For many people – Greeks included – Autumn is the finest season of the year. People from heartier climates farther north will find the Aegean and Ionian still perfectly swim-worthy. And everyone will find the weather for walking and hiking absolutely ideal.
Fans of slower, contemplative travel, blended with a dose of wellness in some of the most beautiful natural surroundings imaginable, will love an Autumn hiking holiday among the golden foliage in sunny Greece. Here are some of our favorite active escapes.
Crete – Richtis gorge
Crete is truly a paradise for the adventurer, an island famous for its many gorges of varying difficulty, from the most challenging to the gentler and more inclusive. The Richtis Gorge falls closer to the latter category. At just about 3 km in length, and descending about 350 meters, it is an accessible hike for many. But by no means is it without rewards! The lush green canyon is shaded much of the way, as it follows a stream and is full of trees. There are the picturesque ruins of old mills along the banks, and the middle of the hike has a fantastic waterfall filling a refreshing pool – ideal for a mid-hike dip.
The Richtis Gorge is in one of the most interesting areas of Crete – the less visited eastern end of the island, Lasithi. With the charming small city of Agios Nikolaos and the even smaller Sitia- Crete’s easternmost port – this region is off the beaten track for many. Yet it is full of sophisticated pleasures, including some of Greece’s finest luxury resorts, and wonderful beaches. For those seeking an active holiday, there is also horseback riding and scuba diving, as well as caving.
But for those seeking more relaxed pleasures, there are attractive options too, including superb wineries for tastings, and the enchanting Spinalonga Island- the Venetian fortified island that was the setting for the Victoria Hislop novel of the same name.
Epirus – Vradeto steps
Epirus, in the heart of mainland Greece, is virtually synonymous with excellent hiking. This mountainous area, with the peak of Mt. Smolikas – Greece’s second tallest mountain – in the northwest and the Pindus Mountain range in the southeast, plus the famous Vikos Gorge – has plenty of excellent hiking and trekking. And these are just a few of the highlights. There is a great abundance of hiking trails here. Among them are the very unusual Vradeto steps.
Just as it sounds, the Vradeto steps really are a staircase. And not surprisingly, it starts in the remote and lovely mountain village of Vradeto. With its altitude of 1350 meters, Vradeto was entirely isolated until the construction of a rural road in the 1970s. Until then, Vradeto could only be reached by this magnificent staircase, some 200 years old, constructed by fine stone masons (Zagori is famous for its excellent stone masonry generally). The 1200 steps climbed the mountainside, turning 39 times. The reward for the hiker besides the pristine mountain air and the beautiful scenery, is the view from the top of the famous Vikos Gorge.
Vradeto itself is called the “Balcony of the Zagorohoria”. And speaking of the Zagorohoria – the ‘Villages of Zagori’ – it’s impossible to say which one is loveliest or more picturesque. Traditional stone architecture, silvery roofs of slate, and magnificent churches and monasteries dot this storied landscape.
Central Greece – Delphi to the Corycian Cave
Two magnificent sites mark this hiking route. It begins at one of the most famous archaeological sites of Ancient Greece, Delphi. Filled still today with a captivating spiritual energy, was a sacred place in the ancient world, home of the Oracle of Delphi, consulted in all matters of importance, and written of by all the great Philosophers- Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Plutarch, and others.
The route, ascending the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, leads to the Corycian Andron Cave. This beautiful cave of two chambers was in use for worship and habitation already from the Neolithic period. During Antiquity, the cave was dedicated to the god Pan and the Corycian Nymphs. Views from here are spectacular, extending to the Gulf of Itea.
The hike is about 18 km round trip, and the elevation changes a relatively gentle 850 meters. The hike can be combined with a tour of the magnificent archaeological site, plus a stay in some of the rustic yet elegant accommodations of Delphi and the nearby chic skiing village of Arachova. Exquisite yet hearty dining and good local wines add to the pleasure.
Paros – Byzantine road
Lovely Paros is indeed one of the Islands of the moment, very much in the spotlight for the sophisticated charms of its main town, the white washed lovely Parikia. Beaches of course figure prominently in most itineraries of this Cycladic beauty. But this beautiful island has much more than beaches to offer.
This historic inland hiking route offers a way to have a closer authentic experience of the island and its history and culture. The Byzantine Road of Paros connects the Villages to Lefkes and Prodromos. This is a historic route, built some 1000 years ago, as part of the route from the port town Parikia in the west to Piso Livadi on the island’s east coast. In the era that the road was built, the seas were teeming with pirates, and inland Lefkes was therefore the main town.
Beginning in Lefkes, the trail is predominantly downhill, following largely a ravine, and offering splendid scenery and vistas. The trail, paved entirely with the Parian marble for which the island is famous, is just 3.5 kilometers. This is a gentle hike that leaves plenty of time and energy for the island’s other pleasures.
Hiking in Autumn in Greece
Have you ever experienced Greece in the autumn, when the county empties of many of its summer crowds and the temperatures are more mild? This is the ideal season to enjoy a holiday that combines culture and wellness, all while enjoying the superb hospitality and cuisine for which Greece is so famed.