Although some publicity suggests that more and more tourists are biking around Greece, the casual or occasional bicyclist is advised to think twice before attempting to bicycle in Greece. Traffic in the cities, where Greeks themselves do not bicycle and motorists are not accustomed to accommodating bicyclists, is downright dangerous. Outside towns and cities, the terrain, with occasional exceptions, is so mountainous that the casual bicyclist would not find it appealing. You would want to have a multigeared bicycle (24-27 speeds) and be highly conditioned to cover any distances, otherwise you would find yourself walking uphill half the time. Also, roads are often not that well maintained -- many potholes, few shoulders.
Confirmation of this is the fact that it is not all that easy to rent bicycles throughout Greece. Major tourist centers will have possibilities; you can ask at local travel agencies and they should be able to direct you to a local firm. But the bicycles will not always be lightweight, multigeared bikes. Be sure, too, to rent a helmet.
Most of the outfits that promote bike riding in Greece are aimed at young people and/or fairly experienced riders. In any case, those who are serious about biking in Greece should consider signing on for one of the tours arranged by such outfits as Classic Adventures, P.O. Box 143, Hamlin, NY 14464 (tel. 800/777-8090; www.classicadventures.com). This firm has been around since 1979 and often offers bicycle tours in Greece, such as a 12-day tour of Crete, or an 11-day coastal excursion that includes Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, and the island of Zakinthos. Crete is a particularly popular place for serious bicyclists; contact Trekking Plan (www.cycling.gr), based outside Chania, Crete. In Greece itself, you can contact the Hellenic Cycling Association, National Velodrome, 15123 Marousi-Athens (tel. 210/689-3403). Trekking Hellas, 10 Rethimnou, 10682 Athens (tel. 210/331-0323; www.trekking.gr), may also assist in arranging mountain-biking trips. Note: Many firms that speak of "bikes" on their websites are referring to motorbikes.
Should you bring your own bicycle to Greece, you can take it on Greek ferries and on trains, usually at no extra cost; you can also take it on planes, but it is not easy to make the arrangements. You should also bring along spare parts, as they are rarely available outside the major cities. And you will definitely want a helmet.
Greece offers a wide variety of camping facilities throughout the country. Rough or freelance camping -- setting up your camp on apparently unoccupied land -- is forbidden by law but may be overlooked by local authorities. The Greek National Tourism Organization should have further information on its many licensed facilities, as well as a very informative booklet, Camping in Greece, published by the Panhellenic Camping Association, 9 Mavromichali, 10670 Athens (tel. 210/362-1560; www.panhellenic-camping-union.gr).
Scuba diving is restricted throughout most of Greece because of potential harm to sunken antiquities and the environment. That said, many locales now allow diving under supervision by accredited schools. On the mainland, these may be found along the coast of Attica, off the Peloponnese peninsula, and off Halkidiki and a few other places in the north. There is also limited diving off the islands of Corfu, Crete, Hydra, Kalimnos, Kefalonia, Mykonos, Paros, Rhodes, Santorini, Skiathos, and Zakinthos.
To single out a few at the more popular locales, on Corfu there is Calypso Scuba Divers, Ayios Gordis (tel. 26610/53-101); on Rhodes, the Dive Med Center, 5 Dragoumi, Rhodes town (tel. 22410/21-690); on Crete, Paradise Dive Center, 51 Giamboudaki, Rethymnon (tel./fax 28310/53-258); and on Mykonos, Lucky Scuba Divers, Ornos Beach (tel. 22890/22-813). Even if you are qualified, you must dive under supervision. Above all, you are forbidden to photograph, let alone remove, anything that might be regarded as an antiquity.
For more information, contact the Hellenic Federation of Underwater Activities (tel. 210/981-9961) or the Union of Greek Diving Centers (tel. 210/922-9532). If you're a serious underwater explorer, contact the Department of Underwater Archaeology, 4 Al Soutsou, 10671 Athens (tel. 210/360-3662).
Snorkeling, however, is permitted, and the unusually clear waters make it a special pleasure. Simple equipment is widely available for rent or for sale.
Opportunities for fishing abound. Contact Amateur Anglers and Maritime Sports Club, Akti Moutsopoulou, 18537 Piraeus (tel. 210/451-5731).
The Greek government is encouraging the construction of golf courses -- as many as 30 are said to be planned -- but for now there are only five international-standard 18-hole courses: at Glifada (along the coast outside Athens), Halkidiki, Corfu, Rhodes, and Chersonnisos (Crete). There is a 9-hole course at Elounda. A travel agent can supply the details.
Greece offers endless opportunities for hiking, trekking, and walking. Greeks themselves are now showing interest in walking for pleasure, and there are a number of well-mapped and even signed walking routes.
Probably the best and most up-to-date source of information on nature-oriented tours or groups are the ads in magazines geared toward people with these interests -- Audubon Magazine, for instance, for birders. But you need not sign up for special (and expensive!) tours to enjoy Greece's wildlife. Bring your own binoculars, and buy one of the many illustrated handbooks such as Wildflowers of Greece by George Sfikas (Efstathiadis Books, Athens) or Birds of Europe by Bertel Brun (McGraw-Hill).
In Greece, we recommend Trekking Hellas, in Athens at 10 Rethimnou, 10682 Athens (tel. 210/331-0323), for either guided tours or for help in planning your private trek. Other Greek travel agencies specializing in nature tours include Adrenaline Team, 20 Solonas, 17673 Athens (tel. 210/940-1616); Athenogenes, 18 Plateia Kolonaki, 10673 Athens (tel. 210/361-4829); and F-Zein Active, no longer based in Athens so start with the website (www.active.com.gr). In the Sporades, try Ikos Travel, Patitiri, 37005 Alonissos, facing the quay (tel. 24240/65-320; www.ikostravel.com).
In the United States, Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy St., Boston, MA 02108 (tel. 800/372-1758; www.outdoors.org), often organizes hiking tours in Greece. Classic Adventures, P.O. Box 143, Hamlin, NY 14464 (tel. 800/777-8090; www.classicadventures.com), sometimes offers hiking tours in regions of Greece. Mountain Travel-Sobek, 1266 66th St., Emeryville, CA 94608 (tel. 888/831-7526; www.mtsobek.com), sometimes conducts summer hikes and kayaking trips in the Greek mountains. Country Walkers, P.O. Box 180, Waterbury, VT 05676 (tel. 800/464-9255; www.countrywalkers.com), is another company that conducts occasional walking tours through regions of Greece. Ecogreece, P.O. Box 2614, Rancho Palo Verdes, CA 90275 (tel. 877/838-7748; www.ecogreece.com), conducts tours in Greece centered around activities such as sailing, hiking, diving, or riding.
Birders and nature lovers should contact the Hellenic Ornithological Society, 24 Vassiliou Irakleiou, 10682 Athens (tel. 210/822-7937; www.ornithologiki.gr). Also specializing in walking tours is Alternative Travel Group, 274 Banbury Rd., Oxford, OX2 7DY England (tel. 44/1865-315678, or 800/527-5997 in the U.S; www.atg-oxford.co.uk); and Naturetrek, Cheriton, Alresford, Hants, England, S024 0NG (tel. 44/1962/733051; www.naturetrek.co.uk).
You can go horseback riding in Greece at a fair number of places. Near Athens you'll find the Athletic Riding Club of Ekali (tel. 210/813-5576) and the Hellenic Riding Club in Maroussi (tel. 210/681-2506). Call for directions and reservations. Good facilities are also located near Thessaloniki and on the islands of Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, and Skiathos, with smaller stables elsewhere (inquire at local travel agencies).
As for extended trips through various regions of Greece on horseback, several companies specialize in these. In North America, try Equitours, P.O. Box 807, Dubois, WY 82513 (tel. 800/545-0019; www.ridingtours.com) or Hidden Trails, 659A Moberly Rd., Vancouver, BC V5Z 4B3 (tel. 888-987-2457; www.hiddentrails.com). In Europe, try Equitour, based in Switzerland (tel. 0041/61-303-3105; www.equitour.com).
If you're interested in more strenuous trekking and mountain climbing, contact the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering & Climbing, 5 Milioni, 10673 Athens (tel. 210/364-5904; www.eooa.gr).
There are a number of attractive ski centers in Greece. They can't compare to those farther north with deep snow and posh facilities, but they don't approach them in steep prices, either. You may find the little hotels and lively après-ski life charming. The season generally begins after Christmas and continues until the end of April, depending on the weather.
The best developed is Parnassos Ski Center, near Arachova, on Mount Parnassus (tel. 22340/22-694; www.parnassos-ski.gr), with 20 runs, chairlifts, tow bars, classes, equipment rental, snack bars, restaurants, and even child care. There is also skiing on the gentler slopes of Mount Pelion and at charming Metsovo, in Epirus northeast of Ioannina, where the season is somewhat shorter. Other centers are found on the Peloponnese at Helmos, near Kalavrita; in Central Greece at Velouhi, near Karpenissi; and in Macedonia, at Pisoderi, near Florina; and at Vermion, near Naoussa. For more information, contact the Greek Skiers Organization, P.O. Box 8037, 10010 Athens (tel. 210/524-0057).
If you don't know what the word refers to, then don't do it. It refers to exploring caves, which are fragile environments that can be harmed easily. Visitors can fall prey to hypothermia if they go exploring without a guide. There are numerous caves in Greece and numerous individuals skilled in exploring them. For details, contact the Hellenic Speleological Society, 32 Sina, 10672 Athens (tel. 210/361-7824; www.ese.edu.gr).
Watersports of various kinds are available at most major resort areas, and we mention the more important facilities. Parasailing is possible at the larger resorts in summer. Although some of these facilities are limited to patrons of hotels and resorts, in many places they are available to anyone willing to pay.
River rafting and kayaking are definite possibilities, especially in Epirus, with more limited opportunities on the Peloponnese peninsula. Contact Alpine Club, 2 Plateia Kapnikereas, 11743 Athens (tel. 210/321-2355). One quite special opportunity is the kayaking trip occasionally conducted by the American agency Mountain Travel-Sobek, 1266 66th St., Emeryville, CA 94608 (tel. 888/831-7526; www.mtsobek.com).
Water-skiing facilities are widely available; there are several schools at Vouliagmeni, south of Athens, and usually at least one on each of the major islands. Contact the Hellenic Water-Ski Federation, 50 Thrakis, 16342 Athens (tel. 210/994-4014; www.waterski.gr).
Windsurfing is becoming more popular in Greece, and boards are widely available for rent. The many coves and small bays along Greece's convoluted coastline are ideal for beginners. Instruction is available at reasonable prices. The best conditions and facilities are found on the islands of Corfu, Crete, Lefkada, Lesvos, Naxos, Paros, Samos, and Zakinthos. Contact the Hellenic Wind-Surfing Association, 7 Filellinon, 10557 Athens (tel. 210/323-0068), for details about the many excellent schools in Greece.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.