Mount Penteli is the smallest of the Athenian mountains and one that never really piqued my interest. I’ve visited its most famous site, the impressive Daveli cave, during a road trip many years ago but that was it. Seeing the bare slopes of the mountain every day from our beautifully green Mount Ymittos didn’t help either. Scarred by a labyrinth of dirt tracks connecting the old mining sites it doesn’t make for an unappealing panorama.
However, getting a peek at the forested northern side of Mount Penteli while hiking at the neighboring Mount Parnitha made me wonder if I haven’t been judging this compact mountain too fast. And when I discovered a new hiking map of Mount Pendeli during one of my online shopping sprees at Anavasi I decided to give it another try.
To get the most of the mountain in just one day we choose a trail described as Pendeli Crossing in my new Anavasi map. It starts from Dionysos at the northern side of Mount Penteli, climbs to the top of the mountain and drops down to Palaia Penteli neighborhood in the South. Even though at length it has just around 10 km, the ascent of 600 meters and the following descend make it just enough challenge.
To get to the trailhead in Dionysos we took the bus no.536 from Kifisia and got off at a stop called Amadryadon. The bus doesn’t run very often, we missed one and waited for almost an hour for the next one. However, once it comes it’s just a quick ride. From the bus stop, we followed a street of the same name leading up towards the mountain among beautiful family houses and villas.
At the end of the street, there is nothing indicating the trail, no map or sign pointing in the right direction. However, just continue up following a narrow path and after a while, you will start seeing red spots painted on the rocks here and there. The marking of the trail is not great though and having a map was really helpful.
The first section of the hike was my favorite. We passed through lush, densely forested hillside with some very jungle-like looking spots. The steep, rocky path climbs straight up making us gulp for air after just a few minutes.
Not before long, we reached the first of three picturesque chapels hiding in the woods above Dionysos and making this walk so enjoyable. They are charming little buildings with the confined interior filled with holy icons and other religious decorations.
The first one, Profitis Ilias, is a simple white church with a heavy bell hanging next to its narrow entrance. The path circles around its left wall and continues up to Agios Nikitas. The stone chapel of Agios Nikitas is even tinier, standing in a small clearing in the middle of the forest. With its stone exterior, wooden sign with a hand-crafted name on it and another bell hanging from a tree branch in the front it has almost fairy-tale feel.
The third of the churches, Agios Loukas stands just a couple hundred meters up and is the best spot for a break or picknick. It has its own spring and shade from the large trees playing all shades of yellow and red at this time of the year.
From Agios Loukas, there is a choice of three paths. The left one descends towards the open-air museum at Dionysos, the middle one continues up to the ridge and the right one climbs up to to the Agios Panteleimon Church. We followed the middle one ascending above the tree line over a rocky track. At this point, the views started to open up and we could see as far as the beaches at Schinias and Evia in the distance.
The valley underneath is a pretty sight, too. Its covered by a carpet of lush green pine forest dotted by family houses and villas. A little bit further up, the open-air museum emerges at the bottom of the cliffs. It was built on the premises of an old marble quarry but from afar looks like a picturesque fortress.
Getting closer to the ridge of Mount Penteli things got a bit more challenging. Even on a beautiful, warm and sunny Autumn day it was extremely windy at the top and soon enough we found ourselves wrapped in all possible pieces of clothing, staggering in the wind and feeling like “real” mountaineers for a while. It was fun and not something to be discouraged by, just take a jacket no matter the weather.
Another challenge was finding our way. Thanks to its mining past this part of the mountain is one huge maze of abandoned quarries and old tracks connecting them with the city. Therefore, trying to track the right way using the faded red markings on the rocks, my map and GPS on my phone I felt like a kid in a summer camp participating in an orienteering run.
The extraction of marble on Mount Penteli dates back to 5th century BC and its most famous representative is the renown Parthenon of the Acropolis of Athens. However, there are uncountable other buildings, monuments, and statues all across Greece and the world build of this high-quality stone. To name just a few, there is the Academy of Athens (my personal favorite among the Athenian architectural marvels) the Panathinaikos Stadium, the National Library or Megaro Mousikis.
The trail doesn’t actually reach the top of Mount Penteli but passes some fifty meters below. As tempting as it may be to make a detour to the top, don’t bother. There is some kind of military station there and entrance is not allowed. Instead, we continued our wandering across the ridge and down towards the last highlight of our trip, the church of Agioi Asomatoi.
The small, stone-built basilica of Agioi Asomati from the beginning of the 15the century sits at an altitude of around 750m right above the Penteli Monastery. It has an amazing view of the whole Athens underneath and can be accessed by car over a dusty dirt road if hiking is not your thing.
Thanks to some kind of Πανηγύρι (celebration) taking place upon our arrival the area around the church was quite busy so we didn’t get a chance to explore much of its interior. Instead, we headed behind the church where narrow path branches to the right and descends down towards Palaia Penteli.
Right at the beginning of Palea Penteli, there is a couple of bus stops for buses heading down to one of the metro stations. We took the bus number 461 and in around 20 minutes we arrived in Chalandri on the blue metro line.
In conclusion, Mount Penteli was a surprisingly pleasant place for hiking. And even if this whole hike over the windswept peak of Mount Penteli sounds like too much (even though it’s not) there are shorter but equally pretty walks to try. The climb from Palaia Penteli to the Agioi Asomatoi church or the circle hike connecting Dionysos, the forest chapels above and the open air museum would make for a perfect afternoon walk.