mahabis guide // how to embrace the greek concept of volta

mahabis guide // volta

If you’ve been stuck at a desk all day, then a relaxed stroll around town can be a great way to de-stress in the evening. 

The Greeks take this one step further with the concept of volta, a word with no direct English translation. Volta involves taking a leisurely stroll along the main promenade of your town during the hours of sundown. Rather than simply describing a casual walk, volta is a pastime that is shared with friends and neighbours, providing a social highlight to the close of the day.


mahabis guide // volta


Previously when we have discussed untranslatable words, we've concentrated on Nordic terms that often describe activities designed to centre around a lifestyle where cold dark winters force people indoors. Hygge, fika and mysa, gemütlichkeit can all be enjoyed at any time of year, either indoors or outdoors, but all conjure up visions of steaming cups of coffee, piles of blankets and twinkling candlelight on chilly, dark evenings.

Volta hails from the Mediterranean, and subsequently draws on the warm climate. The long hot summers in Greece boast stifling hot daytime temperatures, when locals would rather retreat indoors. When the temperatures drop to pleasant milder climes in the evenings, it is the perfect opportunity to wander around the town. As the sun sets, the meandering paths of the locals find themselves converging in the most scenic areas of the town, usually the main square or beside the sea.


volta // mahabis journalphoto: via unsplash


This is a social occasion; a chance for people to catch up with their peers at the close of the day. Walking is never rushed, everyone wanders around at a slow pace, enjoying the fresh air and the atmospheric sight of the sun setting over the water or behind a hill. By taking time each day for this slow paced stroll, participants allow themselves an opportunity to relieve any stresses, enjoy good company and to fully unwind.

This isn’t just a Greek tradition, however. The custom of an evening promenade is coined passeggiata in Italian and korzo in Serbian, Czech and Slovak. The French flaneur also has resemblances, describing those men of leisure who strolled around the streets in classic French literature. There are plenty of words to describe a leisurely walk in English (promenade, saunter, stroll, stretching your legs), but they fail to capture the social aspect and sense of relaxation of volta.


mahabis guide // voltaphoto: aidan meyer, in pikermi, greece.


Many of the Greek population indulge in daily volta to clear the cobwebs at the end of each day. When visiting Greece, it is easy to slip into the local routine, and many tourists will find themselves strolling around amongst the locals during the evening hours. When you return home, it’s all too easy to settle back into your usual evenings of sitting on the sofa.


mahabis guide // voltaphoto: agnieszka bladzik


Incorporate volta into our everyday lives can be as simple as switching off the TV in the evening and heading outside with your partner, friends or family every evening to meander around your local area. Strolling around a new part of the city, or the heart of your town at sundown, will provide a glimpse into the Greek tradition. The full experience, however, is harder to emulate (weather and beaches aside!), as the core part of volta that differs it from a simple stroll is the community element. 

To compromise, take the element of volta that is easily emulated and encourage your close friends and family to join you for an evening walk to reflect on the day and prepare for tomorrow. Doing so for just twenty minutes is likely to have a positive effect, and help to clear your head before the next day begins.