The best hikes in Greece would have to include at least one of these.
This is my top recommendation for a walk around Athens in 1 day. It takes in 5 magical sights. Start early
1) Temple of Olympian Zeus
History: The temple housed a giant statue of Zeus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Originally the temple was made up of 104 columns, but today only a few of them still stand.
Walk: Easy walk, approximately 500 m (1640 ft) south-east of the Acropolis. (Allow 1 hour)
2) The Acropolis and the Parthenon and Museum
(Allow 3 hours)
Walk: Wander through the narrow cobblestone streets lined with tiny shops on either side. This is the old historical neighbourhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis. Sit down and relax for a while at a cafe. No need to rush.
(Allow 2 hours)
4) National Garden
Walk: The gardens can be found behind the Greek Parliament building. The public park is 15.5 hectares (38 acres) in size. Spend an hour wandering around. (Allow 1 hour)
5) Lycabettus Hill
Myth: The smith-God Hephaestus tried to seduce Athena, after the Goddess had visited him in regard to some weapons. Hephaestus became aroused and forced himself on her. The Goddess wanted to remain a virgin, so she fled, however Hephaestus caught her. After struggling to get away, some semen fell on Athena’s thigh. She wiped it away in disgust and threw it to the earth. The incredible result was the birth of Erichthonius, future king of Athens.
Athena, wanted to raise the child in secret. When Athena was busy building the Acropolis, she placed the infant inside a small box and gave it to the three daughters of Cecrops, the king of Athens. The three daughters, Herse, Aglaurus and Pandrosus, were warned never to look inside. You probably know about Pandora’s box, well the same thing pretty much happened here.
Herse and Aglaurus were overcome with curiosity and opened the box, which contained the infant and future-king, Erichthonius. A crow saw them open the box and flew away to inform Athena. When the Goddess found out, she fell into a rage. Athena suddenly dropped the limestone mountain she’d been carrying from the Pallene peninsula, right on the spot now known as Mt. Lykabettos.
History: The smallish mountain has a large open-air theatre at the top where many Greek and international concerts have been played.
Hike: Lycabettus Hill (Mount Lycabettus) is the highest peak in Athens at 277 metres (910 ft). (Allow 2 hours)
It is a beautiful hike up the hill via a circular path. If it’s too hot or you’re totally exhausted after all the walking, since this is the final stop on the recommended Athens walk, take the funicular (cliff railway) up to the top of Lycabettus hill. The only issue is that it goes through a tunnel which blocks the view. Maybe the better option is to take it up and walk down, or alternatively the other way round. This is a great spot to see the sunset. Why haven’t I ever done this while I was in Athens? There’s even a cafe at the top.
Views: Athens and the Acropolis lit up by lights.
Corycian Cave (Pan’s Cave or Cave of Parnassos)
Myth: Twas associated with Apollo, the Muses, the Corycian Nymphs, and the worshippers of Pan.
Apollo loved the Naiad nymph, Corycia. The cave was named after her. Apollo and Corycia had a child together. The city of Lycoreia was named after their son, Lycorus. Delphius, his great-grandson, gave his name to Delphi.
Apollo’s oracle was widely regarded as the most truthful in the known world. However even a Greek God needed to take some time off. When this happened the presiding deities became Pan and a group of Nymphs. They skipped using Apollo’s temple while he was away, preferring the Corycian Cave, further up Mount Parnassus. They obviously had much more privacy up there, which they probably wanted with all those orgies taking place.
History: In more modern times, this mystical cave has been used as a hideout/refuge by the Hellenes, from the Persians in the 5th century (alpha), the Turks during the Greek War of Independence, and from the Germans during World War 2.
Hike: The Corycian Cave is situated at an altitude of 1,360 m on the slopes of Mount Parnassos. An ancient path still exists, which connected the worshipers from Delphi to the Corycian cave. The ancient path has since become part of the E4 European long distance path, which is close to the Delphi Archaeological Museum. Allow 3-4 hours for the 9 km (5.7 miles) hike, and the same for the return journey.
Views: The cavern itself is enormous, about 60 m long, 25 m wide and 15 m high. Bring a torch so you can explore the darker sections of the cavern. Marvellous sculptures have been created by the stalactites and the stalagmites. Ancient inscriptions exist near the entrance.
3. Mount Olympus
Myth: Home of the Olympian Gods
See my post on hiking Mount Olympus in Greece.
4. Pelion (Pilio) Peninsula
Myth: The Olympian Gods favoured this beautiful location as their summer playground. It must be good.
This area is famous for being home to the Centaurs, who were half man, half horse. Chiron, the most famous Centaur trained and guided many heroes here who came by his cave. His pupils included Jason, Theseus and Heracles.
Mount Pelion gained its name from the mythical king Peleus, father of Achilles. Thetis and Peleus were married near Chrion’s cave. Thetis is the mother of Achilles, famous warrior of Troy. Jesus, there’s a lot of mythical stories from this place. Who wouldn’t want to holiday here?
Hike: This beautiful peninsula is located between Athens and Thessaloniki. For starters, hike the Milies to Xourichti path. After that, Xourichti to Milopotamos. Total trek is 12 km, 5-6 hours.
Relax at the magnificent beach of Milopotamos, like a Greek God or Goddess afterwards. I wonder which beach Apollo favoured?
Views: Several peaks exist above 1,450 metres. Streams flow all year round. Green lush forests, beautiful coastal views, it must be a real heaven for hikers.
Corfu Trail (or anywhere in Corfu for that matter)
Hike: The Corfu Trail is a 220 km walking route through some of the best Greek island scenery imaginable. Pick a section of the track or walk anywhere on the island. Corfu is simply amazing. It’s a walker’s paradise.
Myth: One of the Titans living on Crete slashed the land with his knife to create the gorge. Another is that the gorge is the longest in Europe.
Hike: Chania is the closest city to the Samaria Gorge trailhead. From there you’ll need to organise a way of getting to the Samaria Gorge entrance at Xyloscalo.
Hike Distance: 16 km
Average time: Approx. 6-8 hours
The walk through the National Park of Samaria is 13 km long. Visitors have to also walk the extra 3 km to Agia Roumeli from the exit of the National Park.
It’s normally hiked in one direction, though it can be done in the other direction.
The normal starting point is 1,230 metres above sea level, just south of Omalos. The entrance is at Xyloskalo. The hike ends in the coastal village of Agia Roumeli. A ferry ride is the only way out of there. Samaria Gorge is usually open from May 1 to October 15-30 but this can change depending on the weather.
Starting the trek
Catch a public bus from Chania to Xyloscalo (the entrance).
Returning to Chania
Catch the ferry from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion or Sougia.
Catch a public bus from Chora Sfakion or Sougia, back to Chania.
Private guided group hike
The guided walks look to be very reasonably priced and the bonus is that all of the transportation is taken care of. Hop on the bus and ferry and don’t stress about nothing.
Mount Kynthos (Mt. Cynthus)
Myth: Zeus watched Leto give birth to his divine twins, Apollo and Artemis, on this mountain.
History: The original inhabitants, the Ionians, took up residence on Delos as far back as 1000 (alpha). Delos is a sacred land. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990.
Hike: Mainly up a staircase made of stone paved steps and dirt trails carved into the mountain. The hill is 112 m (367 ft) high, and takes around 15 to 30 minutes to get to the top. It can get very windy up top. Visitors to Mykonos can easily visit this island on tour boats.
Views: Wonderful views of various isles including Rinia, Mykonos, Tinos, Naxos, Paros, Ano Rematiaris and Kato Rematiaras (the two small islands near Delos harbour).
Interesting facts: The Greeks sometimes referred to Artemis as Cynthia, after her birthplace on Mount Kynthos (Cynthus) on Delos. Cynthia was originally an epithet of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon. Cindy is the modern form of Cynthia.
Cynthia Ann Crawford (born February 20, 1966), better known as Cindy Crawford, is a fantastic example. The famous American supermodel is clearly associated with the Greek Gods and Goddesses.
How’s this for coincidence, Cindy and I both share the same birthday. It’s true, we’re both Pisces.
Mount Zeus (Mt. Zas)
Myth: Obviously named after the Greek God, Zeus.
Hike: This is the highest peak in the Cyclades at 1004 m. Located in the heart of the mountains in Naxos. Start the walk from the village of Filoti. On the way back explore the island’s biggest cave which features some amazing stalagmites.
3 – 5 hrs Grade: moderate
Fira to Oia
Walk: 3-4 hrs, via the picturesque villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli. Arrive in Oia and stay for the amazing sunset.
Megali Ammos beach to Banana beach
Walk: Take it slowly and spend the whole day exploring this beautiful coastline.