landscape

7 of the Most Inspiring Hiking Trails to Explore in Greece

Travelers who want to get off the beaten tourist path may want to think about exploring some of Greece’s wonderful trailheads. About 80 percent of the country is covered with hills and mountains, making it one of the primary destinations for both hiking and trekking. Even on the islands, tourists can find inspiring trails that lead to breathtaking views and give a unique perspective on the area. Many of these trails date back to ancient times, from the paths created by shepherds and monks to kalderimia, flagstone or cobbled paths that date back to the Byzantine Empire. Some of the top trails in Greece include the following:

 

  1. Mount Olympus

The highest peak in all of Greece, Mount Olympus was known as the home of the gods. Today, the mountain has transformed into a hiker’s paradise with a wide variety of different plants and birds. Mount Olympus officially became the first national park in Greece back in 1938; it features more than 160 kilometers of trails leading to several breathtaking vistas, as well as some refuges that hikers can take advantage of during multi-day treks. For travelers who enjoy exploring mountains, this destination is a must.

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  1. Pelion Peninsula

Another great option for people who want to explore the natural beauty of Greece, Pelion is a peninsula found about halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki. Green and lush, Pelion is home to miles of ancient kalderimia connecting various villages. Helpfully, all of the paths have been signposted to help people travel easily by foot between the different destinations.

These paths offer scenic hikes with trails starting from several major villages, including Kala Nera, Tsagarada, and Milies. Greek mythology holds that this area was once home to centaurs, beasts with both human and horse features. While hikers are not likely to encounter centaurs, they will find monasteries, churches, and placid water springs, as well as diverse fauna.

 

  1. Menalon Trail

About 75 kilometers in length, the Menalon Trail is a mountain path that runs through Gortynia, at the heart of the Peloponnese. This trail is a bit of a challenge since it moves across rugged mountains and deep canyons, but hikers will also come across charming villages like Nymfasia, Dimitsana, and Elati.

The trail is divided into eight sections that vary in length and difficulty, so hikers of all skill levels will be able to find a path that suits them.

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  1. Vikos Gorge

Epirus remains one of the lesser-explored parts of Greece, but hikers will find one of the most exciting destinations in the whole country here, as well as some of the most scenic views. Visitors should head to the Vikos Aoos National Park, located in Zagori, to hike the Vikos Gorge, which the Guinness Book of Records cites as the deepest gorge in the world.

Hiking along this incredible gorge will prove to be an unforgettable experience. Individuals should also make time to visit some of the picturesque villages in the region to get a taste of local culture. Furthermore, the surrounding Pindos Mountains have some worthy trails with excellent views of the range’s nearby lakes and 2,000-meter-high peaks.

 

  1. Sifnos

This island is perhaps best known for its food, which visitors can enjoy after hiking along its more than 200 kilometers of trails. Along the island are several ancient trail networks that take hikers past landmark buildings and stunning sea vistas. In total, Sifnos has 19 well-marked trails that individuals can use to explore the island and work up an appetite.

 

  1. Mount Athos

One of the more unique hiking experiences that individuals can have in Greece remains Mount Athos in the east of the Halkidiki Peninsula. In Greek, this mountain is also called Agio Oros (Holy Mountain) as it is home to 20 different monasteries. The mountain range has a distinctly peaceful atmosphere and its beauty is simply stunning.

Because the area is a bit secluded, it is best attempted by seasoned hikers, although the paths do vary in length and difficulty, so those who are less experienced will still have options. Hikers will encounter a wide variety of different animals and flora. However, due to religious reasons, women and young children are not permitted to visit.

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  1. Nisyros

The attraction of Nisyros, an island between Kos and Tilos, is the fact that it is a volcano! Along the edge of the island are several whitewashed villages with accommodations for guests. From these villages, individuals can hike upward toward the volcanic crater. They can also find some natural pools scattered around the island in which to cool off during their hike. Additionally, the hike is possible to do as a day trip when staying on the nearby island of Kos.

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beer

9 of the Best Beers to Try in Greece

While many people may know that Greece produces some distinctive, flavorful varieties of wine, they may not be aware that it also has a rich beer heritage. Beer is particularly refreshing during the hottest summer months while people relax on the beach. Various regions of the country have their own go-to beers, and great examples of lagers, ales, and more are now brewed in Greece. The following are some must-try drinks for fans of beer who are traveling in Greece:

 

1. Nisos

In 2014, Nisos won the second prize at the European Beer Star competition, an impressive feat. Nisos is brewed on Tinos, a small island, by Cyclades Microbrewery. This beer is a pilsner that has several spices and herbal aromatics, adding to the complexity of the flavor. Several different flavor varieties are available, including a Beaufort edition that has heavy caramel notes and a high ABV (alcohol by volume), as well as one with the refreshing taste of green apple and lime. All Nisos beers are produced with organic ingredients and made in small quantities. These options are all designed as a great complement to a warm beach day.

 

2. Vergina

For more than two decades, Macedonian Thrace Brewery in Komotini, a small town near Thessaloniki, has produced truly distinctive brews. The brand has emerged as among the most popular in Greece and is definitely worth a try. The Red Vergina has a strong caramel taste, while the white variety offers much fruitier notes for those who want something lighter and sweeter.

 

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3. Septem

Two brothers, an economist and a chemist, founded Septem about a decade ago on the island of Evia in Orologio. The founders aimed to create a refined beer that would stand up to the distinctive wines of Greece. The duo applies many philosophies gleaned from the wine industry to the production of their beers, which include award-winning pilsners and pale ales, as well as seasonal varieties. Visitors who make their way to Evia are welcome to check out the brewery and try some of its great options, and travelers can simply look for beer options at different tavernas as they explore the country.

 

4. Corfu Beer

A family-run brewery, Corfu Beer is located in the small village of Arillas on the island of Corfu. Brewer Claudio Mouzakitis leads the operation and specializes in ales, along with some limited-edition runs. Corfu offers a wide range of different options, from a ginger beer to a fruity Weissbier. The brewery also offers some more bitter varieties, along with a red. The island of Corfu has demonstrated a strong affinity for ginger beer since the British brought the drink to the island in the 1800s, so it is something that travelers will find in several spots. However, this brewery’s version is one of the best.

 

5. Kirki

A microbrewery located in Halkida, Kirki is a newcomer and has operated only since 2015. Now, the brewery offers two celebrated options. One is the namesake Kirki, a cloudy pale ale that does not get filtered, and Pikri, a very light ale. Despite the young age of the brewery, Kirki has created quite a name for itself and will likely continue to grow rapidly in the future.

 

6. Piraiki

Pharmacist Alexander Koumantou launched Piraiki in Drapetsona, Piraeus, a part of Athens, in 2005. The brewery relocated to central Greece five years later so that it could increase production and change some of its methodologies. Piraiki maintains a commitment to authenticity and actually follows Reinheitsgebot, the German law for beer purity, in addition to using organic ingredients. These beers contain no additives or preservatives. Focused largely on German varieties of beer, the brewery produces pilsners, lagers, and pale ales.

 

7. Volkan

The name of this beer comes from the eruption that occurred in Santorini in 1600 BCE. Volkan produces beers with many of the most distinctive Greek flavors. For example, the Black beer highlights honey and citrus while the Gray beer has orange and bergamot notes. Travelers should find out if there have been any other unique additions to the Volkan lineup in the tavernas that they visit.

 

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8. Zeos

Produced under the claim of being the “beer of the gods,” Zeos has a distinctive blue label that visitors may quickly begin to recognize during their time in Greece. Individuals should try all of the different varieties to see which one is their favorite. One of the most unique options is the Black beer, which has the flavor of honey, brown sugar and grape. Another option combines orange and lemon for a very refreshing experience. Many Greeks enjoy the Weiss, a white beer that subtly combines the flavors of fruit and spices.

 

9. Bios 5

Featuring Demeter, the goddess of earth, nature, an agriculture, on the label, Bios 5 is a brew that attempts to replicate what the first beers produced would have tasted like. The brewery behind the drink uses only five ingredients, which is what inspired the “5” in the beer’s name. These ingredients are rice, corn, rice, wheat, and barley.

hydra

5 Exciting Reasons to Visit the Greek Island of Hydra

While the larger, more popular Greek islands like Santorini have a lot to offer tourist, people sometimes want a more relaxed experience. One of the most unique stops that people can make while island hopping in Greece is Hydra, a fairly large carless island that is located not far from Athens. The island offers great nightlife and a number of opportunities to spot celebrities who regularly vacation there. Furthermore, the island only allows buildings that are representative of traditional architecture. That feature, combined with the fact that water taxis and donkeys are the primary modes of transportation, make Hydra a unique destination.

Hydra as a municipality consists of two primary islands, Hydra itself and Dokos, although several smaller and uninhabited islets are also located nearby. The main town, known as Hydra port, is tiny, but has some great shops and restaurants. The island as a whole is largely known for its arts scene, and part of the Greek School of Fine Arts is based on the island. Individuals can easily reach the island by boat or hydrofoil from the mainland or other island destinations. Once they arrive there, a number of exciting options exist, including the following:

 

1. Breathtaking Churches

While Hydra is a relatively small island, it has hundreds of churches and six monasteries. While is can be hard to choose which one to see during a short visit, the Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary should definitely be on the list. The structure, which is the main cathedral on the island, is situated in the center of the harbor just underneath a large clock tower. According to legend, a nun built the cathedral after arriving at the island in 1643. The structure was built in a Byzantine style and has frescoes that date back to the 18th century. Inside, visitors will find a vast array of Orthodox decorations.

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2. Gorgeous Beaches

Like the other islands throughout Greece, Hydra has its fair share of picturesque beaches with crystal waters. One of the most popular ones is Vlychos Beach, which can be reached by water taxi or on foot from the main town. The beach remains rather quiet and undisturbed. Slightly closer to the main town is Kaminia Beach, which is located in a small fishing village that has some great restaurant choices. Another beach near the main town is Spilia, which has a number of rocks and is ideal for diving. One of the more remote choices is Agios Nikolaos, a beach sheltered within a charming cove. For a great panoramic view of mainland Greece, visitors should head to Plakes Vlychos. Since the beach is located in front of the Four Seasons, individuals can arrive there via a boat hired by the hotel to serve as a taxi.

 

3. Intriguing Museums

A number of different museums are located on Hydra. Perhaps the most well-known one is the Historical Archives Museum, which dates back to 1918. The museum displays various artifacts and documents related to the island and is a perfect way to obtain a sense of its traditions and culture. The museum also has an extensive library. Another option is the Ecclesiastical Museum, which is located in the former cell of a monk. One of the newer museums, it has displayed various holy vessels, manuscripts, and jewelry related to the church since 1999. Many of the mansions on the island have also been converted to museums, including one dedicated to Greek War of Independence leader Lazaros Koundouriotis. The home features various art and furniture that once belonged to his family.

 

4. Animal-Based Exploration

As stated above, donkeys have become one of the primary forms of transportation on the island, especially when people need to carry large items with them. Guests can hire someone to transport them via mule, and more than 1,000 of the animals live on the island. For a different experience, individuals can book a horseback adventure that lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an entire day. Available itineraries include coastal walks and longer hikes up into the steeper terrain of the mountain.

hydra donkeys

 

5. Engaging Hikes

Due to the lack of cars, many people choose to get around the island by simply walking. As a result, a number of different walking routes exist. One of the most beautiful routes exists between the main town and Kamini, a small fishing village. This route is located off the beaten path and away from tourist shops, meaning that individuals can obtain a genuine feel for the island as they pass by churches, mansions, and even old ruins. Along the path is Sunset Restaurant, a great place to have dinner and watch the sun go down over the water, with mainland Greece in the background. More adventurous travelers may enjoy climbing the bastions. Hydra used cannons to protect itself during the 18th century, and the bastions still exist on both sides of the harbor. While climbing up to them, individuals will discover great views of the Aegean Sea while having an opportunity to experience some unique Greek history.

corfu

6 of the Most Amazing Beach Hotels in Greece

A popular vacation destination, Greece offers visitors a gorgeous island getaway. Considering that the country 6,000 islands, the options for an unforgettable trip are nearly endless. Accommodations range from camping sites to luxury resorts located directly on the beach. While some travelers will plan their vacation around which islands they want to visit and then search for accommodations when they arrive, others may want to base their trip around the many incredible beach hotels scattered among these islands. Here are a few of the best beach hotels in Greece.

1. Istoria

Located along the black sands of Perivolos Beach in Santorini, Istoria has been designed to feel more like a decadent mansion than a hotel. The accommodations include just 12 suites for a truly unique experience on one of the most popular islands in the country. The majority of the suites feature private outdoor pools and hot tubs. The hotel itself was designed by an Athens interior design group to reflect traditional Cycladic island architecture, and the decorations pull from local craftspeople. Guests will encounter forged cement flooring that is embedded with wonderful mosaics, as well as traditional carved wooden furniture with handmade textiles. The restaurant at Istoria features incredible dishes prepared by chef Alexandros Tsiotinis, who has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and Copenhagen.

black sands

Image by John M | Flickr

2. Casa Cook

With 100 rooms arranged in cubist pavilions, Casa Cook offers guests sweeping views of the mountains dotting Kos against a background of white sand beaches and olive trees. The property represents a collaboration between several different teams, including local architects and a design agency from Berlin. The result is a hotel that feels likes its own little village. Each of the rooms at Casa Cook has its own private terrace and features decorations in understated tones of grass and charcoal that enable visitors to feel immersed in Greek culture. The property is the second one from the Thomas Cook hotel brand, with the first on Rhodes. The Rhodes hotel embraces spartan architecture with a touch of midcentury California design. A third property will open this year on Chania. Each of these hotels has its own unique charm and would be a great choice for travelers.

3. Vora

Another option in Santorini, Vora offers an amazing experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The hotel is carved into the cliffs of the island, with guest rooms overlooking the Aegean Sea and the nearby volcano. Vora has emerged as one of the most exclusive hotels in the world with only three villas. Each of the villas embraces a minimalistic Cycladic design with custom-made wooden furniture. In addition, each of the three villas has a private plunge pool. Due to the rocky location of Vora, construction equipment could not be used to build it. Instead, the hotel was constructed by hand over the course of four years.

4. Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas

Like Vora, Daios Cove is nestled into island cliffs that overlook a beautiful bay. Located on Crete, the hotel features 230 rooms, 40 villas, and 30 suites. Many people choose Daios Cove due to the wide range of recreational activities offered at the hotel, including outdoor pools, water sports, sailing, and boat rentals. In addition, guests have access to a private beach, four restaurants, a beauty studio, and a spa with an extensive menu of treatments. The spa is worth a visit for its unique decoration and style alone. Guests can also make use of a private jet and helicopter services, as well as various limousines complete with chauffeurs.

5. San Giorgio

Recognized as one of the most luxurious hotels on Mykonos, San Giorgio embraces a minimalistic style that can be described as bohemian with many traditional Greek elements. The hotel’s design was spearheaded by Michael Schickinger and Annabell Kutucu from Lambs and Lions. The structure of San Giorgio itself reflects the architectural tradition of the island. Guests enjoy an ideal location between Paradise and Paranga beaches with a wonderful veranda that faces the blue waters of the island, as well as a romantic gazebo. In addition, San Giorgio is situated only 300 meters from the famed Paradise Club. Guests have easy access to some of the best parts of the island.

6. Naxian Collection

Naxos, the largest of the Cycladic islands, features lush valleys and gorges, as well as charming villages. The Naxian Collection consists of a number of minimalist villas in the traditional white-washed style. A local couple has developed the property to be welcoming with verdant gardens and a restrained design. Guests can explore the vineyard, olive grove, and organic garden that produces some of the food for the hotel. In addition, guests can enjoy a glass of wine with the owners or even take a cooking lesson from them. The Naxian Collection is located a short distance from Naxos town and the ocean.