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Snow-capped mountains are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Greek capital, Athens. But it does snow around here almost every winter and when the time comes, a short trip to one of the mountains surrounding the city can be a magical experience and true winter wonderland.
Mount Parnitha at the northern outskirts of Athens is the best choice for a winter hiking trip. It has all you could wish for, from snowy forests to wide vistas across the white landscape and cozy mountain huts serving hearty meals and rakomelo to the frozen hikers.
It is easy to reach from the center of Athens, too. Just take the green metro line all the way to its last stop at Kifisia where you’ll change for the sporadic but reliable bus number 504. It’ll take you up to the foothills of Mount Parnitha at Thrakomakedones. The best stop to get off the bus is Agia Trianda, easy to recognize thanks to a large church of the same name right next to it.
From Trakomakedones, you can ascent to one of Parnithas mountain huts, Flabouri and Bafi, or visit both to get the most of the snowy mountains. My favorite hike starts with the climb to Bafi refuge through the treeless slopes of Houni valley rewarded by a testy fasolada (bean soup) at the refuge.
Right outside Bafi, the path disappears into a forest following the main road towards Flabouri. This was the easiest and possibly most pleasant section of our hike. The terrain was mostly flat and the scenery of snowy trees and sparkling icicles fairy-tale worthy. At a few places, the views opened up and we could see as far as the sea and the mountains of Evia on the horizon, all white and mysterious.
The easiest way to descend from Flabouri to Thrakomakedones is via the Flabouritsa ridge but even this was a torturous endeavor. Once below the line of snow the steep, rocky path turned into a slippery mix of ice and mud and I spend the next hour or so trying not to fall while regretting my decision not to bring my hiking poles.
In general, winter hiking on Mount Parnitha shouldn’t be underestimated. Good winter hiking boots and warm clothes are a must for this kind of trip and gaiters together with hiking poles highly recommended.
Even if hiking isn’t your thing or you don’t have the necessary equipment to spent a day on the snow you can still enjoy the winter beauty of Parnitha. The main road to Bafi refuge is often open even if there is a lot of snow all around or there is the option to use a free gondola lift running between Thrakomakedones and the Casino. In any case, it’s a good idea to check the current weather condition and the Facebook pages of both refuges are a good place to start (Bafi Refuge, Flabouri Refuge).