Epirus stone built bridge - photo by Zagoria Excellence Network
Sponsored Words : Marc Dubin | 31 August

Where to go walking in Greece

If you love walking and exploring by foot, then this is the prefect guide to Greece for you

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Here are Greece's best multi-day treks and day-hikes, featuring areas with good networks of marked and mapped trails or kalderímia (old cobbled thoroughfares). Anavasi (anavasi.gr) and Terrain (terrainmaps.gr) are the two publishers of hiking maps.

We omit routes along dirt vehicle tracks as those are often used for jeep safaris or mountain-biking. Better walking islands are smaller, depopulated ones.


Zagori, Petsioni Bridge, Frangadhes (Marc Dubin)

Píndos mountains: Zagóri loop

The Píndos mountains extend from the Corinth Gulf to the Albanian border in the far northwest. Its highest peaks, flanking the Aöós River, are Smólikas (2637m/8652ft) and Gamíla (2497m/8192ft), plus Grámmos (2520m/8268ft) right on the frontier.

The most popular Píndos itinerary loops around the Zagóri villages, taking in the spectacular Víkos Gorge, Mt Gamíla, and arched stone bridges between Tsepélovo and Vítsa, some still serving paths. Start at either Vítsa or Monodéndri, where trails (gentler from Vítsa) descend to Víkos and the marked O3 long-distance route. The gorge traverse takes all day, finishing in Mikró or Megálo Pápingo, scenically poised under palisades. Then go up to Astráka refuge (astrakarefuge.com), the usual base for exploring Gamíla, including a day-hike to Drakólimni – one of Greece's few alpine lakes – and Gamíla summit. Next, cross striking limestone badlands south to Tsepélovo village. From Tsepélovo, trails continue west to Vradéto hamlet and then south along a famous cobbled stairway – Skála Vradétou – to Kapésovo, Koukoúli and Kípi villages. Kípi, with several handsome bridges nearby, lies an easy walk away from Vítsa.

This circuit requires six to seven days, with overnights at Vítsa or Monodéndri, two at Pápingo, another each at Astráka refuge, Tsepélovo, and Kapésovo or Kípi. Lodging is plentiful en route but booking is mandatory. Taxis or car hire may be needed for initial/final transfers as the bus service from Ioánnina to Zagóri only runs a few times a week.

When to go: Best trekking seasons are June, with snow gone, and September; summer can be torrid and full of people.

Best trekking map: Anavasi's 1:50,000 'Zagori 3.1'.


Mt.Olympus July Flowers (Marc Dubin)

Mt Ólympos (Olympus)

Abode of the ancient gods, Ólympos (2917m/9570ft) is Greece's highest mountain, a compact range rising abruptly west of the Thermaïkós Gulf. This ensures fickle weather and lush vegetation, including amazing wildflower displays. The best bits form a national park; just east, Litóhoro village is well served by train and bus.

  A road (taxi service from Litóhoro) leads into the park until the trailheads of Diakládosi (13km along) and Priónia (17.5km, road's end). Purists walk in from Litóhoro, along the E4 trail threading the wild Mavrólongos canyon up to Priónia, or to Diakládosi with a slight detour at part-restored Agíou Dionysíou monastery (4hr), burnt by the Germans in 1943. Trekkers patronise two refuges: Spilios Agapitos ('Refuge A', 2060m), a steep climb from Priónia, 8hr from Litóhoro; mountolympus.gr), or Giosos Apostolidis (2697m, June–Oct, apostolidisrefuge.gr), a longer (6 hrs) but more gradual hike in from Diakládosi. Allow 3 to 4 days for an Ólymbos loop, linking the two trails below the summit-ridge, including the tricky ascent of same (acrophobes excluded). Views from on top overlook sheer chasms, filled with rising, cotton-wool mist – don't linger. Also allow leeway for bad weather trapping you in either refuge. Camping is only feasible near Agíou Dionysíou.

When to go: Best season is less misty autumn; springtime is out for summit attempts, given enhanced avalanche risk.

Best trekking map: Anavasi's 1:25,000 'Olymbos 6.11'.

Pílio (Pelion) Peninsula

In the exact centre of Greece, densely vegetated Mount Pílio – legendarily home for the centaurs – makes a versatile holiday destination: centuries-old mansions and elegant plazas, fine beaches (especially on the Aegean coast) and enchanting walks along a network of inter-village trails.

The best one-way hikes on Pílio, with food, lodging and bus service at the start and/or end, are the traverse from Miliés to Xouríkhti just south of Tsangaráda, and from there down to Damoúhari on a spectacular kalderími (5.5hr total), and (in the peninsula's far south) the descent from Promýri to Plataniás (3hr).

 Good circular walks beckon too. Based in Tsangaráda, make a day-loop down to beaches at Mylopótamos, Limniónas and Lambinoú; all have a snack bar, if not full-service taverna. Another coastal trail links Damoúhari with secluded Fakístra cove. Milína, a popular west-coast resort, offers two kalderímia up to handsome Láfkos village, which can be joined to make a half-day circuit.

When to go: Optimal walking seasons are late April through mid-June, and September to early October; mid-summer here is roasting.

Best trekking map: The 1:45,000 Anavasi product 'Pilio-Mavrouni 4.3/4.4'.


Crete -Trekking - photo by Region of Crete

Crete

'Megalónisos' (The Great Island) for the Greeks, Crete has excellent walking beyond its Minoan-culture hype. The far west, around the Lefká Óri (White Mountains, elevation 2453m/8048ft), is best. Most have heard of the Samariá Gorge, just pipping Víkos for length (16km); few realize that its traverse is just one of many local routes. The high peaks are not for novices, and there's only one refuge at Kallérgi (kallergi.co). From Agía Roúmeli, at the bottom of Samariá, fabulous coastal treks – part of long-distance route E4 – extend east to Hóra Sfakíon via appealing Loutró resort, or west (very strenuously) to Soúgia resort via Trypití, where one must overnight. From Soúgia it's a much easier tramp to busy Paleóhora, via ancient Lissos.

When to go: The trekking seasons are April to early June, and mid-September to early November; summer, with sea-level temperatures exceeding 40°C, is out. The gorge proper is only open May to October inclusive, and can close at any time due to flooding danger. South-coast ferry boats between Hóra Sfakíon and Paleóhora, stopping at all intermediate resorts, provide vital links.

Guide and maps: The best trekking guide is The High Mountains of Crete (Cicerone). Likewise for maps, Anavasi 11.11/11.12, (1:25,000); 11.13 (1:30,000).


Trekking in Naxos - photo by Region of South Aegean

Day Hikes on Other Islands

On several Cyclades, old paths have been rescued and signposted. Villages en route have at least a snack bar, maybe more. These are day-hikes, though a full pack should be carried on Amorgós if you wish to change base.

Kéa (Tziá): paths radiate out from tile-roofed, inland Ioulída. Anavasi 10.41, Terrain 301.

Tínos: trails, notably a kalderími to Ktikádos, extend from the port towards the Exóbourgo villages. Anavasi 10.20, Terrain 308.

Sérifos: from Hóra, a superb loop – partly kalderími – connects inland Panagiá, Galaní, Taxiarhón monastery and Kéndarhos; some road-walking. Anavasi 10.25, Terrain 303.

Sífnos: south-central path system takes in Profítis Ilías summit (detour), Vathý Bay and Platýs Yialós. Anavasi 10.26, Terrain 304.

Náxos: path network in island's middle, around Halkí, visits villages and remote churches. Anavasi 10.28, Terrain 311.

Amorgós: well-preserved kalderímia link villages around northeasterly Egiáli; classic five-hour traverse from Egiáli to Hozoviótissa monastery and Hóra. Anavasi 10.27, Terrain 314.

Certain Dodecanese cater to walkers.

Kálymnos: premier hike along Italian-built kalderími from Póthia to Vathýs valley, continuing to Aryinónda on the west coast; take a bus back. Anavasi 10.32, Terrain 337.

Nísyros: Paths link coastal Mandráki or Pálli with Emborió village, the volcanic zone and Profítis Ilías summit. Terrain 339.

Tílos: Several paths go from Livádia to secluded nearby coves, but the meatiest trek (experienced walkers only) links Agíou Pandelímona monastery with Éristos beach. Terrain 340.

Sými: Paths from Horió cross to remote coves. Best single walks go to Ágios Vassílios Bay and its frescoed church, or to Nanoú beach via Ágios Prokópios chapel. Terrain 341.

Kárpathos: Extensive far-north path network connects Diafáni, Ólymbos, Avlóna, Roman Vrykoúnda, elsewhere. Anavasi 10.50, Terrain 345.

North Aegean

Sámos: Trails between Kokkári, Vourliótes, Manolátes and Stavrinídes; coastal corniche route joins Potámi with Drakéï, via pristine Seïtáni beaches. Terrain 331.

Alónissos: Fourteen recognised itineraries, some combinable; a Travelleur guidebook describes them. Anavasi 10.13, Terrain 321

Évvia: Premier hike, partly on kalderími, is the traverse of the Dimosári Gorge (4hr), from Petrokánalo on Mt Óhi to Kallianoú beach; tricky logistics, best organise a group walk in Kárystos.

Main image: Epirus stone built bridge - photo by Zagoria Excellence Network

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