Courtesy: Thomas Gravanis

A scenic nature trek through history on tranquil Mount Penteli with hidden churches, ancient marble quarries and a Mediterranean picnic—on the outskirts of Athens.

By Amanda Dardanis

Photo: Thomas Gravanis

Trading the tourist trail for a peaceful paradise

Like a great action movie that cuts straight to the chase, we’re struck by knockout views almost as soon as we start our trek up the forested northern slopes of Penteli (or Mount Pentelicus, as it’s also called).

The wide stony trail hugs the mountain edge, falling away to an expansive landscape that’s worlds away from hectic Athens. Beneath us, the valley rolls towards the sea in an emerald sweep of pines, dotted with the terracotta-topped villas of Penteli. We can see as far as the sandy beaches of Schinias on Marathon Bay and Evia island.

“You’d never think you were in Athens,” says my friend Jamila, a fellow hiking nut. “It feels more like we’re in northern Europe.”

A rock and a hard place

Marble marvels

"I try (and fail) to visualise the Herculean Endeavour of shifting all those mammoth marble bricks from here to the Parthenon building site, some 25 kilometres away."

A forager’s fantasy

Picnic at hanging rock

What’s the verdict?