The only dense Cephallonian fir (Abies cephalonica) forest on the Ionian Sea thrives on Aenos Mountain (1,628m). Home to spectacular vegetation, like pine trees, cypress, eucalyptus, wildflowers and arbutus growing among the deserted villages and seasonal streams. An open museum of floral history. Green tip: The luxuriant Avithos Lake (its name translates to bottomless due to an old belief) is home to a rare species of bats.
Iconic natural monuments like the Vikos Gorge, the Aohos Gorge and a stream which feeds the springs of the renowned Voidomatis River, the coldest European river, highlight the small Laka Valley and Drakolimni, located a stone’s throw from the dramatic tip of Astraka Mountain. Green tip: Triton, a rare small dragonlike amphibian, lives in the waters of Drakolimni Lake.
Lefka Ori (White Mountains) (Samaria Gorge), Chania
Imposing and full of secret niches, this hosts one of the Balkan’s largest onshore gorges, reaching four meters at its widest. The gorge boasts numerous kinds of trees. Green tip: The deserted village of Samaria ideally mirrors the traditional architecture of its natural surroundings
A park dominated by limestone formations offers breathtaking views with its deep valleys and sharp rocky slopes, like the Enippeas valley and epic Kazania. At the “Mousses” plateau-an alpine meadow extending beyond the forest bounds and reaching up to 2,500m above sea level-lies a paradise with verdant flora and scarce snowy parts, even in the summer. Green tip: In the Enippeas Gorge, Belladonna can be found thriving. It is an herb used in cosmetics, but can also be poisonous in large doses.
Parnassos, Fokida, Viotia
The area comprises the Parnassos National Park, the Tithorea Aesthetic Forest, and the archeologically important Delphi Oracle. Don’t miss the well-maintained oak and fir forests, where birds of prey and woodpeckers nest. Green tip: The ascent to “Korikio Antro” is enthralling; and inside the cave, stalactites form surreal scenery.
Smooth slopes alternating with dense forests of Cephalonian fir, hosting many internationally-protected species. This is the only area in southern Greece where Cervus elaphus deer live. More than 800 different kinds of plants have been cataloged in Parnitha’s national park, some of which are under threat of extinction. A well-preserved network of trails makes the area ideal for exploring, only a stone’s throw from Athens. Green tip: The atmospheric Cave of Pan, where you will descend either by rope or with extra care using its natural formed yet steep steps.
The area’s overland consists of all three of the country’s main types of Mediterranean ecosystems: pine forests, maquis and phrygana shrublands (garrigue). More than 260 mineral types have been found in the area, some of which were previously unknown to science. Here, the Aleppo Pine forest dominates the national park’s vegetation, which has been (and to an extent, continues to be) the most extended and well-preserved pine forest of eastern Attica. Green tip: Visit the breathtaking, gaping chasm, suitably named “Chaos”.
The majestic Mikri (Small) and Megali (Big) Prespa Lakes, home to more than 200 recorded bird species. This feathered community is nestled in the extended reedbeds, which occupy the lakes’ banks, while water plants take root in their bottoms. Of special importance here are the colonies of Dalmatian and White Pelicans. Green tip: The dense oak forests on Varnounda Mountain form a green and gold oasis where you can lose yourself for hours.
Axios – Loudias – Aliakmon Delta, Thessaloniki-Emathia-Pieria
These 20,000 hectares, extending over three prefectures, are a strong contender to be considered as one of the top four most eco-significant wetlands of Greece. The outstandingly beautiful, vast rice fields, the willows, the tamarisks, and its poplars host rare Dalmatian pelicans. Green tip: The aesthetic forest of Redina is called Macedonia’s Tempi (the renowned gorge in Thessalia).
Messolonghi Lagoon, Aetoloacarnania
A refuge for many amphibian species, the lagoon extends to the Ambracikos gulf, forming a unique natural tableau. Reaching the lakeside forest of Fraxos near Lessini (on the north side of the Acheloos Delta), you will be greeted by a paradise comprised by age-old ash trees, silver birches, laurels, and willows. It has been declared a Monument of Nature. Green tip: The dramatic beauty of Varassova, with vertical cliffs diving into the sea, attracts bold climbers.