Hiking in Mount Parnitha
Hiking on Mount Parnitha, just north of Athens, offers a world of nature and a fair share of upbeat challenges. It's a relatively steep mountain with dense vegetation and several ridges separated by deep valleys or gorges. There is a lack of landmarks for the 75 hiking paths on this mountain, but there is a guide called Footpaths of Mt. Parnitha and map by Road Editions that outline these hikes well. Here are just two of these:
Mont Parnes – Bafi Refuge: you can take the cable car up to Mont Parnes Hotel and follow the easy 3-km route to the Bafi Refuge. From there on you can go to the Flambouri refuge, the spring of Skipiza, Mola, or the base of the cable car. The starting point is the Mont Parnes Hotel towards the old helipad to reach the footpath. A paved road will eventually lead you to the footpath and run under the paved road, eventually going to the Bafi refuge or back down to the cable car station. Generally the route is not difficult and full of amazing nature. Keep an eye out for the red rhombuses and squares to show you the way.
Thrakomakedones 2 – Falmbouri refuge: This path climbs up sharply in a westerly direction. Once you pass the Spring of Koromilia you can visit the Kioussi Cave and then get to the peak of Flambouraki. After this you will eventually get to the Flambouri refuge.
Hiking in Ymittos (also Imittos or Hymettus)
Mount Hymettus is famous for its thyme-scented honey. It is covered with beautiful pine forest, impressive caves, historic monasteries and many marked footpaths, just a five or ten minute drive from downtown Athens. It is also a formidable birdwatching area and attracts an impressive number of bird species. The mountain features different watching posts too. If you climb up from the city side, you will be able to clearly see the port of Piraeus. Climb up to the top and you will be able to see the airport on the other side. One way to explore it is to take a five-minute bus ride from the gates of Panepistimioupoli (University City) on Oulaf Palme Street in Ilissia, and let it drop you off just a few meters away from the Ring Road that separates Hymettus from the university campus. Cross carefully from below the ring road, and you'll find yourself at the base of a huge green mountain with its footpaths and deserted old churches. Enjoy and explore, but come back before dark! There are paths marked with concentric circles as you climb. They will take you all the way up to the antennas. Aim for a cool or cloudy day, and take sunglasses, a hat, water and hiking snacks. You can go up in about two hours.
Hiking in Sounion National Park
Right outside Agios Konstantinos (Kamarizas) on the way to the church of Agia Triada is Chaos, a unique geological phenomenon in Attica. It is a large round gulch with a perimeter of roughly 500 meters and a depth of 70 meters. There is a fence around it and an entrance on the east side where you can follow a steep footpath to the bottom. Some 2 km north of Agios Konstantinos near the peak of a rocky hill you will find the cave of Kitsos. It was inhabited during the Palaeolithic and Neolithic era, about 40,000 years ago. Archaeological finds include obsidian from Milos, ceramic moulds for silver and a copper pin dating over 7,000 years. Mor recently, the cave was the lair of Kitsos, famed bandit and bodyguard of Serpieri who raided the region around 1860.
An hour away by foot from Agios Konstantinos, walking uphill on a sand road, you reach the cave on the eastern slope of a rocky peak called Mikro Rimbari. The route takes you through dense Aleppo pine forests, parts of which burned down during different forest fires sadly. After the sand road take the footphat to the left, walkinb between holly oak, thorny fabaccae, and phrygana until you reach impressive rock formations, enormous concave arches and massive monoliths that have fallen from the peak. White or yellow lichen color the grey rock, and lush green moss grows in shady spots. Chasmophytes such as inula candida grow in rock crevices. The peak of Mikro Rimbari above the cave has a great view of the seas all around. Note the autumn crocus and Cartwright's crocus growing all over the slopes in autumn.
North of the temple of Poseidon are rocky outcrops named Mavro Lithari and Vasilopoula. From the main Athens-Sounio road, a small sand road heads west of Vasilopoula peak. The crested lark's whistle accompanies you north towards the grey-blue rock at a peak that's 260 meters in altitude. Mediterranean shrubs and phrygana as well as sharp rocks characterize this arid landscape. During bird migration period, i.e. spring and fall, you can come across many birds of prey. Return to the beachfront road walking along a dry river bed towards Legrena.