Visitors in Greece need to think strategically about how they spend their time. While it is worthwhile to see some of the country’s incredible museums, individuals should also make time to explore the beauty of the country. Tourists tend to focus largely on the Greek islands, but the mainland has its fair share of incredible locations to explore.
One of the best ways to experience the breathtaking scenery of the Greek country is exploring one or more of its national parks. Some of the must-see national parks in Greece include:
Pindos National Park
Located in the western part of Macedonia, Pindos provides visitors with a landscape not commonly associated with Greece. This mountainous area has dense forests of beech and pine, as well as whitewater rivers, springs, and mountain lakes. A few of the peaks in the area reach above 6,500 feet. When people arrive in Pindus, they will first encounter the Valia Kalda valley created by peaks from the Pindos mountain area.
This area is home to Eurasian bears and one of only three sites in Greece where the animal can be seen. Visitors may encounter a number of other exciting fauna, including otters, lynx, wild cats, golden eagles, and eastern imperial eagles. In addition, the park boasts more than 80 different varieties of mushrooms and a handful of flowers endemic to the Balkans.
Olympus National Park
Established in 1938, Olympus National Park surrounds the highest peak in Greece, Mount Olympus. According to Greek mythology, this mountaintop served as the home to the 12 ancient gods.
Visitors will find more than 50 peaks in addition to Mount Olympus, as well as a variety of different trails for hikers and climbers. Individuals interested in doing multi-day hikes can make use of the network of refuges built in the park. These safe places can house up to 12 people at a given time.
Among the thick forest and deep gorges of the area, tourists may catch a glimpse of golden eagles, wolves, fox, deer, and woodpeckers. Recently, the park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and named one of the most important places in Europe for bird species.
Parnitha National Park
Not far from Athens, Parnitha provides the perfect escape from the city. Parnitha is known for its dense pine forests that transition to fir trees at higher altitudes. Individuals can find examples of rare trees in the park, including the Lebanon cedar, as well as both Hungarian and Italian oak. Visitors can also find wild tulips depending on the time of year.
At the Mpafi refuge, a restaurant serves a limited but delicious menu. This refuge also serves as a starting point for guided tours and hikes, as well as mountain-biking and rock-climbing adventures. Tourists can also engage in archery and tree climbing.
Sounio National Park
Another park situated close to Athens, Sounio is a common day trip for tourists. People often come to Sounio to see the ruins of the temple to Poseidon, god of the sea, that dates back to about 440 BC. Cape Sounio is also mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.
Today, visitors will find historic mines that they can explore, including the Lavrio silver mines, in addition to caves and a relaxing beach. The forest at Sounio is composed primarily of Aleppo pine although several other endemic plants can be found.
Mount Parnassos National Park
The very first national park founded in Greece, Mount Parnassos has become famous for its ski resort. The park stretches between the ancient home of the oracle at Delphi to Arachova. In addition to skiing, visitors can hike, mountain bike, and explore the ruins at Delphi.
Two common plants in the area are the Cephalonian fir tree and the Parnassian peony. As far as fauna goes, visitors may encounter boars, weasels, badgers, and wolves, as well as various species of birds of prey.
People who happen to be in Greece during the fall should definitely try to make it to Mount Parnassos to see the changing colors, as well as the wildflowers that flourish in this season and cover the ground. At the foot of the eponymous Mount Parnassos, tourists can explore some massive olive groves.
Prespes National Park
Tourists who visit Prespes National Park will find the gorgeous Mikri and Megali Prespa lakes, which are separated by a small, sandy island and surrounded by large mountains. The lakes are especially charming because of the aquatic plants growing in the water, which have large leaves floating along the surface.
In addition, the area remains an important breeding ground for several breeds of aquatic bird. More than 200 species have been identified, including wild pelicans and red pelicans. The lakes are located close to the borders of Albania and the former Yugoslavia. They attract a number of tourists from those areas in addition to those from Greece.