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North Attica – Experiences on the Slopes of Mount Parnitha and Mount Penteli

The north of Attica is lush with pine forest and vineyards. It is home to the famous retsina and a large cave named after 19th century brigand Christos Davelis.

Philopappos hill is the site of an ancient fortress and a shrine to the cloven-hoof god Pan. At its summit you can see all of Athens from this critical vantage point.

Mount Parnitha

The mountainous terrain of Parnitha is a hiker’s heaven. From the fabled shrine to the cloven-hoof god Pan, to the monasteries of Aghia Triada, Kleiston, and Aghios Kiprianos that were once a key point of defence for Attica, the rocky, tree-covered slopes of this massive mountain offer countless trails of varying difficulty. Hiking is possible at any time of the year as Parnitha is a remarkably temperate area. But the best time to visit this forestry mountain is from mid-September to late October, when hundreds of deer roam its slopes in small herds.

While the western slopes of Parnitha are dotted with ruins of ancient fortresses and monasteries, it’s the eastern side that holds the real treasures. Here, the most famous attraction is Filis Fortress, built in the 4th century BC in a strategic position on the edge of an important pass that linked Attica with the sea. The soaring walls of the fortress, and its many turrets, were once a formidable barrier that could only be breached by attacking cavalry.

Another interesting attraction is the Davelis Cave, a vast and mesmerising grotto that’s as wide as 45m and almost as tall as 62m. This is a place of eerie beauty, where visitors have reported electronics going out of control, glowing orbs, ineffable creatures, water dripping upwards, ghostly voices and spooky etchings that suggest a satanic past.

The north of Attica is a mountainous region that’s home to wild forests and crystalline waterfalls. It’s also where a few villages remain from the period of Arvanites, Albanian warriors who fought for Athens in the 14th to 15th centuries and who left their mark on a landscape that’s otherwise imbued with a sense of Greek detachment despite its proximity to the sprawling Athenian metropolis. The north is separated from Athens by the mountain ranges of Aigaleo, Parnitha, Penteli and Hymittos.

Mount Penteli

The mountain range of Mount Parnitha is located north of Athens. Its summit reaches an elevation of 1,413 m and is the highest point on the peninsula of Attica. Its densely forested slopes host a wide variety of wildlife including wildfowl and native red deer (Cervus elaphus). The mountain also provides the main drinking water supply for Athens.

Athens has a subtropical Mediterranean climate (Koppen climate classification Csa). However, it is located in a rain shadow due to its location under the southern slopes of Mount Parnitha. The city experiences relatively short periods of precipitation with a pronounced seasonality. The winters are very cold and snowy, while the summers are warm and dry.

Host of two major urban centers, Attica is the most populated region in Greece. As a result, strong ecological pressures affect natural resources and biodiversity.

Despite these pressures, Attica still contains impressive habitat diversity. This is evidenced by a number of biodiversity indicators such as species richness, Shannon’s H’ index and Pielou’s evenness index (J’).

The northern slopes of Attica are very diverse despite the urbanization pressure. They are characterized by forests and lowland croplands dominated by olive groves and vineyards. These areas are also home to a variety of wildlife, including amphibians and snakes. The high number of snakes in Attica is partly explained by the fact that fresh waters are scarce. Hence, species that require high air humidity and permanent water bodies such as the European tree frog (Hyla arborea) are rare in Attica. Snakes have a much more positive perception in Attica than in provincial Greece where they are often killed on sight. Moreover, the low population density in the north of Attica allows for more positive behavioral interactions between humans and snakes.

The city’s citizens have a strong sense of responsibility toward the conservation of local ecosystems, particularly in the area around Mount Parnitha. They actively participate in local environmental initiatives, such as the restoration of the acoustic and visual landscapes surrounding the mountain and the preservation of its historic sites. These efforts contribute significantly to the city’s environmental quality.

Holidays in Greece

Mount Imittos

With its snow-covered peaks, Parnitha is a winter wonderland with its own unique beauty. Before your visit, it’s best to be well informed about the weather conditions so that you can pack appropriate clothes and shoes. It’s also recommended to be accompanied by an experienced guide who can ensure your safety and make the most out of your winter excursion.

Visiting Penteli on a Sunday stroll is an all-time classic choice for many Athenians. It’s an easy and pleasant way to spend some time in nature, to take a break from the city, to breathe the fresh air and to enjoy the views of the surrounding landscape.

This mountain massif is the highest in Attica, boasting the Evzonas (Euzonas) peak at 1,026 m (3,366 ft). The ancients called it Megas Hymettos and the southern peaks were known as Elattona or Anydros Hymettos. The area around the mountain is full of thyme honey, and the ancients were very fond of this special product. Marble has been quarried here since antiquity.

The mountain’s eastern slope is a protected area, while the western side of the mountain features green space near the Kaisariani monastery. On the north-eastern side, you will find a number of trails in dense pine and fir forests.

It’s an ideal hiking destination for the whole family and offers a large variety of activities. It’s a great place for a one-day hike, a day spent relaxing in nature or even a short weekend trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Hikers and walkers will find themselves surrounded by an idyllic natural environment, as the forest provides plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind. In addition, there are several traditional refuges that offer comfortable accommodation and an opportunity to rest after a long walk.

These refuges include Katafugio Mpafi, which is in the center of the forested part of the mountain and has traditionally-looking facilities. Another option is Agiou Merkouriou, which has beautiful, newly renovated facilities and an extensive range of activities that can be enjoyed all year round. There are also many other refuges scattered throughout the mountain that provide a variety of accommodations and services.

Mountains in Greece

Donkey’s Land

With its rocky hills, dense forests, and fascinating paths, the Parnitha mountain range cradles the city of Athens. It is a natural barrier that separates Central Greece from the Aegean Sea.

In antiquity, a number of fortresses were built on the slopes of Mount Parnitha for the defense of Attica and specifically Classical Athens against enemies from the north. Some of these fortresses, like Phyle in the west of the mountain, are still kept in good condition, while others are now abandoned, such as the fortress of Limiko.

Today, the mountain is surrounded by a network of hiking trails that cover much of its surface. Its summit offers panoramas of the mountains of northern Attica, Penteli to the east and Hymettus to the south as well as the Thriasian Plain.

Parnitha is a mountain of steep ridges, gorges, streams, valleys and deep forests that are home to 30 species of mammals, 120 bird species and 800 varieties of herbs and plants. The mountain also has the richest monastic landscape of all of Attica with 15 monasteries scattered around its slopes. You can read more about these monasteries on the dedicated page and download the free Parnitha topoguide (available for Android) from our Parnitha section in the Topoguide app.

The imposing cliffs of the southern part of the mountain were once a refuge for aristocratic families. Today, it is a popular spot for hiking and camping. In the summer, many locals flock here to relax and enjoy the sun.

Among the attractions of Mount Parnitha is the Davelis Cave which got its name from an 18th century brigand and smuggler Christos Davelis. The cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites that bear the names of ancient Greek heroes. The Cave of Euripides and the Agios Sofia Cave are also located in the area.

The mountain is also known for its rich marble. A number of famous ancient monuments were crafted from it including the Erechtheon, Propylaea and the Parthenon. Its marble quarries were active from the 6th century B.C. until the 1940s and yielded a great deal of the marble used in building the Acropolis. Visitors can now visit the Dionysos open-air marble museum to see what remains of these quarry sites.

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