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Great Walks of Europe

If you like to stretch those legs on vacation and see things you don't normally see, check out these walks. They're easily completed in a short day.

Walk Italy in the footsteps of the Romans - Via Appia Antica

When I first walked out upon the Appian Way, I was forced to dodge busses and speeding cars, often by squeezing myself between their paths and some high walls. Nevertheless, the scenery was quite interesting. Ruins, sheep, churches with catacombs, beautiful countryside, and romantic diversions carried out gingerly in parked Alfas drew my city-weary eyes.

Now they close the Via Appia Antica on Sundays to traffic. It's much better without the cars.

To Get There:

Start your walk at the Baths of Caracalla and walk south-east on Via della Terme until it forks, then via di Porta Sebastiana. Have lunch at the Cecilia Metella Restaurant for food that may be the best you've had in Rome (after you see her tomb, of course).

The Rome On-Line Guide has a great section about the Appia Antica . Also consider Via Appia Antica from Cecilia Metella to Torre in Selci or Via Appia Antica from Torre in Selci to Frattocchie (both with pictures).


lasithi plateau crete

Windmill, the Lasithi Plateau.

Central Crete - Walk a Loop around the Lasithi Plateau

This is one of my favorite country walks. The Lasithi Plateau is smack in the center of the Island of Crete, and was once supplied with water through the power of thousands of windmills designed by Venetian engineers in 1464. While most of the windmills aren't being used today, they're still a picturesque addition to the landscape. You can walk a ring road around the whole plateau.

What you'll see: Besides the windmills, there are two caves you can visit. Dictaion Andron is said to be the birthplace of Zeus, according to Greek Mythology. The Cave of Psycho is also an important place in Minoan prehistory. There are several churches worth a look (we saw a wedding in one of them). Often you'll find trees that seem to have been planted so that they hung over the road with ripe fruit. There are small restaurants along the way. One we ate at featured grilled meats of all types--meaning you could order anything you wanted and you'd get lamb.

To Get There:

The Largest town is Tzermiado. Busses run from Iraklio twice a day. You can get to Agios Nikolas, via bus from Tzermiado on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

It is possible to stay in small hotels, but many people come on tour busses. This leaves the town pretty quiet at night.

For an explanation of the landscape and caves, see Lasithi Plateau . For more on the new goings on on the Lasithi Plateau, see Lovely Lassithi .

samaria gorge crete

Samaria Gorge

Crete - Walk the Samaria Gorge

Ok, it's pretty much a tourist deal, but it's the longest gorge in Europe, and worth a hike. The gorge is located in the southwest part of Crete. It starts out from the pedestrian walking path at Xyloskalo, and goes 18 km to meet the Sea at Agia Roumeli, where there's a beach. There are places to get water along the way, but bring some. The walk takes 4 to 6 hours and it's not horribly strenuous. It's a narrow gorge in some spots, so watch for flash flooding during sudden rainstorms in spring.

The picture on the right shows the gorge at its steepest, at a point 3 km from the sea called the Iron Gates. Other pictures in the series feature churches, which seem to always be in the most inaccessable places on the Greek Islands.

To Get There:

You can get a bus from Hania to Omalos, and at the end of the walk you can catch a boat from Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion. From there a bus will take you back to Hania.

For an explanation of the hike see The Gorge of Samaria in West Crete . For other hikes in Crete see Hiking and Trekking in Crete .


Photo of Meteora

Greece - Walk to the Monasteries of Meteora

The road that links the Monasteries of Meteora offers some of the most amazing views of monasteries you'll ever see, not to mention the geography, which is amazing in itself. You can reach the road easily from the town of Kalambaka, and continue around the ring, visiting many of the monasteries as you go.

Get a hotel in Kalambaka, so you'll have at least a full day of hiking. Taking pictures is best done in the early morning or late afternoon.

You can visit many of the monasteries. Most charge a small fee and women should wear a skirt and cover their shoulders. There's a lot of Byzantine art in them, and some amazing wood carving from the craftsmen at nearby Metsovo, which you might also want to visit.

To Get There:

Busses take you to Kalambaka from Ioannina, Trikala, Thessaloniki and Athens.

For a brief history and some travel tips see Meteora, Greece . I found the food in Kalambaka quite good. Try the fried cod with skordalia, a potato, garlic, lemon sauce.



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