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Update: As of the begining 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 extend 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 on 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!
Tatoi Royal Estate is the perfect place for a quick and easy afternoon trip from Athens. It lies in a beautiful forested area at the foothills of Mount Parnitha at the northern edge of the Greek capital. Even in a less than ideal weather conditions, when the top of the mountain hides in thick clouds, Tatoi is still a pleasant place for a brief yet refreshing forest walk.
Tatoi was purchased by King George in 1872 and for the next, almost 100 years served as a political center as well as a summer house to the Greek Royal family. Don’t be fooled by the fancy sounding name though. The estate was abandoned in the seventies and left to slowly decay. The buildings were emptied and fenced, their windows and doors jammed in and left to crumble and overgrow by vegetation.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a good ol’ruin, most of my favorite castles back home have been turned into charming piles of rocks by the ravages of time. But here all the poorly executed attempts for preservation and maintenance ended up destroying the charm of the place.
However, the park itself is a beautiful mix of pine forest, deciduous groves, and meadows crisscrossed by numerous paths and tracks perfect for easy hiking or cycling. The area around the estate is fitted out by signs and information tables explaining the purpose of the buildings and way of life at the estate as well as the diverse flora of the area.
Further away, there are no signs or markings but we managed to get around the park just fine with only Google Maps on our phones. Even though the area is also included in the Mount Parnitha map, both from Terrain and Anavasi, I didn’t ring the printed maps particularly helpful or clear on this case.
To read more about the history of Tatoi Royal Estate and enjoy historical photos of the palace in its full glory check out THIS awesome article from Kathimerini.
How to get to Tatoi Royal Estate from Athens
By car: The drive from the center of Athens takes around 40 minutes and the park itself is easy to find following the Leoforos Tatoiou from Nea Ionia. There are two main parking spots on the main road passing by the Tatoi Estate. Leaving the car at the first one means that you’ll have to walk for about 3 kilometers to reach the main buildings of the Tatoi Estate while the second car park is just a short walk away.
We choose the first option and left our car at the first parking spot at the side of an old unused asphalt road branching to the right from the main road near the Leonidas tavern. Following the same road, we hiked through the rolling countryside of the estate all the way to the palace passing the homestead and administration buildings first.
For the way back we choose a different road passing through the forest further to the east. It starts at the sun clock tower near the Royal Palace and joins our asphalt road couple hundred meters above the parking. Walking through the jungle-like forest adorn by the beautiful colors of autumn was my favorite part of the trip and well worth the detour!
By bus: The Tatoi Royal Estate can be visited by the Athenian public transport as well but this way you’ll definitely have to hike for quite a bit. To get to the beginning of the trail take the bus number 509 from Kifisia all the way to its last stop at Kryoneri (Kynourias). From here, you’ll have a choice of dirt roads and tracks heading across the forest to the Royal Palace about 5 kilometers away.