Hike Safely in Greece: Tips from a Local Hiker

posted in: Hiking | 4

Updated June 21st, 2022 by Travel the Greek Way

Hike Safely in Greece, Santorini cladera
Hiking Santorini Island

How can I hike safely in Greece and what are the most common hazards of hiking in the Greek islands? And is hiking in Greece any different than hiking in other countries?

Best Things to Do on Ios Island, hiking group
Hiking trail on Ios Island

In this post, you will find out about how to hike safely in Greece, not only about the usual hiking dangers that are common on any trail anywhere but specific risks that you may find while hiking in mainland Greece or a Greek island. I also provide information on the Greek terrain and wildlife, some trail itineraries, and what to do if you bump into 8 shepherd dogs (or more)!

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COVID INFO FOR GREECE: Ministry of Tourism Official Website

Hike Safely in Greece: The Most Usual Hiking Dangers

  • Hikers getting lost due to unmarked trails or hiking alone or sudden fogs
  • Accidents and Injuries from slips and falls due to steep mountains
  • Fatigue, dehydration, and heatstroke during the hot summer months (mid-June to late August)
  • Shepherd dog attacks
  • Wild animals attacks (rare)
  • Hikers trapped or injured by extreme weather conditions in Greek winter (hypothermia)
  • Allergies due to a large number of olive trees and wildflowers

Hike Safely in Greece – The Risks

group of hikers on steel cliff walking towards the sea
Hiking on Salamina Island

Greek Trails and lack of Trail Signs

Greek hiking trails, both on the mainland and Greek islands aren’t – generally speaking- as well-signed and standardized as you may be accustomed to while hiking in other parts of the world.

Best Things to Do on Sikinos Island, raugged landscape
Hiking on Sikinos Island

Often you have to look around to find the beginning of the trail, which can be a colored rock, some shaped sign or plastic ribbons hanging from trees, or small stones stuck on each other or none at all.

Greece’s many popular trails can be overgrown sheep paths (monopatia in Greek, shepherds’ or monks’ trails), known as kalderimi, which can be in a poor condition with uneven surfaces and loose stones that can make walking in Greece very tricky.

Another issue that happens when you hike on a Greek Island is that if you lose the trail, you might have a hard time finding it back. So, be prepared for such a case with navigation tools, maps, apps, or better turn back to where you came from if you can’t find it.

Tip: Learn all about your trail in advance by reading articles on the net and downloading the path to have an idea of its route. Mark where the closest refuge or other huts/houses may be in the area to go in case of electrical storms or other reasons that you need to do so.

Rough and Steep Greek Mountains

Hike Safely in Greece, Steep Greek mountain with dry low vegetation
Crete Hiking – MaxiRottenwaller

Hiking in Greek mountains can be challenging as the mountains can be particularly steep and rough, even the low ones, with a great variety of terrain. The larger Greek mountains require climbing skills and a lot of hiking/mountaineering experience.

Greek orthodox Easter in Tinos island and hiking to Lighthouse
Hiking on Tinos Island

The Greek Islands Cyclades have mountains with great Aegean sea views, rugged terrain, and steep beaches. The most usual hiking dangers in the Greek islands are the strong winds almost all year round, the sudden fogs in winters, and the heat (lack of shade) in the summer.

Proper hiking apparel: Boots/shoes/hard hat

Hike Safely in Greece, Olympus hiking & trek
Hiking Olympus Mt – Photo Olympus Trek

To hike safely in Greece you should wear well-broken hiking boots but for places with rounded river rocks – like many gorges in Greece, such as Kalavrita, Vlahokerasia, or Samaria – better go for the well-broken hiking shoes, as they tend to offer more stable footing.

People have been injured/killed on Mt Olympus, from the loose rocks when hit by rocks kicked down from hikers and mountain goats above. Mt Olympus should be visited in good weather, with an experienced guide, a group of hikers, and wearing a hard hat, like Ergodyne Class C Helmet.

You are reading how to hike safely in Greece.

Hiking Alone in Greece

Hike Safely in Greece, a woman hiker on Parnitha mt taking photos
Solo Hiker on Parnitha Mt in Athens

I am not happy when people hike solo in Greece, and I worry even more if it is very cold or very hot. Every year we hear in the news about tourists hiking during the summer and dying from heatstroke, which is awful but it happens because people overestimate their strength, especially in a climate they are not used to at all!

Hike Safely in Greece,  Kea island with hikers
Hiking on Kea Island

I would advise you to take a companion, find out about the local Greek island hiking groups and join them, charge your mobile, and upload the trail in advance on your favorite app (keep in mind mobile service might be unavailable at times).

If you insist on hiking alone – you shouldn’t! – some safety tips are:

  • Let your hotel know your hiking route and what time you should be expected back. Ask for the reception to inform the other shift too – hotel receptions staff have an 8-hour working rota
  • Take a torch and a hiking whistle with you. If it is winter, take warm equipment to huddle in in case of bad weather
Hiking Cyclades Islands, Serifos hiking signs
Hiking Serifos Island
  • Take with you – in summer – 3 lt of water, plenty of salty food, electrolytes (in pills or ready-made drink) UPF clothes and hat, and a 50UV sunscreen. Drink water often even when you are not thirsty and eat salty food
  • If you feel dizzy, find a shade ASAP and stay there until you feel better or call for help
  • Know where you are hiking and what else is around to seek help/refuge
  • Get a Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite: you can send and receive messages anywhere in the world even when out of mobile range, call for emergency assistance anywhere in the world with the SOS function and most importantly keep friends, family, and colleagues informed of your whereabouts with global tracking via the Iridium satellite network.

Hiking in Greek Winter

Hike Safely in Greece, Wooden benches on a mountain covered in snow
Parnitha Mountain in Athens

Winters on Greek mountains can be very severe with biting cold and temp well below -15 C at times, especially on the north side of Greece. To hike safely in Greece during winter you should be always prepared for a blizzard or a sudden storm in low temperatures.

Ski Resorts in Greece

Greece has 19 organized ski resorts all over the country, usually near hiking refuges. Read here a related post about ski resorts in Greece:

Sudden Fogs on Greek Mountains

Hike Safely in Greece, parnassos mountain in Greece hikers walking in fog
Parnassos Mountain in Delphi – Hikers in fog

Sometimes, when you are hiking high up on a Greek mountain, on the mainland, or on a beautiful Greek island, clouds can come out of the blue, across the mountain. Even with a compass, you can’t find your way ahead, especially when the trails are not properly signposted.

Hike Safely in Greece, Church in Amorgos Island
Amorgos remote chapel

“The clouds never went away so I had to give up the hike. In fact, the clouds came even lower and it was likely I would have become completely lost on the top if I had not turned around quickly”. So hike safely in Greece, do it like Fred!

Hiking Greece in Summer

Hike Safely in Greece, summer hiking rivers stream marathon
Marathon Gorge Hiking in Attika

To hike safely in Greece during summer you will need to have always a round-brimmed hat, to cover your back and arms from sunshine, apply a lot of sunscreens, drink plenty of water and keep your electrolytes steady.

If the weather in Greece is predicted to have a heatwave, skip the hiking altogether, especially if you hike in barren areas or gorges like Samaria in Crete, or Lindos in Rhodes, the heat can be unbearable.

Greek Wild Animals

Hike Safely in Greece, Bear mom and Cub walking by a stream
Brown Bears in Greece

The most dangerous Greek wild animals are the brown bears, a protected species in Greece. According to Arcturos NGO, there are about 400 bears mostly in the Rodopi & Pindos mountains in the north of Greece.

Other wild animals are the grey wolves (also protected species), the wild boars and the vipers, and a large variety of smaller mammals like foxes, squirrels, and so on. Attacks on people by any of those animals are extremely rare.

Hike Safely in Greece and Vipers

Hike Safely in Greece, hiker woman in Greek trail with a viper
Milos Viper credit https://www.lifo.gr/team/gnomes/58440

Vipers can be found all over Greece and in the Greek islands. However, vipers are not aggressive snakes, they are actually quite shy and slow in reactions and will bite someone only if you try to snatch them or if you step on them.

Generally speaking, attacks on people from the vipers are rare, and Greece’s most snakes are non-poisonous. If you see a snake, just walk away. You should never kill the snake if you see one, make a wide berth, and let it be!

Hike Safely in Greece, Greece viper woman takes a photograph
Viper lurking to attack birds credit https://www.lifo.gr/team/gnomes/58440

However, if for any reason you get bitten by a snake, try to remember its coloring and get to a hospital asap.

Scorpions also exist on many islands, so check your luggage, shoes, and bedding carefully. Again, if you get bitten by a scorpion, reach for medical assistance immediately.

Greek Animal Tip: Occasional shouting will warn wildlife that you are walking in the area, especially near noisy creeks and dense forests. Remember, we are the intruders to their habitat and not them, so please respect wildlife and nature.

Buzzing Bees and Vicious Mosquitos

Hike Safely in Greece, Hikers walking by a forest with bees
Apiary in Salamina Island

If you come across apiaries, which are everywhere on Greek mountains, islands, and valleys, keep at least 10 meters distance and be quiet. You don’t want to alert these busy bees, as they can come out in a swarm to chase you away and sting you in the process!

There are also plenty of mosquitos in some areas in Greece, so make sure you are prepared with anti-mosquito lotion if you will be spending a lot of time outdoors.

Hike Safely in Greece, Arvanitsa peak of Elikonas mt
Elikonas, Arvanitsa – Photo we love to travel

In the summer of 2020, we camped in Elassona Mt, Arvanitsa peak for a weekend and when the sun fell, I don’t know where all those mosquitoes came from. We had to rush and cover ourselves with long sleeves and trousers and ‘bathed’ in mosquito repellent.

You are reading how best to hike in Greece.

What to do if you Bump into a Pack of Shepherd Dogs

Hike Safely in Greece, Greek shepherd dogs with sheep and goats

The shepherd dogs can pose a serious threat if you bump into them on remote Greek mountains or valleys and they can be very protective towards the sheep.

There might be 1 or 2 dogs but with a hiking group out of Larissa, we came across a flock of 8 shepherd dogs. Thankfully, nothing bad happened, they were friendly dogs, just curious and happy to see humans.

Hike Safely in Greece, A dog in Mouresi Pelion Zagora
Friendly private-owned dog

Easier to say than to do but the following may save you from nasty bites and you can hike safely in Greece:

  • No shouting, no running, no sudden movements, no aggressive behavior. Stay Cool, dogs can smell your fear!
  • Don’t turn your back to the dogs, don’t look them straight into their eyes, start walking slowly sideways keeping a lowered eye on the animals. Talk to the animals in a calm and tender way. Try to see if the shepherd himself is around to save the situation.
  • If there is any large object around you that you can hide behind it, go behind it.
Zagora village in Pelion Mt
Pelion Mountain

If possible, carry with you some dog food or anything meaty and tasty. Offer the food on the ground without looking at them and retreat slowly to the other direction. The last time I used this technique was in Pelion. 3 dogs came to us barking and seem to have defensive behavior. I had some ….cat food with me for the stray cats, left it on the ground and we had plenty of time to leave as they were busy eating the food.

Hiking in Greece and Allergies

Hike Safely in Greece,  green meadow with colourful wild flowers and trees
Greek field – Credit Albrecht Fietz 

Greek springs are stunningly beautiful with hundreds of wildflowers, chamomile, oregano, thyme, and mountain tea, blooming everywhere.

As the sun warms the soil, and as you hike a lot of aromas come from the flowering trees and the herbs and may cause allergies. If you get pollen allergies in general, better bring all your allergy medication with you.

Those Thorny Summer Plants!

If you want to hike safely in Greece during summer, you better think twice about wearing short shorts. In the Greek summers, the low bushes on rocky places and islands become very dry and a lot of them have thorns that not only can scratch repeatedly your legs but can also give you allergy reactions if you are prone to it (like I am!).

It is better to wear light long zip-off pants, depending each time on the landscape and vegetation.

Cheerful and Hospitable Greek People

Hike Safely in Greece, people dancing in Ikaria festival
Dancing in a Festival

They say that you love or hate a place depending on the people you meet in the place.

Greek people are, generally speaking, (still) kind, hospitable, always ready for a party and being in a festive mood, and generous, especially in the countryside. The Greek word Philoxenia means, “love of foreigners”.

Hike Safely in Greece, Vickos path dangerous ridge
Vikos Gorge – Hans-Jurgen Mager

Female travelers or LGBT people are at no risk at all of traveling alone in Greece.

However, you should always exercise common sense when it comes to darkness and solitude as one would do, in your home country.

Best Hiking Trails in Mainland Greece

Hike Safely in Greece, Olympus mountains covered in snow
Olympus Mountain Hike

I love hiking in Greece and have hiked extensively all over the country. From my experience, I would like to suggest some of the best hikes in mainland Greece:

Mountain Olympus

Mountain Olympus has the highest peak in Greece at 2917 m: Prionia, Skala, Mytikas: Mountain Olympus is 430 km north of Athens.

Hiking in Peloponnese

Hike Safely in Greece, mystras and taygettus mountain in Greece hiking
Mystras and Taygettus Mt in the background

Viros Gorge, Taygetus summit that takes you all the way to Kardamili seaside picturesque village

Kalavrita and Chelmos Mountain

The archaeological site of Mystras & Vlahokerasia gorge

Hike Safely in Greece, vlahokerasia river in mainland Greece
Vlahokerasia – Wikiloc

The Menalon Trail, a 75km trek with valleys, gorges, canyons, and villages

Nemouta Waterfalls in Ancient Olympia

Loutraki Perahora seaside hike

You are reading about the top hiking dangers in Greece.

Crete

Hike Safely in Greece, samaria_gorge in crete with hikers
Samaria Gorge

Samaria Gorge Trail & Lefka Ori

Pelion Peninsula

Tsagkarada trails, The Centaurus Path, the Trikeri loop

Pindos

Vickos Aoos Gorge, Zagorochoria and the Dragon Lake: Epirus, Midwestern Greece

Meteora Monastery and Rocks

Hike Safely in Greece, a group of hikers in Meteora rocks
Hiking Meteora Monasteries and Rocks

Parnassos Mountain and Delphi Site

Xerovouni & Dirfi Mounts in Evia Island

Hike Safely in Greece, Xerovouni mountain
Steep Xerovouni Mt in Evia Island

Parnitha Mountain and 5 other hiking destinations in Athens!

Hiking Parnitha Mt
Parnitha Mountain in Athens

Hiking the Greek Islands

I have made separate posts for hiking the Cyclades Islands and one for hiking Sifnos:

Hike Safely in Greece, Andros islands
Andros Hiking

Hiking Information on Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Paros and Antiparos, Ios, Mykonos and Delos, Santorini

Greek Island hiking, milos island in Greece overview from a mountain
Milos hiking

Hiking Folegandros, Kea, Kythnos, Milos, Naxos

Best Things to Do on Sikinos Island, old building
Sikinos Island

Hiking Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos Islands

When is Best to Hike in Greece?

Hike Safely in Greece, Evgenia in Prespes lakes smiling
Me at Prespes Lakes, Christmas

All seasons are great for hiking in Greece and it all depends on your hiking preferences and your level.

Summer (especially July and August) is way too hot to hike (unless you wake up at dawn and go for a short hike), winter will probably have some or a lot of snow on the mountains which is great if you love more demanding hikes and in April or May, everything will be green full of wildflowers (my favorite time to hike in Greece).

I also love hiking Greece in late September, or October when it is not so hot as in the summer but still warm enough to swim.

Related Article: When is Best to Go to Greece

Hike Safely in Greece: Most Usual Hiking Dangers

  • Hikers getting lost due to unmarked trails or hiking alone or sudden fogs
  • Accidents and Injuries from slips and falls due to steep mountains
  • Fatigue, dehydration, and heatstroke during the hot summer months (mid-June to late August)
  • Shepherd dog attacks
  • Wild animals attacks (rare)
  • Hikers trapped or injured by extreme weather conditions in Greek winter (hypothermia)
  • Allergies due to a large number of olive trees and wildflowers

Where to Stay in Athens

Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon?

Or would you 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:

Hiking Trip to Parnitha National Park in Athens with Lunch

Hike Safely in Greece, Benches and tables in shelter Bafi in Parnitha Mt Athens
Mpafi Shelter in Parnitha Mt in Athens

Book a private tour to Parnitha Mt National Park in Athens, explore the beautiful trails, and enjoy a healthy Mediterranean meal in Mpafi (Bafi) Refuge. Check for availability and prices for the hiking trip to Parnitha here

Ethical Travelling to Greece

Ethical Travelling sign on a tree
Ethical Travelling
  • Please leave no rubbish behind you, no plastic bags or other items. Use the bins and if there aren’t please take the rubbish with you
  • Under no circumstance should you light a fire to bake or for any other reason on a forest or beach or anywhere in Greece
  • Don’t remove any shells, rocks, fossils, or sand from the beach
  • The animals shouldn’t be annoyed and they are not here for our entertainment. We respect their natural habitat. Serpents, turtles, and snakes are shy creatures and avoid human contact as much as they can. If you come across one of them, change your route and leave it alone.
  • If you open a gate in one of your hikes please close it behind you. It is closed for a reason, the most usual of which is keeping animals inside. Shepherds get really annoyed if they have later on to search for their goats all over the place if the door is left open
  • Refrain from visiting private properties because it is a “great” spot for a “great” Instagram shot. You wouldn’t like it if this was happening in your house. We respect the locals
  • Remote Churches and Chapels: they may look abandoned, they may look in disrepair, they may be half-demolished, still Greeks love their churches and would never tolerate any disrespect or vandalism.

How to Get to Greece

Hike Safely in Greece,  kitty in Santorini Greece
Kitty hiking the Santorini caldera!

Like a lot of other visitors to Greece, you probably need to fly to Athens or Thessaloniki International Airports to get to your final destinations.

I highly recommend you check the Skyscanner search engine site for the Cheapest/Fastest/Best Worldwide Flights.

Support Evgenia’s Blog

 Do you enjoy using my travel blog? Have you found it entertaining as well as useful? If you are appreciative of all the free information you get on my website you can send me a donation through Paypal.

If you need local help with organizing your visit, please leave a comment below or join my informative and entertaining group on Facebook. Thanks!
Evgenia
Travel the Greek Way

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4 Responses

  1. Fred

    Very good information! One good trick I learned with aggressive sheep dogs is to make a motion with your arm like you are throwing a rock at them. Even better is to quickly reach to the ground first to act like you are picking up a rock. That will often scare them away.

    • Evgenia Mataragka

      Hi Fred, I am very happy you enjoyed the post and found it useful! Yes, I understand the trick, it indeed can scare them off, especially the strays. Thank you for mentioning it!

  2. C Madden

    Very helpful advice. Thank you for a comprehensive and useful article!
    When running or cycling in the Greek countryside I have also attracted the attention of sheepdogs, defending their flocks or just bored and not socialised to humans. It can be intimidating indeed. I have read that spritzing them with your water bottle can persuade them to desist if chasing or actually biting your ankles/legs, but have not yet needed to try that tip.

  3. Evgenia Mataragka

    Thanks for your comment! Yes, sometimes dogs can be intimidating but it is never really their fault, I agree. I hadn’t thought of the water trick, good to keep in mind for any future encounter.

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