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The forest around Kaisariani Monastery on the western slopes of Mount Hymettus is one of the best places to escape the mayhem of Athens for a day. Lying only about 20 minutes bus ride from Syntagma Square it is close enough to the city center but walking on its pretty forest trails you’ll feel miles away.
To get to the Kaisariani forest by public transport, take bus number 224 from Syntagma Square (on the side of Vouli) or Evangelismos Metro station going in the direction of Kaisariani. It takes around 15 minutes to reach its last stop near the 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 connecting monasteries and churches with panoramic viewpoints and shady hideouts. Recently, new signposting and maps of the area has been added making the explorations of the forest easier than ever. But the two hikes bellow remain my all-time favorites no matter how many times I’ve done them before.
The most visited site of the area is the Byzantine Kaisariani Monastery not far away from the entrance to the forest park. It dates back to the 11th century and today consists of the main church, Chapel of Agios Antonios, refectory and kitchen, baths and cells all closed among tall stone walls. There is a 1 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 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 a beautiful view 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 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 at the Kaisariani 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.
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 panoramic 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 following the paths number 5 and 10. The only exception is the start of the path which is slightly confusing and not very pretty. The path starts at the entrance to the forest right before the firefighter’s kiosk and follows the highway fencing to the left. It’s noisy and unpleasant at the beginning passing between the motorway and some ugly looking abandoned buildings but stick with it, it will get better!
After a couple of hundred meters, the highway noise fades away and hiking through the rocky shrubs-covered slope with beautiful views across Athens 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, a 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 from where multiple narrow paths lead to the top. This little peak is lower than the main summit Evzonas (1026 meters) but also much prettier. Except for a stone column marking the top, there are no ugly structures and usually no people as well.
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 is very windy most of the time, too, so bring a jacket if you want to be able to enjoy the views for at least couple of minutes!
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