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One of the best hiking trails at Mount Parnitha hides at the western side of the mountain far away from Parnitha’s infamous casino, gondola, and masses of visitors. It starts at the small suburban town called Fyli and climbs through the lush green valley of Theodora to the Fortress of Fyli, one of the most impressive ancient fortresses in Attica.
The 15 km long circular hike is not particularly challenging except for one steep climb right before the fortress. Thanks to its surprisingly good signposting and clear paths (big thanks to EPOS Fyli’s) it is easy to follow, too, even when visiting for the first time. What’s more, the area around Fyli is quite remote and peaceful considering how close to Athens it actually is. Except for one hell-bend trail runner and a couple of turtles we haven’t met anyone all day!
Getting to Fyli from the center of Athens
Fyli is surprisingly easy to reach with public transport. It shouldn’t take more than one hour to get to Fyli from the city center providing you plan your trip well.
The most comfortable way is to take the train from Statmos Larisas, Athenian main train station, and get off at Ano Liosia. The journey takes around 15 minutes and you can use your regular metro ticket (1.40 euros). However, the trains usually only run once every hour so check the time table beforehand to avoid any unnecessary waiting.
The bus number B12 is another option to get to Ano Liosia in case you miss the train. It starts at Marni station in the center of Athens near the Archaeological Museum. The ride takes around 40 minutes depending on traffic.
From Ano Liosia, take bus number 723 to Fyli. It stops right at the train station, usually runs on time and the ride takes only around 15 minutes. At Fyli, watch out for a football field on the right side of the road, this is your clue to get off the bus. The bus stop name is Gipedo.
What to take with you on the Fyli Fortress Hike
Hiking map of Mount Parnitha. Even though the hike is marked quite well with markings painted on the rocks and trees, few signs and even an occasional map there were few crossroads along the way where a map proved to be useful. Don’t buy any hiking map of Parnitha though as not all of them include the section through Theodora valley (Terrain doesn’t, Anavasi does but I can’t vouch for the rest). If you speak Greek you can also refer to THIS amazingly detailed description of the trail, the fortress and other historical sights of the area.
Plenty of water. Except for one unreliable exception towards the end of the hike, there are no springs along the way to refill your water bottle nor are there any taverns or mountain huts. The 10 km long hike is exhausting enough especially during the hotter months requiring at least 1.5 liters of water but ideally two.
Sunscreen and hat…or hiking poles depending on the season. Despite passing mainly through areas covered with thick pine forest this trail doesn’t get much shade especially at the upper parts. We climbed to the Fyli Fortress on a sunny but not particularly hot May weekend but not even halfway through the hike I was already feeling a heatstroke creeping in. The fortress didn’t offer much relief either with its windswept surface and the only tree occupied by a couple of motorized visitors armed with folding chairs, coolers and other excessive camping equipment.
During the winter and early spring, river crossing could pose another challenge. We crossed multiple riverbeds at the lower sections of the trail, completely dry at this time of the year. However, they can fill quite quickly after rain or snowmelt. It didn’t look like wading would be necessary at any point as there were plenty of large boulders to ensure safe passage but poles would definitely help to keep your balance.
Ascend to the Fortress of Fyli through Theodora valley
The path to Fyli Fortress starts right outside of Fyli on the left side of the main road heading up to Kleiston Monastery. It is marked by red signs painted on trees an rocks. The trailhead is hard to miss thanks to a rusty old sign with a map of Western Parnitha. Behind the sign, you’ll notice a dirt road disappearing in a valley filled with orchards and colorful meadows.
After a while, the road turns into a narrow path following the Giannoula creek through a deep gorge filled with jungle-like vegetation. It crosses the stream multiple times before arriving at a confluence with Theodora creek coming from the right. The spot is aptly called Dipotamo meaning two rivers. At this point, the trail turns right as well ascending on the left banks of Theodora creek until it joins another dirt road.
Once outside of the gorge the countryside opens up into a wide valley with another confluence at its top end, Theodora stream being the one coming from the right. Getting closer to the confluence you’ll catch first glimpses of the beautiful Theodora, its slopes covered with thick, bright green pine forest and crowned by the imposing Theodora Rock. This was my favorite part of the whole hike and a lovely place for a short break.
When done admiring the views, search for a small path on the right side of the road descending down to the river bed. It crosses both streams before it starting its final climb through the Theodora valley to the fortress. This is the steepest section of the hike but bearable thanks to the picturesque surroundings and stunning views.
At the upper section of the valley, with the Fortress of Fyli in clear sight, you’ll join another dirt road for a short while. Try to memorize this spot, as you’ll use the road on the way back as an “escape route”. Little further, the trail follows an ancient path of unknown purpose for a short while.
The paved path cut into a rock face high above the valley is charming but becomes quite confusing later on. It merges into another dry riverbed passing through a small ravine with no markings and no obvious trail. Stick to the riverbed until the path reappears out of nowhere and on the next crossroad turn left as if returning back. From here, there are no obstacles until the fortress.
The Fortress of Fyli is an impressive sight both due to its rich history (read more about it HERE), imposing architecture and panoramic views. Wandering across its massive centuries-old walls or sitting under a tree admiring the views make all the previous efforts worthwhile. Unfortunately, there are no information tables anywhere around the fortress so if you wish to learn a bit about its history and purpose you’ll have to search online beforehand.
Returning to Fyli from Fyli Fortress
The return path back to Fyli is not as striking as the ascent route nor is it marked as well. It is not even just one trail but more precisely a mix of smaller trails glued together in order to avoid the asphalt road as much as possible. To start the descent, return back the same way passing the “ancient path” signs until you reach a narrow dirt road. Stay on it until you reach an asphalt road ignoring any tracks branching left and right.
Once on the main road, turn right (downwards) and continue until the next sharp right turn. At the turn, on the left side of the road, you’ll see another map and a couple of marked trails.
Our trail descends downwards towards the Kleiston Monastery and Fyli and is marked with blue paint. It is a steep descent and quite tiring but as usually the views will take your mind off the suffering. On your left side, you’ll be able to admire the steep cliffs of Arma, home of Parnitha’s only Via Ferrata, while the entrance to the Goura gorge opens up right in front of you.
At some point, the path reaches an asphalt road leading to the monastery, turn left here and follow the road for about 50 meters until you see another path on your right. It’ll take you all the way down to a dry river bed at the bottom of the valley. Cross it and climb up on the other side until you’ll reach a shabby picknick spot with few wooden tables, swing and strange chapel-like structure.
There is a spring here as well in the form of a plastic hose stuck to one of the trees. Its a mystery to me where the water comes from but we happily gobbled it anyway without any follow up issues.
From here, the trail turns right and follows a contour line towards Fyli. There are no more tiring ascents or confusing crossroads ahead only beautiful views across the unspoiled, pine-clad hills around Fyli.
Looking for more hikes in the Fyli area? Then check out THIS post about the hike to Pan’s cave along the striking Goura valley!
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