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Are you looking for a great hike close to Athens? Would you like to spend a day wandering through a peaceful countryside of rolling hills and meadows in full bloom discovering charming little churches along the way? Do you feel like you have exhausted the hiking options of Parnitha National Park walking on the southern slopes of the mountain uncountable times (like I did)? Then head to Parnitha’s northern stretches for completely different but equally awesome hiking experience walking from Avlona to Agia Marina.
The trail from Avlona to Agia Marina is one of the lesser-known on Mount Parnitha. It is marked quite haphazardly or sometimes not at all and I’m not sure I would find it without a map. Our trusted Terrain Map of Mt.Parnitha was certainly helpful this time.
Other than that it is an easy hike following mostly country roads without difficult sections or huge elevation. It is quite long though (around 20 km) and can be tiring towards the end especially on a hot day. There is no refreshment along the way nor spring, so bring plenty of water and snacks.
If coming by car, you can cut it about 3,5 kilometers shorter by driving all the way up to the Stoudhiou Monastery. However, Avlona lies on the train line connecting Athens with Chalkida, therefore, it’s easily accessible even without a car.
The train leaves from the Athenian central train station at Station Larisa and reaches Avlona in about 45 minutes. A return ticket costs 6,40 euros and the trains run almost every hour (check out the timetables HERE).
Once in Avlona, pass underneath the train rails and walk up towards the mountain. Soon enough you’ll start noticing signs pointing to Agia Marina, Profits Ilias, and Stoudhiou Monastery. It doesn’t matter which one you’ll choose, they all lead in the same direction.
The first 3,5 km of our hike followed an asphalt road climbing up to the monastery. This would be an uneventful journey if it wasn’t for the beautiful views across Avlona and towards Evia in the distance. The picturesque Profitis Ilias church about halfway to the top was another pleasant distraction.
On top of the hill, we passed a farm with weird and slightly disturbing decorations. Thing teddy bears hanging from trees or doll heads impaled on a fence in a partially burned forest. No need to worry though, the gentleman living in this unusual setting is a perfectly lovely and very friendly elderly goat farmer.
Near the monastery, our asphalt road ends turning into a wide dirt road. For the next couple of kilometers, it runs in and out of the forest and across meadows and fields. I’ve done this hike twice, in January and April, and both times the fields were exploding with colorful flowers and lovely smells. Spring is definitely the best time for this or any other hike around Greece.
After a couple of kilometers, we reached another small church called Agios Nikolaos (Profitis Ilias). There is a fork in the road just before the church with a sign for Agia Marina pointing to the right. Take the right road but keep your eyes peeled for another path branching to the right just after a small pond with some very loud frogs.
The beginning of the path is not all that clear but once we found it was easy to follow and even randomly marked. This last section of the trail, passing through a beautiful forested gorge, would be my favorite if it wasn’t for thousands of spider webs sticking to my face, arms and legs on almost every step. But I guess that’s the price to pay for getting to stunning remote places.
After a while, we finally started seeing the tiny white church of Agia Marina glued to the side of a rocky outcrop. The path leads to the top of the cliff and there is a narrow stairway descending down to a terrace in front of the church.
The history of the church probably dates back to the 12th century. It was built around a small cave, where according to a legend the icon of Agia Marina miraculously appeared out of nowhere to a passerby shepherd – a classic story for many Greek churches and monasteries.
Today the cave next to the church hosts another, newer icon of Agia Marina and multiple others. Together with the church itself, it is a charming place worth exploring even for a non-believer like me. The terrace outside on the other hand is the perfect spot for a lunch break with stunning views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
To get back to Avlona we took a trail dropping down to the left around 50 meters above the church. This part was a little bit tricky. The path wasn’t marked at all and instead, it was full of obstacles in form of fallen trees and steep descents. Once on the bottom of the valley, we crossed a dry riverbed and climbed up on the other side. The path vanished completely at this point just to appear a minute later next to another dry riverbed. Not crossing this one we turned left following the stream. Soon enough we reached a dirt road leading us out of the valley.
From here, it was an easy stroll through the bright green fields, pass another pretty Profitis Ilias church and towards Stoudhiou Monastery where we joined the main asphalt road to Avlona. It is a long walk back, though. and we cheated by hitching a ride back to Avlona at the monastery.
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