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Mount Ymettos west part

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This is an ideal place to enjoy a day away from the busy center of Athens. If you carry your supplies you can enjoy a picnic at nature.

panorama kessariani1

Mount Ymettos is a long, narrow mountain of 20 km total length while its highest peak reaches 1,026 m.
6.4 Km (4.0 miles) away from Syntagma square

Highlights of the western part:

- The Orthodox Monastery of Kessariani

It is believed that the monastery was established in Byzantine times in ca. 1100 as this is the date of construction of the surviving church. But, the site has a far longer history as a cult center. In Antiquity, before being taken over by Christians in the 5th/6th centuries, it was probably a site dedicated to goddess Aphrodite.
Moreover, next to the Monastery there are remains of the 10th/11th centuries such as a large early Christian basilica to the west, and a smaller church further.

Early monks of Kessariani had their cells and refectory equipped with a Roman plan bath-house with hot and cold baths and a warm water heating system.
During the Ottoman occupation the luxurious bathhouse was transformed into a more utilitarian oil press, parts of which have been preserved.
During World War II all the trees of the surrounding hill were cut down. In about 1964 the Athens Friends of the Tree Society “Philodasiki” took charge and have planted them after. The large garden of the monastery is now a peaceful sanctuary.

Please keep in mind that Kessariani Monastery is an active church. So, if you intend to visit it dress appropriately. Inappropriate clothing includes sleeveless shirts, shorts, miniskirts e.tc.

Kessariani Monastery is an excellent starting point for a hike, a bicycle ride or just a picnic on Mt. Ymettos since it has paths that lead to the forest. The scenery and the full city view makes Kessariani Monastery a popular recreation spot, especially on the weekends.

panorama monastery

- The aesthetic forest

The whole area, successfully reforested by Philodassiki after extensive efforts was declared an “Aesthetic Forest” in the Presidential Decree PD 71/94. The aesthetic forest covers an area of 4,460 acres and surrounds the Byzantine Monastery of Kessariani.
It stretches from the edge of the city to the rocky slopes of Ymettos at 760 meters altitude. Medium and strong slopes dominate the area (30% - 65%) the area is ideal for leisure activities such as hiking and cycling.
Various species of trees grow in the forest, but cypresses and pine trees predominate.

- Botanical walk

The garden that originally established in 1964, on land near the Monastery of Kessariani, was the home of over 200 different species of plants from Southern and Central Greece, the Aegean islands and Crete.
Altitude: 360 - 410m
Orientation: Northern - Northwestern

Αlong the paths the visitor can see many species of plants and trees with their Greek and Latin names written on beautiful wooden signs.
The aim of the garden is threefold: conservation, education and pleasure. The conservation of rare and threatened with extinction species is the primary purpose of most botanical gardens today. The members of Philodassiki Society are very concerned with the ever increasing growth of plants on the Red Data Book list. Of paramount importance is, therefore, the existence of the nursery of Philodassiki for the multiplication of threatened plants and their reintroduction to the garden.

 

How to get there

Public bus 224 From Syntagma To Kessariani Cemetery takes about 50 min depending on traffic.
From the Cemetery the Monastery is 2 km walk (altitude difference 275m / 942 ft) .

By taxi 20-35 mins. Cost about 7€ one way.
For your way back you need to have an appointment with the driver or use a relevant app on mobile phone (e.g. BEAT, UBER). Additionally you can walk downhill to the cemetery where there are taxis.
If you go with your private car please note that car access to the forest is prevented by bars after the dusk, especially during the summer period. Also parking is not very easy on weekends as this for the Athenians is a popular place to go.

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