One of the most famous and arguably most valuable parts of Greece’s heritage is the Olympic Games, bringing fun, vitality and unity to everyone watching and partaking. Families visiting Greece can get a taste of the spirit of the Games with some of the country’s top sporting and outdoor activities.
1/10 Horseback riding in lake Kerkini
One of the top birdwatching locations in Europe, the wetlands of Kerkini in northern Greece are rich in biodiversity. At 15 km by 8 km the lake is large enough for a full day out for the whole family. Spot wild buffalo, amphibians and even flamingoes at the water’s edge before trying one of the many sports available in the area. Canoeing, biking and 4×4 off-roading are all popular activities for visitors wanting to get up close to nature.
Horseback riding, a sport introduced to Greece just before WWII, is a particular favourite around the Attica area and is an ideal way to see the beauty of Greek nature. Local guest houses offer horseback riding programmes for everyone from beginners to experts, creating a memorable experience for the whole family.
2/10 Rafting in Vikos Gorge
After meeting at Aristi bridge, you can boat from Vikos Gorge down to where the Voidomatis meets the Aoos River in the Vikos-Anoos National Park. The 5 km route is suitable for all abilities and kayakers meander through stunning greenery along the crystal clear water, admiring waterfalls and the scenery of the national park.
The deserted Agioi Anargyroi monastery, dating back to the 14th century, is a spectacular sight for visitors who are able to see into the caves that were used as monks’ retreats hundreds of years ago. Pass under Klato Kleidonia bridge towards the end of your adventure, finishing with an optional dive into the river for the brave.
3/10 Santorini Experience
This spectacular sporting competition sees some of the best athletes from around Europe gather to take part in open water swimming and running races. This year, competitors will face a open water swimming route starting at the volcano and ending at the port of Fira; a route designed by Olympic medalists and world champions in the sport. Runners will be able to take part in 5 km, 10 km and 15 km routes that wind along the path overlooking the Caldera, from Oia to Fira.
Other events and attractions in former years have included martial arts lessons led by Olympians, kids athletics of IAFF and a Gala
4/10 Climbing in Kalymnos
The island of Kalymnos in the Aegean sea has plenty of outdoor activities to keep the whole family happy. There are lots of coastal walks, sunny west-coast beaches and watersports such as sea canoeing and scuba diving (Kalymnos is home to its own International Diving Festival). One of its main attractions is rock climbing and with routes from beginner to expert it is a perfect place to bring the whole family to climb together.
There are a whopping 360 routes in grades 3-5 for less experienced climbers as well as eight ‘9a’ graded courses for more adventurous teen. The local climbing crags are rated with a star system to let families know how safe each location is for young climbers, from zero stars (definitely not for children) to three stars (a safer option with the correct number of adults in the climbing party).
5/10 Windsurfing in Paros
Most of the beaches on Paros are set up for watersports, from surfing to pedalos and fishing to waterskiing. The Paros coast is said to offer ideal conditions for windsurfing with the island’s southeastern side benefitting from wind speed and direction that has previously attracted the Professional Windsurfers Association World Championships.
Chryssi Atki, the most popular windsurfing beach, is a stretch of golden sand with crystal clear ocean lapping at the shore. The shallow water is great for beginners so no matter what your ability, there is a chance for everyone to have some windsurfing fun on Paros.
6/10 Trekking in the Samariá Gorge
At the centre of the White Mountains National Park in Crete, at an altitude of 1200m, is the Samariá Gorge. The longest gorge in Europe at 16 km, Samariá is home to over 450 species of animal and plant, 70 of which are only found on the island.
Adventurous walkers can stroll for 8 hours through the landscape, descending towards the Mediterranean Sea and the canopy of trees with an ocean view that awaits you at the end of the trek.
Along the way are ancient churches, rustic villages and fresh mountain springs that are ideal to quench your thirst.
7/10 Visit the Bear Sanctuary in Epirus
The beginning of this non-profit organisation founded, in 1992, was motivated by the need to solve the issue of bears and wolves being imprisoned around Greece. The ‘Arcturos’ organisation carries out scientific research as well as policy advice for the protection of the country’s wildlife, and has encouraged the breeding of Greek shepherd dogs and their role as helpers on traditional farms.
Visit the village of Nimfeo and meet the bears who call it home, and find out more about these majestic creatures and the issues that they face today. Other Arcturos sites include the wolf home in Agrapidies and the Brown Bear Information Centre located at Nikiios School in Nimfeo.
8/10 Visit the national marine park in Alonissos
This haven for marine life is not only the largest marine protected area in Europe, but was also the first marine park established in Greece. Visitors can swim and dive to enjoy the view of the wildlife in the protected waters, with water on the beaches clear enough to see the bottom- ideal for snorkelling.
Some of the best beaches to visit in the area include Agios Demetrius (known as the most beautiful beach on the island); Glifa with its shell-lined shores and plentiful watersports, and postcard-perfect Leftos Yalos.
The tiny island of Alonissos is home to just 3000 residents, making it a great option for visitors looking for the quiet life. Steni Vala, a fishing village in the north-east offers traditional tavernas and apartments for holidaymakers wanting to stay on the island.
9/10 Athens Marathon
The marathon race originated when an ancient Greek messenger, Pheidippedes, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks’ victory over the Persians, making the city the perfect location for such a race. Hailed as one of the most significant sporting, cultural and social events held in Athens, this award-winning marathon has now been running for over 120 years.
With over 40,000 participants and run by 3000 volunteers, it offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to athletes and hobby runners to take part in a race past some of the oldest buildings in the contemporary world.
10/10 Navarino Challenge
This Messinia-based sporting event is held to raise awareness about the benefits of exercise, healthy living and the Mediterranean diet as well as the issue of childhood obesity. Participators can enjoy a 5 km, 10 km or half marathon route that takes in coastal views and circles Voidokilia. The runs are non-competitive, bringing a spirit of fun and unity to the event.
The Navarino Challenge has been awarded the gold standard in tourism three times and is a great opportunity for travellers looking for something a little different to do on holiday. The Costa Navarino is a gorgeous family destination, offering five star resorts as well as year-round outdoor activities for adults and children alike, leading to it being hailed as one of the ‘top 20 destinations in the world by National Geographic Traveler. In this year’s Navarino Challenge more than 12 Olympic sports will be offered, while Olympic medalists will teach and demonstrate them.