The Adventure Lover’s Guide to Greece by Virtuoso

The Adventure Lover’s Guide to Greece by Virtuoso, Bergen County Moms

This Mediterranean darling is one of Europe’s most scenic escapes – with plenty of outdoor pursuits that need to be on your radar.

Many travelers know Greece for its rich history and archeology, but fewer realize what a diverse adventure-travel playground awaits there. It’s one of the Mediterranean’s top spots for outdoor activities – from yachting and sailing to hiking and biking – all fueled by some of the region’s best food and wine. Here’s how to make the most of your next trip.

Anchors Aweigh

If there’s one thing Greece has in abundance, it’s a beautiful expanse of emerald waters and pristine beaches. The archipelago totals more than 6,000 islands and 7,500 miles of uncrowded coastline. Scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas, the Greek Isles have issued a siren call to boaters for centuries: Sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with impressive dunes, volcanic shores, and coastal caves and wetlands abound. In short, it’s a setting tailor-made for yachting, sea kayaking, and a wealth of water sports.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for sailing, but one thing I love to have my clients do is kayak,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Maggie Condon Campos. “I especially suggest it off Santorini for the sea caves and variety of black, white, and red beaches.”

“Greece is blessed with some of the most beautiful islands and beaches in the world,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Sofi Hatzivassiliou. “Whether you prefer shallow or deep water, like to cliff-jump, chill, snap photos, or enjoy privacy, there’s a strand with your name written in the sand. The islands attract novice and experienced sailors alike, with countless coves and beaches that are only accessible by boat.”

For yacht charters, she loves the Dodecanese – a group of islands in the southeastern Aegean that includes Rhodes and Kos – because of its mild but consistent winds, sunny climate, and stunning scenery. Plus, the somewhat remote isles are less heavily populated than other Greek island hot spots, resulting in a more intimate experience with locals and other boaters.

Roll with It

One of the best ways to really get to know a destination is by bike. In Athens, for example, the city’s longest pedestrian walkway, Dionysiou Areopagitou, is popular with residents and tourists alike. The easygoing route starts at Hadrian’s Arch and passes many historic sites as it stretches along the south side of the Acropolis to the Theatre of Dionysus and Odeon of Herodes Atticus. For coastal views, the Athens Riviera has a wide and flat bike path that, depending on cyclists’ ambitions, continues for 37 miles out of the city to Poseidon’s Temple on Cape Sounion. Virtuoso travel advisors can reserve everything from road bikes to city cruisers or electric bikes for city explorations.

As Athens is ringed by mountains on three sides, it’s no surprise that the outskirts are home to prime mountain-biking terrain, with trails for every fitness level. Farther afield, the northern Halkidiki region is a top destination for mountain bikers, while to the south, Mount Taygetos in the Peloponnese is one of Hatzivassiliou’s favorite places. It’s also a great spot for road biking, with little traffic and scenic villages with stone houses and historic sites such as the Tower of Mourtzinos. The fortified former home of the powerful Troupakis-Mourtzinos family now serves as a museum offering insight into Maniot architecture and culture.

Med Diet Deliciousness

Fun fact: Greeks consume more olive oil per capita than anywhere else in the European Union – more than five gallons (around 26 pounds) per person annually. Its distinct flavors infuse nearly every meal. Campos suggests taking cooking lessons in different parts of the country as a great way to interact with locals and get the inside scoop on regional specialties.

When it comes to favorite flavors, Hatzivassiliou recommends Sifnos Island for beachside ceviche, seafood risotto, and more offbeat taverna dishes such as octopus shots and fish collar with a reduction of assyrtiko, a native white wine.

For winetasting, Hatzivassiliou is partial to northern Greece and estates on the foothills of Mount Vermio. She advises travelers to picnic in a vineyard and reserve a tasting in one of the many underground cellars.

Step Out

“One of my favorite islands is Tinos,” says Campos. “It’s an easy ferry ride from Mykonos and has numerous villages that specialize in artisan crafts.” The low-key island has great hikes and uncrowded beaches for relaxing, swimming, and snorkeling.

Of course, everyone loves Santorini. Campos’ tip for avoiding the masses: “Combine an evening hike with winetasting – it’s nearly free from crowds and very peaceful,” she says. Cap it off with dinner at one of the island’s top restaurants.

Serious trekkers should seek out Mount Parnassus, an 8,000-foot peak in northern mainland Greece, where strenuous hikes wind among wildflower meadows, through lush valleys, and alongside historic monuments in the country’s oldest national park. The park spreads across three peaks and is home to more than 60 miles of trails.

Legend has it that Apollo held Mount Parnassus sacred, as witnessed by his temple, situated in Delphi on the mountain’s lower reaches. Pegasus soared over its forests, and Odysseus recounts being gored by a wild boar on its slopes. Whether you travel by land or by sea – or both – you’ll discover firsthand why the birthplace of democracy has always been a land of epic adventure.

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