Updated August 7th, 2022 by Travel the Greek Way
Are you thinking of Greek Islands hiking on your next trip to Greece? Maybe you are wondering what is the best Greek Island for hiking and if you can combine it with some sightseeing. If yes, then you will find this post very useful especially if you are thinking about walking the Cyclades.
The Cyclades group of Greek islands is the most popular island group and along with the Argo Saronic islands, the closest ones to Athens. The Cyclades, besides their beautiful beaches, whitewashed houses, amazing Greek food, and bustling nightlife like Mykonos and Ios, have also many ancient donkey trails that invite you to explore them.
In this post, you will find information on hiking:
- Milos, and
- Naxos islands
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Why Greek Islands Hiking is an Amazing Experience?
- Because 80% of Greece’s surface is covered by mountains, the most famous of them being Olympus Mt, at 2918 m. Cyclades islands have also mountainous morphology offering stunning vistas of the Aegean sea
- Walking the Cyclades brings you to a great geological variety such as valleys, volcanoes, streams, rivers, caves, gorges, rocks/minerals, and botanical biodiversity of indigenous species
- Because of the crystal clear blue, green, and warm Mediterranean sea waters with beautiful beaches, often so secluded that only hikers can swim in
- Because of the unexpected sightseeings at every turn of the trails: archaeological sites, remote churches & monasteries, windmills, mines, dovecotes, and abandoned villages, to mention some of them
Athens Quick Reference
- Where to stay in Athens: Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens (Doubles from €629 Β&Β) & Ancient Agora Apartments (Doubles from €95 Β&Β), Attalos Hotel (Doubles from €62 Β&Β)
- Heading to the Greek Islands from Athens? Book your ferry tickets in advance with no-hidden-fees FerryScanner or FerryHopper
- Essential Things to Have for Athens Metro: An anti-theft design Backpack, a World Travel Adapter Kit & Microfiber Quick Drying Beach Towel that looks like the Greek Flag!
- Private transfer with English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries. Check availability and prices on Viator here
- Map of Athens Metro
- COVID INFO FOR GREECE: Ministry of Tourism Official Website
Greek Islands Hiking
Folegandros Island: The Wild Thing
As the ferry approaches Folegandros island, you become overwhelmed by the barren beauty of its rocky cliffs. Folegandros is one of the best Greek islands for hiking. A wild place with deep valleys and steep cliffs, untouched by mass tourism and ideal for the free spirit adventurous people.
As the island is quite far from Piraeus port, you better take the fast ferry reaching Folegandros in 4,5 hours whereas the conventional boats need about 8-10 hours. Info for ferries: FerryScanner or FerryHopper.
What is hiking in Folegandros like?
The highest mountain of Folegandros island is Agios Eleftherios with a peak at 455 m, an ideal spot to watch the impressive sunset after an exhilarating hike. The coasts are generally steep, exposed to the northern winds of the Aegean Sea.
Folegandros is a small island, shaped by centuries of agriculture. It has a modest hiking network of 30 km of well-preserved trails.
The most interesting trails are:
- Chora – Petousis – Livadi – Katergo – Camping Livadi, partly signposted, 10,6 km, max elevation 276, one way – hard. Not suitable if you have fear of heights
- Chora-Christos-Fyra-Angali-Agios Nikolaos-Giorgi t’ Aga-Agia Paraskevi-Chora, 8,9km -fully signposted – trail 5 loop – goes to a few remote beaches, very scenic with sea views, moderate difficulty
- Ano Meria (Taxiarhis) – Livadaki beach – Aspropounta Lighthouse – Ano Meria (Windmills) – 5.5 km a well-signed posted trail – easy
- Where Best to stay in Folegandros: Blue Sand Boutique Hotel & Suites (€155 pp B&B)
- Related Article: The Complete Guide to Folegandros Island
Kea Island: the Lion Roar
Kea or Tzia island, despite its close proximity to Athens, is still a low-key vacation island and a fantastic Greek island for hiking. Kea has managed to retain its traditional character, visible to every village that you set foot on.
Kea can be mainly reached by Lavrio port in Athens. Check FerryScanner or FerryHopper for ferries to Kea. Lavrio port is right after Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon, at the end of the Athens Riviera.
What is hiking in Kea like?
Kea island has a mountainous terrain with the peak being Profitis Ilias Mt at 568m, some caves, and many fertile valleys between the hills and the mountains with fruit and oak trees. Kea is fantastic for Greek islands hiking for any level of hiking experience.
The important archaeological site of Karthea, with remains of an ancient temple to Apollo, is a very popular hike that usually ends up with a swim to the nearby beach. Other Apollo Temples in Greece can be found in Delphi and in Bassae.
Kea has a well-preserved network of 81km of trails, with wooden posts and red-white signs, most of them stone-paved. There are 12 official trails, the majority of which hikes begin in Ioulida, the Chora (main) town. The trails are part of an ancient road network that in the 7th – 6th century B.C. connected all the villages on Kea island.
My favorite trails on Kea island are:
- Ioulida – Leon (ancient lion statue) – Dosonari(under trees area) – Diaselli – Otzias village and beach: trail name ‘Leon’ – Length: 5.100 m, easy
- Ioulida – Messaria springs and village – Profitis Ilias Mt peak – Astra village – Ellinika area – Aghios Symeon – Karthaia (Temple of Apollo and Beach): trail name ‘Aristeos’, stone-paved, passes through oak woods – Length 11.850 m, mid-hard
- Where Best to Stay on Kea Island: La Maison Vert Amand (€101 pp B&B).
Kythnos Island: the Art of Simplicity
Kythnos or Kithnos is a tranquil stunning Cycladic island that offers wonderful opportunities as it is one of the best Greek islands for hiking and low-key vacations.
Kythnos is a dry and mostly barren Greek island and its most beautiful natural landmark is the Kolona beach, a narrow strip of golden sand that connects Kythnos with the islet of St. Loukas, creating two beautiful bays.
What is hiking in Kythnos like?
Kythnos as all the Cycladic islands is mountainous and rocky but it doesn't reach great heights. Profitis Ilias is the highest point of the island at just 336 m, the union of two ridges that offer panoramic views of the island.
There are 15 trails but not all of them are signposted.
One of the most popular hikes is on Vryokastro, the ancient capital of Kythnos. It is an 8 km round trip to the Castle of Oria, inhabited from the 10th-7th centuries AD. The hikers pass by the remains of the ancient temples of Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, and Demeter and enjoy the great view of the beach of Kolona.
You can also not make the circular trail but continue to Kolona beach and finish your hike with a dive into the warm waters of picturesque Kolona. Nearby are also taverns and cafes if you prefer to have a meal.
Best Hotel to stay in Kythnos: Simousi Villas (€250 per night for up to 6 persons)
Milos Island: the Volcanic Beauty
Milos island, along with Santorini, Nisyros, Kos & Methana are included in the active Greek volcanoes today. Don't worry too much about it though, as the last volcanic eruption on Milos took place in 90,000 BC.
In brief, Milos is a spectacular island, of multi-colored volcanic rocks, and stunning beaches all wrapped up in a Cycladic atmosphere and hospitality. And ideal for your Greek islands hiking tour.
What is hiking in Milos like?
Milos as part of the Hellenic volcanic arc has strong hydrothermal activity, caused by the subduction of the African under the Aegean plate.
There is the Fyriplaka volcano, in the central and southern part of Milos, which has an impressive crater of 1700 m and a height of around 220 m and is a must-visit hike. There is a second but smaller volcano, Trachila, in the northwest, only a small part of it still exists today.
Milos island is being mined extensively as it has rich production of baryte, silver, perlite, kaolin, and bentonite and this is visible almost everywhere inland of the island.
Generally speaking, there are not many ancient donkey trails that we find on other islands. However, Milos' volcanic landscape offers elaborate formations and wild rocks that are quite unique and most visible at its breathtaking coastline.
Some of my favorite hikes on Milos island are:
- Kleftiko Beach Caves. To get there follow the road signs that say Kleftiko. A 4.67 km, moderately challenging route, with 230 m elevation gain 40 minutes each way, no shade, bring plenty of water and food. Definitely bring swimming and snorkel gear to chill out on the rocks for awhile
- Sarakiniko lunar Beach - Mandrakia beautiful village. 4.2 km easy, 78 elevation gain
- Related Post: Milos beaches and the best things to do (€118 pp B&B)
- Best Hotel in Milos: Vista Mare Milos
Naxos: the Island of Zeus
Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades and is in the top five best Greek islands to hike.
It is the most fertile island in the Cyclades, hosting the largest cedar forest in Greece (Forest of Alykos), the Routsouna waterfalls, wetlands, raki Festivals, windsurfing beaches, and Greek food trademarks like Graviera cheese and Naxos notorious potatoes.
According to Greek mythology, baby Zeus, the king of all Greek ancient gods, was raised in the Zas Mt Cave. There was a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus at the start of the hiking trail and today hikers can see 2 identical inscriptions that indicate the exact location of the sanctuary.
What is hiking in Naxos like?
Naxos is one of the best Greek island hiking destinations that you can choose from. Naxos owns Mount Zas, the highest mountain in the Cyclades, standing at 1,004 m where you can also hike to the famous Cave of Zas. The island is full of springs, rivers, ancient settlements, plains, valleys, and orange, lemon, and olive groves.
A popular yet challenging trail on Naxos is a well-marked 12.8 km loop starting from the largest village of Naxos, Filoti, a picturesque little place. The first half of the trail is well-signed until you reach the cave. After the cave of Zas, you will have to be aware of the beaten footpath which at times can be steep.
It's worth the steepness because you will be compensated with marvelous panoramic sea views.
The second popular hike on Naxos is the 7-km circular easy hike from Chalki to Moni and back. This hike offers the opportunity to visit many landmarks, churches, and monasteries of the Naxos.
If you’re looking for deeper information, check out my in-depth Naxos island travel guide for a ton of details on the best things to do on the island!
How Best to Hike Greece
During the summer, I hear about hiking accidents, sometimes fatal, that happen to hikers from all over the world. The usual cause is extreme heatstroke as people from colder climates are not familiar with Greek summer temperatures, and barren Cycladic landscapes and can suffer from that.
That's why I have created this post that addresses hiking/traveling in Greece, potential dangers, and how best to deal with them. The majority of them are from my own experience as I love hiking and I hike at least once a week. The post about hiking safety in Greece can be found here.
Sailing and Hiking Kea, Kythnos, Syros, Serifos Islands
Sail to the most unknown corners of the stunning Cyclades Islands such as Kea, Kythnos, Syros, and Serifos. Walk in the footsteps of the ancients along beautiful trails and visit integral sites from the canon of Greek Mythology.
Check out availability and prices on the GetYourGuide website.
How to Get to the Cyclades Islands from Athens
FERRIES: The most usual way is to take the ferry from Athens ports (Pireaus, Rafina, or Lavrion). Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees. If you travel in July and August, book your seats in advance.
AIRPORT FROM ATHENS: There are some international flights going straight to certain islands, like Santorini or Crete, you better check Skyscanner, for charters or direct flights from your own country.
Otherwise, you can catch a flight from Athens International Airport. Find below the list of the Greek Islands that have an airport and you can fly there:
Where to Stay in Athens
Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon?
Or you would like to stay at a beachfront hotel? Perhaps you are more in-budget hotels interested? Whichever your preferences I have collected the best options for your staying in Athens below:
Some of my Favorite Travel Resources for Greece
- Ferries to the Greek Islands: Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees
- Athens Metro Website (timetables and tickets info)
- Map of Athens Metro
- Trains (Hellenic Train)
- Public Buses KTEL
- Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals on both hotels and apartments, free cancellations, and great prices!
- Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
- COVID INFO FOR GREECE: Ministry of Tourism Official Website
- Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 - FIRE 199 - POLICE 100- EMERGENCY NUMBER 112