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Far from the pandemonium of the big cities, the adolescent fervour of its myriad clubbing resorts and gridlocked beaches, lies a side to Greece that many a holidaymaker scarcely knows about. This ancient land is steeped in more mythology and history than perhaps any other, but whilst wandering around any one of its 12 national parks, you can easily forget about gods and serpents for a while; instead, simply marvel at the natural wonders on offer. And all of this under the almost perennial Mediterranean sun, that blesses these parts of southern Europe.
That’s not to say that the conventional Greek enchantments are completely abandoned in these outdoor territories. Mount Olympus, for example, is one of the primary cornerstones of the country’s folklore, whereas Sounion contains all the aquatic pleasures we’ve come to associate with the beautiful coastal regions. Whatever you desire, chances are you’ll find it here.
Top five National Parks in Greece
In the north of the country, straddling the border between Greece and Macedonia, lies one of Europe’s most majestic mountain ranges. The 52 peaks of Olympus National Park, including the eponymous mountain itself, represented the mythological home of the gods, and it’s clear to see why the likes of Zeus may have settled here. A visit to the Agios Dionysios Monastery is a must for anyone with an interest in ecclesiastical merit, and the vast selection of diverse flora and fauna is more than enough to keep the wildlife lovers amused.
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Also commonly referred to as Valia Calda, this isolated mountainous terrain is a hiker’s dream come true. The adrenaline soars as you meander through the forested slopes, the dirt paths pleasingly undisturbed thanks to the park’s comparatively low tourist population. The ecology of the area is astounding, and this is one of the only places in Greece where you may spot a rare Eurasian brown bear as they cool themselves in the waters of the Arkoudorema River.
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Instantly recognisable for the postcard image of the Temple of the Poseidon, Cape Sounion sits at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula. The ruined temple perches dramatically on the headland, one of the finest places in the world to watch the sunset on a summer day, enjoying a stunning view over the Aegean Sea. This is the smallest of the country’s national parks, but its immense significance to the archaeological spectrum, not to mention its gleaming shorelines, make up for the lack of acres in this instance.
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Alonnisos is slightly different from its compatriots, in that it’s officially designated as a National Marine Park. As the title suggests, the features of the region are almost entirely water-based, the shimmering blue waters of the Med interspersed with a plethora of contrasting and captivating islands. The Marine Life Protection Centre is a fantastic place to see some of the creatures that inhabit the waters, but if you prefer to get up close and personal with the natives, you can always take a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat.
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As far as you can be from the youthful exuberance of Malia and Hersonissos, the miracle of nature that is Samaria Gorge sits in the infinitely sleepier southern reaches of Crete. The trek up is arduous, particularly the last three kilometres or so when the natural path gives way to a steep wooden staircase – but the view from the top makes the effort ultimately gratifying. The hauntingly charming abandoned village of Samaria lies inside the gorge, a surreal locale dominated by the ancient but resilient Ossia Maria church.
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Holiday Rentals in Greece
Villa Argostoli Bay is a magnificent and lavishly furnished villa perched on the hillside above the lovely harbour town of Argostoli, boasting seemingly endless views across the Ionian Sea to the Lixouri Peninsular and beyond. The sunsets here are...
Quite simply, Villa Drepanou Bay has everything the discerning traveler could possibly desire, a luxurious and contemporary interior, colourful gardens surrounding a large private swimming pool and one of the finest locations in Lefkas, with views...
The scenery around Villa Nefeli is quite simply breathtaking. With gorgeous olive clad hillsides as a backdrop, and a lush valley full of fruit trees to the front and with distant sea views, this truly is a very special place. The proud owner has ...
We are absolutely thrilled to feature Villa Kalithea in our fabulous portfolio of hand-picked villas with pools in Kefalonia. Seldom have we come across such a wonderful all-rounder as Villa Kalithea, with its magnificent panoramic sea views, wond...
Set in mature lawned gardens with fantastic views out to the sparking sea and the island of Zakynthos beyond, Villa Agnandi boasts one of the most privileged locations in Kefalonia. South facing, with a panoramic vista, a short drive from the airp...