Sports Tourism on the Rise: Running Races and More in Greece

Exciting terrain, great weather and a millennia-long history of athletics make Greece a natural sports tourism destination.

A myriad of athletic events have popped up around Greece over the last few years – most of them running races, triathlons, or versions thereof.

Perhaps the only surprising thing about this development is that it didn’t happen sooner. Being the birthplace of the Olympic Games and the inspiration for modern marathons, it seems only natural for Greece to be a top sports tourism destination, with plenty of events and races for athletes to join.


Indeed, there are already some long-established events. The 37th edition of the Athens Authentic Marathon this November will welcome 20,000 runners from around the world according to the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS).

But in recent years the number of events has seen something of an explosion, with destinations large and small seeking to woo participants from near and far, bolstering tourism in the offseason and shoulder months.

The strongest selling point of these races is invariably Greece’s great natural beauty and ideal climate. But the quality of the events is also rising fast, offering athletes and their families seamless organization and exceptional moments both on and off the racecourse.  

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

On April 15th 2019, the first Ironman 70,3 triathlon to ever take place in Greece was held at Costa Navarino, in the Messinia region of the Peloponnese. It was the biggest triathlon ever held in the country, and like all the races held in Greece, it was characterized by nature. It comprised a 1,9 km swim in the Ionian Sea, a 90 km cycling route through ancient olive groves, and a half marathon by the coast and the protected, bird-rich wetland of the Gialova Lagoon.

Runner and event organizer Leftheris Plakidas, who recently published a book called “Taxideuontas” (“Traveling”) about the places he’s seen while crisscrossing Greece for athletic events, says: “Greece is a blessed country, with almost any imaginable landscape. The incredible mountains feature lakes and rivers, canyons and forests; that’s why we have over 400 mountain races. These races will move you. The routes are beautiful, hardly touched, and you would never see them if it wasn’t for these races. Then there are the islands, where every route has a view of the horizon where the sky meets the sea. They are often three-day events, and full of the joy of sports tourism.”

At one notable island event, Santorini Experience, athletes run along the side of the caldera, and swim within it.

“I’ve swam open-water all over the world, but nothing beats the energy of Santorini’s caldera. The wind is so strong, you can smell the sulfur, and the image of the giant rock wall of the island approaching is just incredible,” says Greek national team member George Arniakos about his participation in the event, which takes place every year in October.


Nature is also the star during the smaller events, like the intimate Wave Running – a barefoot running race which takes place in July or August along the coast of the delta of the Nestos River, a Natura 2000 site.

Ilias Germantzidis, co-founder of the event, said: “Getting close to nature is a big part of an athlete’s performance. This race is important because it also boosts the area’s growth as a cultural destination and as a nature destination”.

Constantinos Mitropapas is the founder of Trimore Multisports Tour, and organizes a number of races around Greece throughout the year, including the XTERRA and Isoman events. He explains that just like with food, wine and activities, sporting events are another tourism sector that (literally) leaped forward during the economic crisis as a way to bring more visitors to places that needed a boost.

“Sports tourism was a great challenge for Greece, and there are some shining examples of big world-class productions – such as the Athens Authentic Marathon, the Costa Navarino Ironman 70.3, the XTERRA Greece Off-Road Championship and the events in Spetses – the Spetsathlon & the Spetses Mini Marathon. The next challenge is for small events to transform to meet new and higher quality and safety standards in the near future,” he adds.


Using sports tourism as a way to lure more visitors in the low and shoulder season is a win-win situation for the local businesses and for the visitors – who get to experience places at their most authentic free from summer hordes.

Robert Karalis, the general manager of the Cyclades Trail Cup which organizes events on several islands, explains: “Most Cycladic islands have visitors for three to four months per year. With alternative and sports tourism, that can change. On Tinos, for example, we have a trail race on December 1st. It’s a chance to see the dry island that everyone knows covered in green and with small rivers running all over”.

Aside from picking races that take place in the low season, Karalis recommends considering races taking place at locations a bit off the beaten track.

Before registering for a race however, have a good look at its online presence. Serious event organizers will post frequently on their social media, and you’ll be able to find video content from previous years. While articles about the events are usually only written in Greek, it’s a good sign if there are many of them.


Bear in mind that very few events are all-inclusive; you usually need to plan your own transportation and accommodation. Still, before you do so, it can be worth reaching out to the organizers to see if they have any recommendations, or if any hotels are sponsoring the event (as those hoteliers will be fully informed and geared to helping you stay on schedule).

Race Calendar 2019-2020

The calendar below includes annual athletic events taking place all over Greece in 2019-2020, on the dates announced before the day this article was published. The dates are subject to change so please check with the organizers for any event you are interested in.

Notice an event missing from the calendar? E-mail us at [email protected] with the subject heading “Sports Tourism”.

October 2019

18-19/10/19 Donoussa Trail Running – Donoussa, Cyclades

19/10/19 International Thessaloniki Night Half Marathon – Thessaloniki, Macedonia


19-20/10/19 Kythnos Challenge, Cyclades Trail Cup – Kythnos, Cyclades

20/10/19 Open Door Run – Argyroupolis, Athens, Central Greece

20/10/19 Vartzakeios Run in Piraeus – Piraeus, Athens, Central Greece

20/10/19 Vikos Street Relays – Larissa, Thessaly 

20t/10/19 Oceanlava Rhodes – Rhodes, Dodecanese

20/10/19 Sprint & Olympic Triathlon Sxoinias – Sxoinias, Attica, Central Greece

20/10/19 Paraktios Dromos Igoumenitsas – Igoumenitsa, Epirus

20/10/19 Ladies Run – Astir Beach, Athens Riviera, Central Greece

20/10/19 Parnitha Lake Run – Parnitha, Athens, Central Greece

26/10/19 Pedion Areos Park Run – Athens, Central Greece

27/10/19 Meteora Trail Run – Meteora, Thessaly

27/10/19 Water Night Route – Edessa, Macedonia

Date to be announced for:

Kos Marina Triathlon (Kos, Dodecanese).

November 2019

2-3/11/19 XTERRA Open Water Swimming Challenge – Varkiza, Athens, Central Greece

2-3/11/19 Spartan Trifecta World Championship – Sparta, Peloponnese


3/11/19 Lefkas Trail Run – Lefkada, Ionian Islands

3/11/19 Vikos Street Relays – Trikala, Thessaly 

10/11/19 Athens Authentic Marathon – Athens, Central Greece

15-17/11/19 TRIMORE SwimRun Hydra – Hydra, Saronic Islands

17/11/19 Vikos Street Relays – Lamia, Central Greece

17/11/19 Tuvunu Trail Run – Nymfaias, Macedonia

24/11/19 Nafplio Castle Run – Nafplio, Peloponnese

24/11/19 Athens Health Run – Athens, Central Greece

24/11/19 Demokritus Half Marathon Xanthi – Xanthi, Macedonia

30/11/19 Pedion Areos Park Run – Athens, Central Greece

30-1/11/19 December Tinos Challenge, Cyclades Trail Cup – Tinos, Cyclades

December 2019

30-1/12/19 December Tinos Challenge, Cyclades Trail Cup – Tinos, Cyclades

7-8/12/19 Filippios Dromos – Vergina, Macedonia


8/12/19 Olympus Paths – Mount Olympus, Macedonia

21/12/19 Pedion Areos Park Run – Athens, Central Greece

January 2020

19/1/20 Veikou Trail – Athens, central Greece

26/1/20 Ioannis Kapodistrias Run – Aegina, Saronic Islands


26/1/20 Salewa Rogkas – Mount Olympus, Macedonia

February 2020

23/2/20 Lycabettus Run – Run the Hill – Athens, Central Greece

Date to be announced for:


“Efkleios” Agonas (Ymittos, Athens, Central Greece).

March 2020

8/3/20 Nafplio Marathon – Nafplio, Peloponnese

8/3/20 Route of Truce – Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese


8/3/20 Chortiatis Trail Run – Chortiati, Thessaloniki, Macedonia

8/3/20 Katerini Run – Katerini, Macedonia

22/3/20 Athens Half Marathon – Athens, Central Greece

23-24/3/20 Lakedaimonios Agonas – Mystras, Peloponnese

April 2020

4/4/20 Hydra’s Trail Race – Hydra, Saronic Islands

4-5/4/20 Kea Challenge, Cyclades Trail Cup – Kea, Cyclades


5/4/20 IRONMAN 70.3 GREECE – Costa Navarino, Peloponnese

5/4/20 Plastira Lake Trail Race – Lake Plastira, Thessaly

5t/4/20 21 Mathiton – Makrochori Imathia, Macedonia

10/4/20 Kassios Dias Trail Race – Corfu, Ionian

12/4/20 Crete Marathon – Crete

12/4/20 International Alexander the Great Marathon – Thessaloniki, Macedonia

24-26/4/20 XTERRA Offroad Triathlon – Vouliagmeni, Athens, Central Greece

25/4/20 Kalamata 10K Race – Kalamata, Peloponnese

25/4/20 Volos Half Marathon – Volos, Thessaly

26/4/20 Poseidonios Half Marathon – Athens, Central Greece

26/4/20 Kissavos Marathon Race – Kissavos, Thessaly 

Date to be announced for:

Olympians Run International (Maroussi, Athens, Central Greece).

May 2020

2-3/5/20 Corfu Mountain Trail – Corfu, Ionian Islands

3/5/20 Roads to Rhodes Marathon – Rhodes, Dodecanese


3/5/20 Anopaia Atrapos – Lamia, Central Greece

6-10/5/20 No Finish Line – Athens, Central Greece

10/5/20 Agriniou Trail Run – Agrinio, Central Greece

10/5/20 Eirinodromia – Ag. Dimitrio, Athens, Central Greece

15-17/5/20 Spetsathlon – Spetses, Saronic Islands

23/5/20 Psathathlon Triathlon Sprint – Alepochori, Central Greece

30-31/5/20 Porosea – Poros, Saronic Islands

30-31/5/20 The Bridge Experience – Rio-Antirrio Bridge

Dates to be announced for:

Historic Run (Epidavros, Peloponnese), Afaias Cup (Aegina, Saronic Islands), Run Together (Thessaloniki, Macedonia), Run Lake Gitzi (Lake Gitzi, Thessaly), Trikala City Run (Trikala, Thessaly), Amorgos Trail Challenge (Amorgos, Cyclades), Athlos Tzoumerkon (Tsoumerka, Epirus), Ioannina Night Half Marathon (Ioannina, Epirus), Lamia Night & Run (Lamia, Central Greece), Orliakas Race (Grevena, Macedonia), Run the Theatre (Megalopoli, Arcadia, Peloponnese), Ippokratios Laikos Agonas Dromou (Larissa, Thessaly), Vikos Street Relays (Thessaloniki, Macedonia), Aegina Mountain 15K Race (Aegina, Saronic Islands), Pourlia Trail (Pieria, Macedonia), Via Egnatia Run (Alexandroupoli, Macedonia), Marathon lake Run (Marathon, Attica, Central Greece), Atlas Trail Running (Malakasa, Attica, Central Greece).

June 2020

7/6/20 Alonissos Challenge – Alonissos, Sporades

13/6/20 Skyros Run – Skyros, Sporades


23/6/20 SNF Run – SNFCC. Athens, Central Greece

27/6/20 Folegandros Sunset Trail – Cyclades trail Cup – Folegandros, Cyclades

Dates to be announced for:

Psiloritis Race (Crete), North Olympus Trail Vrontou (Mount Olympus, Macedonia), Wood Water Wild (Kavala, Macedonia), Syros Run (Syros, Cyclades), Olympic Day Run (Thessaloniki Olympic Museum, Thessaloniki, Macedonia), Vikos Street Relays (Ioannina, Epirus), Panepistimoupoli Run (Zografou, Athens, Central Greece), Attika Run&Fun Grand Prix (Melissia, Athens, Central Greece), Olympians Night Run (Rethymno, Crete), Oceanman (Mani, Peloponnese).

July 2020

3-5/7/20 Salewa Olympus Mythical Trail – Mount Olympus, Macedonia

Dates to be announced for:


Maniacs Race (Mani, Peloponnese), Faethon Olympus Marathon “Apostolos Tsourekas” (Mount Olympus, Thessaly), Zagori Mountain Running (Zagori, Epirus), Zero Lake Run (Lake Zirou, Epirus), Energy Duathlon Karpenissi (Karpenissi, Central Greece), Syrathlon (Syros, Cyclades).

August 2020

1/8/20 Wave Running – Keramoti, Avdera, Thrace

Dates to be announced for:


Zeus FSR (Mount Olympus, Thessaly), Krekonian Run (Lagadia, Peloponnese), Seli Mountain Running & Vertical Race (Vermio Mountains, Macedonia), Lepanto Evening Run (Nafpaktos, Central Greece), Chios Half Marathon (Chios, North Aegean).

September 2020

12-13/9/20 Ios Adventure – Ios, Cyclades

18-19/9/20 Ioannina Lake Run – Ioannina, Epirus


Dates to be announced for:

Corfu Half Marathon (Corfu, Ionian Islands), Arachova Trail (Arachova, Central Greece), Polygyros Run (Halkidiki, Macedonia), Syros City Trail (Syros, Cyclades), ELLINIKON Cross Country, Half Marathon & Fun Run (Arkadia, Peloponnese), Serifos Sunset Race (Serifos, Cyclades), Mykonos Run (Mykonos, Cyclades), Hercules Mountain Marathon (Mount Oeta, Central Greece), Naousa Vermio Trail (Naousa, Macedonia), Filiatra Run (Filiatra, Peloponnese), Fancy Women Bike Ride (Athens, Central Greece), Kallithea Half Marathon (Athens, Central Greece), Kilkis Trail & Kilkis Run (Kilkis, Macedonia), Afentis Mountain Marathon (Crete), Andros Trail Race, Cyclades Trail Cup (Andros, Cyclades), Tyros Triathlon (Tyros, Peloponnese), Spartathlon (Sparta, Peloponnese), Isoman presented by G, Trimore (Rethymno, Crete), Kavala Night City Run (Kavala, Macedonia), Monemvasia Run Challenge (Monemvasia, Peloponnese), Athens Running Weekend – Race for the Cure (Zappeion, Athens, Central Greece), Salewa Lost Trail (Mount Olympus, Macedonia).

October 2020

9-11/10/20 Spetses Mini Marathon – Spetses, Saronic Islands

11/10/20 Chalkida Bridges Half Marathon – Chalkida, Evia, Central Greece


Dates to be announced for:

Santorini Experience (Santorini , Cyclades), Il Porto Triathlon (Igoumenitsa, Central Greece), Crete Half Marathon (Crete), Navarino Challenge (Costa Navarino, Peloponnese), Salonica Run – No Finish Line (Thessaloniki, Macedonia), Vartzakeios Dromos Ygeias (Piraeus, Athens, Central Greece), Aristotelios Dromos Atochis – Naousa, Macedonia, Trecho gia tin Katerini (Katerini, Macedonia), Run Together (OAKA, Athens, Central Greece), Olympians Run International (Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese), Half Marathon Michalis Kouziz (Agrinio, Central Greece), Energy Triathlon Tolo (Nafplio, Peloponnese).

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