For tourists and foreign visitors, Greece is undoubtedly associated with blue and green pebble beaches, long sandy coastlines and picturesque islands with white houses and blue roofs.
However, this is only one side of Greece.
In fact, Greece is the 3rd most mountainous country in the European continent, after Norway and Albania, and although it is worldwide famous for its seas, more than 80% of its landmass is mountainous.
Pindos, being the largest mountain range in the country, dominates almost all of western Greece and is essentially a continuation of the Illyrian and Dalmatian mountain ranges from the Balkans. Mountains like the legendary Olympus, Taygetus and Asterousia, covered in evergreen flora, create majestic landscapes that leave unsuspected visitors gasping in awe.
Rock climbing and hiking have become two of the most “in-trend” sports for the Autumn season among Greeks and tourists, and combine adrenaline, beautiful landscapes, excellent physical exercise and mental well-being. Especially, the months of September and October provide pleasant and stable weather conditions compared to other seasons, and allow mountaineers to avoid extreme weather phenomena, like heavy snowfalls, cold temperatures and strong winds.
So, here are the top five destinations for mountain lovers, who want to climb, hike, or just enjoy breathtaking mountain views in Greece.
Leonidio (Λεωνίδιο), Arcadia, Peloponnese
The Leonidio town of Arcadia has become a “hot” destination for rock climbers since 2013, after the successive openings of routes on the Kokkinovrachos mountain (which means “red rock”) and the surrounding area. Every year since then, a climbing festival is organized for climbing amateurs and professionals, where big names of the sport come from all over the world to participate.
Besides the wide variety of mountain routes it has, Leonidio also gives climbers the opportunity to enjoy long distances in length and height, with many ropes, which is generally not usual in climbing. Additionally, visitors who are interested in hiking or walking around the mountain area, can enjoy the beauty of Tsakonia, which combines mountain and sea. Leonidio is also warm during most months of the year, with October and November, and March and April, being the ideal time periods for climbing.
Leonidio has over 2,000 routes for climbing, with various levels of difficulty for all climbing enthusiasts.
Varasova is a limestone mountain of almost 1,000 metres in height, which is located in the southern part of Aetolia-Acarnania in western Greece. Although, the crystal clear Kryoneri sea that is surrounding the mountain is not a famous touristic destination – mostly because its waters are cold all year round – Varasova remains a favourite destination for climbing enthusiasts, or those who wish to hike to the top and sky dive.
The unique solid rock surface of Varasova, which seems as a monolith that rises from the bottom of the sea, gives ambitious climbers a difficult challenge to take on, with multiple routes, but a surprise waiting at the top of the mountain: a small oasis surrounded by trees and a century-old well.
Additionally, for those who wish to always keep their feet on the ground, the hiking route offers various adventurous surprises, such caves and tombs within the mountain itself.
Of course, the village located next to the mountains offers a plethora of traditional dishes to those who want to get a real taste of rural Greece.
Varasova has about 250 climbing routes, but it is mostly recommended for experienced climbers and hikers with thirst and stamina to reach the top.
Kalymnos (Κάλυμνος), Dodecanese, Aegean Sea
Kalymnos (also known as the “island of sponges”) being on this list, might come as a surprise to many, who connect the Aegean island with their summer holidays, beaches, swims and diving. However, Kalymnos is one of the rockiest Greek islands, with mountains that go up to 700 metres.
In 1996, when the famous Italian climber Andrea di Bari discovered the beauty of the rocks of Kalymnos, he started opening the first climbing routes along with the municipality of the island, and made Kalymnos a climbing paradise on the maps of many tourists.
Today Kalymnos is one of the top climbing destinations in the world and attracts thousands of climbers and hikers every year. The interest of visitors is mainly concentrated in the west side of the island, in Massouri, which has been developed into a tourist reference point with shops, bars and restaurants.
The mountains of Kalymnos also give visitors a sense of mystery, as they have numerous massive caves that people can climb through and explore.
Kalymnos offers over 3,500 climbing routes with multiple levels of difficulty. One of the most famous climbing spots on the island is at the top of Massouri mountain, where climbers can even remain hanging out from the rocks, gazing at the staggering sunset, as the sun sets on the steep islet of Telendos.
Olympus, the house of the 12 Olympian Gods in the Greek mythology, is the tallest mountain in Greece, with a height of 2,918 metres. The place after which the Olympic Games were named, is on the bucket list of many people from all over the world, who visit the mountain every year to experience the thrill and the feeling of being an Olympian even for a few minutes.
Mytikas is the highest peak of Olympus and Greece overall, and the second highest peak in the Balkans. There are various paths that lead to Mytikas, all of which have shelters along the way for those who wish to take a break and enjoy the landscape. Although, the top of the mountain is surrounded by clouds – the ones that the Greeks Gods lived on – the view is still breathtaking.
Although Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, it offers visitors an excellent opportunity to not just climb it, but to also do hiking and mountaineering and reach the top in about seven hours.
It is important to remember that even during warm months, the top of mountain is very cold and covered in snow, so an extra layer of clothes is needed.
It offers over a 1,000 climbing routes, as well as the great archaeological park of Dion, which is located in the foothills of the mountain.
Meteora (Μετέωρα), Kalabaka, Trikala
One of the most visited and most loved climbing destinations in the world, Meteora offers visitors the most incredibly majestic and unique landscape in the whole of Greece, with immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded and sleek boulders that surround the town of Kalabaka.
Looking like an unreal place from a fairy tale with mountains that have fallen from the sky, Meteora is famous for its smoot rock formations, and for hosting one of the largest complexes of Christian monasteries in the world. The history of ascetics and travelers who climbed the rocks without ropes and fuses in the 11th century, has made Meteora a spooky place, full or history and mysteries. There are totally six monasteries in Meteora, four for monks and two for nuns, all of which are open to the public.
In 1988, UNESCO included Meteora as a place in the World Heritage Sites, and since then it has become one of the most famous climbing destinations in the world. This is where climbers experience the ultimate challenge: huge rocks, with tiny, bizarre grips on cobblestone, fixed locks that are usually very sparse and raise the adrenaline rush. The slits and the high height are ideal for trad climbing, which is why in Meteora, there are not many small climbing routes.
Unlike some of the previous mentions on this list, Meteora’s 170 mountains are perfect for hiking, but they also have numerous roads that lead to the top and the monasteries, via cars and buses.
Whether you are planning to hike or drive your way to the top, the unique feeling of watching hundreds of climbers hanging from various rocks all around Meteora like spiders, is unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
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