When you think of mountainous countries, Greece doesn’t usually spring to mind. To the majority, it’s not known for having lofty peaks such as those found in Switzerland, France, Spain or Austria. But the reality is, despite being famed as an island paradise
When you think of mountainous countries, Greece doesn’t usually spring to mind. To the majority, it’s not known for having lofty peaks such as those found in Switzerland, France, Spain or Austria. But the reality is, despite being famed as an island paradise with beautiful beaches surrounded by warm seawaters, Greece is actually the third most mountainous country in Europe, after Norway and Albania. It’s hard to believe, but some 80 percent of the nation’s landmass is covered in rolling hills.
The most famous peak in Greece is undoubtedly Mount Olympus. You could argue its fame is second only to that of Everest. In mythology it was the home of the 12 Olympian gods, who from their lofty perch would gaze upon man below. The summit stands at 2,917m and wasn’t climbed until 1913 when a couple of Swiss mountaineers and a local guide took on the challenge. Today, around 10,000 people climb it annually, the majority of which finishing their hike at a lower summit.
Head to the ancient site of Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth, and you’ll find Mount Parnassus, another of Greece’s well-known mountains. This limestone giant reaches 2,457m and casts its shadow across the surrounding olive groves and farmland. Like Olympus, Parnassus has close ties with Greek mythology, however in the modern era it’s known for being the largest ski centre in the country. Throughout winter the slopes of the mountain are covered with snowboarders and skiers, with two resorts servicing their needs.
A third mountain that deserves a mention is Taygetus. It’s actually a range, but the highest peak is often referred to by the same name. Situated on the Peloponnese Peninsula, on one side you have Kalamata and on the other is Sparta. In Byzantine times it was often called Pentadaktylos, which in Greek means ‘five fingers’. The name relates to the five summits of the range, the highest of which is called Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elias) and is 2,407m above sea level. What makes this mountain so special is the fantastic hiking on offer. From waterfalls and hillside villages, to gorges, lakes and monasteries, the scenery is spectacular. There are countless trails to explore but one of the best things to do is head to the chapel on the summit for sunrise. It’s actually a pilgrimage site so chances are you won’t be alone up there.
So when next visiting Greece, why not add some mountain hikes into the mix? The heart of the mainland and many of the islands offers a unique and often more authentic experience. Plus, most tourists are too distracted by the beaches to explore these hidden gems, so you’ll be away from the crowds!