The Schinias Bay on the eastern coast of Attica is well known among the Athenians. Its beautiful long sandy beach is probably the best in such a close proximity to the Greek capital and is popular day trip destination during the long Mediterranean summer.
However, Schinias is so much more than just a pretty seaside. The beach is lined by a beautiful pine forest, one of the only three coastal pine forests in Greece. And behind the forest lie Schinias wetlands or the Great Marsh as it was called through the ancient times. Being the only coastal wetland area in Attica, the Great Marsh is home to diverse wildlife and important resting point for many species of birds migrating to their summer and winter habitats.
Despite its natural beauty and importance, the area was tortured by human interference for many years. The draining of the marsh in hope of more agricultural land, the questionable advantages of the Olympic rowing center or the illegally built taverns lining the coast are just a few sad examples.
Hopefully, the Greek officials are starting to understand the importance of environmental protection and together with the amazing self-healing power of nature it will mean keeping this little oasis intact for the next generations. Meanwhile, picking few pieces of trash after the less enlightened visitors can go a long way.
We decided to dust off our bicycles this time to enjoy a beautiful Autumn day exploring the Bay of Schinias and the wetlands. We loosely based our trip on the no.2 cycling trail described in detail on the Paths of culture website. Loosely in the sense that we were lost more often than not as there are almost no signs along the way. We also made the trip slightly longer parking our car at Marathon Beach (Ag.Panteleimonas) and riding through the agricultural landscape between Marathon and Schinias.
Cycling through the countryside of Schinias and Maraton is a pleasure for any Sunday cyclist like me. The area is completely flat and the roads are either wide and comfortable dirt tracks or asphalt roads with very little traffic. Add beautiful surroundings and balmy sunny weather for the perfect afternoon ride.
Starting from Marathon beach the road follows the coast for couple hundred meters before turning inland. It meanders through small fields, gardens and holiday homes for another 3 – 4 kilometers before reaching the crossroad at the entrance to the Olympic Rowing Centre. The crossroad cannot be missed with its size being completely out of place in the rural countryside.
We turn left at the crossroad and then right just before the first houses of the settlement of Schinias. This led us to a nice comfortable track heading towards the Makaria Spring. After a while, you’ll notice a smaller road branching to the right across a narrow stream. Take it in order to dive (metaphorically, let’s hope) into the western part of the wetlands near the rowing center.
Emerging from the marsh we joined the main road towards Kato Souli. There is one very confusing sign at the small settlement of Agios Georgios pointing towards the rowing center and watchtower. It led us nowhere and after few minutes we ended up back on the road racing the tractors and tracks.
After a while, we reached a small square with a sign pointing back to the coast of Schinias. The road heads straight to the beach crossing the wetlands once more. There are plenty other smaller tracks emerging from the marsh giving the opportunity to explore the unique landscape as much as you desire. Moreover, there is a modern wooden watchtower for bird watching that will satisfy all the ornithology enthusiasts.
Once back at the coast we made a short break at the beach and returned back the same way as we come. However, there are marked trails crisscrossing the beautiful pine forest if you wish to make the trip little bit longer.