during summertime on the alpine-like slopes.
Nea Kameni Island, Santorini
The small and uninhabited island of Nea Kameni, in the center of Santorini’s caldera, is another dramatic hiking option. Largely barren, aside from sprigs of Mediterranean shrubs, the island was formed as a result of volcanic eruptions that took place between 1701 and 1711 and is still active today.
You can take the short ferry ride from the mainland to Nea Kameni and hike the steep trails through Nea Kameni Volcanic Park, which promises spectacular views of Santorini’s towering, red-and-black cliffs, whitewashed villages sprinkled across the top.
You’ll pass smoldering craters and sulfur hot springs, which add to the drama of Nea Kameni.
Nea Kameni is free of restaurants and bars, so take a picnic to enjoy alongside the eye-popping Cyclades views. Some excursions here take you to a swimming spot, too, where you can swim in water warmed by geothermal springs.
Read: 12 Best Hot Springs in the World
Mountain Skopos, Zakynthos
This moderately challenging mountain hike covers close to eight miles in the southeast of Zakynthos, an island in the Ionian Sea.
This out-and-back trail begins near the seaside town of Argassi and can take up to four hours. Wander around the Byzantine Church of St. Nikolaos Megalomatis and the Monastery Panagia Skopiotissa. Constructed in 1624, the monastery is the oldest church on the island.
The typically dry terrain of Mount Skopos offers an enriching hike with jaw-dropping views of Zakynthos National Marine Park and the impossibly blue Ionian Sea.
A handful of tavernas offering tasty local cuisine are located on the main road (called Epar.Od. Zakinthou – Vasilikou) that cuts through the park.
Balos Lagoon, Crete
Hiking in Greece can be a peaceful experience, and that’s just what lies in store at Balos Lagoon on the northwest tip of Crete. Hike from the hills above Balos Beach first to soak up the scintillating views of the shimmering lagoon and Gramvousa Island.
Make your way down the dry-dirt track that follows the slope of the mountain down to the sea. Balos Beach is one of the best beaches in Greece for its soft sand and crystalline waters. Pack your bathing suit and a towel to enjoy a cooling dip in the serene lagoon after your hike.
Tomb of Cleobulus, Rhodes
A fairly easy hike in Lindos, Rhodes, this two-hour walk leads you from Lindos Beach in a northeast direction along three miles of the coastal path. Leading in the opposite direction of Lindos’ buzzing town, this is a peaceful hike on a less-traveled path.
At your destination, you’ll not only be confronted by the alleged Tomb of Cleobulus—a Greek poet and resident of Lindos in the 6th century BC—but by some of the best views of Lindos Acropolis. Stock up with supplies for your walk from the beach kiosk as there are no facilities on the route.
Corfu Trail, Corfu
Opt to go hiking in Greece on the official Corfu Trail, a 136-mile path established in 2001 that traces the island’s perimeter and rocky hinterland.
From juniper-studded dunes in the south to olive groves in the center and rugged gorges and cascading waterfalls in the north, the Corfu Trail’s landscape is nothing short of extraordinary.
Stick to part of the northern section for the most breathtaking scenery. To stay on track, follow the yellow-marked signposts. Pass hills filled with olive trees to reach Mount Pantokrator and the 17th-century Pantokrator Monastery.
This is the highest mountain on the island and you can see the whole of Corfu, as well as the coast of Albania, from the top.
Read: Corfu Town: What to See & Do
Marathonisi Island National Marine Park, Zakynthos
The protected Marathonisi Island in Zakynthos’ Laganas Bay is known as a nesting place for endangered loggerhead sea turtles and a breeding ground of the critically-endangered monk seal that breed on Marathonisi’s shores.
This unspoiled island, cloaked with a verdant pine, olive, and green oak forest, features a gorgeous, creamy-colored beach with crystal-clear water at the northern tip. There are two sea caves to the southwest of the island, too, where you could swim, kayak, or enjoy from a boat.
Take a boat from Keri Beach to reach Marathonisi, taking extra care not to disturb the island’s breeding sea turtles during summer. A hike on Marathonisi involves a breezy beach walk; it’s really about enjoying the blissful surroundings rather than tiring yourself out on a demanding hike.
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