Most people when they think of Greece, they think of islands with amazing beaches, crystal clear water, white houses with blue shutters and cozy taverns that serve ouzo with mezes. You might also think of the archaeological sites and Athens. But did you know that mainland Greece is also an excellent hiking destination? The mainland consists mostly out of mountains, some even with ever lasting snow tops.

Except for an occasional city trip to Athens many visitors leave the mainland behind way too soon. But what is their loss is your gain, because that means that you get the hills all to yourself! Here are three fantastic off-beat hiking destinations in mainland Greece.

3 Off-Beat Hiking Destinations in Greece
photo by via flickr

1) Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus lies in the northern region of Macedonia (don’t mix this up with the country Macedonia which is officially know as FYROM) and is the highest mountain of Greece. Greek mythology has it that the mountain is also the home of the twelve Olympians, the gods. Mount Olympus has 52 peaks, deep gorges and exceptional biodiversity. The highest peak is Mytikas, meaning “nose”, it rises to 2,918 meters. There are many hiking trails in the area, but the most famous one is of course the E4 trail  that leads up to the summits. It takes around 2 days to complete this route. You can either start in the mountain village Litochoro or a bit higher up in Prionia at 1,100 meters. On the first day you hike up to the refuge Spilios Agapitos at 2,200 meters about 6 km from Prionia) for an awesome view, good food and tsipouro! Spend the night here and continue the following day to the first summit Scala, at 2,866 meters (about 3 km from the refuge along a steep trail). You can see as far as the sea from here! From Scala the real daredevils can climb on to Mytikas.

Please note that you need to have good fitness level for this and to reach Mytikas you will need both hands to climb.

3 Off-Beat Hiking Destinations in Greece 3 Off-Beat Hiking Destinations in Greece

2. Meteora

In Central Greece there is a peculiar ‘stone forest’ with pinnacles reaching 400 meters high. Balancing on the top of these pinnacles are 6 monasteries. Nowadays these monasteries are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. According to numerous historical sources, there were once thirty religious communities but today only six of them remain and can be visited. Other smaller monasteries, mostly built during the 14th century, are now deserted. You can visit the monasteries but it is the landscape and the unique ‘skyline’ of the pinnacles that make this place worthwhile to visit. Hike between, around, over and under the stone forest and enjoy the amazing views!

3 Off-Beat Hiking Destinations in Greece 3 Off-Beat Hiking Destinations in Greece

3. Zagoria

Zagoria is part of the Pindus Mountains on the north-west of Greece. It is a mountainous region of incredible natural beauty. Zagoria is actually a complex of 46 villages which boast characteristic traditional architecture and are surrounded by a lush green environment. They are connected to each other with old trails and stairs. Therefore you will find many hiking trails in this area, most of them ‘unknown’ to the wider travel public.

However, one spot – and an impressive one as well – could have crossed your travel radar before: the Vikos Gorge. It is the second deepest gorge in the world and over 20 km long. It stretches from Monodendri and Koukouli villages up to Kleidonia Bridge. It is a magical place of great ecological value. The ravine has steep rocky slopes where various rare flowers and herbs grow. Its width varies from 30 to 100 meters. From Monodendri a path leads down into the gorge, like stairs made out of rock. In total you descended ±700m towards the river at the bottom of this canyon. You can follow the trail all the way to the other side. In good conditions this will take about 8 hours. This trail is popular during summer and autumn when the river isn’t too full. But also in winter, this place is magical with leafless trees, forests covered with soft green moss and a roaring river. Do watch out because it can be slippery and for all seasons: good shoes and walking poles are definitely recommended.

These are just a three of the great hiking destinations of Greece. You can spend days and weeks just exploring the many trails on Mount Olympus, Meteora and Zagoria. If you would like to find out more about hiking in Greece, let us know in the comments – I’d be happy to connect you to locals who can tell you even more!

This is a guest post by Sira van Zanten.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 09.24.47 Sira is a Dutchie that travels around Europe. At the end of 2014 she left ‘office life’ in Amsterdam behind and decided to travel for a couple of months. Road tripping trough Europe in her van, made her realize there is so much more to see outside the high-speed-city-life. Now she, her boyfriend Dimitri and their dog Kalí (who they found on their trip), hop from place to place, while he works remotely as a programmer. She writes down her experiences and thoughts in her blog Being A Nomad while she makes bucket lists of the places she wants to spend a month or two.