Greece is a stunning country in the southeastern region of Europe on the tip of the Balkan peninsula. It has nine different geographical regions, including rugged mountains, which are home to a vast array of wildlife. There are several national parks in the country to help protect the unique landscape and to provide a safe area for the animals that live there. Choosing which ones to visit can be a difficult choice, so let’s discover some of the most beautiful national parks in Greece!
1. Rodopi Mountain Range National Park
If you’re looking for somewhere to explore that features vast, rugged mountains then the Rodopi Mountain Range National Park is definitely the place to be. It is located in the northeastern region of the country and also forms one of the largest forest ecosystems in Greece. The Nestos River flows through the park and the network of waterways creates several stunning gorges and waterfalls. Rodopi Mountain Range National Park is perfect for hiking, with numerous trails of varying difficulties. There’s also plenty of flora and fauna to see, with animals such as brown bears, wolves, and golden eagles living within its boundaries.
2. Oeta National Park
Centered around Mount Oeta, one of the highest mountains in Greece, the Oeta National Park features stunning natural scenery. It has jagged peaks, deep gorges, and breathtaking waterfalls. One such place is the Kremastos Waterfall which is again one of the tallest in the country. Oeta National Park is also well-known for its vast and beautiful displays of flowers, many of which are endemic to the mountain. There are plenty of trails across Oeta, several of which take in some of the small villages which are dotted across the park.
3. Zakynthos National Marine Park
If you’re looking for a place where you can explore the beauty of the sea then Zakynthos National Marine Park is the place to be. It spans 52 square miles in the Laganas Bay off Zakynthos Island and was formed specifically to protect the region’s sea turtles. The nesting sites’ six beaches are strictly protected, with one hosting the largest area of loggerhead turtle nests in the world. However, the park features numerous other stunning white beaches with crystal clear water which is perfect for swimming.
4. Samaria National Park
The Samaria National Park is located in the southern region of Crete and is famous for the Samaria Gorge which is the longest gorge in Europe at almost ten miles long. As well as the stunning scenery, the national park is well-known for its diverse range of wildlife. There are several species which are endemic to the region, including the kri-kri (Cretan goat). The main activity in Samaria National Park is hiking, and there are numerous trails across the area.
5. Alonissos Marine Park
If you’re looking for a beautiful national park in Greece that features stunning areas of both land and sea then check out Alonissos Marine Park which is the largest protected marine area in Europe. It consists of a large portion of sea as well as several islands with many areas of cultural and historical significance. Alonissos Marine Park offers plenty of activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking. In the water there are shipwrecks and coral reefs to explore, while on the land you can visit some of the ancient monasteries and churches.
6. Olympus National Park
The Olympus National Park features its namesake — Mount Olympus — which is the highest mountain in Greece at 9,572 feet. Hiking is the most popular activity within the national park, and climbing the mountain is an exhilarating challenge. It is regarded as a tough climb, but even if you don’t fancy hiking to the summit there are plenty of other trails around the park where you can take in the stunning views. You can also see a wide range of animals, including woodpeckers, foxes, deer, and Alpine chamois.
7. Sounio National Park
Located at the tip of the Attica peninsula is the Sounio National Park which features stunning archeological ruins. It also features areas of geological beauty, such as rocky outcrops and a large gulch which is 230 feet deep and 1,640 feet wide. However, the park is also famous for its wildlife and is a particularly good spot for birdwatching, with several species of sea birds and birds of prey living in the area. As well as the many hiking trails around the park there’s also the Legrena Bay which is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
8. Prespes National Park
One of the largest and unspoiled areas in Greece is the Prespes National Park which is part of a vast area that is shared between Albania, Greece, and Macedonia. There are several different unique areas within the boundaries of the park, but one of the most important is the Lesser Prespa Lake which is classed as a wetland of international importance. There is a vast number of animals that live in the national park, with approximately 60 species of mammals and 270 species of birds. These include around 1,000 pairs of Dalmatian pelicans which is the largest colony in the world.
9. Parnassos National Park
The next beautiful national park in Greece is the Parnassos National Park which is the second-largest in the country. It is named after Mount Parnassos which is 8,061 feet high and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape from the summit. There are several hiking trails up the mountain as well as two ski areas which form the largest ski resort in Greece with a total of 25 runs. The national park also has a wide range of flora and fauna too, with several forests, olive groves, and stunning vegetation such as oregano, water thyme, and laurel. Birds are particularly common in Parnassos, with vultures, golden eagles, thrushes, and woodpeckers often being spotted.
10. Vikos–Aoös National Park
Next, is the Vikos-Aoös National Park which is located in the Epirus region. It is named after two gorges that can be found within the park boundaries — Vikos Gorge and Aoös Gorge. Both are stunning areas, although the Vikos Gorge is the larger of the two at 12 miles long and with a depth of 3,281 feet in some places. Much of the rest of the park consists of mountainous terrain in the form of the Tymphe mountain range. As well as jagged peaks which are perfect for hiking and climbing, there are several alpine lakes and various caves and unique rock formations.
Vikos-Aoös is also one of the most important ecosystems in the country as it supports a vast number of animals, many of which are endangered. There are several ways to explore the park, and aside from the aforementioned hiking and climbing, there are also opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and mountain biking.
11. Parnitha National Park
The Parnitha National Park protects a large portion of the upper area of the Parnitha mountain range which include some of the highest mountains in the Athens area. However, although the mountains are one of the main features of the park, they’re not the only thing that it has to offer. Parnitha National Park also features a wide range of forests, caves, gorges, and interesting historical monuments. The national park is also designated as a protected area for wildfowl and includes around 130 different species of birds in total.
12. Ainos National Park
Finally, we have the stunning Ainos National Park which is located on the island of Kefalonia. There are four mountains within the park from which there are breathtaking views of the nearby Ionian Sea. However, what really makes this national park stand out is the large amount of wildlife that there is to see. These include the rare Ainos ponies which are endemic to the area, as well as blue-throated keeled lizards, Hermann’s tortoises, and Balkan wall lizards.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © KellySHUTSTOC/Shutterstock.com
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