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The four mountains that embrace Athens

02 March 2013 / 19:03:20  GRReporter
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The valley of Athens is the southernmost, the largest and the most-favoured compared to the other two valleys in Attica. It is surrounded on three sides by high mountains and hills, and, at least in the past, it was known for its famous climate. To the south, it stretches down to the sea, thus creating the lacy shores of the Saronic Gulf.

Imittos, Pendeli, Parnitha and Egaleo are the "keepers" of Athens, the mountains that embrace it, supply it with necessary oxygen and cool it down - four mountains, each different from each other, with its own characteristics, nature and importance for the city.

Parnitha

Parnitha is the highest mountain in Attica, located north of Athens, and Carambola is its highest peak (1,413 m). The foot of the mountain is covered with pine forests, and fir-trees grow on its higher parts. In the winter, it is covered with snow for long periods. It has been declared an area of special natural significance and was included in the Natura 2000 network.

Parnitha Casino is built on one of its peaks, Mavrovouni, which can be reached by car or ski-lift. The shelters Mpafi (www.mpafi.gr) and Flabouri (www.flabouri.gr) are also open.

Imittos

Imittos is located in the eastern part of the valley of Athens and reaches Agia Paraskevi and Glika Nera to the north, and Voula and Vari to the south. It boasts abundant vegetation, and its highest peak is Evzona (1,026 m).

The mountain is directly related to the history of ancient Athens and, according to historical sources and findings, there were sanctuaries in the area of the mountain. There were marble-quarries in its western part, which were used for the construction of monuments in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Despite all the attempts to "step" on it, illegal construction and catastrophic fires, Imittos still has rich vegetation and varied flora and fauna that make it an important habitat in Attica.

Pendeli

Pendeli Mountain was once called Vrilisos and its highest point is 1,109 metres. It separates the valley of Athens from the Marathon Field, as well as Mesogeia Valley from the Petalion Gulf to the east. It owes its fame to its marble-quarries. Pendeli’s famous marble was used in ancient times during the Classical Age of Pericles for the construction of monuments such as the first Parthenon on the Acropolis, as well as in the 19th century for the construction of modern buildings. Although Pendeli was once famous for its rich pine forests and its cool waters, the mountain has lost much of its beauty due to fires in the late '90's. It is also being threatened by indiscriminate construction, which is reaching further up the slopes.

Egaleo

Egaleo is the natural boundary of Athens, Piraeus, and West Attica, and its highest point reaches 468 m. Egaleo, Agia Varvara and Haidari are located at its foot, as well as the areas of Piraeus, Korydallos, Keratsini, Perama and Nikea. Once covered with forests, it was a real 'museum' of the flora and fauna of Attica, but the number of mountain pines is very small today. One forest covers Agia Varvara.

From the Mount of Egaleo, Xerxes, King of Persia, watched his huge fleet being defeated by the small number of Athenian ships during the battle of Salamis.

Let’s… take to the woods

Despite the major damage caused by fires and indiscriminate construction, the mountains of Athens offer us oases of greenery and places where we can have fun in a different way.

You can walk and ride a bike in the forest of Imittos, and the asphalt road leads to the peak. If you want to stop and have a cold drink, the restaurant in Kalopoula, Kesariani municipality, is the place to stop. The caves of Imittos are also remarkable. The most important and the biggest one is Koutouki, which is located on the eastern part of the mountain, above Peania.

The eponymous observatory is located in Pendeli, which is part of the National Observatory of Athens and was established in 1959. It organises tours, night-time observations of the sky, and, if the weather permits, it often organises visits of students. The Amomon Cave (Cave of the virtuous) is also very interesting. It hosts one of the major ancient marble-quarries as well as two Byzantine churches. You can access the cave by transportation to a certain point, and then you will have to continue on foot.

On Parnitha, the shelters of Baffi (altitude 1,160 m) and Flabouri (altitude 1,158 m) can accommodate up to 100 people, and hiking there is very popular (www.parnitha-np.gr/oreivasia.htm).

Some places in Egaleo provide paths for walking, cycling, as well as climbing areas.

Tags: Athens Attica mountains Pendeli Imittos Parnitha Egaleo
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