Day 1: Poros. Yiassou! Hello! Welcome to Ellada, the Greek word for Greece. We greet you at the airport and relieve you of your luggage including your Bike Friday. If you arrive by noon you’ll have time to visit Athens. Otherwise, we rendezvous at Piraeus port by late afternoon to catch a ferry over to the island of Poros. We have our welcome dinner at a seaside taverna.
Day 2: Poros. After assembling your Bike Friday, you have a free day to do with it what you like. Either cycle around little Poros island where you’ll find an ancient temple to Poseidon or take a dayboat to Spetses. It is a car-free island with a 25 km road circumnavigating its perimeter full of hidden coves. Or leave your bike behind and take the day boat to Hydra, an island with no cars or even bicycles. Everything is by mules or foot. It’s an upscale artist colony as well, so you are sure to find lots of beautiful artwork and jewelry.
Day 3: Nafplio. Greece’s Mediterranean climate contributes to enjoyable bike rides. You’ll find out on our first day of cycling. We start north along a fairly flat stretch hugging the Saronic Gulf, then turn west and uphill to ancient Epidavros. This 3rd century BC outdoor amphitheatre is Greece’s oldest. It seats 12,000 spectators and still has impeccable acoustics. We spend the night in photogenic Nafplios, an elegant city that used to be the capital of Greece. Total distance: 80 km, 48 miles.
Day 4: Nafplio. We take a morning ride up to ancient Mycenae, home of the legendary King Agamemnon. His beehive tomb is startling, as is Lion’s Gate, the impressive entry to the acropolis. The new museum on site is also worthy of our attention. The route is leisurely to and from Mycenae, which allows ample time for exploring Nafplio—assuredly the prettiest city in the Peleponnese. Cycle up to the the Palamidi fort, or on a carfree path to Katharona beach. Total distance: 45 km, 28 miles.
Day 5: Stemnitsa. The morning offers a slow, steady climb to Tripoli with magnificent sea and mountain vistas. Rest and relax in Tripoli for the afternoon ascent to Stemnitsa. The route is shorter but steeper. We are now in Arcadia region with very verdant, mountainous terrain. Stemnitsa is an adorable little town of stone buildings and traditional crafts located 4,000 feet high (1248 meters). Total distance: 95 km, 60 miles.
Day 6: Olympia. After yesterday’s climbs, you’ll cherish today’s ride, as it is mostly downhill with more towns and villages en route. The Lousios Gorge is far below as you cycle to Dimitsana, a traditional village with a watermill museum. Lagadia, a vertical town on the side of a mountain, is famed for its exquisite baklava drenched in syrup. By late afternoon, glorious Olympia awaits us. You’ll get a glimpse of the original stadium grounds as you cycle by when entering the town. Total distance: 110 km, 68 miles.
Day 7: Lampei. We spend the morning touring ancient Olympia, which actually remained flooded until 1875 when archaeologists rediscovered the site. In 1896 the modern Olympics were resurrected with Greece naturally hosting the first revival. The historical museum offers an extensive collection of stamps, posters and literature from past Olympic Games. After lunch, we face a short but steep climb to Lampei, 2600 feet high, a traditional village with super vistas and a hearty dose of the famed Greek hospitality. Total distance: 40 km, 25 miles.
Day 8: Kalavrita. Your BF gears will get another workout today cycling in the mountains, a route of pure nature, several archaic ruins and very few villages en route. Shortly before arriving to our evening destination, Kalavrita, we come to the awesome Cave of the Lakes. The cavern’s dazzling feature is its series of subterranean lakes which you meander over via an elevated walkway tracking an underground a river. Total distance: 57 km, 35 miles.
Day 9: Ferry to Crete. You will feel puny next to the gigantic rock cliffs amidst evergreen, oak, cypress and fir trees as we follow the gorgeous Vouraikos Gorge. You can stop and hike up to the 4th century Big Cave Monastery perched on a rock pinnacle where there’s an icon of the Virgin Mary supposedly painted by St Luke. Then it is all downhill and a flat ride hugging the sea to Xylokastro. From here, we go by vehicle to Piraeus port to catch the evening ferry to Hania, Crete. If there is time, we can tour the ancient Akrokornithos ruins. Total distance: 50 km, 31 miles.
Day 10: Omalos Plain. Arriving at dawn will give us ample time and elbow room to explore the old section of Crete’s most romantic city, Hania. Architectural vestiges of the prior conquerors, Venetians and Turks, color the city, from the Mosque of the Janissaries on the harbor to the 17th century Venetian homes lining colorful Zambeliou Street (the old Jewish Quarter). Leaving Hania we climb to the Omalos Plain, 1100 meters (3600 feet), whose route rewards us with vistas of mountain crests and distant white chapels dotting the landscape. Total distance: 45 km, 28 miles.
Day 11: Hora Sfakia. We give our Bike Fridays a rest and meet them at the end of our day which is devoted to hiking the incomparable Samaria Gorge, said to be Europe’s longest. A descent through this national park may well be the highlight of your trip. Wildlife unseen elsewhere, cold fresh water mountain springs, narrow cliff walls 3 meters (10 feet) wide in places and the abandoned Samaria village are a few of the marvels that make this 18 km (11 miles) ravine Crete’s most beloved hiking trail. When we reach Agia Roumeli by late afternoon we catch a boat to Hora Sfakia where we spend the night.
Day 12: Hora Sfakia. Sfakia is Crete’s most rebellious region, the center of resistance during foreign domination, and the most culturally engrossing. Today’s most alluring activity is a hike to Loutra on the Libya Sea. Loutra remains a sleepy fishing village because it is only accessible by foot or boat. From Loutra, walking east along the coast brings you to Sweet Water Beach, so named for the fresh spring water there, while a westward hike takes you to Phoenix, a former Roman settlement.
Day 13: Spili. Today’s route follows the luscious coastline of the turquoise Libyan Sea. Take a detour to Frangokastello, a 14th century Venetian fort which later played a dramatic role in the War of Independence against the Turks. By afternoon you make a steep 16 km ascent which cuts through the awesome Kourtaliotis Gorge and makes for astounding cycling. We overnight in precious Spili, a lively mountain town with a fountain spewing water from a bank of lions’ heads. Total distance: 80 km, 50 miles.
Day 14: Herakleion. Our last cycling hours close with a beautiful descent to Phaestos, the ancient Minoan ruins. The Phaestos disk purportedly is the oldest printed document in the world. In nearby village, we’ll dismantle our bikes, eat lunch and then transfer by vehicle to Knossos, the most important Minoan site in Crete. Bike Friday Greece ends with a farewell dinner in old Herakleion and plenty of toasts with fine local wine. Total distance: 54 km, 33 miles.
Day 15: Departure.
Also see tour packages in:
Europe Greece Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring Archeology/History