Updated January 20th, 2023 by Travel the Greek Way
Did you know that hiking in Parnitha mountain in Athens is one of the best things to do in Athens? The Parnitha National Park in Athens is a large mountain, with numerous beautiful trails and a remarkably diverse terrain that surprises you at every turn of the trail.
Parnitha mountain is a short drive from Athens and one of the four mountains that surround Athens: Aigaleo to the west, Parnitha to the north, Penteli to the northeast, and Hymettus to the east.
Hiking in Parnitha mountain, especially during the weekends, is super popular to all ages, to both families and experienced hikers.
Greece is a mountainous country and ideal for hiking like Kalavrita in mainland Greece, the Greek islands like Sifnos in the Cyclades or Hydra in the Argo Saronic islands with many km of beautiful trails.
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Athens Quick Reference
Best Parnitha Hotel – Mpafi Refuge
Katafugio Mpafi is in the center of the forested part of Parnitha Mountain, has traditionally-looking facilities, and is ideal for a hiking weekend in Parnitha. From its terrace, you can see Athens, which is very impressive during nightfall. Check availability and prices on Booking.
Mountain Parnitha National Park
Parnitha is the largest mountain in Athens, overlooking the city with its peak at Karavola at 1,413 meters. It stretches over 300 square kilometers and is part of the EU Natura 2000 network.
In 2007, Parnitha suffered a colossal catastrophic wildfire. It lasted for several days and burnt approximately 56 sq km of pine forest. After the destruction, the state authorities, environmental NGO’s and volunteers organized wide restoration campaigns and actions. They cleared the devastated areas and replanted a large part of the mountain.
However, the burnt area still looks strikingly bare compared to the green lush fir forest that used to be.
Parnitha’s Flora and Fauna
As hunting is strictly forbidden in the area, the herds of red deer, foxes, and other mammals have increased in the last 2 decades. Two packs of about 30 wolves have also been monitored in the area for the first time after 50 years.
On Parnitha’s slopes, you will find pine, fir, hollies, oaks, strawberry trees, and cedars forests, 30 species of mammals, 120 bird species, and over 800 different herbs and plants (including a large number of wild mushrooms).
Hiking Parnitha Mountain
Parnitha mountain is generally ruled by steep ridges, gorges, streams, valleys, deep forests, and plateaus. It offers the richest hiking network from all the mountains of Attica and hundreds of interlinking trails all over the mountain.
Parnitha, almost wherever you begin your hike, has steep slopes, some require climbing or using all 4 limbs. It is a hiker’s heaven and a magnet for nature lovers.
3 Classic Trails in Parnitha National Park
- Thrakomakedones – Chouni Gorge – Mpafi: this is an uphill through an easy gorge crossing all the way to fir forest and Mpafi shelter- 4,4 km
- Mpafi – Skipiza – Mola – Mpafi: a nice circular hike, going through streams, fountains, and dense pine forest – 8.6 km
- Melia – Agios Georgios church – this has a lot of uphill hikes but it is one of the most beautiful trails – 5,1 km
When is the Best Time for Hiking Parnitha?
All year round is great for hiking in Parnitha Mountain. Two notes of precaution:
As summers in Athens can be from really hot to suffocating heatwaves, we sometimes escape to the forestry part of Parnitha. Parnitha also has many springs with drinking water so you can be relatively safe from the heat.
Winter in Greece means snow on mountains and Parnitha can be snowclad for months. Sometimes there are blizzards and hiking on the mountain without a local trained guide, can be risky.
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How to get to Parnitha?
There is some public transport (buses) that makes stops relatively close to the mountain. Still, you would need a lot of walking to get to the Parnitha Casino Parking.
The easiest way to get to Parnitha is by using your own car or a rental. Alternatively, you can book a private hiking tour with pick up and drop off from Athens hotels:
When you get to the Casino parking, you can start hiking from there (Chouni Gorge begins right at the spot) or you can take the Cable Car all the way up.
The short trip in the cable car to Parnitha mountain usually fills me with excitement and I simply love the dense forest that we fly over it.
As soon as I am on solid ground again, I have to cross the vast Parnitha casino, and along with the excited casino players, I walk towards the other side of the casino and its exit. The players are following the dazzling cling and clang noise of the coin-eating machines.
When I get out in the open, I see people sitting around on the low benches, taking photos and enjoying the crisp clear air. Most of them will just go back to the cable car, with no hiking in Parnitha involved. I, on the other hand, started walking briskly towards the easy trail to the Mpafi shelter.
The Trail to Mpafi Refuge
I am following a curving path joining two mountain slopes and evidence of the 2007 dreadful blaze, is all around me. I walk past low shrubs and small pine trees, which barely hide the bareness of the mountain.
In a more positive way of thinking, this bareness offers a beautiful display of the slopes and the in-between gorges; this is a characteristic that I love so much about mountains.
Soon enough, I reach the point where there is a clearly defined junction. One footpath to the left is going to Mpafi and the other one to Flabouri, the second shelter. I take the left fork towards Mpafi.
The trail from Casino to Mpafi Refuge is trail number 8.
- Length: 3 kilometers
- Difficulty: Easy
- Altitude difference: 80 meters (1080 – 1160 meters)
- Dogs: Not allowed (but you will see many hikers with their dogs)
As a general rule, the trails are indicated by simple red signs. Sometimes, you come across yellow rhombi or just plastic pieces of material hanging on branches. Do use your imagination and keep an open eye for the signs!
As I hike, the scenery changes into a denser forest and I can now see the Mpafi refuge sitting on its peak. On my right, and at the bottom, I can see the dry river bed.
At some point, I cross the dry river bed and I have either to climb a steep uphill slope to the shelter or take the easier path further down and in a circular way. I chose the easy path and started walking embracing the peacefulness around me.
After a few minutes of possibly the most “challenging” part of the whole trek, the smells of the delicious food emanating from the shelter welcomed me to its premises.
Hiking in Parnitha most of the time involves a lot of food!
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Mpafi Refuge Facilities
Mpafi shelter in Parnitha belongs to the Greek Mountaineering Club of Athens, (EOS Athinon), one of the oldest hiking clubs in Greece.
In its diner, you can choose from a wide variety of Greek traditional dishes like fasolada (beans soup), Greek hikers meal or pasta with cheese, children’s favorite.
Mpafi also offers simple accommodation in dorms and all kinds of outdoor activities around its premises. What I most like about Mpafi is that it is an easy approach either on foot or by car (there is a large parking area beside the shelter) and you can have a coffee in nature with stunning mountain views.
Or you can continue to some more serious hiking in Parnitha, to a number of signed paths starting from Mpafi.
Mpafi gets very busy during the weekends and it is a self-service facility. After doing my rounds in the refuge, I was soon heading back taking the same path towards the Casino.
As I approach the Parnitha Casino and the cable car, I can see the whole of Athens, the Argo – Saronic islands and the sea, and the mountains of Penteli, Hymettus, and Tourkovounia, a view that makes me happy to live in this city.
Hiking Gear for Parnitha Mountain
I always take my walking sticks with me, even though the path is one of the easiest hiking Parnitha.
Generally speaking, I am very satisfied with my Lowe Alpine backpack and the way it keeps my back always dry no matter the heat in Greece. My only grievance is that I bought it a small size so I can’t carry a lot of stuff, especially for winter when I may need an extra warm fleece with me.
How to get to Piraeus port from Athens Airport
- Bus: If you are arriving at Athens International airport you can travel straight to the port by taking the X96 express bus (€6, children <6 yo, free entrance), which departs every 40 minutes and the average trip lasts 1 hour – runs 24/7
- Athens Metro (€10 ) is easily found across airport arrivals (blue line – M3) going directly to Piraeus port. The average trip to Piraeus lasts 1 hour
- Taxis are available in front of the airport (around €40, take up to 4 people)
- Rent a car with Discover cars to rent reliable new cars at affordable prices
- You don’t like driving but love hassle-free solutions? Book a Private transfer with an English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries, or anywhere else in Greece
Where Best to Stay in Athens
Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon?
Or do you prefer central Apartments in Athens?
Whichever your preferences I have collected the best options for your staying in Athens below:
Plan Your Next Trip to Greece With These Resources
- Greece Packing List – What to pack for a 10-day trip to Greece
- Mamma Mia Greece Locations – All the mainland and island shooting areas in Greece
- Salamina Island – So close to Athens, so unknown to the mass tourism
- Kefalonia Island – Belonging to the Ionian group like Corfu island
- First Time in Greece? All the info you need to know!
Some of my Most Favorite Travel Resources for Greece
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Ya sou” and “Efharisto”
- FerryScanner or FerryHopper to book ferries to the Greek Islands
- Rent an Affordable Car in Greece
- Athens Metro Website (timetables and tickets info)
- Map of Athens Metro
- Trains (Hellenic Train)
- Public Buses KTEL
- Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals on both hotels and apartments, free cancellations, and great prices!
- Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
- COVID Info for Greece: Ministry of Tourism Official Website
- Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100– EMERGENCY NUMBER 112