Hiking Safely in Greece: Useful Tips from a Local Hiker

posted in: Hiking | 4

Updated August 14th, 2021 by Travel the Greek Way

Is hiking in Greece any different than hiking in other countries? Are there any specific dangers that the first-time hiker/visitor should be aware of?

Yes, there are certain conditions that you may encounter while walking in Greece and this post is all about how to hike safely in Greece.

You will find out all about hiking in Greece, the hiking challenges I have faced myself, the trail signs, the Greek terrain and wildlife, and what to do if you bump into 8 shepherd dogs (or more)!

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Best Hiking Trails in Mainland Greece

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 Greece (mainland):

  • Mount Olympus, with the highest peak in Greece at 2917 m: Prionia, Skala, Mytikas: On the border between Thessalia and Macedonia
  • Peloponnese: Viros Gorge, Taygetus summit that takes you all the way to Kardamili seaside picturesque village
  • Peloponnese: The archaeological site of Mystras & Vlahokerasia gorge
  • Peloponnese: The Menalon Trail, a 75km trek with valleys, gorges, canyons, and villages
  • Crete: 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
  • Xerovouni & Dirfi Mounts in Evia Island
  • Parnitha Mountain in Athens!

If you would like to know about the best hiking in the Cyclades Islands (like Santorini or Andros) you can read my extensive posts here:

Most Frequent Hike Risks and Hazards

Hikers getting lost
Fatigue, hypothermia, dehydration, and heatstroke
Injuries from slips and falls
Hikers trapped or injured by extreme weather conditions or animal attacks.

Best Season for Hikes in Greece

All seasons are great for hiking safely in Greece but probably the ideal is in April or May when everything is so full of flowers and the weather is getting slowly warmer, or late September – October when it is not so hot as in summer but still warm enough to swim.

I hike almost all year round in Greece. By “almost” I mean that I will not go hiking during heatwaves, blizzards, or heavy rain.

I also avoid going to difficult trails like Olympus Mt in winter (experienced hikers have died from the cold or avalanches, way too often).

Trail sign: Hikers Getting lost

Greek hiking trails aren’t generally as well-signed and standardized as you may be accustomed to while hiking in other parts of the world.

Often you have to look around to find the beginning of the trail signs, which can be a colored rock, or 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’s paths (monopatia in Greek, shepherds’ or monks’ trails), kalderimi paths, 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 in Greece 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 download 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 Terrain and Steep Greek Mountains

Greek mountains are in general particularly steep and rough, even the low ones, with a great variety of terrain. The larger Greek mounts require climbing skills and a lot of hiking/mountaineering experience.

The Cyclades mounts have, almost all of them, Aegean sea views and it is difficult to get lost, at least on the smaller ones.

Of course, there are other problems with the islands and one of them is the strong winds almost all year round.

Proper hiking safely in Greece apparel: Boots/shoes/hard hat

If you are going hiking to Greek mountains wear well-broken hiking boots but for places with rounded river rocks – like many spectacular gorges in Greece, eg Kalavryta, 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, in a group, and wearing a hard hat.

Recommended Hard Hat: Ergodyne Class C Safety Helmet with LED Light

Ergodyne hard hat offers excellent quality, impact protection, and safety, feature-rich with light, great vents, and easy size adjustable harnesses.

Hiking Safely in Greece Alone

I never encourage people to hike alone, especially on an unusual or new trail. Hiking in numbers is power.

So, take a companion, find about the local groups and join them (there are plenty of hiking groups all over Greece), 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 whistle with you. If it is winter, take warm equipment to huddle in in case of bad weather
  • 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.

Walking in Greece in Winter

Winters on Greek mountains can be very severe with biting cold and temp well below -15 C.

Most people, unfamiliar with Greek hiking, think that since it is a warm country they will hike and not freeze during the night if they are not adequately equipped.

Greece is indeed a warm country but only during the summer and on some Greek mountains, you can find snow until late May or even June.

Dress in layers, so you can adjust to the temperature.

If you venture alone in winter on a Greek mountain, take with you winter equipment as if you have to sleep during the night in a snow blizzard.

If possible, carry with you a good lightweight mountaineering winter expedition tent:

Sudden Fogs and Mighty Clouds

Sometimes, when you are hiking high up on a Greek mountain, on the mainland, or 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.

You should do as my hiking and cat friend Fred from Nashville did in a similar situation in Amorgos island:

“I decided to turn around immediately and walked quickly back the way I came. Still, it was hard to find the way even though I had walked it only minutes before. Finally, I passed a familiar ruined shed and then a faint trail started and I finally reached the chapel where the main trail started back. 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, be smart, do it like Fred!

Consider purchasing a World Nomads Insurance against injury:

Walking in Greece during Summertime

During Greek summer you will need to have a round-brimmed hat, to cover your back and arms from sunshine, to apply a lot of sunscreens, to drink plenty of water and isotonic tablets or liquids or whatever replenishes your electrolytes.

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, the heat can be unbearable.

Sometimes the authorities on very hot days close down the trails to deter people from hiking.

It is very easy to suffer a heat stroke while hiking in the Greek heat.

Greek Wildlife

I would say that 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 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 those animals are very rare.

Hiking Safely in Greece and Vipers

Vipers can be found all over Greece and in the Cyclades islands where the terrain is barren of large vegetation.

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.

Read here info on Greek vipers, the species, and the places in Greece they mostly live.

Generally speaking, attacks on people from the vipers are rare, and Greece’s most snakes are non-poisonous. If you see a snake and you are not sure whether it is poisonous or not, just walk away.

Use your walking stick to shoo it off if this becomes necessary. You should never kill the snake if you see one, make a wide berth, and let it be!

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

If you come across apiaries, which are literally everywhere on Greek mountains, islands, and valleys, keep at least 10 meters distance and be quiet. You really 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’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.

In summer 2020, we camped in Elassona Mt, Kastanitsa 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.

Recommended Mosquito Repellent, great for hikes and nature-friendly: BUG BOTANIST Repellent Spray

Hiking in Greece and Shepherd Dogs

The shepherd’s 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, to put it mildly.

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

For the last 20 years, the shepherd dogs have reclining numbers as Greece is moving constantly away from small-scale farming. However, the dogs are still around working and a lot of them seem to not like visitors to their area very much!

So, what to do if you bump into a large group of shepherd dogs?

Easier to say than to do but the following may save you from nasty bites:

  • No shouting, no running, no sudden movements, no aggressive behaviour. 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.
  • When the dogs realise that you are not a threat they will leave you alone
  • If possible, carry with you some dog food or anything meaty and tasty

Hopefully, you will never have to deal with an aggressive group of dogs and they will be the usual friendly tail-wagging loving creatures.

Hiking in Greece and Allergies (sneeze that trail)

Greek springs are stunningly beautiful with hundreds of wildflowers blooming everywhere in the countryside. As the sun warms the soil, a lot of aromas come from the flowering trees and bring with them… allergies.

According to the National Library of Medicine:

In Greece…most prevalent allergenic plants with known clinical significance are grasses, Olea europaea (olive trees) and Parietaria species. The pollen grains of these plants can reach high atmospheric concentrations if the weather conditions are favourable, causing severe clinical symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis and/or asthma.

So if you get pollen allergies in general, it is best to come prepared if you are planning to hike in Greece, especially during the Spring. I am slightly allergic to pine trees and can start sneezing even when it is summer or autumn.

Those Thorny Summer Plants!

You are going to have some serious Greece hiking this summer and you are thinking to wear short shorts? I would advise against it unless you go hiking on rocky surfaces with no vegetation at all.

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 a light long zip-off or convertible pair of hiking trousers like these offers on Amazon.com:

Greek People

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

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

Female travelers or LGBT people are at no risk at all of traveling alone in Greece. However, we should always exercise common sense when it comes to darkness and solitude as one would do, in your home country.

Ethical Travelling

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
  • At no circumstance should you light a fire to bake or for any other reason on 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.

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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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