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The forest around Kaisariani Monastery on the western slopes of Mount Hymettus is one of the best places for an easy nature escape from Athens. Lying only about 30 minutes bus ride from Syntagma Square it is close enough to the city center but once you walk on its pretty forest trails you’ll feel miles away.
To get to the forest of Kaisariani by public transport, take bus number 224 from Syntagma Square (Vasilissis Sofias Avenue on the left side of Vouli) or Evangelismos Metro station. Make sure it is going in the direction of Kaisariani.
It takes around 20 minutes to reach the last bus stop near Kaisariani Cementary. From here, continue walking on the right side of the road towards the mountain until you reach a highway overpass. Once past it, the forest begins.
There are plenty of paths and forest roads crisscrossing the slopes of the mountain. They connect old monasteries and stone build chapels with panoramic viewpoints and shady hideouts. Recently, new signposting has been added plus there are few wooden signs with a map scattered through the forest.
If you prefer a printed map (I know I do!!) there are two maps of Mount Hymettus to choose from. The map of Mount Hymettus from Terrain includes walking distances which are helpful especially when planning a hike. The Anavasi map of Mount Hymettus is handier once on the trail as it is split into two parts – south and north – and seems to be more up to date.
1. Kaisariani Monastery – Agios Taxiarchos – Analipsi Chapel – Kalopula Kiosk
The most visited site of the Kaisariani forest is the Byzantine Kaisariani Monastery not far away from the entrance to the forest park. It dates back to the 11th century and consists of the main church, Chapel of Agios Antonios, refectory and kitchen, baths and cells, all closed among tall stone walls. There is a 3 euro entrance fee and even though the monastery is not large it is beautifully preserved and worth exploring.
From the monastery, a wide path leads through olive orchards and meadows to the ruins of Agios Taxiarches and the church of Agios Markos, the first center of Christianity in this part of the mountain. This is an awesome place for a break or picknick with beautiful views of Athens.
Following the botanical trail climbing above the monastery, you will stumble upon another small church hidden in the forest. This one is my all-time favorite! It looks more like a cave than a church with a large opening instead of doors and hundreds of icons and other religious objects decorating its rugged walls.
This little church called Analipsi stays a mystery to me. I haven’t managed to find any information about its history or who is taking care of it. But I love it even more for that and enjoy sitting under the big trees in front enjoying the peace and quiet.
From Analipsi the path continues up through the woods until it joins a wide dirt road running across the slopes of the mountain. Turn left here following the road for a couple of kilometers enjoying the panoramic views of Athens underneath and the company of fellow hikers, dog walkers, and mountain bikers.
After a while, you’ll see another path dropping down to the left. It’ll take you to Kalopoula, the only refreshment point in the forest. It consists of a tiny wooden hut and a large outside seating area. Except for coffee and other drinks, they offer simple but tasty meal like bean soup, grilled cheese or different kinds of puff pastry pies.
2. Anthousa Tower – Asteriou Monastery – Korakovouni Summit (728 meters)
So far my favorite hike at Kaisariani starts at the entrance to the forest and climbs all the way up to the main ridge of Mount Hymettus. It is much quieter than the area around the Monastery of Kaisariani and more challenging as well thanks to the elevation gain of almost 500 meters. The views from the top across Athens and the airport area are just stunning and the Asteriou Monastery and stone-built Anthousa Tower serve as pleasant distractions along the way.
The trail is marked quite well with red markings and new wooden signposts. It follows the trails numbered 5 and 10. The only exception is the start of the path which is slightly confusing and not very pretty. The path starts on the left side of the road near the entrance to the forest, right before a wooden firefighter’s kiosk.
In the beginning, it passes between the highway fencing and some ugly abandoned buildings and is both noisy and unpleasant. Stick with it though, it will get better! After a few hundred meters, the highway noise fades away, and hiking through the rocky, shrub-covered slopes becomes fun.
There is one tricky crossroad right at the beginning of the trail where our path meets a dirt road. Do not continue right across the road but turn left searching for another path branching to the right some 50 meters later with a wooden sign marking its start. Once on it, the pretty forest trail will take you all the way to the Anthousa Tower.
From the Anthousa Tower, you’ll have two options. Either follow the trail number 10 right to the OTE Ridge or take a detour to see the smaller Asteriou Monastery. So far, the monastery has been closed every time I passed by and making the detour means walking on an asphalt road for a couple of kilometers.
From the OTE station, path no. 10 follows the ridge of Mount Hymettus towards its northern end in Agia Paraskevi. It will lead you all the way to the foot of the Korakovouni summit, from where multiple narrow paths lead to the top. This little peak is lower than the main summit called Evzonas (1026 meters) but also much prettier. Except for a stone column marking the top, there are no ugly structures and usually no people either.
The views from the top are stunning and on a clear day, you can see as far as the Saronic islands in the south, Parnitha and Penteli mountains to the north, and the island of Evia to the east. Thanks to its exposed location the top of Korakovouni can get very windy so bring a jacket if you want to be able to take a break here and enjoy the views!
2. Kaisariani Monastery – Agioi Taxiarches – Karavi Climbing Crag – Dragon House of Mount Hymettus
Up until recently, I haven’t heard about the Dragon House of Mount Hymettus or any other dragon houses outside of Southern Evia. These stone build structures, called Drakispita in Greek, are an impressive sight, and visiting one so close to Athens is a real treat.
There is no “official” trail leading from the Monastery of Kaisariani to the Dragon House. We followed a combination of marked and unmarked trails and a couple of dirt roads while using our Anavasi map of Mount Hymettus to stay on the right track.
From the Kaisariani Monastery, we followed one of the main paths leading towards the church of Agios Markos and Agioi Taxiarches. We passed the churches and joined another trail starting at an old wooden sign with a map.
Not before long we reached a dirt road and turned left. You can either follow this road and signs for Koutala Monastery or search for shortcuts through the woods. After about 1 kilometer we found a disappearing to the woods on the left side of the road. This is where things become slightly confusing and we got lost in a maze of trails crisscrossing the slopes.
But soon enough, we caught the first glimpse of Karavi, one of the most popular climbing crags in Athens, and got our bearings right. The last section of the trail was marked by red paint and easy to follow. We passed the climbing crag and finally reached the Dragon House after another hundred meters or so.
The Dragon House of Mount Hymettus is smaller than those of Southern Evia but still quite impressive. Don’t miss the opportunity to squeeze through its tiny entrance so that you can admire the surprisingly spacious interior with huge blocks of stone precariously balanced above your head.
For an additional challenge, we decided to climb to the top of the unnamed, 738 meters high peak above the Dragon House. The trail to the top starts next to the Karavi crag and follows an unpleasant scree field straight up the hill. About halfway up, it passes a turn in a dirt road and continues its climb along the rim of Kakorrema canyon.
At this point, the path itself disappeared and we ended up jumping from one rock to another following series of small cairns. The views from the top and towards the Kakorrema canon were well worth the trouble, though. From the top, the path continues for a couple of hundred meters until it reaches yet another dirt road. We followed it downhill until we found a path descending to the left taking us back to the Kaisariani Monastery.
Looking for more hikes on Mount Hymettus? Then check out THIS post from our crossing of Southern Hymettus with a visit to the striking Trypia Cave.