Discover the Majestic Beauty of 9 Greek National Parks – Perfect for Nature Lovers!
No introduction is necessary for the sublime grandeur of Greece’s national parks. The divine craftsmanship of the Greek Gods is evident in their nation’s flawless design. Countless destinations in Greece are nothing short of extraordinary.
With stunning landscapes that will leave you breathlessly enchanted, a kaleidoscope of gastronomic delights to satisfy your foodie soul, and the warm, welcoming locals who will captivate you with their tales and folklore, Greece is a joy to behold. The islands, too, boast their unique scenic charm. Whether you’re an ardent admirer of nature or an explorer keen to discover ancient landmarks, temples, and beaches, here is a list of the bewitching national parks you can visit in Greece.
Top 9 National Parks in Greece
Greece, known worldwide for its rich history and picturesque landscapes, is home to a number of splendid national parks. Each offers a unique blend of natural beauty and biodiversity, truly a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
1. Mount Olympus National Park
Renowned as the mythical abode of the Greek gods, Mount Olympus National Park is a majestic spectacle of natural beauty. Located in northern Greece, its densely forested slopes and towering peaks offer a stunning environment for hikers and nature lovers. It is the highest mountain in Greece, and the diversity of its fauna and flora is remarkable, with numerous species found only on its slopes.
Besides its natural allure, the park is steeped in legend and lore, adding an additional layer of intrigue for visitors. Whether you’re an avid hiker aiming for the summit or a curious traveler seeking a glimpse of mythological grandeur, Mount Olympus National Park promises an unforgettable journey through Greece’s storied landscape.
2. Prespa National Park
Nestled in the heart of Greece and established in 1974, the National Park of Prespa is a tranquil sanctuary of biodiversity. The park, built around the captivating pools of Mikri and Megali Prespa, is dedicated to protecting the vibrant ecosystem of the two lakes. Enclosed by majestic mountains and punctuated by a solitary islet, these lakes form a shared natural habitat across Greece, Albania, and FYROM (the Republic of Macedonia), for a diverse array of plant and animal life. Notably, the lakes serve as a breeding haven for various aquatic birds, making it a prime spot for nature watching.
The park beckons both domestic and international visitors, offering a serene retreat to reconnect with nature, observe the diverse avifauna, and explore intriguing historical landmarks. It also offers an insight into the silent tales of nearby deserted villages. Often bypassed by the usual travel routes, the Prespa National Park remains a hidden gem in Greece’s crown, meriting it a rightful place among the country’s finest national parks.
3. Pindus National Park
Established in 1966 and located in the northeastern ‘Pindus’ mountain range near West Macedonia, Pindus National Park sprawls across an area of 17,120 acres, with its principal area covering 8,300 acres. The park’s elevation ranges from 1076 to 2177 meters and is often referred to as the ‘Valia Kalda’ valley. This secluded spot boasts a network of mountain lakes, springs, and waterways weaving their way through thick, lush forests.
Pindus National Park is a sanctuary for an abundance of wildlife, including wildcats, lynx, otters, and over 80 different bird species. It holds the distinction of being one of only three areas in Greece where a small population of Eurasian bears can be found. Despite being one of the least visited areas in the country, Pindus National Park, accessible from the small village of Perivoli, affords plentiful hiking opportunities and features a climbing resort near the Mavrovouni peak. Its low popularity ensures visitors can enjoy nature in tranquility.
Camping is possible outside the park, while special permission is needed for kayaking. Despite being off the beaten path, Pindus National Park offers an immersive nature experience, making it one of Greece’s unique national parks.
4. Vikos Aoos National Park
Situated in the scenic area of Epirus in northwestern Greece, and merely 30 kilometers from Ioannina, is the spectacular ‘Vikos – Aoös National Park’. Covering an area of more than 12,600 hectares, this park, established in 1973, is a natural wonderland comprised of stunning gorges and canyons, mysterious caverns, tranquil lakes and streams, and expansive thick forests.
The park is a sanctuary for wolves, black bears, and deer, making it a favorite among locals for outdoor activities. Recognized as a UNESCO Geopark, the park boasts a vast array of natural habitats within its boundaries. Ecotourism activities are popular here, with the area serving as an ideal location for hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and water sports like rafting and kayaking. If you’re seeking an enchanting nature experience, quaint mountain villages, and adrenaline-pumping activities, the Vikos – Aoös National Park is a perfect choice.
5. Parnitha National Park
Established in 1961, Parnitha National Park sprawls across 61,776 acres, encompassing the highest mountain in proximity to Athens. Situated just 30 kilometers from Athens, this park serves as an essential habitat for a diverse range of bird species. Apart from the namesake mountain, the park features stunning lakes, deep gorges, and mysterious caverns.
It’s an ideal spot for climbing, bird watching, and mountain biking, boasting two refuges and a reputation for its wild tulips. The area is also a natural habitat for pine and fir trees, as well as various wildlife. Moreover, the park encompasses several archaeological sites of interest, like the Tatoi Palace, Monastery of Kleiston, and various fortresses, making it a fascinating blend of nature and history.
6. Zakynthos National Marine Park
Established in 1999, the Zakynthos National Marine Park spreads across a vast territory of 52 square miles. Its expanse not only includes the famed ‘Bay of Laganas’, the abundant wetland of ‘Keri Lake’, but also the twin islands of Strofadia. Nestled in the southern part of Zakynthos, the third largest island in the Ionian Sea, this marine park is a well-known nesting hub for the loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta) in the Mediterranean Sea.
This park serves as a sanctuary for the endangered monk seals. Visitors have the opportunity to go swimming or partake in underwater diving. However, while exploring the waters and trails, guests are urged to be mindful not to disrupt the turtles’ natural habitats.
7. Alonissos Marine Park
Established in 1992, Alonissos Marine Park is one of the largest protected marine areas in Europe, signifying Greece’s commitment to conserving its diverse marine life. Spanning over a vast expanse, this park encompasses not only the waters of the Aegean but also six smaller islands and 22 islets.
The park provides a safe haven for a rich array of flora and fauna, including 300 different species of fish, the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, the wild goat of Gioura, and 80 species of birds such as Audouin’s gull and Eleonora’s hawk.
The marine park also protects precious red coral reefs, enhancing Greece’s marine biodiversity. Visitors can explore the park by diving or swimming, with the possibility of sighting a Mediterranean monk seal. They can also enjoy sightseeing, walking, and fishing in designated areas. Alonissos Marine Park, with its unique blend of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, offers an unparalleled opportunity for adventure and discovery.
8. Oeti National Park
Established in 1966, Oeti National Park drapes over Mount Oeta, located in the central region of Greece. The park spans an impressive 7,000 hectares, making it the third largest national park in the country. As a member of the Natura 2000 Network, the park prioritizes the protection of its unique ecosystem, hence hunting and other potentially harmful activities are strictly prohibited.
Known for its rich biodiversity, the park houses at least 50 endemic plant species, along with a variety of wildlife and bird species including the roe deer, wild boar, rabbit, as well as rarer species like brown bears, wolves, and wildcats. Visitors to Oeti National Park are in for a treat – they can engage in bird-watching, explore hidden caves, or visit the Agathonos monastery to learn more about the park’s rich history. Truly, Oeti National Park is a testament to Greece’s commitment to preserving Mother Nature’s precious gifts.
9. Samaria National Park
Established in 1962, Samaria National Park is an awe-inspiring natural spectacle nestled on the island of Crete. The park’s crowning glory, the Samaria Gorge, holds the title of the longest gorge in Europe and is a major draw for tourists.
Declared a World Biosphere Reserve, this magnificent gorge stretches approximately 10 miles, beginning at an elevation of 4,100 feet and descending to the charming seaside village of Agia Roumeli. An embodiment of Greece’s rich biodiversity, the park is a sanctuary for around 450 plant species and various endemic animal species, such as the endangered kri-kri, a species of wild goat.
Visitors are offered the opportunity to explore most of the gorge, which concludes at the Libyan Sea, creating an unforgettable experience for hiking enthusiasts. Additionally, guests can partake in a scenic ferry ride to nearby towns of Sougia and Hora Sfakion, complementing their exploration of the park. A visit to Samaria National Park provides a quintessential Greek outdoor adventure that belongs on every nature lover’s bucket list.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What are the operating hours for Oeti and Samaria National Parks?
A1: Generally, both parks operate from dawn until dusk. However, seasonal changes may affect the exact opening and closing times. It’s recommended to check the official websites for the most accurate information.
Q2: Are there guided tours available in these parks?
A2: Yes, guided tours are often available in both Oeti and Samaria National Parks. It’s a great way to get insightful information about the wildlife, history, and geological features of the parks.
Q3: What should I bring for a day trip to these parks?
A3: It’s recommended to pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and appropriate walking shoes. Don’t forget a camera to capture the incredible natural beauty of these parks.
Q4: Are camping facilities available in Oeti and Samaria National Parks?
A4: It varies from park to park. Please check the respective park websites for detailed information about camping and other accommodation facilities.
Q5: Are these parks accessible to people with disabilities?
A5: Accessibility varies depending on the park’s facilities and the nature of its trails. It’s best to contact the park directly or visit their official website for specific information regarding accessibility.