Volunteer Abroad

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece

Photo of Nam Cheah
Nam Cheah

Nam Cheah is a third culture millennial spent half her life in Hong Kong and the other half in the UK.

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece
Photo credit: Martin Leveneur via Flickr

With beautiful Mediterranean weather and countless islands scattered across the Aegean Sea, Greece is arguably one of the best places to volunteer in Europe. But it can be overwhelming trying to pick the best place to volunteer in Greece. First tip is that it’s important to remember each island has a different blend of rich flora and fauna, and let’s not forget about the mainland either!

When I was picking a place to volunteer in Greece, I wanted to be somewhere with beaches and helps animals. A turtle rescue center at Zakynthos seemed like the perfect choice, though dolphins research was also an option I considered. If, like me, you’d like to volunteer abroad with animals, Greece isn’t limited to sea life; you can also find horses and other wildlife too in the mountains and fertile plains.

If you are more of a people person, there are also refugee relief and English teaching opportunities in Greece in bigger cities and islands. Here are some of the top islands and cities you can choose when deciding where to volunteer abroad in Greece.

Zakynthos: Turtles & Beaches

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece: Zakynthos

The beautiful island of Zakynthos is largest of the Ionian Islands just west of the Peloponnese. It is an island of contrast, with towering limestone cliffs, beautiful beaches, and a bustling party scene.

In between your days volunteering on Zakynthos, you can go on sailing trips around the island, spotting dolphins and enjoying the crystal blue water. In fact, the island is home to many hidden beaches to explore and call your own, and you can easily spot a turtle or two when snorkeling. One of the most famous beaches in the world, shipwreck bay, is visitable by a ferry and swim from the main town. Note that the classic viewpoint doesn’t have access down to the beach but is reachable by an easy drive.

Volunteering Inspiration: help with loggerhead sea turtle conservation with Earth, Sea, and Sky at the southeastern tip of the island. You’ll be right by one of the nesting beaches Gerakas and help educate tourists on mindful beach visits and beach surveys.

Samos: Refugee Relief & Pythagoras

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece: Samos
Photo credit: Bryce Edwards via Flickr

Samos is the seventh largest island in Greece and only a strait away from Turkey. Volunteering in Samos means endless off-day options. From cute little towns along the north coast to a hidden waterfall, you can even take a day trip to Turkey!

It is also the birthplace of famous mathematician Pythagoras, who has a town named after him: Pythagorean. You can even visit the cave he frequented as a meditation spot. Samos is also home to one of the biggest Temple of Hera, wife of Zeus and the goddess of marriage and family, nearby the village of Heraion.

Volunteering Inspiration: As an island close to Turkey, it became one of the best places to place refugees from Syria. Help with the running of the refugee camp and teach them computer skills such as word processing that would help them get a job.

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Athens: Ancient Greece Meets City Vibes

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece: Athens

Athens needs no introduction. One of the oldest cities in the world, Athens has been the capital of Greece for over three thousand years. There are endless historical monuments to see, and if you are an E.U. citizen and student, you can get free entry to most attractions. This means you can nip to the Acropolis for a sunset view or gaze up from the Parthenon towards the sun whenever you have a day off from your volunteer work.

If that’s too touristy for you, escape to the Psiri neighborhood to discover the quirky cafes and shops. There are also plenty of day trip options, such as a visit to the ancient prophecy city of Delphi or a beach day at Vouliagmeni. In fact, there are even wine tours in the Attica region nearby that you can join!

Volunteering Inspiration: if you are studying medicine or aspire to be a doctor, you can shadow a doctor at a local hospital. For animal lovers, there is a chance to volunteer at an animal shelter.

Crete: Explore Greece’s Largest Island

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece: Crete
Photo credit: VV Nincic via Flickr

As the largest Greek island, Crete is more than just miles of pristine coastline. Instead of going to the beach, you can spend your days off discovering the ancient Minoan culture. They are a bronze age civilization from 2600-1100 BC, which is before the ancient Greek came about. The capital of Crete is also where the ancient Knossos is located and well worth a visit.

The island is 160 miles long and riddled with hidden caves and monasteries that you can explore. It’s best to rent a car to get around the whole island, though there are buses, too.

During the summer, you can hike the Samaria National Park, most famous for its gorge. For somewhere less challenging, there are the restored windmills of Lasithi Plateau that also offers a great ocean view.

Volunteering Inspiration: As Crete is home to over 600,000 inhabitants, basically any volunteer option you can imagine is available. For example, you can volunteer to teach here, helping the local children improve their English.

Naxos: Equestrians & Adrenaline Junkies Welcome

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece: Naxos
Photo credit: Paul Arps via Flickr

The biggest of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos is different in the fact that it’s mainly an agriculture island. Some of their specialties are cheese and a locally produced liquor called kitron that is made of a fruit of the same name. Though their potatoes and olives are equally famous and you will be spoiled with fresh produce and food during your time there.

If you are a kite- or windsurfing fan, then you are in luck in Naxos, where the winds are favorable for all kinds of wind and water sports. You can also stay on land and go on an adventure on horseback to discover the hills and coastline. There are of course beautiful beaches to laze on during your free time, too. For a dose of culture, you can find various temples dedicated to Greek gods scattered across the island. Most notable is the wine god Dionysus’ Temple, as mythology had it that he was born on the island.

Volunteering Inspiration: Volunteer with the wild horses that live on Naxos. You will not only get to become friends with the horses but also have the opportunity to lead tours with them.

Alonnisos: Island Vibes with Dolphins

The Six Best Cities for Volunteering in Greece: Alonnisos

Alonnisos is Sporades Islands’ best-kept secret. In fact, the small island doesn’t even have an airport itself and can only be reached by ferries from Athens or Skiathos. This is perhaps the reason why the island is known to have some of the clearest water in the whole of Aegean.

Only 12 miles long at its longest, there aren’t many cars or even any buses on the island. But you can easily rent a moped to explore the island, such as a visit to the sea caves. Otherwise, a wander in the narrow streets of Old Village will bring you back to Medieval time.

Volunteering Inspiration: help with dolphins research on the island as they collect data. You get to sail almost daily to witness these magnificent sea mammals and contribute to marine conservation.

With beautiful Mediterranean weather and food, Greece is a great balance of nature and history. Whether you decide to volunteer abroad in vibrant and busy Athens, roam the limestone cliffs of Zakynthos, hunt down cute towns in Samos, explore the culture of Crete, get in touch with the wildlife in Naxos, or seek a quiet time in the secluded Alonnisos, you are guaranteed not to get bored during your time in volunteering in Greece.