Discover the secrets of Greece: top destinations for mountain sports
For mountain sports enthusiasts, Greece is the ideal setting for your athletic adventures. Ski centres with pistes of high standards and hospitable facilities. Rock climbing in majestic landscapes that will take you all the way to the heavens. Dirt roads and mountain forests perfect for mountain biking. What are the most popular destinations in Greece for mountain sports? Let’s discover them!
Skiing in Greece: Popular pistes
1. Parnassos: The largest and best-equipped ski resort in Greece, near cosmopolitan Arahova and Livadi, at an altitude of 1,600-2,300m. It boasts 19 trails totalling 36km, while the Vakhos and Iniochos pistes are certified by the International Ski Federation (FIS), for the organisation of meets and competitions. In addition, there are seven more snow trails and 8 connecting paths that lead to the black pistes.
2. 3-5 Pigadia: 3-5 Pigadia can be found on the eastern side of Mt Vermio, at an altitude of 1,430-2,005m and surrounded by green forest. It’s famous for its piste named Filippos, the best black run (of extreme difficulty) in Greece, while Aristotelis, at 2,000m long, is certified by the International Ski Federation (FIS) for the Pan-European and World Championships. It also has a separate snowboard park, for snowboarding and freeriding.
3. Karpenisi: One of the largest and most impressive ski centres in Greece can be found at the Velouhi plateau in Karpenissi. Spread over 5,500 sq m, at an altitude of 1,850-2,000m, it boasts 18 slopes. Of these, there is one black slope for experienced skiers and snowboarders.
4. Vasilitsa: The ski resort at Vasilitsa is one of the most famous and popular in Greece, and is located in the heart of the Pindos Mountains, in a majestic landscape (2,150m). It has 18 pistes which total 24km in length, as well as a snowboard park.
5. Kalavryta: A very popular ski centre, the fir-covered slopes of Helmlous are some of the best in Greece. Its 12 pistes cover every level of difficulty and, best of all, you’ll have a view of the sea. It is known for having the longest slope in Greece, Nefeli, which starts at 2,340m above sea level.
6. Seli: Seli is the birthplace of winter sports in Greece and is mainly suitable for intermediate and beginner skiiers and snowboarders. This is one of the largest ski centres in Greece, with downhill slopes recognised by the International Ski Federation (FIS). In addition, there are cross-country trails (langlauf), 1,900m above sea level.
7. Falakro Drama: The ski centre of Falakro above Drama is the biggest in Macedonia. It often has great snow quality and its season lasts from December until April.
8. Viglas: Viglas can be found in one of the most beautiful locations on the northern side of the Vitsi Mountains. Covering an area of 1,600-1,900m, there are 10 pistes with Olympic specifications.
9. Other popular destinations: Smaller, although just as well-organised and well-equipped ski centres operate on Kastoria’s Mt Vitsi, Laila Serron, Kaimakstalan, Pelion, Metsovo, Pertouli, Elatohori Pierias, as well as Ziria in the Peloponnese.
Rock climbing in Greece: Popular destinations
1. Meteora: Climbing the Meteora pillars is a truly singular experience. These are long ascents without surplus safeties using natural holds which are good for relative beginners. You’ll be thrilled to discover the ruins of abandoned monasteries and hermits’ shelters in protected niches.
2. Sykia, Ghiona: An impressively sheer slope rises above the village of Sykia, posing its challenge. The object of many a climber’s desire is the vertical rock face from 1,000-2,500m, the Slab of Sykia, which is an excellent test of their skills.
3. Kalymnos: In 1936 the Italian Andrea Di Bari discovered the limestone rocks and climbing potential of Kalymnos. Today the island is a widely recognised climbing destination where you will find over 60 fields and more than 1,300 marked and secured routes. International meets featuring world-famous climbers are often held here.
4. Around Greece: You’ll find good climbing sites in the vicinity of Trikala, at Tempi, at Iraklitsa, Kavala, near Patra (Kalogria, Alepohori), at Nafplio, at Langada in Taygetos, at Gamila, Zagori (Mount Tymfi) and at Olympus. In Attica, the best sites are Petra near Varybobi, Davelis’ cave on Mount Pendeli and the Fyli area. Also impressive are the sheer rock faces of Varasova in Etoloakarnania and at Kathisma beach on the island of Lefkas.
Trekking in Greece: Popular routes
1. Mytikas, Mt Olympus: The classic ascent to the top of Mt Olympus starts from the Prionia refuge at 1,100m. This is the highest spot that you can drive to and if you’re hiking on the E4, you’ll also pass through here from Litochoro and the Epineas Gorge, before continuing up the mountain.
2. Vikos Gorge: One of Europe’s deepest and longest gorges, this is a must for nature lovers. The descent from Monodendri and the ascent to Vikos is steep, but the walk above the Aoos River in the heart of the Vikos-Aoos National Park is fairly even and not too demanding. The six-hour trek is mostly shaded. Ravishing flowers cover the slopes until late spring, and you can even take a dip in icy waters if you’re truly brave.
3. Taygetos: On the Laconia side alone the network of signed paths on this mountain surpasses 90km of varying length and degrees of difficulty. The Messinia side has a comparable network and includes the stunning Koskarakas, Viros and Ridomos gorges.
4. Pelion: This thickly wooded mountain, with its two coastlines, lush ravines, well-maintained traditional paths and stone bridges is one of the most satisfying places in Greece to hike.
5. The Samaria gorge: Hikers by the thousands come here from all over the world in summer to trek the most famous gorge in Crete and to experience the power of nature close at hand.
Mountain biking in Greece: Popular rides
1. Varybobi: On the outskirts of Athens is a mountain bike paradise. Above the former royal estate at an altitude of 320-850m is a perfect pine forest for your thrills and, hopefully, a few, spills.
2. Asopos canal: A canal brings water from the Mornos River to the Asopos River valley. The canal is open and the road by it lays out an attractive and easy bike route.
3. Moutainous Arcadia: A 60km route with a few mild slopes, starting from the attractive village of Vytina and going through Dimitsana and Stemnitsa. You return to your starting point in the heart of the mountain on the paved road.
4. Lake Plastira: This well-established biking spot is near Karditsa. The stern mountain peaks of the Agrafa, Niala and Flitzani render this a true alpine setting. Even in the spring the air is cold at an altitude of 800m.
5. Lake Aoos: A gorgeous circular route at the edge of the Pindos National Park, next to Valia Kalda.
6. Mount Vitsi - Nymfaio: You set out from the village of Polykerasos at an altitude of 1,250m, pass through the beech forest and the abandoned village of Perikopi and terminate at charming Nymfaio.
7. Lathonas: Spectacular tracks and forest roads next to the Lathonas River invite you to go exploring.