Island hopping, trail surfing, and the Greek way of life: could there be three better pillars for a riding holiday? Not if you ask Andi, who chose to rip his way around the Southern Sporades Islands, but ended up falling in love with a whole other mode of transport.

Touching down on a brand-new island each day to ride and never having to re-pack your bag (as your room travels with you) doesn’t sound like an everyday occurrence, but I had one week of this luxury ahead of me! Together with twenty keen riders from all over Europe, we’d be sailing around the Aegean Sea with daily forays onto the Southern Sporades Islands, which also includes the Dodecanese. Our first port of call was an airport in Turkey, as the Dodecanese happen to lie closer to the Asia Minor coast than Athens. Greeted here by the lively coastal town of Bodrum with its centuries-old bazaar and achingly trendy beach cafes, we headed into the nearby countryside for our first tricky little trail loop, the ultimate warm-up for the week ahead. Once done, we bode farewell to dry land and decamped to our mobile home for the next few days: a seemingly ancient but modern wooden boat with fifteen bedrooms.

[emaillocker id=”139658″]

Island hopping deluxe

Our first destination was the island of Leros, and our ride started from the picture-perfect village of Lakki, immediately lurching out of that familiar post-lunch afternoon slump with a brutal and super-steep climb. However, no one complained – I mean, how could we in such a paradise? There were pretty regular stops to soak up the views and take some photos, with every single bay appearing to have been touched up by some photoshop genius, and the hills splaying out the pages of a tourist brochure, littered with cute windmills and veritable carpets of flowers.

Griechenland-Travel-Story-2 Griechenland-Travel-Story-25

With a few winding trails already behind us, we were spat out onto a narrow tarmacked road that led up to an imposing castle. Here we overtook Verena and Markus with their three-year-old daughter Maja and tour guide Catharina. They were heading to the same spot as us on their touring bikes with a trailer attached, and they became a familiar sight over the week. We said our goodbyes just before we dropped into the descent, ripping over what felt like a thousand steps. We flew down towards Agia Maria, an idyllic speck on the horizon. The sunset over a tiny island later that day as we stood beside the chapel of Agios Isidoros felt like a bit of a cliché, but again, we weren’t complaining. Life felt damn good. But was there still better to come?

Griechenland-Travel-Story-39 Griechenland-Travel-Story-40

The Greeks and their gods

At first light our mobile home took us to Patmos, where our ride started directly from the harbor with a narrow and technical stony climb. Some stopped to catch their breath, while others grabbed the opportunity to photograph the dry slope’s spectacular orchids, which could rival Asia’s best. Catharina proved to everyone that studying archeology does have some benefits as she regaled us with the tale of how the island came to be. According to Greek mythology, Patmos used to lie at the bottom of the sea, and only rose to the surface when the moon goddess Selene cast her light on the island. One night Selene met Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, who finally saw the island in the sea, subsequently falling in love with the mysterious town. But like every issue in the ancient world, Zeus stepped in to resolve things and pulled the island out of the water as a favour to Artemis. Now the island’s highest point is 272 metres above sea level.


The apocalypse on paradise island

It wasn’t just ancient Greek gods who laid a spiritual hand on Patmos, as Christians also believe that their god played a pretty key role here (as our guide explained under the shade of the trees). John the Disciple is supposed to have written the Book of Revelation here after having laid his head down on a rock crevice to hear God’s words – hence the revelation. After such a lesson in theology, our ride felt a little grander, and we still had more mega-exciting trails to go.

Griechenland-Travel-Story-37 Griechenland-Travel-Story-7

Trails, taverns and dangerous trots

After a technical downhill, there were still two more treats in store, with the first being hiking trail nr. 2 and the second taking the shape of the delicious, vegetarian Turkish dinner on board the boat. As the food settled, we reached Lipsi island, where the touring cyclists took their daughter Maja to the beach while we mountain bikers had a short but sharp digestif round on the bikes, with awe-inspiring sea views, poppy trails, and one of the steepest concrete climbs to date. We all celebrated together in the tavern that evening, regaling in the finest food, tastiest vegetables, and freshest fish to come out of the kitchen. It was perhaps inevitable that we’d all end up dancing the traditional sirtaki dance later that evening while Maja fell asleep in the mountain of our jackets – life in the south!


By the third day we’d all become used to life on the boat, basking in the beauty of the Greek islands and the great service and cuisine provided by the Turkish crew. And, of course, we’d all taken turns jumping into the sea! Fortunately, even though it was only Easter, the water was already pretty warm – and the dolphins obviously thought so too. As we circled Kos, we realized the boat had picked up some playful hangers-on, who clearly knew how to have fun in the clear blue water. “Now this alone makes the trip worth it!” exclaimed Franz, who’d convinced me on the first day that he was only here for the mountain biking.

Griechenland-Travel-Story-14 Griechenland-Travel-Story-21

A reality check on Kos

Franz was definitely going to get his share of riding too. Once we touched down in Kos, we rode up towards the ancient settlement of Palio Pyli, which had been deserted by its inhabitants in the 19th century after a cholera epidemic. Now mostly ruins, the mountaintop location proved to be a pretty special spot for a break. The following descent, we heard, would require all our focus, as the trail ripped down towards the sea over sheets of rock and steep hairpins. One short, steep climb later there was another surprise in store: giant, dark cypresses and lots of friendly turtles. In the evening we visited an organization called Kos Solidarity, which helps refugees stranded on the island. We listened to volunteers recount involvements with refugees who’d gone through awful experiences and lived in fear. We were glad to be able to help, albeit in a very minor way, and we’re not sure who we’re more in awe of: the passionate volunteers who dive headfirst into helping the crisis, or those refugees who’ve fought their way to freedom.

As if the islands hadn’t surprised us enough so far, the next day was another eye-opener as we visited the birthplace of modern medicine, the famous Asklepieion, an ancient medical centre that’s something of a cross between a hospital and a university. From here we rode to some hot springs and bathed in natural sulphur water before riding back to the boat over lush green hills, past hordes of sheep and human-height thistles. From here we sailed back to Bodrum and watched dusk fall on this memorable trip, which offered so much more than just amazing mountain bike trails.


Travel tips for biking & boating in Greece

Best time to travel

The Mediterranean climate means summers are hot and winters are mild. During summer it won’t be unusual for the temperature to climb to 40°C, while the sea tempts you in for a dip at around 18 to 25°C. Springtime riding is your best bet, as is September-November when the temperature is a bit cooler (expect around 20°C). Another plus: fewer tourists. April is super-nice as all the flowers come into bloom, so you can add some more colour to your holiday snaps.

Griechenland-Travel-Story-6 [/emaillocker]

Getting there

Our boat set off from the Turkish harbor town of Bodrum. During the high season there are direct flights from most of Europe, otherwise you’ll have to change planes in Istanbul – although that’s definitely worth a visit anyway! Another alternative is to fly to Izmir (from Munich) and take a three-hour bus journey from there to Bodrum.


The following companies arrange biking & boating trips of the Greek islands in the Aegean sea:: | |

For Easter 2017 Alpindeluxe are launching a particularly family-friendly option. If you’re looking for more gnarly trails, then check out Alpenevent for their trips.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.

Words & Photos: Andreas Beger