If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that life is unpredictable and we should make the most of each precious moment.
Though we don’t know exactly how things will look in 2021, we’re hopeful for more normality as the world heals from the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope for freedom to travel, to enjoy the big, beautiful world that we’ve all missed, and we’re looking forward optimistically to new adventures away from screens big and small.
With that in mind, we’re seeing 2021 as a time to do the things you’ve always dreamed of. And we bet Greece can satisfy every adventure on your bucket list.
With its incredible islands and varied landscape, Greece is the perfect place to try everything from sailing and scuba diving in the sparkling Aegean, to hiking mountain trails and conquering majestic Mount Olympus.
Every Greek adventure is filled with endless sunshine, wonderful food and of course, philoxenia – that heartfelt Greek welcome that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s all out there, waiting for you.
1. Scuba Dive off Kythnos
On first look, the Cycladic island of Kythnos may seem relatively barren, but the magic of this Cycladic island is somewhat hidden – and that includes under the sea. The strong currents and waves that bathe the isle bless its waters with life. Dive and you’ll find a rainbow of color with reefs, coral, sculpted rock formations and marine life, including plenty of scuttling lobsters.
Up the adventure with a dive to a crumbling World War II shipwreck at Agios Stefanos Bay. Glide around the bow, propeller and hull of the former cargo ship “Niki” (meaning ‘Victory’ in English), drinking in history. Due to its shallow position, it’s doable for beginners.
Kythnos has high quality, certified scuba diving schools like Aqua Team Dive Center, which also specializes in diving for the disabled, arranging excursions to 30 different diving spots. Check out Vouvokera for sea life, Katakefalos for unique rock shapes, 45 meter-deep Aghios Sarantis and Ksera tis Agapis to view underwater remnants of ancient vases.
Catch the ferry from Athens’ Piraeus (3hr) or Lavrio (just 1hr 40) to Kythnos where you can also traverse sun-drenched hills to discover chapels, caves, ruins of ancient temples, old mining sites and two main towns that are sure to charm.
Other Places Great for Diving: Karpathos (rare marine life and underwater cliffs), Zakynthos (for its sea turtles), Leros (an absolute must for WWII wreck buffs) and Alonissos (home to the country’s first undersea archaeological park).
2. Sail the Ionian (For Beginners)
The sparkling light of the Ionian Islands has inspired many historical and literary figures from Odysseus to Captain Corelli. Find your own inspiration as you spend days sailing the serene waters under the beating sun, then moor up at any of the unique islands to enjoy gorgeous beaches and harborside tavernas. Sip local wine and dine on freshly caught fish as you while away evenings watching dazzling sunsets. Then do it all again the next day!
Off Greece’s western coasts, the relatively calm summer winds of the Ionian Sea create a perfect setting for less experienced skippers to cut their teeth on a relaxing Greek sailing adventure. Options to hire a skipper are also available if you really want to kick back.
The linear spread of the islands makes a north-south (or vice-versa) route logical. The bigger islands include Lefkada with its legendary white sand beaches, vibrantly green Corfu, and famous Navagio Beach (aka Shipwreck Cove) of Zakynthos. Don’t forget hidden gems Paxoi and Antipaxoi, which are full of secret coves, and peaceful Meganisi.
3. Sail the Cyclades (Advanced)
Few images capture the magic of the Greek summer better than sailing through the deep blue Aegean between bustling, whitewashed island villages of the Cyclades.
Mykonos and Santorini, with their blue domed-churches and white cobbled streets, are the most famous, but there are many more brilliant islands to explore, each with its own personality. Make sure you stop at Naxos for stunning beaches, and elegant Syros for excellent seafood on the seafront.
There are 220 islands in the archipelago so make a bucket list before you set off. When choosing a route, consider distances between islands and how much time you have.
One popular route is Paros – Sifnos – Serifos – Syros – Mykonos – Delos – Naxos.
Due to the strong meltemi winds in the summer, sailing in the Cyclades can be a more white-knuckle affair than around other island groups, requiring a more experienced skipper and crews with strong stomachs. Unless you have plenty of experience sailing in strong winds (which regularly reach gale force), it’s recommended you opt for other island groups such as the Sporades or Ionian.
4. Paraglide over Lefkada
Ionian paradise Lefkada is known for its award-winning beaches, impressive green-topped cliffs and sea as blue as the Grecian sky. What better place to start your paragliding adventure?
Take to the sky with an experienced pilot, your paraglider carrying you on the gentle breeze. Sail over Lefkada with panoramic views of this rich, green island stretching across the sparkling sea. You’ll get to know Lefkada uniquely from your place in the sky, spotting the towns, churches and other lush isles (such as Madouri, Skorpios and Skorpidi) dotted below. Look out for centuries-old villages perched high in the mountains.
For thrill-seekers, some companies offer a spin during your flight. And if the memories aren’t enough, you’re often offered a video of your flight to look back on the experience (and show off to your friends). Lefkada Paragliding offers 25-minute flights over beautiful Pefkoulia Bay, with well-reviewed, experienced pilots.
Lefkada is one of the easiest islands to reach as it’s connected to the mainland by bridge. There’s a real buzz about Lefkada, an island proud of its music, literature and art: the perfect infusion for your spectacular flying adventure.
5. Hike the Island of Andros
The hills of Andros sing with the magic of nature. Ramble trails in the Cycladic breeze and find yourself at the foot of a cascading waterfall, by a green forest’s babbling brook, in a valley of colorful flora, or on the island’s tip with blue sea and sky stretching out before you.
This peaceful, mountainous place is yours to explore thanks to Andros Routes. The organization with sustainability in mind has sign-posted and cleared all of Andros’ best trails. They have created maps and itineraries available online and throw the annual hiking festival Andros On Foot to celebrate the island and its people. Trails range in difficulty and length, from 7 km hikes to the days-long 100km trail around the island.
Our favorite is route 1. Start in bustling Hora then snake through green valleys to remote villages like Menites. Here you’ll find a lush, green haven with a fresh mountain spring that’s been flowing for centuries (some locals believe the water has healing properties). Perch at one of the cafés’ outdoor tables to enjoy local spoon sweets and a glass of fresh spring water, as you soak up the best of Greek nature. Reach Andros via a 2-hr ferry from the port of Rafina near Athens.
Other Islands Great For Hiking: Corfu, Naxos, Milos, Sifnos and many, many more.
6. Hike the Menalon Trail in the Peloponnese
Begin your multi-day hike of the Menalon Trail in Stemnitsa, a mountain village straight from a postcard with stone houses and cobbled streets. Walk the impressively green surrounding hills, then through the Lousios Gorge where vertiginous Prodromou Monastery is stamped in the rockface. Pass wonderful sites, rest up in charming villages, then finish at picturesque Lagadia, rewarding yourself with delicious local fare and fabulous valley views.
The scenery of the Menalon Trail is spectacular – forming some of the most impressive vistas in Greece – but the local culture and gastronomy is almost as much of a draw. Locals are proud of their unique heritage and history: the area was a key center for the organization and supply of the Greek forces in the War of Independence. Stay in Alpine-esque inns with lovely hosts offering even lovelier food, like local cheese pies and grilled chops. You won’t want to leave.
This 75km, 8-section trail typically takes around one week to hike in full. A certified Leading Quality Trail (European Ramblers Association), the route is well maintained and thus manageable for beginners whilst still suited to advanced hikers (though not families with very young children). It’s best enjoyed May-September but be mindful of heat in the high summer months.
Other Great Mainland Hiking Destinations: Zagori and Mt Pilio (Pelion).
7. Go Mountaineering on Mount Olympus
Once you see noble Mount Olympus rising into the clouds, you’ll understand why the ancient Greeks believed it was the home of the gods. It’s so tall, you can see the top peeking out of the clouds from an airplane; so vast, you’ll see it on the horizon from as far away as Thessaloniki. The range has 52 peaks and the tallest (Mytikas, 2917m) is the highest in Greece.
Start your climb at the Prionia trail head, the highest part of the mountain that’s accessible by car. Trek through forests alive with history, feeling Olympus’ power breathing through the trees. Clear the woodlands and find the range tumbling around you as you head for the summit.
The hike to the summit takes two days on average so stay overnight at a mountain refuge. As the sun sets over this range that’s steeped in mythology, you’ll experience the true magic of Greece and all it stands for.
Reaching the summit is relatively tough (and weather-dependent) but can be managed by people with basic mountaineering experience. However, hiring a guide is strongly recommended; they will both keep you safe from the mountain’s hidden dangers and provide you with a wealth of information about this incredible mountain where myth meets wild nature.
Mount Olympus is a 5-hour drive from Athens or 3 hours from Thessaloniki.
8. Cycle, Motorbike or Drive Across the Peloponnese
Pack out a holiday itinerary exploring the Peloponnese via bicycle, motorbike or car (it’s vast so choose accordingly). The area is packed with historical sites from all eras of Greek history, from Byzantine fortresses like Mystras and Monemvasia, to Ancient Olympia. The Peloponnese also boasts beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan cities. But the unique natural beauty makes the journey a joy in itself.
There are many route options. Arcadia is a must as you’ll snake through the central region, mountains rising either side of you, to the traditional villages of Dimitsana and Stemnitsa. Fuel up on lemony souvlaki at a restaurant perched on the cliffside, overlooking the deep valleys. Head on to Olympia, Pylos and Methoni, stopping off at the Polylimnio waterfall for a cooling dip, then Voidikillia (aka Omega Beach) for an incredible sunset over the bay.
Alternatively, follow the Tripoli-Argos National Road for one of Europe’s most stunning drives as you descend from the mountains onto the Argolid Plain. Head to Greece’s first capital of Nafplio: a bustling old town to explore. Use it as a base to visit nearby ancient sites such as Epidaurus and Mycenae.
Other Great Road Trips: Crete, where you can visit the towns of Hania, Irakleio, Rethymno and world-famous attractions such as the Samaria Gorge and Elafonisi.
9. Rock Climb on Kalymnos
There’s no better backdrop for a climb than the colors and nature of Greece including the deep blue of the Aegean. That’s why keen rock climbers from across the world flock to the Dodecanese island of Kalymnos.
Once upon a time, the locals believed the rocky, unforgiving terrain of their island to be a curse, causing many to emigrate over the centuries. Now, the craggy nature of this island is a true gift for anyone seeking a rock climbing adventure. Forget sitting on the beach with a cocktail (though there’s plenty of opportunity to do that as well). Strap on your gear and climb one of the hundreds of routes, whether a difficult, high climb for the experienced, or an instructor-led, easy route for beginners.
Greece’s steady sunshine and gentle breezes mean you can enjoy Kalymnos climbing for most of the year, though the best time is in the spring or autumn. Climbing here is well-organized and safe, and the surrounding nature is incredible to view from a cliffside.
Locals are proud of their island and the adventure it offers so you’ll always be welcomed warmly, with plenty of local delicacies to enjoy such as wild goat and fresh seafood.
Other Places Great For Rock Climbing: Meteora and Leonidio in the Peloponnese.
10. Windsurf / Kitesurf in Naxos
The Cyclades are famous for their winds, with Naxos especially known for its ideal windsurfing weather. This is especially true in summer, when the meltemi winds blow. Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades with mountains and fertile valleys and many beaches, from cliff-enclosed coves to long stretches of tree-lined sand. The best beaches for windsurfing include Mikri Vigla, Aghios Georgios and Laguna, each with schools and easily accessible from the main town.
Don your wetsuit and start your morning at a spot like Aghios Georgios where the windsurfing spot, separated from the popular sunbathing stretch next door, retains its natural roots. Learn to zoom across brilliantly blue waters on your board as the sun bakes the hills around you, then relax at the beachside shack with fellow sailors, or head to a taverna to enjoy some of the best local produce in the Aegean.
As the morning turns to afternoon, the winds blow stronger to give your surfing some extra oomph. The Old Town – its maze of winding streets rising to the Venetian castle at its peak – and harbor are next door, ready for you to explore as the sun goes down.
Other places great for windsurfing or kitesurfing: Paros, Lefkada, Rhodes, Limnos.
11. Sea Kayak Around the Sporades Islands
For a daring twist on traditional island hopping, forget the ferry and opt for a sea kayak. The Sporades Islands are close enough together that you can paddle between them, discovering wonders of the sea as you go. We recommend Skiathos (which has an international airport) as a base.
Join a professional kayak expedition and head out on your adventure with a group of like-minded explorers. Bask in the splendor of the nature surrounding you – limestone cliffs, coves and caves – as your vessel slices through the warm, glassy waters. Stop at beaches for picnics, swimming or snorkeling, both well-known sands and remote gems that are inaccessible by land and thus untouched.
Explore sea caves and discover islands like Skopelos with its famously green hills, and historic Alonissos with its cobblestone streets. Watch out for surprising and exciting Sproades wildlife: you might spot soaring falcons, playful dolphins, schools of tuna, loggerhead turtles and rare monk seals splashing beside your kayak.
Expeditions can last several days meaning camping under the stars or hotel stays on different, exciting islands. Soak up your freedom as you watch the sunset light up the waters on which you float.
12. Surf the Waves of Tinos
Chairs are scattered on the sand, hessian canvas is strung overhead, and refreshments are served from a Volkswagen that appears to have been left on the beach: welcome to the surfing scene on Tinos. Live out your hippy dream with fellow wave-lovers on this Cycladic island beloved by Greeks for its authenticity, nature and dedicated people who love their homeland.
Organizations like Tinos Surf Lessons and Beach Bar – with their Volkswagen located on southern beach of Kolymbithra – mean like-minded people gather from across the world to surf here. The strong winds, up to 7 on the Beaufort Scale, create big, crashing waves. Fly across the blue Aegean on your board with unapologetically Greek hills and sky surrounding you.
Afterwards, toast with new friends at the beach bar then head into Tinos town for famously good food. There’s even a “Food Path” experience here, plus a microbrewery and winery. Despite being relatively close to Athens the island has been saved from Cycladic overtourism; traditionally it is more associated with religious pilgrims who visit to pay their respects to Our Lady of Tinos (Panaghia Evangelistria) and the icon many believe to be miraculous.
Tinos is a place full of heritage and soul: the perfect backdrop to any adventure.
You can reach Tinos by ferry from Athens’ Rafina (2 hrs) or Piraeus (2 hrs).
13. Experience Traditional Farm Life
In Greece, adventure isn’t just about thrill seeking. Why not stay on a local farm to discover the joys of rural life, learning about Greek culture, heritage and tradition from the people who live it every day?
From olive picking and wine making, to milking animals and preparing tangy goat’s cheeses, agritourism enterprises offer experiences both educational and enjoyable. Some even hold pottery workshops or cookery classes where you’ll bake traditional pastries like spanakopita using the farm’s ingredients. It’s great for families, couples or even groups of friends, especially if home is a bustling city.
Dive into the natural rhythms of farm life where all you’ll hear is the animals, everything you’ll taste is fresh, and all you’ll see is unrivaled natural Greek beauty. With lovely locals, fabulous weather and myriad opportunities to get back to basics (and some dirt under your fingernails), agritourism is a great alternative adventure to help you and your family to get away from screens big and small and reconnect with the land and all its many fruits.
There are many agritourism destinations around Greece – check out this article for more ideas.