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Update: As of the begining of August 2021, the forest of Tatoi and a large section of eastern Parnitha has been destroyed by a monstrous wildfire, burning through the area for five consecutive days.
With the attempts to extinguish the remaining clusters of fire still being carried out as I type, it is hard to assess the full extend of the damage. However, it is safe to say that at least Tatoi as a beloved recreational place of the Athenians is a thing of the past.
I don’t know when we will be able to go back to Parnitha to see what was lost and what remained or when we will have the strength to do so.
Until then, I’ll keep this post on not as a guide for your next hiking adventure but as a humble memorial to all the beautiful forests that fell victim to human stupidity, negligence and greed!
Flambouri Refuge at Mount Parnitha is one of my favorite destinations for a quick nature escape from Athens. Even a brief trip by car for a plate of φασολαδα (bean soup) in this cozy mountain hut always feels like an adventure to me.
But to really appreciate the warm, homey atmosphere of the refuge surrounded by nothing but beautiful fir forests, you have to arrive on foot!
There are multiple trails ascending to Flambouri from Thrakomakedones, the last neighborhood of Athens at the southeast foothill of Mount Parnitha. They vary in length and difficulty and can be easily combined for a circular hike.
With over 600 meters of elevation gain and rocky terrain, none of these trails is particularly easy but some are surely more suited for beginner hikers than others. All of the trails mentioned below are marked and with the exception of the Flambouri Ridge they are clear and quite easy to follow.
Getting to Thrakomakedones from the center of Athens
While driving is a much more comfortable and fast way to reach Thrakomakedones, coming by public transport is possible as well. It is time-consuming and complicated but if you are determined enough, it can be done!
Through the years, we tried and tested many combinations of buses & metro and in the end settled on bus number 504 as the easiest choice. It will take you from Kifisia all the way to Agia Triada church in Thrakomakedones. It leaves Kifisia metro station approximately every half an hour and the bus ride takes around 30 minutes.
Kousiza Spring – Kiousi Cave – Flabouraki – Flambouri Refuge
This trail starts at the end of Kastorias Street in Thrakomakedones and is marked by yellow signs. In the beginning, it climbs gently towards the Kousiza spring, offering first glimpses towards Penteli and the island of Euboea. You’ll get to admire the impressive Petra Varympopi as well from the lower section of the trail, one of the most popular rock climbing crags of Athens.
At the spring, the path splits into two. Both will take you to Flambouri refuge at some point but for this hike, take the left branch climbing straight up through the bushy slope. It gets noticeably steeper at this point and keeps that way until the top of the ridge.
About halfway through the climb, you’ll meet another path branching to the left. It leads to Kiousi Cave some 20 meters away. The path is not easy to find with its entrance overgrown by vegetation. But if you pay attention you’ll see a red arrow with the letter S (spilia = cave) painted on a rock at the crossroads. The cave is not big or particularly interesting but it is a cool hideout and a good excuse to break up the long climb.
Once on the top of the ridge, the terrain flattens slightly and beautiful mountain views open up. But for truly amazing vistas of the Athens Basin and Parnitha, make a detour to the summit of Flabouraki. It lies only about 20 minutes away and there is a wooden sign pointing in the right direction. Otherwise, follow the sign towards Flambouri Refuge hidden in the forest not too far away.
Kousiza Spring – Koromilia Spring – Flambouri Refuge
The trail to Koromilia starts at the end of Kastorias street and up until Kousiza Spring it follows the same path as the direct trail to Flambouri described above. At the spring, continue straight (right branch) following red markings through bushes and low trees.
After a while, you’ll reach a dirt road. This was the only confusing spot along the way for us and the only place where a map come in handy. We climbed to the road too soon by accident following an unmarked trail and couldn’t find our trail on the other side of the road. If you make the same mistake just remember to turn right and continue along the road until you see a wooden pole with a sign pointing towards Mesiano Nero. The path crosses the dirt road one more time later on but there is no confusion.
From here, our surroundings started to change slowly and soon enough we were walking through a beautiful forest of firs and pines, across moss-covered rocks and small, bubbly streams. On a wet, foggy winter day the place was deserted and fairy-tale beautiful!
When we arrived at a dirt road for the 3 time during this hike, we saw a sign pointing to Flambouri to the left and to Koromilia to the right. We followed the sigh for Koromilia and arrived at the spring in just a couple of minutes.
From here, we took a trail climbing above the spring, unmarked at the beginning but clear and easy to follow. It splits into two later on, with the left branch leading towards Flambouri. It’ll take you all the way to the main road leading to the refuge, turn left here and follow the road until Flambouri.
Recently, we combine the two trails above into one lovely, circular, 11 kilometers long hike – check it out on Wikiloc HERE.
The trail to Flambouri through Houni starts at Thrakis Street in Thrakomakedones and at the beginning, it is marked by red signs. To get on the trail, walk to the end of the road and follow a path leading to the left across the ravine until you meet another trail. Turn right here and continue uphill.
The trail is clear and marked well. It is a popular ascent route to the Mpafi refuge from Thrakomakedones as well and you’ll meet many other hikers and trail runners along the way.
Being hidden on the bottom of the Houni valley, this path doesn’t offer views towards Athens like the other trails. This is not a bad thing, though. Houni valley, overlooked by the impressive cliffs of Flambouri Ridge, feels like a true wilderness making it easy to forget how close to the Greek capital we really are.
About halfway through the valley, the trail splits into two. The left branch with red signs leads to Mpafi while the right path, marked by blue, continues towards Flambouri. It sticks to the bottom of the valley for a little longer before it begins it’s final climb to the refuge.
There is a crossroads at the beginning of the climb with two signs, both pointing towards Flambouri but in opposite direction. The trail marked as easy route (εύκολη διαδρομή) is longer but gentler while the one marked as a difficult route (δύσκολη διαδρομή) climbs straight up through the steep slope, getting unclear and confusing at the end. We always go for the difficult trail for some weird masochistic reason but the choice is yours!
Climbing the Flambouri ridge is by far the most fun and exciting way to get to Flambouri refuge from Thrakomakedones. That being said, it is the most difficult ascent route as well and definitely shouldn’t be attempted by novice hikers.
The trail is hard to find and difficult to follow even though it is marked by red and blue paint all the way to the top. It involves few exposed scrambling passages and a lot of rocky terrain in between. It is not too difficult for seasoned hikers with scrambling experience but it could be very challenging for beginners.
There are two trails climbing to the top. The one marked by blue paint sticks to the edge of the ridge and is much more difficult. The second trail, marked by red paint, climbs to the top through gentler terrain without too much exposure further away from the ridge.
You can find a good description of this trail HERE and HERE or check out Wikiloc HERE but I would strongly suggest embarking on this fun yet challenging hike only if accompanied by someone who knows the way.