When it comes to hiking, Greece has something for every kind of walker. The mainland boasts well-maintained routes that meander around olive groves and run through dramatic gorges, while on the country’s islands you’ll find ancient kalderimia (cobbled or flagstone paths dating back to Byzantine times) connecting sleepy villages with beautiful sandy coves.
Encompassing routes that are great for both seasoned strollers and rookie ramblers (plus everything in between!), here’s our pick of Greece’s best hiking trails.
Samaria Gorge, Crete
16km (10 miles), 4 hours
Hiking the 16km-long Samaria Gorge is considered one of Crete's must-do experiences, which is why you'll rarely be without company. Nevertheless, there’s an undeniable raw beauty to Samaria, where vertical walls soar up to 500m and are just 3.5m apart at the narrowest point (150m at the broadest).
The hike begins at 1230m at Xyloskalo just south of Omalos and ends in the coastal village of Agia Roumeli. It’s especially scenic in April and May, when wildflowers brighten the trail.
Mt Ohi summit hike, Evia
8km (5 miles), 3-4 hours
The summit of Mt Ohi (Profitis Ilias; 1398m), lesser-visited Evia's third-highest peak, is crowned by mysterious ancient drakospita (dragon houses): Stonehenge-like 7th-century-BC dwellings or temples, hewn from rocks weighing several tonnes and joined without mortar. From Myli, it’s an 8km hike to the summit (three to four hours).
It’s possible to stay overnight at the 1000m-high refuge then hike up Mt Ohi to catch sunrise (30 minutes), which makes for a magical experience. Contact South Evia Tours or Evia Adventure Tours for details.
Delphi to Kirra Walk, Central Greece
14km (9 miles), 3-4 hours
This 14km downhill hike follows a centuries-old pathway from historic, Unesco monument-dotted Delphi to the ancient port of Kirra, just east of modern Itea on the southern coast of mainland Greece.
The trek starts from the E4 long-distance trailhead 100m east of the Hotel Acropole. Skirting the village of Crissa, it meanders to the gulf through Greece’s largest olive grove. After your three-to-four-hour hike, and lunch or a swim, you can return to Delphi by bus (around €2).
Hike to the Tomb of Kleobolus, Rhodes
5km (3 miles), 2 hours
An easy, enjoyable 5km (two-hour) round-trip hike escapes Lindos to reach the so-called Tomb of Kleobolus, at the tip of the bare, flat-topped promontory to the north. Starting alongside Car Park 1 above the main beach, the trail ends at a rocky hillock topped by a circular tomb actually built during the 2nd century BC, long after Kleobolus ruled Rhodes.
Stefanos Crater, Nisyros
8km (5 miles), 2-3 hours
Little Nisyros has become a major destination for hikers, with the island’s caldera (a crater formed by a collapsed volcano) a particular draw. You can walk to the heart of Stefanos Crater in around two and a half hours from Mandraki, either by hiking directly up the switchback footpath that crosses the rim beyond Evangelistrias monastery, or following the longer track that circles around to its shallower southern side.
A visit to the lunar-like landscape of the caldera is like stepping into a science fiction movie; but aim to get here by 11am to avoid the busloads of day troopers that arrive from nearby Kos.
Krista Gorge, Crete
11km (7 miles), 5-6 hours
Kritsa Gorge, signposted off the road to Ancient Lato, is one of eastern Crete's most enchanting canyons. Flanked by steep cliffs, it follows a riverbed dotted with oak and olive trees and resplendent with spring wildflowers. Sturdy shoes and reasonable fitness are essential, since the trail is stony and requires occasional bouldering and the handling of metal rails and a rope.
There are two routes: the shorter one (about 5km) follows the canyon for about 2km before heading uphill, while the longer one (about 11km) continues to the village of Tapes.
Menalon Trail, Peloponnese
75km (47 miles), 5-8 days
The well-signposted, 75km Menalon Trail stretches from Stemnitsa to Lagkadia on the Peloponnese peninsula, passing the dramatic scenery of the Lousios Gorge, the western slopes of Mt Menalon, the Mylaon River valley and the Gortynian Mountains. The trail is divided into eight sections of varying difficulty; the Stemnitsa–Dimitsana section is the most popular for a day hike.
Of the villages, Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Valtesiniko and Lagkadia all have places to stay and eat, and you can pick up provisions at Vytina, Nymphasia and Magouliana.
Melinda–Paleohori trail, Lesvos
1.2km (0.7 miles), 30 minutes
Hikers here can enjoy southern Lesvos’ olive trails, which comprise paths and old local roads threading across the island. One short but particularly scenic stretch is the Melinda–Paleohori trail (1.2km, 30 minutes), which follows the Selandas River for 200m before ascending to Paleohori, passing a spring with potable water along the way. The trail ends at the village’s olive press.
Another appealing option is the Paleohori–Rahidi trail (1km, 30 minutes), which is paved with white stone and passes springs and vineyards. Rahidi, which was only connected to electricity in 2001, has charming old houses and a coffeehouse.
Vikos Gorge, Epirus region
12km (7.5 miles), 6-7 hours
In the northwest of mainland Greece, the Zagorohoria’s 46 traditional stone-and-slate villages are tucked into the Pindos range north of the city of Ioannina. Webbed together by a series of stone paths, bridges and staircases, the region makes for wonderful hiking, with accommodation available in historic buildings.
The highlight here, however, is the dramatic, 12km-long (7.5 miles), 900m-deep (2953 feet) Vikos Gorge, which bisects the Zagorohoria. The nearly seven-hour hike starts south of Monodendri and runs north to the Papingo villages. For easier access to fantastic gorge views, head to Oxya Lookout, 5km (3.1 miles) beyond Monodendri on a good dirt road.
Agia Paraskevi to Damouhari, Pelion Peninsula
5.5km (3.5 miles), 1-2 hours
The lushly forested Pelion Peninsula, on the eastern edge of the mainland near the city of Volos, is a hiking hotspot. A centuries-old network of kalderimia (flagstone paths dating back to Byzantine times) weave through the trees and connects quaint mountain hamlets to seaside villages.
In the north, a particularly enjoyable hike begins near Tsagarada (Tsangarada). From the square of Agia Paraskevi, it’s two hours down to the small bay at Damouhari, home to a small stretch of golden sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Additionally, a great forest hike begins above the road at nearby Fakistra Beach and follows the coast to Plaka Beach.
Tips for hiking in Greece
Spring (April to May) is the best time for hiking. The countryside is green and fresh from the winter rains, and carpeted with wildflowers. Autumn (September to October) is also a good time.
Several companies run organized treks. The biggest is Trekking Hellas which offers a variety of hikes ranging from a four-hour stroll through the Lousios Gorge in the Peloponnese to a four-day hike around Mt Olympus.
If you're venturing off the beaten track, a good map is essential. Most tourist maps are inadequate; the best hiking maps for the islands are produced by Anavasi and Terrain, both Greece-based companies. Be realistic about your abilities and always inform your guesthouse or local hiking association of your planned route before setting out.