Hiking in Athens Greece

So you thought that visiting Athens, Greece is all about historical monuments, museums and a dazzling nightlife? Well, think again. Athens has some natural surroundings that would astound you all within reach from your accommodation. In fact, everywhere you look there is a hill or mountain you can climb. Next time you’re in town, pack some hiking boots as well, they might come in handy. After all, this country is famous for its natural beauty.

If you open any map of the city, you will notice the mountainous regions surrounding Athens. Attika, where Athens is located, is made up of mountains, valleys and ridges. The city lies nestled in the central plain; also known as the Attica Basin. Four mountains look over Athens. To the west, lies Mount Aegaleon and to the east mount Hymettus. The other two mountains overshadow the northern suburbs of the city. Mount Penteli to the northeast and Mount Parnitha to the north. Of the four, Mount Parnitha is the tallest standing at over 1400 metres, which has also been declared a national park.

Mount Parnithais a breathtaking mountain range comprised of thick pine wood forest and wildlife. It is only 35 km out of the city and can be reached by car or public transport. It is one of the popular winter destinations for Athenians as well as visitors. In the summer, you can explore the mountain on bike and in the winter in boots or even skis. Its plentiful paths will lead you to its many caves, brooks and breathtaking views of the city below. Be prepared to meet a huge variety of flowers, bird species and foxes. If you are lucky, you might even meet some of the deer that call this place home.

Mount Pendeli, on the other hand, may be lacking in forest after some devastating fires stripped most of the mountain bare. However, it is a mountain of great historical importance; it is where the ancient Athenians mined the marble for the Parthenon. It is also home to the famous Davelis cave; a place few people dare visit. Shrouded in mystery and superstition, it is known for strange sightings, sounds and a creature that haunts deep within. Taking a trek up this mountain and be rewarded by the remains of its ancient past and panoramic view of the city, the mountain range and the sea.

Mind you, you do not have to go that far for a good hike. Right in the centre of the city lies Mount Lykabettus. This is basically a hill made of limestone that protrudes out of the heart of the concrete jungle. It has a rich green landscape at the base with a white top; a perfect contrast to the backdrop of the sparkling blue sky. The climb is quite challenging and few are willing to take the risk, but once on top, the view will astound you. Lay back and enjoy a coffee at the cafe as you watch the sunset behind the Acropolis.

Before you decide to make your way back to your room, take in the view a little more. Watch the Parthenon and the rest of the city light up. Look around you and notice the shadows of the mountains as they retire their glory for the night. Finally, walk through the many local neighborhoods and breathe in the faint floral scents of their blooming gardens.

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In the age of Social Media everyone is posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other emerging Social Networks. From celebrities like Kim K and Rihanna to everyday regular people like me… The year 2013 was the year of the selfie. And it doesn’t look like selfies will be going away anytime soon as Yahoo estimates that 800 billion photos will be taken in 2014. Yup, you read that right… Billions!

So how do you take an awesome selfie? With most smart phones having the flip-the-camera-to-the-front thingy, it has become much easier but here’s some awesome tips to get the best self portrait ever.

1. Gotta Look Good

If you’re just rolling out of bed and still have the sleepies in your eyes and a pillow pattern indented in your forehead, it’s probably not the best time to take a selfie. Make sure you look decent. Comb your hair, put on some make up and check yourself out. You can obviously always retake the picture if you see that your hair is out of place or if your lipstick is smeared all over your face but why waste the time, get it right the first time.

2. Think Background

We’ve all seen the selfies where you don’t even care about the person in it as the background is just so much more interesting… dirty laundry, empty alcohol bottles, yucky toilets, messy rooms. All of these will kill your shot, and I don’t mean “killin’ it”, as in a good way. What’s behind you? How will it effect the picture? A good background can make or break a professional portrait and same goes for selfies so check what’s behind you and go for solid colors, cool textures and patterns, blurred city or landscape scenes or anything else that’s fun and interesting but not cluttered. You want to pop of the background, not get lost in it.

3. Lights, Camera, Action

Lighting is everything in photography. Make sure you are well lit but at the same time avoid harsh lighting that will leave shadows on your face. Try using natural light such as light coming through a window or taking a photo outdoors on a overcast day where the cloud will act like a huge, awesome diffuser in the sky making your features appear softer and more attractive while still being well lit.

4. Filter It

Every portrait, wedding photo or anything you see in a magazine has been retouched and edited. So don’t be afraid to get creative and throw a filter on it. There’s tons of apps and editing software out there so use them! Filters can make your photo more interesting, make you look better and in general are awesome. Just don’t over kill it! Hiding a blemish or cropping something out of the picture is cool but smoothing out your face to the point where it looks like Barbie with botox overdose is a no-no.

5. The Right Angle

Avoid unflattering angles. Taking a photo from above will usually do the trick. If you ever had a professional portrait taken, you might have had the photographer tell you to stick your chin out to avoid the double chin. What you really want to do is stick your forehead and chin forward. It might feel weird and uncomfortable but it will stretch the skin on your face and neck hiding the pudginess and the dreaded double chin. You also want to squint your eyes a little bit. And by a little bit I mean a little bit, you don’t want to look like you’re straining to see something. Ever hear the famous Tyra Banks phrase “smizing”? That’s exactly what you want to do… Smile with your eyes.

6. Silly Duck

Out of all the above tips, this one is the most important one. HAVE FUN! Be silly, be goofy and have fun with it. Scratch off all of the above tips and just have a blast with it. Do a crazy duck face, stick your tongue out, put on a fake mustache, be cute. BE IN THE MOMENT! That is what the selfie is all about after all, capturing an awesome moment in time and sharing it with the world. So don’t take yourself too seriously and go out there and show your best selfie!