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This little hike to the Trypia Cave at southern Hymettus was a pleasant surprise for me. I’ve been eyeing the hills above the southern suburbs of Athens for a while now but I didn’t expect much more than some pretty sea vistas. However, a few hundred meters above the last houses of Terpsithea neighborhood of Glyfada lies a tiny mountain paradise full of caves, cliffs, rocky paths, and pine tree groves. Even on a beautiful sunny Saturday, it was deserted adding to the feeling of being far away from the busy capital.
It’s extremely easy to reach by public transport, too. The bus 205 took us from the metro station Elliniko all the way up to Terpsithea in about 10 minutes. We got off the bus at the last stop and continued up until we arrived at a football pitch. The trail starts on the other side of the pitch behind the cabins. There are many paths crisscrossing the area and the map of Hymettus by Terrain were very helpful for navigating our way to the cave and back. The round trail we took had around 8km. However, it included a shortcut through a seemingly deserted army base which I do not recommend. But more about that later.
The first section of the trail climbs straight up from the football field and is marked by faded red markings painted on the rocks. After couple hundred meters of ascent, the path flattens and follows a ridge along an old rusty fence. Not before long it turns up again towards the Mavrovouni hilltop testing our fitness levels in the most strenuous part of the hike. Once reaching the bottom of the cliffs crowning Mavrovouni the climbing is over. From here the trail follows a contour line passing some slightly exposed places and providing amazing views down to the valley and towards the highest peak of Mount Hymettus in the distance.
The Trypia Cave is impossible to miss! The opening of the cave is up to 15m high and 10m wide. The ceiling caved in creating a natural arch at the entrance to the cave. With some caution, you can climb through the cave to the top of the arch. There are few difficult places along the way especially for those of us suffering from mild acrophobia but the efforts are worth it. It’s the perfect place for a lunch break while admiring both the impressive cave underneath and the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
According to the myth, the cave used to be a favorite among the fairies of the area. Once, a young shepherd decided to stay at the arch to see if the tales were true. Around midnight, the fairies appeared at the bridge singing and dancing. The boy was so amazed by their beauty that he left his hideaway. When the fairies noticed him they panicked and disappeared forever. The poor shepherd spent the rest of his life wandering around the cave in the hopes of spotting the beautiful fairies again…
After we climbed back down to the path we turned right and continued towards a place called Stavros Pass. This part of the trail has fresh new markings painted on the rocks with information about walking times. There are few smaller caves and pits along the path and ruins of what could be an old watchtower.
At the Stavros Pass, the path joins the ancient Sfittia Odos (road) connecting the area around Koropi with Glyfada and Athens. Today this is just a narrow path used only by the occasional hikers. However, up until 1950s the route was frequently traveled by farmers carrying merchandise on the top of their donkeys to Athens. During the 19th century, it was also often used by students from Koropi and the adjoining villages attending schools and universities in Athens.
From the pass, you can choose from three different options. To the right, the Sffitia road descends down towards Koropi between the hills of Profitis Ilias and Mavrovouni. The path leading onward goes to the Profitis Ilias church some 35 minutes away. We turned left and followed the path marked by red signs down to the valley. After a few hundred meters a sign pointing to the left will lead you to a tiny cave, but there is not much to see there.
However, a little bit further there is another sign, this time to a gulch. Not very sure what a gulch is we followed this one until we reached a deep circular ravine cut into the hillside. It’s hard to appreciate the enormity of the ravine from the top without falling into it and to descend to the bottom you would need special equipment and knowledge. To get an idea, check out this site with some great photos from the bottom of the gulch and the adjoining cave.
The last section of this hike is a bit tricky. Looking at the map, we saw two options for the return back to Terpsithea. A path branching off to the right and running around the valley or a dirt road going through the middle of the valley straight down to Terpsithea. We choose the second one as it seemed shorter and it was a bad idea!
After a few hundred meters the road is barred by an old rusty gate. There is a sign informing that this is some kind of army area and entrance is not allowed. However, the fence was gone and the whole place looked abandoned so we continued on. To our surprise, the other end at Terpsithea wasn’t abandoned at all and we ended up at the guardhouse answering questions for at least half an hour. It ended up well for us but I wouldn’t risk it again and don’t recommend it to anyone!
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