Hiking In Greece – The 8 Most Incredible Day Hikes

Hiking in Greece is a remarkable endeavor that will give you an unsurpassed view of rural Greek country life that many won’t experience from visiting the tourist locations.  Setting out and about to explore the land by foot will enhance your sense of what Greece feels like, who its people are, and how they live.

Blessed with rugged mountains in nearly every region, the opportunities for hiking the foothills, plains, and mountains in Greece are available no matter which location you find yourself in.  Day hiking is an incredible way to take a short break from the tourist destinations without leaving the immediate area, and without committing to a well-stocked camping expedition.

Day hiking in Greece is as simple as packing some essentials in a small backpack, putting on your solid hiking shoes or boots, and setting out for an adventure.  Be sure to pack more water than you expect as Greek days can be warm and there are few to no vendors out along these trails.  Getting some “alone” time may be your intention, but a local guide or a designated trail may be the best way to safely day hike without becoming lost.

As nearly every spot in the country could be considered worthy of a day hike, we compiled a list of the 8 most incredible day hikes you can find in Greece and split them up by region.  Four on the islands and four on the mainland.  Each region has multiple satisfying day hikes and we hope you explore them all.

Thassos: Dragon’s Cave

The island of Thassos sits nestled below the outstretched panhandle of Greece, four miles off shore from Kavala and the busy international airport.  The short ferry ride will transport you back in time away from the bustling modern world into Greece’s past as you wander the hills and valleys of this rugged island.  This large and northernmost major Greek island has many trails and routes for you to explore in its 147 square mile area.  Rising from the shores to nearly 4000’ above sea level you will have superb views across the mainland or out into the Aegean Sea from multiple perspectives.

Hiking trails in Thassos are wildly varied and ranged.  You can take multiple day hikes across the island and enjoy everything from a leisurely walk around the capitol city of Thasos and its harbor, to a difficult trek into the interior of the island and up to Mount Ypsarion peaks which will require some serious endurance but nothing special in your hiking skills.  Completing a short morning hike will allow you to explore more of the island in the afternoon with another short hike if you desire.

Falling somewhere in between the high endurance climb and slow casual walk is a moderate day hike that keeps us off the city streets of Panagia and puts us in the foothills of Mount Ypsarion without actually having to climb the mountain itself.  Along this five and a half mile hike there are several sights to see and photo memories to make.  The Dragon Cave is an intriguing hole in the limestone that slopes into the ground meandering into a large system of caves all with well worn stalagmites and stalactites melting from the rock.  Another quirky sight worth noting is the lovely Source Tree with a natural spring flowing right out from the trunk itself.  A picnic area has been created right next to the tree for visitors to sit and enjoy under the tree’s shade.

Corfu: Viros Circle

All the way to the farthest western side of Greece in the Ionian Sea is the resort island of Corfu.  At just a mile and a half off the mainland at its closest point, Corfu overlooks Greece’s border with Albania is just a quick ferry ride over to the bottom of Italy.  Corfu is nearly 100 square miles larger than Thassos, but considerably less mountainous as the highest peak on Corfu rises up to just under 3000’.  The beachside villas and tourist resorts will draw you to this gem of an island but when you want to get away from it all, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore.

Google it and the first thing you’ll come across it “the Corfu Trail”.  While an excellent scenic route, at 110 miles, it is significantly more than a day hike.  The well-marked trail can be broken up into smaller day hikes and honestly should be experienced.  The smaller hiking trails such as the Corfu Radar loop is an easy 2.5 mile hike that will see plenty of runners along its path.  The 15 mile Mount Stavros loop out of Benitses is more for the long trek hiker, up two mountains and back down again.

The Viros Circle is a fantastic day hike that will give you a solid walk and treat you to some beautiful landscapes of the interior on Corfu island.  Viros trail is named for the village of Viros, just west of the harbor and sparkling Notio Steno Kerkiras.  The Anglicization of Greek names may confuse you and redirect you to “Vikos Gorge Trail” on the mainland.  The Viros eight mile journey will take you through some of the denser forests the island has to offer and will certainly give you a more natural and pastoral image of Corfu before you return to the brilliant white beaches and immaculate resorts along the coasts.

Santorini: Caldera Walk

If you’ve seen a picture of a Greek island, you’ve most likely seen the villages in Santorini.  The iconic white wall staircases built into the cliffs, buildings with the blue domed roofs, you know the image and that’s part of why you came to the island in the first place.  Simmering in the southern Aegean Sea, Santorini is the remnants of a volcanic eruption dating back to 1600BCE.  The crescent shape is one half of the sunken volcano’s caldera rim.

The Caldera Rim is the most popular but by no means the only day hike available in Santorini.  A worthy excursion would be to take the boat or cable car over to Nea Kameni and hike up the volcanic plug that still exudes heat from sulfur vents.  The island is small but worth trekking to be able to say you climbed around on top of an active volcano.

Along the highly sought-after real estate of Santorini’s inner crescent are the two largest towns of Oia at the northern tip and the capitol of Fira, located about the center of the crescent.  The Caldera day hike is a nice six mile stretch between these two towns keeping to the top of the cliff and looking out over the bay which is the sea-filled caldera.  Small villages catering to the foot traffic of casual hikers offer pleasant stops for drinks or a bite from a local fruit vendor.

Many hikers and previous visitors recommend starting the hike in Fira and working your way north to Oia as it will reward you with better views and if you time your day hike just right, you’ll witness a spectacular sunset as you end the day in Oia with a romantic post hike meal.

Crete: Samaria Gorge

The largest island in Greece, Crete functions as Greece’s southernmost point and a functional border between the Aegean Sea to its north and the Libyan Sea to its south, both commingling with the Mediterranean Sea to the west.  At 3200 square miles, Crete is more than one of the many Greek islands, it is the chief Greek island, it is in the top 100 largest islands on the planet and is larger than the state of Delaware.

With such a vast area to cover, the landscape of Crete varies from tough mountains, thick forests, and powdery sand beaches.  You can day hike to your heart’s content all around Crete and never see the same thing twice.

The strong willed hiker can embark up the countless switchbacks to the top of Mount Ida at the center of the island to explore Ideon Cave where legend tells us the powerful god Zeus was born.  For those looking for a less hardy trek, the calm waterfalls surrounding Richtis in the east are more suited to a casual day hike.

For a richly rewarding day hike, consider taking the Samaria Gorge trail.  In the west, along the southern coast is the best hike you’ll take on Crete, maybe even in all of Greece.  A non looping trail, take the bus to the trail head at Xyloskalo.  From there you will descend ten miles of split and rocky mountain terrain while you snap pictures nearly every second of the hike.  At one point in the trail, the towering cliffs are separated by no more than six feet of space making for the image of the Samaria Gorge a dramatic one.  Intriguing wildlife and cinematic-worthy views will make this day hike one of the highlights of your journey.

Messinia: Temple of Apollo

The Greek Peloponnese is an incredible expanse of territory constituting a large portion of Greece’s mainland.  The diversity of landscape and wildlife in this area, in addition to the numerous historical and archaeological interests make this a fantastic location for exploration and hiking.  8000’ mountain peaks, rugged coastlines, fine beaches, hills to the east, and flat prairies to the west, the Peloponnese can offer you whatever terrain you are looking for.

A fun but tough day hike can be found at the Daphnoula aqueduct.  It’s only a two hour hike but is an invigorating scramble over gravel paths and up some tough hills but at the end you are presented with a gorgeous stream in the valley flowing beneath the ancient aqueduct arches.  Less strenuous would be a sweet 2.5 mile day hike through the ruins at Mycenae, the ancient home of Agamemnon.  In our explorations and countless footsteps along countless paths we have trekked dirt, gravel, grass, stone… and here in Mycenae you can still walk the ancient roads 3000 years in our past.

Travel down the peninsula to the southwest and visit Messinia.  Several day hikes varying between 6 and 10 miles long are available among the amazingly preserved ruins of ancient attractions.  The rubble of broken columns, a nearly fully intact amphitheater, and the remains of churches and monasteries are all clustered around the Messinia area and the hiking trails weave in and out among the ruins.  In the northern region of Messinia is the Bassae archaeological site at the temple of Apollo, a must visit day hike.  End your trek on the coast at Kalamata where you can taste fresh olives, visit the archaeological museum to follow up on the treasures you discovered while hiking, and relax in any of the fine dining establishments in the city.

Athens: Parnithia

Athens Greece.  The capital city and one of the most visited destinations in all of Europe.  The metropolitan area contains nearly four million people amid countless modern buildings dotted among the ancient ruins and temples.  It seems the sprawl never ends and while the city can be charming in its own right at any and every corner, you don’t believe there can be a way to get away from it all.

Just out of the city limits and cradling the ancient streets to the north is a high slopes of a four peak mountain range.  Mount Aigaleo, Mount Pentelicus, Mount Hymettus, and the tallest, Mount Parnithia.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the plethora of day hiking options afforded to you among the foothills of these majestic mountains.  Getting to the mountains is a simple matter of a short drive out of the city and enjoying the remarkable separation you will feel from the hectic city life when you enter this nearby mountainous region.

A short distance up the road from the abandoned former summer home of the Greek royals, the Tatoi Palace, you’ll find the turn off to the west that will bring you to a magnificent 12 mile day hike that will around to the Loimiko Fortress.  The remains of this ancient tower are beautifully preserved and yet easily explored.  The large blocks of stone still standing are a testament to the structure that once stood as a training ground and guard tower for the people of Athens.  The hike will be an easy to moderate day hike with fields full of deer more than any craggy mountain climbs.  Once you finish with your trek, enjoy the national park’s other amenities, including a nearby casino to unwind, enjoy some food, and ride the cable car down the mountainside.

Delphi: Mount Parnassos E4

In ancient days gone by, the Greeks thought the center of the world was at Delphi.  Whether this was meant geographically, or more metaphorically as a center of culture and fare is a discussion for others.  They commemorated this decree by placing the Omphalos, the stone meant to distract Chronos from destroying Zeus at his birth, right in the center of the city.  To visit Delphi and observe the intricate marble carving in the museum or the rudimentary stone holding its place outdoors where it was discovered, one can come to understand how anyone might declare this location as the center of the world.  It certainly feels appropriate while standing in the middle of such a rich historic civilization.

Day hikes abound in each and every direction in Delphi.  There are entire vacation trips worth of ancient discoveries and archaeological digs worth checking into and delving deep into the history of ancient the ancient Greeks.  Just by walking the known paths in the tourist center itself you can “hike” by the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury, the breathtaking Theater, the Tholos, Athena Sanctuary, and so on in a seeming endless display of ancient relics.  If you go off the beaten path, walk to the Castalian Spring to take a short shaded break before walking on to Sibyl Rock where Herophyle called forth her prophecies as one of the Oracles of Delphi.

Out and away from the ancient but well worn paths is a day hike that will remove you from the busy stalls and bustling vendors catering to your fellow visitors.  9.5 miles down the slopes of Mount Parnassos will renew your senses and allow you to breathe freely along the paths once traveled by worshipers and pilgrims to Apollo in the summer and Dionysus in the winter.  Traipse the walkways through the woods and breathe the fresh clean mountain air on this delightful day hike before rejoining the throngs of visitors marveling at history on display.

Thessaly: Mount Olympus

Looming large between the cities of Katerini to the north and Larissa to the south, Mount Olympus stands steadfast as the monument to the ancient gods of the Greeks, the home of the pantheon of deities.  On this mountain the gods schemed and fought with one another bringing their blessings and curses upon the people of Greece far below.  Today the mountain stands quietly in the backdrop, a silent reminder that people will ascribe depth and meaning to parts of their surroundings when they have need.  To hike this mountain from base to peak takes special equipment, exceptional skill, and about three days time, well beyond our desire to seek out day hikes.  However if you wish to walk among the gods without having to reach the pinnacle, day hiking Olympus has many opportunities.

There is a well marked skiing trail at the peak of Mitikas where a healthy 7.5 mile trek will give you a sense of being among the clouds as you skirt the ridge between lesser peaks.  Another worthy hike is at the Plateau of the Muses.  An 11.5 mile hike down from the mountain tops sloping down to the village of Gortzia.  Along the path, amble about in the vast field of mountain wildflowers at the Plateau of the Muses, a wonderful and stunning location to stop and eat your packed lunch while staring unbelievably out into the scenery.

Another great day hike is the gorge that runs through the Olympus mountain peaks and winds its way down through the foothills spilling the cold mountain spring water into the warm Aegean Sea.  The Enipeas Gorge is a strong five hour trek that will exert you with many elevation changes but reward you with plenty of tree shade and fantastic views.  Waterfalls and fresh mountain streams make for plenty of rest stops while you snap pictures and if you plan ahead and hike downhill, you will wind up at Letochoro at the end of the exhilarating walk.

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