Hiking can be distinguished from mountain walking as routes generally involve walking around 5km in distance, in a couple of hours, over gentle or slightly sloped ground and require only light gear. Mountain walking involves distances of 15-20 km covered in 5-8 hours, and requires more specialised equipment, particularly during the winter season. Mountain hiking is characterised by changes in elevation (which may vary by 5-600 metres) and can be practised throughout Greece.
A happy by-product of Greece’s belated development of a motorway system, has been the preservation of the extensive series of paths and tracks that formed the basis of a transport network that had been used throughout the country’s history. Today, elderly inhabitants of mountainous settlements still refer to these as dimosia (in Greek “a public, main road”), and despite the fact that some of them have been asphalted over, a great many of them still survive.
Running through spectacular and varied countryside, financing from various bodies over recent years has provided for the revival and maintenance of these paths. The result is a 3,500 km-long network of prime walking routes, the majority of which are waymarked.
For the larger part, this comprises long-distance European Paths Ε 4 and Ε 6, and Class Ο (3,000 km), although a number of shorter paths running over a length of 500 km have also been opened up in recent years:
*European Path Ε4 (- GR )
Originating in the Pyrenees range, it stretches into Greece passing through the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM). The Greek E4 path traverses the northern and central part of the country, the Peloponnese, Gythion and ends in Crete. The highest elevation on the entire route is the Skolios peak (2,911 m) on Mt Olympus. Hiking this network provides the perfect opportunity to familiarise yourself with the natural wealth and diversity of the Greek landscape.
The E4 is ideal for hiking from May 15 until early October, due to the typical Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers (although day and nigh time temperatures can vary considerably). Snowfall starts in November and snow is likely to linger until June in places. As some of the villages en route are uninhabited during the winter, finding a pace to stay could be a problem at this time. However, the southern section (Peloponnese and Crete) provides more gentle hiking conditions and, owing to the milder climate, can be hiked throughout the year.
*European Path Ε 6
The Greek section of the European long-distance path (E4) has two sections: the first has its starting point in the Prespes area and reaches the town of Igoumenitsa via Kastoria-Ioannina-Dodoni; the second section begins in Florina, crossing the mountainous regions of western, central and eastern Macedonia (along Greece’s borders with FYROM and Bulgaria) until it reaches the city of Alexandroupoli in Thrace.