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5 Outdoor Adventures You Never Knew You Could Have in Greece
Embark on a life-changing trip filled with hiking, rock climbing and other recreational pursuits.
Ditch popular tourist traps in favor of lesser-visited gems in the Greek isles for a bucket list-worthy getaway.(Getty Images)
Greece is one of the few countries in the world that needs no introduction. The curving hills of Santorini – home to clusters of white-washed homes and cobalt blue roofs – beckon thousands of tourists a year. Rhodes' soft sands, set against the sparkling Mediterranean, rank as some of the world's best beaches, and Athens recognizable and historical iconography rivals that of few other cities. Just as the country's destinations are renowned, so are quintessential activities such as catching the sunset in Oia, walking through the ruins of the Acropolis and sailing along the Aegean Sea. But those aren't the only highlights to experience in Greece. The country's diverse destinations lure those craving relatively unexplored areas, and incredible outdoor escapades that lay outside populous cities.
So, if you're ready for heart-pounding adventures and eye-opening experiences in Greece, read on to map out your next trip.
Hiking in Arcadia
A picturesque mountain path, weaving through Gortynia in Arcadia, boasts the perfect mix of diverse terrain and sweeping views. One of the longest routes from the trail's eight sections – known as the Zygovisti-Elati trail, or section three – is an ideal choice for daredevils. Consisting mostly of crooked dirt roads, the first few kilometers are beautiful (thanks to the ravine that flanks the country church of Agios Georgios) and transcends into a collection of old paths after Bilali Passs leading to Koskitska plateau and Plivouni, which towers over 5,200 feet above sea level. After the staggering incline, you'll be rewarded with sublime views of rugged white boulders, thick, verdant forests and rolling mountains. Afterward, you'll descend to the Vlachika Plateau, where you can catch sight of red-tiled roofs, fortified old city walls and stone church steeples of the settlement of Elati. The well-marked dirt path from the start of the plateau to Elati offers a welcome respite after the challenging uphill climb, and an eclectic mix of interesting views, from the snow-capped peaks of the mountain ranges behind to the sprawling country farms home to grazing horses and the sounds of cattle. After wrapping up your hike in the quiet town of Elati, stop into Taverna Papanastasiou for delicious staples such as spinach and feta salad and honey-soaked baklava.
If one day of extreme hiking isn't enough, try the Neda River Trek, which offers a degree of difficulty and the chance to cool off in a cascading waterfall pool. Along the hike, you'll climb through beautiful gorges, meander past stone bridges and traverse narrow and rocky cliffs that weave along Neda's riverbanks. Make sure to pack your camera to capture the changing scenery along the way. As the gorge narrows, you'll need to wade through the water, but throughout the arduous journey you'll be surrounded by breathtaking landscapes.
Bungee Jumping in Corinth
If you're in pursuit of an adrenaline-filled itinerary, carve out some time for bungee jumping. Intrepid types set off to the picturesque island of Corinth to plunge head first over the bright blue waters of the Corinth Channel. The landscape – filled with dusty speckles of green and the vast blue horizon – is spectacular, as are the turquoise waters and barren cliff ridges of the channel. The smells and sounds of the sea, the colors and textures of the cliffs and the rush of adrenaline create the trappings of a rip-roaring and bucket list-worthy adventure.
Rock Climbing in Kalymnos
When scouting a new place to traverse, there are attributes every rock climber looks for, including authenticity, challenging terrain and striking views that make every sweat-inducing step worthwhile. The island of Kalymnos, which sits in the southeastern archipelago of Dodecanese, meets this criteria with rugged limestone crags, an astounding and difficult amphitheater (the Grand Grotta) and unique climbing fields that all offer postcard-worthy views. The island also boasts the chance to unwind in charming small towns and villages.
Mountain Biking in Epirus
With most of the country covered in vast mountains, Greece is a choice destination for serious cyclists and die-hard mountain bikers. A top place to trail ride is on Epirus, a lush forested region that is home to imposing mountains, winding and crisscrossing trails, glistening mountain lakes and deep valleys and gorges. For serious riders, the staggering Gamila summit, which towers at nearly 8,200 feet, is a must. Not only is the climb a challenge, but the area yields views of alpine meadows and local wildlife. Along the same mountain range is the Vikos Gorge, which is carved by the large Aoös River. The gorge spans over 9 miles long. Most trails start at the small, picturesque town of Gannadio and wind through the lush forest of Vikos-Aoös.
[See: Best Trips for Adventure Junkies.]
Skiing in Peloponnese
Unlike Switzerland, Germany or even Italy, Greece isn't top of mind when it comes to serious skiing. But in spite of its sunny demeanor and relatively warm climate, there are some spectacular runs throughout the country. Rising more than 8,000 feet, Mount Parnassos sees a thick blanket of snowfall every year, making it a widely popular place to ski and snowboard. Plus, the area is home to the biggest downhill ski resort in the country, and you can choose from three different slopes and experiences, ranging from the more intimate Yerodovarhos resort to the larger Kellaria and Fterolakka lifts and trails. All of these make up about 17 miles of runs, three of which rate extremely difficult. Centrally located to Athens, locals and tourists alike flock to Kalavryta's ski resort, which decorates Mt. Helmos on Peloponnese. The resort itself boasts 12 ski runs. Beginners start at Leto and Alkimi green runs, while advanced skiers can hit the black diamond Styga, Ino and Nefeli runs, which include winding, fast trails.
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About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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