Cycling in Greece can be enjoyed in every season, thanks to the temperate climate of the Mediterranean area. From the continental backcountry to its many islands sprinkling Ionian and Aegean seas, bicycle touring in Greece will offer many choices, thanks to its many itineraries. Far from the busiest areas, there are so many secondary roads, panoramic gravel paths, unexpected trails that can conquer even the most skeptical travelers. Then you have some breathtaking itineraries, for the views and for the effort, going over 2000 m of altitude, through National Parks, on the tallest peaks of the entire nation and capable of giving unique emotions to every bicycle tourist.
Greece is one of the countries of the European Union, and it is located in the southern part of the continent. It's not only the islands, the most known and visited during summer! There are many destinations for outdoor activities, especially for bicycle touring. You'll have plenty of choice: the most classical bicycle touring itineraries, or the adventures up in the mountains or in the less common touristic areas, in order to breathe Greece at its purest. We travelled one month in Greece by bicycle, through the Tzoumerka National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage pillars in Meteora, the island of Alonissos and the Thrace, but there are many possibilities to discover this country on your two wheels.
During our bicycle tour in Greece, we came to know this country, and in this article, I'll try to answer the most common questions about cycling Greece. In particular, the questions I'm going to answer are;
There are many airlines, even lowcost, allowing you to reach Greece with your bicycle. In our list (in Italian), you will definitely find some interesting flight, but for a personal experience, I can assure you that lowcost airlines usually ask 60€ per flight only for the bicycle.
A valid and comfortable alternative to reach Greece is the boat, leaving from the Italian East coast (from Venice, Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi): the trip is for sure longer, but it could be comfortable and less stressful than the plane. It depends on how many days you can withdraw from your Greek bicycle trip.
Which documents will I need in order to cycle in Greece?
Greece is a member state of the European Union, and it is part of the Schengen area. So, if you come from Italy or in general the European Union, you'll only have to show your ID. In order to travel from Greece to other countries, it is required a valid passport with 6 months validity. A European citizen can stay in Greece as long as he/she wants, while an American citizen can only stay for 90 days in a 180 days period, without having to require a visa.
Is it safe cycling in Greece?
The definition of "safe" can vary from areas to areas, in the world. let's say that in general Greece is a safe country, with some buts. For bicycle lovers, it's mandatory to stay away from the main and busiest roads, because they may be very dangerous. Greeks are available and trustworthy: they can be very helpful, even if some don't speak English at all, and show you the right way if you got lost. You have to take into account the massive presence of wild dogs. During our last trip, we met dozens of them, but none was aggressive or dangerous. In any case, be aware.The majority of these pets are scared by the movement of the bicycles, so the best practice (instead of pedalling faster and being chased by them) is going slower and even get off your bike, using it as a shield between you and the dog. During our Greece bicycle trip, we were with our dog Nala, but this hasn't changed our approach with dogs and everything went smooth. In the rare case you meet an aggressive bunch, you can try screaming in their direction and looking them in the eyes (this method worked in Puglia!) or using your water bottle or (extreme solution) a pepper spray. In the bigger cities don't leave your luggage unattended without a lock, while in smaller villages, where everyone knows each other, you are out of any danger. This said Greece is generally pretty safe.
Which is the best period for a Greece bike tour?
The weather in Greece is essentially Mediterranean, with hot but ventilated summers and mild winters. The northernmost part of the country has some influences from Center European weather, so it has a continental weather, with cold winter and very hot summers. This said the best times of the year to cycle in Greece are for sure spring or autumn when the days are long but not excessively hot. During the evening you'll be needing a jumper or a sweater, but usually, during the day the temperature is going to be good. If you can visit Greece only during summer, don't forget to bring along suncream and a lot of water. during winter try to travel in the southernmost part, preferably the islands.
How are the roads in Greece?
We personally travelled in Continental Greece in some less populated areas, and consequently less busy, through the Tsoumerka National Park, on secondary roads riding on a very good road (when existing) and very fun gravel ones.
In general, cycling in Greece can be done on road bikes, with some precautions. Its gravel roads and MTB trails are well signalled only near the main touristic destinations, while in the other areas you have to be prepared and informed from home.
Greece is mainly mountainous, and sometimes you could be facing some pretty challenging climbs, but once won, the prize is the spectacular views of this country. Some islands as Crete have a vocation for bicycle tourism and MTB, while other, smaller destinations, are idyllic destinations for tourism but don't look for dedicated paths. In some cities, you can find some sidewalks or city cycle path facilitating the transfers in the city.
Bikepacking and cycling in Greece: the cycle routes
Greece is not a very developed country in terms of cycling. The cycle paths in the area are rare, often only towns, and to stay away from the dangerous busy roads you need to follow secondary, mountain or rural roads. However, it has to be said that cycling in Greece can become simpler by following long-established cycle routes that have already been tested, this is the case of the Eurovelo, the long-distance routes of our continent, which in three cases also cross the Greek nation. The Eurovelos were created to allow safe cycling between the various states of our continent and if on the one hand they are not always marked itineraries (so before departure it is necessary to download the GPS tracks), on the other they almost always follow roads safe enough for cyclists. Traveling by bike in Greece you can follow the Eurovelo 13, at the border with Bulgaria, the Eurovelo 8 which follows the Adriatic coast to Athens and the Eurovelo11 which descends from northern Macedonia to cut off mainland Greece and the coast of Aegean Sea to the capital.
MTB routes in Greece
With a purely mountainous territory and numerous forest roads and routes at high altitude, Greece lends itself very well to being visited by MTB. From Epirus to the Peloponnese you can follow many different off-road tracks that allow you to discover the most authentic and hidden nation. The best times to practice MTB in Greece are spring and autumn, mild seasons that allow you to pedal even at high altitude without running too much the risk of encountering snow to hinder the success of the adventure. Find several MTB routes in Greecehere and a brochure dedicated to the Prefecture of Crete of Rethymno with various off-road routes to download for free on the official tourism website in Greece.
Which maps should I use to cycle in Greece?
Depending on the itinerary you are planning in Greece, you'll be needing a map more or less detailed. If you only want to be cycling in Greece on a road bike on asphalt road, even if I advise against the main roads, you can look for a 1:300000 map (the Marco Polo one is a good one), while if you want to cycle in Greece with an MTB bike look for a more specific map, on the area you are riding in, with a detail 1:50000 to 1:25000. In order to ride on asphalt and the main gravel roads or on secondary roads, you can take a look at the free maps by OpenStreetMap, to be downloaded on your GPS device or your smartphone before the trip. We personally use the free digital cartography by openmtbmap even if for this country the OSM development level isn't too high and many secondary and gravel roads aren't present. In this case, you can use Google satellite cartography, for example, to evaluate the travel time or the conditions of a trail or a gravel road.
Is it easy to communicate in Greece?
In Greece the language spoken is Greek, but young people can speak English, so it has become easier and easier to communicate with them. Nonetheless, especially if you are travelling to more rural areas, it's a good practice to learn some phrases. Remember: the Greek language uses the Greek alphabet.
Kaliméra / Kalispéra (written καλημέρα / καλησπέρα): Good morning / good evening
Ti kanété? (written Τι κανετε ;): How are you?
Efkharîsto (written ευχαριστώ ): Thanks
Parakaló (written Παρακαλω): Please
Né / óchi (written Ναι / Οχι ): Yes / no
Eínai to póso (written είναι το πόσο ): How much is it?
Pó̱s na páte se... ? (written πώς να πάτε σε... ; ): How do I get to...?
In Greece, the road signs are usually written in two languages, with the Greek alphabet (more frequently) and the Latin one.
Which are the most beautiful areas in Greece by bicycle?
Crete and Peloponnese usually attract the majority of bicycle travellers in Greece with their itineraries, but sometimes there are adventurers who cross the country towards the East or the South. Peloponnese includes some of the most known and well preserved archaeological sites in Greece, like Delphi and Old Olympia. Crete is the best compromise between a bicycle tour alternate to some beach relaxation. Continental Greece offers the possibility to cross some national parks like the Mount Olympus one or the Kerkini Lake one, but also to immerse oneself in the antique history in territories like Thrace and Macedonia. And then there are the islands! To visit entire Greece by bicycle takes a lot of time, but on many trips you can discover its many areas, trying also the local flavours and the oldest traditions.
If you prefer the sea, pick a cycling island, like Crete or Rhodes or the Peloponnese ring. If you prefer the mountains, go for Continental Greece, with Mount Olympus, the Calcidic peninsula, the Rhodope Mountains and the peaks of the Tsoumerka! If you love the coast to coast trips, from Igoumenitsa you can follow our itinerary until Volos or cross the Peloponnese, but remember that in Greece mountains can reach 2300 m altitude.
If you want to alternate train and bus to one-day excursions, I can definitely suggest the Meteora Mountains tour, where you will be cycling among pinnacles and old monasteries and the Lake Kerkini tour, a gravel ring ideal for birdwatching and see the pelicans of this important reserve.
If the main aim of your bicycle trip in Greece is to visit the majority of cities, don't miss Athens with its acropolis and all the mundane life of the capitol, or Thessaloniki, second city of Greece with its interesting archaeological museum, or Corinth and its famous canal or Larissa with its archaeological site and ruins.
Flora and fauna in Greece
Greek territory is pretty vast and variegated: despite the presence of the mountains, the influence of the Mediterranean Sea has conditioned the presence of many floral and faunal species. The typical vegetation of coastal Greece is the Mediterranean scrub (and the Garrigue), characterized by the presence of olives, aromatic plants like rosemary, broom, bay tree, oak, holm oak... The fauna populating Mediterranean areas of Greece counts boars, porcupines, foxes, badgers and the shy Greek tortoise, many insects and reptiles like the horned viper. Then all the roof of the churches and lights poles are full of stork nests. Some areas in Greece, like Lake Kerkini, are affected by the migration of some birds, like the many pelicans that fly there.
Is it hard to find water and food in Greece?
Along the cycling itinerary towards the belly of Greece, we didn't have any problems in finding water: this area of the nation is rich in fountains, especially on the mountains where water runs fresh also during summer. In the Peloponnese area, however, there aren't many fountains and sometimes you should consider buying more before facing a long leg of your trip through Greece.
On the roads in the Tsoumerka park, in a couple of occasions, we didn't find any market for 40 km, but it was an exception. In general, on the roads it's possible to buy food and water: every village, even the smallest one, has a small shop. If you like cooking with your burner, you'll be happy to know that gas cans are sold in the majority of the shops and they are pretty cheap.
Is it possible and safe to wild camp in Greece?
On touristic roads, you'll find plenty of places to stay, but not so cheap (the less expensive ones cost 25€ to 40€ per room during summer, but you have to be lucky!) Campings don't offer many services and cost from 10€ to 20€ per night per two persons.
Free and wild camping is allowed only in some specific areas, but bivouac from sunset to sunrise is allowed (source: visitgreece.info). A valid alternative is asking private citizens to camp with your tent in their front yard or in their fields near the house like we did.
The typical dishes in Greece use a lot of vegetables, olive oil and aromatic plants. Moussakà, many salads, cheeses (the most known is Feta), fish in the coastal areas and Tzatziki can be found pretty everywhere and are served with Greek bread, Pita, and if you want, with some wine. And before dinner? It's mandatory to taste Ouzo, anise distilled usually served with water and ice.
How much does it cost biking in Greece?
Greece, even if for a European citizen could look cheap, is on average an expensive country, especially if compared to its neighbours Albania, Macedonia, Turkey and Bulgaria. Euro is the local currency and accommodation is close to Italy, but the things change for food. Going out for dinner is pretty cheap (in some non-touristic areas, two dishes and a beer costs 10€).
During high season (July and August) prices increase, while during the low season many structures close. In bigger cities, it's possible to find some bargains in hostels or more austere campings.
In general, it is an expensive country, always comparing to its neighbours,
How developed is telephone infrastructure technology in Greece?
The mobile network is present and good in the city and on the coast, while on the mountains some operators aren't covered. Travelling with a European number, you can use the roaming for free and depending on your operator's fees, you can use your phone data. The majority of the structures, camping included, offer free Wi-Fi connection, as the local cafes and small shops. If you don't have a proper mobile contract, I suggest buying a local SIM card. The re are three operators: Cosmote, Wind-Telecom and Vodafone; you can evaluate their offers and choose the best option that suits your needs.
What should I bring to cycle in Greece?
The equipment you should bring along is strictly linked to the type, season and length of your bicycle trip in Greece. During summer, spring and autumn you can travel with light clothes on the coast and on the islands, while on the mountains it's always good to have something warm for the evening, we usually travel with a lot of technological equipment which I suggest to leave at home. If I had to choose what to carry, I'd definitely go for a good tire repairing kit for a mountain itinerary and for a bathing suit for a coastal itinerary. In the bigger cities, you can easily find bike shops, for emergency purchases or mechanical assistance. To have a complete list of equipment, take a look at our list of bicycle touring equipment: there's all, even too much, but you can find some interesting ideas.
I'm from Piedmont and I'm 30 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...