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.