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Update: As of the beginning 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 extent 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 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!
The 1.119 meters high Xerovouni summit is located at the eastern side of Mount Parnitha right above the Tatoi forest. It is much more remote and peaceful than Tatoi yet equally beautiful and offers widespread views towards Athens, Penteli, Lake Marathon, and even the Euboean Gulf.
Getting there, signposting, maps & difficulty
To get to the beginning of the trail you’ll need a car, unfortunately, there are no public buses going this far. It took us around 45 minutes to reach the trailhead from the center of Athens and the drive was pretty straightforward (see Google Map HERE). We parked our car near a tavern called To Chani and continued on foot from here.
With 850 meters of elevation gain and over 15 kilometers in length, this hike was rather challenging. Both the initial climb to Katsimidi ridge and the ascent of Xerovouni Summit were quite tiring and the higher we got the steeper and rockier the path was.
The majority of the trail was marked by orange signs painted on rocks and trees as well as small cairns. It wasn’t too difficult to follow once on the trail. That being said, the beginning of the trail was pretty unclear and we encountered a couple of confusing crossroads along the way.
The trail wasn’t very frequented either except for a short section between Koromilia Spring and Mesiano Nero so there weren’t many opportunities to ask for direction. You can check out the trail on Wikilock HERE but I recommend bringing a hiking map as well. Both Anavasi’s and Terrain’s map of Mount Parnitha cover this section of the mountain.
Katsimidi & Xerovouni
The trail to Katsimidi starts on a grassy meadow with a couple of wooden picnic tables near a tavern called To Chani. Walk across the meadow and at its end you’ll find a path heading uphill (to the left) with orange signs marking the way. It took us a while to find but once on the trail, it was easy to follow.
Right from the beginning, it was a steady climb through lush, bushy vegetation. But it didn’t take long and we reached the ridge with a dirt road running across. Turn left here if you want to make a detour to the rocky top of Katsimidi (849 meters) with remains of an ancient watchtower, firefighter lookout, and panoramic views.
Otherwise, turn right and you’ll see a trail branching to the right marked by a wooden pole with a purple sign. It follows the ridge for a few hundred meters through bushes and Greek Strawbery trees offering first glimpses of Xerovouni. From a distance, the summit of Xerovouni doesn’t look particularly high or difficult to reach and we agreed this is gonna be an easy climb. As usual, we were wrong!
After a while, the trail started its descend towards Lakka Tsaousi, and once at the bottom of a saddle, it joined another trail. We turned left here and walked towards Tsaousi Spring, one of my favorite spots along this hike. It may be different during the dry summer months, but at the beginning of January, the woods were full of small bubbly streams creating a lovely scene.
Soon we reached another dirt road, turned right, and continued uphill. The next part was tricky. At the second turn of the road, we found a trail branching to the right marked by a large cairn.
Strangely, an orange arrow painted on the rock underneath indicated that we should continue straight. After a bit of confusion and a brief consultation with our map, we decided to ignore the paint for once and follow the trail. Apparently, it was the right choice.
The path was narrow and overgrown by vegetation at first but the higher we got the rockier it become. It run straight up through the hillside and every time we stopped to catch our breath we got to admire more and more beautiful views.
At the top, the terrain flattened and our trail almost disappeared on the barren rocky slope. However, it was still pretty easy to navigate our way to the small concrete pillar marking the summit of Xerovouni.
We arrived at the top at the same time as a thick white foggy cloud which destroyed our hopes for a lunch break with a view. Instead, we took a quick selfie, wrapped ourselves in our windbreakers, and rushed down towards Koromilia spring.
Koromilia Spring, Mesiano Nero and back
There are multiple trails descending from the top of Xerovouni and it was quite confusing to find the right one. The trail to Koromilia continued to be marked by orange paint and got much clearer once it dived into a forest. The scenery changed completely at this side of the mountain and soon enough we walked through a thick, fir forest with streams running across the path and mushrooms peaking from the moss-covered soil.
At Koromilia Spring we joined a forest road and turned right towards Mesiano Nero. There is a marked trail running along the side of the road crossing it multiple times.
We decided to stick with the road, though, in order to relieve our tired legs and to enjoy the lovely surroundings. This section of the trail is quite popular thanks to its close proximity to Flambouri Refuge and the asphalt road and we met many hikers along the way.
Shortly after the spring at Mesiano Nero, the forest road joins an asphalt road. Right at the intersection, you’ll see another dirt road running to the right. It will turn into a clear trail after a while descending back towards Katsimidi. About halfway through the descent, we met another dirt road, very muddy at the time we visited, that took us safely all the way back to our car.