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Mount Kyllini or Ziria is the perfect destination for a day trip from Athens full of hiking, nature, and stunning mountain views. The drive from Athens takes only a little over two hours but hiking through the tranquil countryside of Mount Kyllini we felt worlds apart from the busy and loud Greek capital.
Mount Kyllini lies in the western corner of Corinthia, on the borders of Achaia and Arcadia. It rises to an impressive altitude of 2.376 meters but thanks to its rounded shape it’s actually quite easy to ascend.
As with almost any Greek mountain Mount Kyllini has its place in Greek mythology as well. Hermes, the messenger of gods, was born here as well as the Pleiades, seven companions of the goddess Artemis. The mountain itself took its name from the nymph Cyllene who dwelled in the area or it may have been the other way around. Who knows…
Driving to Ziria from Athens
To get to Ziria you’ll need a car. The drive from Athens takes around two and a half hours and we paid approximately 60 euros for petrol and tolls. From Athens, we followed the highway to Patra leaving it at Xylokastro some 50 kilometers after Corinth.
From Xylokastro, a smaller road full of turns climbs up to the mountains passing through the charming villages of Ano and Kato Trikala until finally reaching the small Ziria Ski Centre at an altitude of 1.600 meters.
Although the distance between those two is only 35 kilometers it took us over an hour to complete the drive due to the many turns, huge altitude gain, and most importantly the beauty of the place enhanced by the golden autumn colors.
Trikala Corinthia’s is the last outpost of civilization on the way to Ziria and a popular base for multiday trips to the area. It has plenty of accommodation in the style of traditional mountain chalets and a couple of taverns and cafés.
Except for that, I didn’t find the villages particularly interesting so unless you need your morning coffee fix before heading out to the mountains no need to stop here.
Leaving Trikala, the road continues its climb for another 10 kilometers past the picturesque Agios Vlasis Monastery and up to the plateau between the peaks of Megali and Mikri Ziria. At its southern end, between Ziria’s Refuge A and the entrance to Flamburitsa valley lies Ziria Ski Center, the starting point of our ascent to Mount Kyllini.
Maps, signposting & dificulty
There are many trails crisscrossing the landscape of Ziria, the most popular being the ascents of Megali and Mikri Ziria and the traverse of Flambouritsa valley. They are market quite well but finding the starting point of our path wasn’t all that easy.
There was no information table or a sign at the car park of the ski center, just a couple of fainted paths running in all directions. So unless you’ll be coming with someone who knows the area I would recommend bringing a good hiking map – the area is covered in the Anavasi Map of Mount Kyllini.
The ascent to Mount Kyllini from Ziria Ski Center took us around 3 hours and was not particularly difficult. Don’t get me wrong, we still had to overcome around 800 meters of an altitude gain which was challenging enough on a surprisingly hot autumn day.
But the path was easy to follow and comfortable enough with awesome mountain views as a distraction. There were no springs along the way and nor was there any shade so bring enough water!
Mount Kyllini Hike
To get started, head towards the dirt road running from the top right corner of the car park at the ski center of Ziria (when looking at the lifts). On the right side of the road, you’ll see a narrow path crossing the meadows roughly in the direction of Megali Ziria. Follow this path zigzagging among a large amount of cow poop and horses roaming freely through the countryside.
After about a kilometer the path ends at wider tracks. Turn left here and continue for another 500 meters until you’ll reach a wide dirt road with an unkempt-looking farm on the other side. Cross the road and continue towards the buildings wandering nervously if you are trespassing.
Turn left in front of the building (even though the more obvious path leads to the right) keeping your eyes peeled for the first red markings painted on the rocks. Once you find them the confusing part is over and they will lead you safely to the top.
The first section of the ascent passes through one of the ravines cut to the side of the mountain. This was the steepest, most tiring part of our hike and after just a couple of minutes, we found our self’s huffing and puffing, chucking away all unnecessary clothes.
But it didn’t take too long to reach the ridge where all our efforts were rewarded by stunning views of Mikri Ziria and the beautiful forested valley of Flambouritsa underneath. This was possibly my favorite spot of the whole hike and an awesome place for a snack break.
Once on the ridge, the path becomes much easier meandering through the grassy slopes of the mountain. At one point, it joins a dirt road for couple hundred meters but don’t get too comfortable, soon enough you’ll see a rocky path branching to the left and up towards the top.
The top of Mount Kyllini is marked by a small pillar and stone wall, welcomed protection against the wind if you decide to have a lunch break here enjoying the views. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much from the top as it was hopelessly shrouded by clouds with just a few brief, foggy openings.
However, if you are luckier and arrive on a clear day you can admire the views towards the mountain ranges of Chelmos and Oligyrtos and even catch a glimpse of the Gulf of Corinth glistening in the distance.