In the not-too-distant past, when mules, donkeys and feet were the primary modes of transportation in Greece, an intricate network of footpaths and trails criss-crossed the landscape. However with the arrival of motorized transport, many of these fell out of use. Years passed and they became overgrown and forgotten.
Now, thanks to the increasing number of travellers looking for holiday destinations with great hikes, more and more of these trails are being rediscovered, mapped and signposted. In recent years more than 50,000 foreign hikers (mainly French, German, British, Dutch and Scandinavian) have visited Greece for the sole purpose of touring on foot.
From one end of the country to the other, there is a growing wealth of trails winding through beautiful natural environments steeped in culture. Think waterfalls and monasteries, breathtaking views and picturesque villages.
Fivos Tsaravopoulos is the founder of “Paths of Greece” an initiative launched in 2010 to bring the magnificent but forgotten paths of Greece back to life. Since then the group has waymarked over 400km of trails. Tsaravopoulos is also a member of the World Trails Network.
We asked Tsaravopoulos to recommend a few unknown hiking routes. Here are 6 of his favorites:
Trail name: Sifnos Trail #6
Starting point: Apollonia village
Distance / Time required: 15km/7h
Details: An old trail, with steps built into the steeper inclines, that goes around the hilly area of Profitis Ilias of Sifnos. It enters the island’s Natura 2000 protected area, passes numerous chapels through roadless terrain, and offers sweeping views of the Aegean.
Don’t miss: A stop at the welcoming Monastery of Panagia Toso Nero (Virgin Mary of the Waters), where the cells are open to the public. Take a dip at the beach of the same name further on.
Best time to go: Spring when the landscape is flooded with color.
For more information: www.sifnostrails.com
Trail name: Kythira Hiking M41
Starting point: Mylopotamos
Distance / Time required: 2.6km/2h
Details: The route is a veritable journey back through time, when mills were powered by water. The hike is along a good, old trail winding past countless azure waterfalls and a number of old, stone-built watermills accompanied by the sound of rushing water and the rustling of plane trees.
Don’t miss: A visit to the restored Filippi watermill, and a swim in the cool waters of the plunge pools near the end of the route.
Best time to go: Suitable for all seasons, but the river is at its fullest in the spring.
For more information: www.kytherahiking.com
Trail name: The Battery Trail
Starting point: Fiskardo
Distance / Time required: 10km/3h35′
Details: It just takes a short hike to get away from the popular seafront village of Fiskardo and to immerse yourself in the area’s wonders. Walking along Venetian-built cobblestone paths, you will pass through abandoned settlements before reaching the infamous old German military base known as the “Bataria”. Then venture through a magnificent grove of strawberry trees that leads to magical beaches.
Don’t miss: A walk around the village of Psilithrias and a swim in the waters at Kimilia beach.
Best time to go: The trail is wonderful at any time of year, and not too hot in the summer as it is thickly shaded.
For more information: www.footpaths-of-erisos.gr
4. Mountainous Messinia
Trail name: Apollo Trail #1
Starting point: Neda village, Messinia
Distance / Time required: 10.1km/3h25′
Details: The trail passes through widely varying terrain (kermes oaks, plane trees, chestnut trees, open fields, gorges and mountain peaks) and connects the villages of Neda, Abeliona and Skliros with the famed Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Vasses. It is one of the least-known trails in Greece, but possibly one of the most impressive.
Don’t miss: A visit to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, built by the 5th century architect Ictinus. There is also plenty to explore along the other routes of this trail network.
Best time to go: Spring and fall are the best seasons.
For more information: Look for information on this trail system at Abeliona village.
5. Prespa lakes
Trail name: The bastion of the Democratic Army of Greece (Aghios Georgios – Mt. Devas)
Starting point: Church of Aghios Georgios (near Psarades)
Distance / Time required: 11.4km/4.5h
Details: The trail starts off in a grove of towering, ancient junipers, offering views of the lakes at various clearings along the way. As the trail extends along the ridge, you come upon the ruins of fortifications built by the leftist forces during the Greek Civil War. The flora in spring is a riot of wildflowers, accompanying the hiker on the climb to the top of Mt. Devas, from where the view is infinite.
Don’t miss: The view of the pelican colonies from above, and a tour of the civil war defenses.
Best time to go: Spring and fall.
For more information: http://www.junex.gr/index.php/el/ntevas
Trail name: The “Wet Stone Quarry”
Starting point: Village of Taxiarches in Drama (Jennifer Home Hotel)
Distance / Time required: 7km/2h30′
Details: The trail incorporates old pathways and agricultural roads at the foot of Falakro Mountain. It begins in the village of Taxiarches (formerly Sipsa), in an area marked by impressive but abandoned marble quarries. At some point, as quarriers worked to break up the stones, water bubbled to the surface. The quarry was transformed into a beautiful lake reflecting the multicolored leaves of the oak forest.
Don’t miss: The route along the nearby smaller trail passing through a number of quarries with fascinating rock formations.
Best time to go: All year-round.
For more information: http://pathsofgreece.gr/?page_id=1905