If you’ve ever desired to cycle in mythical places, touched only by forsaken and mighty Gods, then Greece is the place for you. Gods-aside cycling in Greece is fun all year round, even in winter, thanks to the warm and tender Mediterranean climate. From the magnificent Peloponnese to the Crete island to capital Athens and the Saronic Gulf, Greece has several sites for distinctive cycling experiences.
But don’t worry if you’ve never been to Greece before! In this blog post, I strive to explain everything about cycling in Greece, such as mountain biking in Greece or Greece bike tours. Besides, when I first visited this sunny corner of the Earth some years ago, I didn’t know a thing, either! For this reason, I decided to note down my experiences. And now it’s time to share them!
So, I will do my best to guide you through the most beautiful areas in Greece for cycling, the top 4 bike touring routes, and also present you with valuable information, like where to stay. Expect to find insights about the Greek culture, the Greek people (they’re so friendly, by the way), and Greece’s environment, too. Without further ado, let’s get started!
What to expect of cycling in Greece
From the roads to the warm environment to the unique Greek culture, there are many factors that bikers need to consider before backpacking and coming to Greece.
How is the quality of the roads in Greece?
Frankly, the roads in Greece are good but not great. For example, in the capital Athens, there aren’t any dedicated cycling routes. Cyclists either have to ride on the pavement or the highway along with motor vehicles. That said, near tourist spots, outside Athens, such as in the Tzoumerka National Park in Northern Greece, there are designated MTB trails and gravel roads. In general, the roads in Greece range from very good to super funny gravel ones.
Greece is a mountainous country. That means that you will be facing challenging climbs when cycling in Greece. That is tough, sure, but once you reach the top, you get to experience spectacular views. On top of that, Crete does have bicycle tourism and an MTB community. As such, it would be wise to start your cycling journey in Greece from there. The city of Volos, in Central Greece, has an active biking community and city cycle path, too.
What about Greece’s culture?
If Greece is known for something, then that is about that famous Greek hospitality. Philoxenia, which translates to guest-friendship, is the Greek concept of hospitality and generosity. So, expect to get treated by Greeks with a big smile or receive aid if you’re stranded. On top of that, kissing and hugging in public is common, too. When Greeks greet each other, they shake hands or embrace and kiss each other on both cheeks.
When is the best time for cycling in Greece?
Greece is such a sunny country, enjoyable any time. However, each season is unique, offering something different.
- Spring: Greece is perfect for cycling during Spring, as the countryside blooms with wildflowers. Crete, for example, is particularly ideal for cycling in April or May, when the island is tourist-free.
- Summer: Summer is hot with average temperatures of 28.7°C (84°F) and sometimes going up to 37°C (98°F). Nevertheless, most regions, including the Peloponnese, are excellent for summer cycling. That said, aim to avoid Crete or other popular destinations because traffic and crowds constitute slightly unpleasant cycling.
- Autumn: Fall, and particularly September, is fantastic for cycling, too. The Mediterranean climate is warm, and even though the sweet summer has just finished, everything still feels mellow but refreshing.
- Winter: The great thing about Greece is that you cycle during the winter months, too! Sure, you’d want to avoid Northern Greece or mountainous areas where temperatures can drop to 10°C (50°F). But the rest of the country remains snow-free with relatively mild, albeit a bit chilly, weather.
Is cycling in Greece safe?
The meaning of the word safe varies from region to region. In general, though, Greece is a very safe country! That said, cyclists should stay away from the main roads and busy highways, as they can be dangerous. Greeks might be available and helpful, but they aren’t the best drivers in the world. They are a bit careless, with car accidents being a common problem in the country. If you get lost, however, don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Locals will show you the right way immediately.
Moreover, in Greece, you have to consider the presence of stray dogs, too. Granted, they aren’t aggressive, at all, more like abandoned pets seeking closure, but they sure are intimidating. Therefore, don’t get startled if you see a big one coming towards you. Instead of pedaling faster and being chased by them, go slower or get off your bike completely. Then, place it between you and the dog as a shield.
There’s some advice online that it’s wise to carry pepper spray when cycling in Greece and use it against the dogs for protection. That’s blatantly wrong and against the law. If you do so, expect to be heavily fined or even jailed by the Greek authorities.
Finally, you don’t necessarily have to put a lock on your luggage. The chances of someone coming stealing your bag are almost zero in Greece. As comforting as this might be, don’t leave your belongings unattended, especially in central Athens or Thessaloniki or in the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. In smaller villages, the situation is even safer. Everyone knows each other, so you’re completely out of danger.
Where to stay in Greece
Cycling in Greece is not just grabbing your bike and starting pedaling. You have to find a place to rest, between your biking adventures, too. Fortunately, there are many accommodation choices in Greece. In fact, there are too many. As a popular summer destination, the business of tourism has become Greece’s heavy industry, and, therefore, visitors have no issue finding a place to stay. From hostels, rentals, hotels, and B&B to organized camping, Greece has something for every type of traveler.
That said, despite the more than 305 campgrounds in Greece, campsite amenities are very poor. The good thing about them, though, is that they are cheap, so, in a sense, you do get the most bang for your buck. On top of that, bivouacking is allowed but only from sunset to sunrise. Free-range camping, on the other hand, is prohibited.
As a piece of advice, since I’ve been a few times in the country, especially in Rhodes and Naxos, be brave and ask locals to camp on their land. As mentioned above, Greeks are very friendly people, so if you ask them gently to use their ground for camping for a few days, they will let you do so.
TIP: Ask them in Greek to not only receive a positive answer to your request but also additional information about the area or even free local delicacies. Yummy!
Just, say: Tha borusa na parkaro edo, parakaló? (May I park/stay here, please?)
Most beautiful areas in Greece for cycling
Greece is Heaven on Earth, and as such, you shouldn’t miss out on cycling around some of the country’s most iconic landscapes. You could always remain in Athens and enjoy a bike ride along the breathtaking Athenian Riviera with the crystal-blue waters, but there’s so much more to see outside the capital.
Mt. Parnitha is a densely forested mountain range just north of Athens. Its untamed terrain makes it perfect for cycling. Stretches of Tour de France-esque steepness define this National Park, creating a sense of awe every time you lift your eyes from the road and look towards the gorges and the thickets. The landscape is wild, then, with rocky hills covered in scrub and thick forests of fir and black pine. Every stretch is a step closer to natural beauty.
It’s actually incredible that Mt. Parnitha is so close to Athens. If you come to Greece, don’t miss the opportunity of visiting this spectacular area. And when you arrive there, feel free to refresh yourself at the natural springs. Also, aim for the Mola clearing, where picnic tables under fir trees make a beautiful spot for resting and a quick snack. There’s even a barrier in Parnitha, where motorized vehicles are forbidden. There’s nothing more satisfying than a paved road without passing cars, and Mt. Parnitha delivers.
Cycling in Greece, and subsequently Mt. Parnitha, is an extraordinary experience, therefore!
Also read: Best things to do in Athens.
Evia is the second-largest Greek island, after Crete, and one of the closest to Athens. Yet, it is unknown, especially within cycling enthusiast circles. In Evia, you’ll have the opportunity to cycle coast to coast and experience MTB trails as you take in astonishing gorges. It offers all kinds of scenery, from alpine forests in the North to rocky mountains, lush rivers, and fascinating landscapes as you head in the South. Most bike tours go through the ancient site of Eretria and the medieval castles of Karystos and Mytika. Being a popular Athenian tourist spot, Evia offers plenty of opportunities for swimming and beach relaxation.
National Park of Missolonghi-Etoliko Lagoons
That is a magnificent park located in Central Greece, where the Patras Gulf meets the Ionian Sea. It encompasses the rivers Evinos and Acheloos and constitutes one of the richest wetlands in Europe. The National Park of Missolonghi-Etoliko Lagoons has many animal species, so if you’re a naturalist, you better not miss cycling around it! Consequently, it’s my absolute recommendation to choose it as your primary biking area. As a final note, the best thing about this park is the sense of freedom. Rarely, bikers come across visitor centers or protected areas. It’s only cycling and enjoying the breathtaking beauty. Pure bliss!
Peloponnese is stunning. It’s as simple as that. It’s not surprising, therefore, that it attracts the majority of bicycle travelers or bold adventurers who cross Greece towards the South or the East. Known for some of Greece’s most notable archaeological sites, such as Delphi, Olympia, and Ancient Messene, Peloponnese also offers lush vegetation and stimulating micro-climates. On top of that, it’s only a short distance away from Athens. Group cycling tours are available as well, driving to key destinations, including the majestic amphitheater at Epidaurus, Mycenae, Nemea, and the beautiful hilltop town of Nafplio, which used to be the first capital of Greece. How great it is when cycling in Greece, discovering ancient sites, and exploring Greek culture!
Crete is the largest island of Greece and offers the best compromise between a bike tour and relaxing at the beach. Once at the island, grab your bicycle, and ride to the Samaria Gorge in the imposing White Mountains (Lefka Ori), or take a break and admire the Minoan architecture and glory of Knossos, one of the world’s oldest cities. And if you start feeling hot from the intense heat, get off your bike and flop onto Crete’s white-sand beaches. Also, don’t forget to try the tsikoudiá, a grape-based pomace brandy of Cretan origin.
Top 4 Greece bike tours
Let’s get to the meat of this blog post now, the best bike touring Greece routes! To find the perfect Greece bike ride, I had to review an entire collection of cycling tours in the country to come up with the top 4. Click on each route to see a breakdown of detailed information, such as surface analyses and elevation profiles.
The Eurovelo 8 or the Mediterranean Route is a wonderful excuse for cycling in Greece and traveling along the sparkling emerald seas of the Mediterranean. Eurovelo 8 enters the country in the Northern Epirus Region, with a view of the Ionian sea. As you cycle south, you will encounter the National Parks of Messolonghi-Etoliko Lagoons, the Echinades islands, and the Evinos and Acheloos rivers delta.
Cycling further south, you will visit Xylokastro, Korinthos, and Loutraki, a coastal town known for its thermal springs. Entering the Attica region, you will encounter the medieval Daphni Monastery, eventually reaching the famed Acropolis of Athens. And for those wondering, this is a 517.05-kilometer route.
Peloponnese Circular Route
That’s a 112.9-kilometer loop trail near Nafplio, just south of Athens. It offers incredible views and scenic landscapes of iconic Greek flora, such as imposing olive oil trees. This trail is rated difficult, too. So, make sure that you have experience in road biking. This route has you cycling around the Argos and Tripoli regions.
You’re going to pass within Rounaika, a hamlet in Arcadia, Achladokambos, and Kato Doliana, situated on the left bank of the Tanos river, on the slopes of Zavitsa mountain. As you pedal back to Nafplion, you will reach Astros, near the Argolic Gulf, a historic town during the Greek War of Independence.
Also read: 11 incredible day and multi-day hikes in Greece.
The Kreta Cycling Route is a 109.1-kilometer lightly trafficked loop trail. It is located near Chania, As you cycle away from the former Venetian port towards the White Mountains, you will encounter several traditional mountainous Cretan villages.
Some of these are the Skines village, with its gorgeous lake, Lakki, near the famous Samaria Gorge, and the Theriso village, which has a history interwoven with the freedom of the Cretan people. Also, there’s dramatic scenery to be found as well as rich greenery of chestnuts and oaks. So, cycling in Greece enables you to see the authentic Cretan culture and way of life.
Known as the Agios Nikolaos Cycle Route, this 113.6-kilometer loop trail is located close to Agios Nikolaos in Crete. Rated as moderate in difficulty, it’s a friendly trail, primarily used for road biking. Expect to pass through many coastal towns, such as Kalo Chorio, a traditional Cretan village on the Mirabello Gulf, or Amoudara beach with its soft golden sand.
In fact, the latter has been awarded the EU Blue Flag for its clean waters. Along the trail, you will discover the seaside village of Mirtos, one of the jewels of Crete, Anatoli, translated into the village of the rising sun, and the historic Males village, which has many churches of both Venetian and Byzantine rhythm.
Are you ready to explore more of Greece? Check out our Greece page to find more tips, things to do and more.