Wild swims in Greece

Wild swims in Greece

Sam Firman and Nick Hooton, authors of Wild Guide Greece, share a selection of their favourite Greek swims

Snorkel above ruins submerged in an azure cove. Trek up astonishing river gorges and towering peaks. Dive into the turquoise embrace of a giant sea crater, or the dark depths of a sinkhole abyss.

Explore pitch-black caverns alive with bats and myths. Roam ancient settlements and ridgeline castles, or contemplate in mountain monasteries and cliff-top churches. Seek secret waterfalls
in old growth forests and along twisting canyons.

Savour morning-fresh fish, farm-to-table cooking and artisanal raki. And, when it’s time to rest, watch golden eagles from an alpine refuge or shooting stars from beside a driftwood fire.

Travelling in Greece can feel like being placed into a postcard, only to discover that the scene in fact extends to the horizon in all directions. The country unfolds from the virgin forests of southern Bulgaria to the sparkling Libyan Sea, and is bordered by Turkish islets to the east and Albanian peaks to the west.

Europe’s longest coastline is an epic poem of peninsulas and emerald islands. From coves beneath colossal cliffs to fishing-village inlets, perhaps the biggest challenge in writing Wild Guide Greece was finding new superlatives to describe beaches. But wild swimming abounds far beyond the beaches.

Mountains mean mighty catchment areas, resulting in rivers replete with rushing rapids, secret
waterfalls, lazy meanders and lakes both lofty and lowland. Complex geology makes Greece a speleological wonderland. Limestone mountainscapes create karstic underworlds riddled with legendary caves, while colourful volcanic coasts harbour glistening sea caves and gaping sinkholes.

Given today’s bonanza of travel books and blogs, it’s surprising how places can still feel wild if approached with open mindedness and a few resources, even on the islands. If you can, pack a tent, a hammock or some local delicacies to allow for deeper, longer stays. Similarly, the ability to drive, bike, paddle or hike will broaden the map. And remember that village squares and unexpected diversions can contain more adventure than the wildest peaks.

Offering fire and a blanket to lost hikers, missing ferries while in the ice-cream queue, impromptu skinny dips beneath the hunter’s moon: the memorable moments will only loosely align with the waypoints you meant to meet.

Best for beaches

Greece is Europe’s treasure chest of beaches. Its coastline is the continent’s longest, and includes thousands of mostly uninhabited islands. Canyon mouth coves and endless strands, pretty village ports and pine-dappled dunes, volcanic virtuosos and historic curios: from friendly family hangouts to remote amphitheatres of coastal wonder, the riches are preposterous.

Fteri Beach, Kefalonia & Ithaca

A blissful expanse of bright turquoise shallows framed by elegant white cliffs and a carpet of white pebbles. Absolute gem.

About 3km NW of Katochori on the road to Livadi, take the R fork uphill. Follow it for 2km, forking R twice. Park on the R 1km after the second fork (38.3144, 20.4546) or on either side shortly after this. Go through a gate on the L and follow the path down through the goat farm, marked sporadically with red and green paint. Sturdy shoes required. Also accessible via boat from Zola with Fteri Water Taxi (+30 69 7480 7153). If coming by sea take the opportunity to stop off at Kamari Beach, 1km E of Fteri. Latitude and longitude: 38.3229, 20.4535

Vathi Beach, Mani

A drop-dead gorgeous beach of large smooth pebbles secluded at the end of a deep, angled cove between the signature yellow-grass hillocks of Mani’s Tigani peninsula.

Follow the road S from Paliros for 900m and park by the cluster of buildings at the end. Walk S past the buildings. Latitude and longitude: 36.4126, 22.4889

Gerakas Beach, Milos

Run down the imposing dunes, formed by nearby Kalamos volcano, straight into crystal waters. If you take a boat trip around the island, make this beach a priority.

Only accessible by boat; there are many options in Adamantas, including Blue Mile (+30 69 4429 6892). Latitude and longitude: 36.6665, 24.4815

Best for wild swimming

The joys of wild swimming in Greece extend beyond its beaches. Many of the most striking coastal swims are sinkholes, lagoons, shipwrecks and cliff-jumping inlets. Inland, towering peaks cradle spectacular alpine lakes said to be made by dragons, and feed mountain rivers that rush through gorges, pause in pools and meander beneath elegant arching bridges.

Giola Lagoon, Eastern Macedonia & Thrace, Thassos

This ovular micro-lagoon provides a pictureperfect plunge pool, ringed by rock ledges for lounging and leaping in. It gets busy, so visit for an early morning swim as the sun rises across the sea.

Heading E on the coastal road, turn R2.5km after Astrida (40.5916, 24.6764) and park for free down the hill. The comically plentiful signage makes it impossible to get lost. Latitude and longitude: 40.5863, 24.6787

Tymfi Dragon Lake, Zagori

This perfect bowl of a mountaintop lake, sitting among dramatic summits at 2,050m, should be the crux of any trip to this area. At sunrise, climb the neighbouring peak to watch the range
awaken before descending for a dip alongside alpine newts.

From Astraka Refuge you can follow the clear path winding its way up the opposing valley wall to the lake. Latitude and longitude: 39.994, 20.7867

Pyrgaki Cliff Jumping, Naxos & Lesser Cyclades

A narrow sea gorge flanked by jumping perches (with a rope to clamber out again). A thrilling place to spend an afternoon, probably accompanied by a smattering of young folk. Take care
traversing the rocky lip.

Park at the taverna at Pyrgaki Beach’s E end. Follow the track E, bending R with houses on L, to a R fork leading 200m to the spot. Latitude and longitude: 36.9710, 25.4063

Best for waterfalls

Waterfalls are poetic, powerful phenomena: forging their path with force, but dancing and shimmering with impossible beauty as they go. Greece’s forested foothills are replete with these wondrous descents from mountain to sea.

Some play out year-round, even freezing apparently in motion with the winter snows; others run fleetingly, drying up in the summer sun.

Wild swims in Greece

Vlaha’s Pools, Western Epirus

This enchanted waterfall and pool on a Kalamas River tributary is draped in moss and ivy, and hidden deep in thick forest beneath higgledy-piggledy boughs.

Take a narrow lane NW from W Voutsaras (39.6687, 20.5870). Keep L past the buildings then fork R at 1km. The road is unpaved and rocky, so take care. The footpath starts at a small sign marking a walking route on the L 1.6km after this (39.6834, 20.5757). Follow the path for 15 mins to the pool. There is a rope for easy access and a bench for soaking it all up. Latitude and longitude: 39.6796, 20.5698

Drymonas Waterfall, Evia

A dramatic free-falling cataract, cascading from a curved overhang into an enticing forest pool. The water level dwindles by early summer, but the surrounding woodland remains a shaded sanctuary.

Take the EO77 SW from Kerasia for nearly 3km. Fork L at 38.8877, 23.3133 and continue for 2.5km, keeping L at a fork just before the parking area. Follow the clear, signed trail with ropes and railings to the falls. Latitude and longitude: 38.8723, 23.2933

Best for caves

Greece’s most famous caves swallow the sea, their chambers glimmering mesmerically, at least for the first few metres. Almost all hold stories, historical or mythical – sometimes both.

Papanikolis Sea Cave, Western Epirus

A towering sea cave gazing south from Mourtos Islet into the Ionian. It’s an exhilarating swim inside, but be careful of boats and choppy water.

By boat only, with good options in Syvota. Try Sivota Boat (+30 69 4565 9465). Latitude and longitude: 39.3992, 20.2174

Rina Sea Cave, Naxos & Lesser Cyclades

This wonderful, swimmable sea cave extends deep into the flank of a remote bay, frequented only by boats and bushwackers. How far dare you swim?

Boat access is easiest by far (many day trips leave from Agios Georgios marina). But you can also follow a network of farm tracks S from the road at 36.9752, 25.4928 to a wall at 36.9564, 25.4916, hop over and make an arid 1km descent, trending R. Latitude and longitude: 36.9474, 25.4915

Wild Guide Greece’ by Sam Firman and Nick Hooton is published by Wild Things Publishing. This inspiring guidebook maps Greece’s magnificent wild side. With dazzling photography, evocative travel writing and detailed directions, it’s the perfect companion for adventurers, families and armchair explorers. Readers can receive 20% discount and free P&P with code OSMag23 at wildthingspublishing.com

To see all the online content from the April 2023 issue of Outdoor Swimmer, visit the 'Underwater' page.
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