With the holiday celebrations behind us and the weather getting cooler, it’s tempting to hunker down indoors and wait for spring, but Athens is full of opportunities to keep that holiday cheer going and explore gorgeous nature just a stone’s throw from the city center. After all, is there a better way to start the new year than experiencing Greek nature?
Just 6 km (under 4 miles) from Syntagma Square, you’ll find yourself entering Kesariani Forest on the slopes of Mount Ymittos. There’s plenty to see and do here: You can visit the famous 11th century Byzantine monastery, see the quaint Chapel of Ascension, walk along the many hiking trails that wind among the pines and cypresses, and reach the forest’s many lookout spots to take in the splendid views of the city.
Head to the coast and discover the Athens Riviera, which stretches from Paleo Faliro all the way south to Cape Sounio and the famed Temple of Poseidon. With views out across the Saronic Gulf toward the island of Egina and the Peloponnese in the far distance, the Athens Riviera is known for its fabulous beachfront restaurants and cafés, gorgeous city beaches, and spectacular sunsets. Seafront properties give way to pristine coves the further south you go.
Diomedes Botanical Garden, in the western suburb of Haidari, is one the city’s hidden gems and, at 460 acres, is the largest botanical garden in Greece — and the southeastern Mediterranean! About a fifth of the area serves as a typical botanical garden, hosting more than 2500 plant taxa, while the rest of the terrain is covered by spontaneous flora, including the oldest natural pine forest in Attica. With its stunning collection of hundreds of plant species, the garden is as fascinating as it is beautiful — a veritable oasis in the Greek capital.
At 1,413 m (4,3636 ft), Mount Parnitha is the highest mountain in Attica and is an ideal place for nature lovers and those who need an escape from the city. A large area of Mount Parnitha is designated a National Park; densely forested with firs and pines that form a lush green blanket over its slopes, it provides a habitat to a host of wildlife including red deer. The mountain boasts numerous hiking trails, as well as notable monasteries and ancient sites, and of course Tatoi Palace, the summer palace of the Greek Royal Family.
Whichever direction you choose, Athens will surprise you with its stunning nature and landscapes. To make the most of your visit, make sure you’re well prepared (don’t forget to check weather forecasts, opening times and transport links!), stay safe, and have fun exploring the city’s great outdoors!