Greece is the home of the Marathon race; we've run the Athens Classic Marathon a couple of times and recommend it highly. However, the country is also well set up for trail running and on our last exploration we discovered a couple of easy to reach destinations - the Hymettos mountain range to the south of Athens and the hiking trails around the village of Steni, on the island of Evvia - that we feel you'll love. All the information we collected is below, it'll give the more intrepid runner all you need to go off on your own. However, if you'd like Dave Wise to arrange hotel and transport, and guide your group runs in these areas and make the whole experience hassle free, then please get in touch for prices (price will depend on time of year and how many of you there are to guide) - email@example.com. Here are a few images to whet your appetite taken during May (an ideal month to visit Greece; it's warm, full of colour and the scent of flowers and it's free of the higher prices and crowds of peak tourism season) of 2016.
Anavasi 1.21/1.22 Northern Imittos (this will cover the best areas of Mt Imittos - which is also spelt Mr Hymettos - in Athens).
Anavasi 5.11 Mt Dirfis - Mt Xerovouni (this will cover Steni and around)
You can buy both of these maps at the Anavasi shop at Voulis 32 , 10557 Athens, which is in the central Plaka area. See www.mountains.gr for more details.
For running in the centre of Athens, around the National Gardens, Lycabettus Hill and Filopappou Hill, you can pick up a free map at the airport, published by Greek Guide, or look on Google Maps and download to your smartphone. Neither are superb for the runner but each area is small and very difficult to get lost in for any great period of time. The images below are taken from Dave's GPS watch stats. Combined with the maps listed above, these should allow you to plan some decent routes (the red dots in Athens signify The Attalos Hotel, whilst in Steni they're the Vasiliki Guesthouse).
In Athens our picks are;
The Attalos - In our opinion the best value 3 star hotel in the city. Very friendly, clean, safe and with a great view of the Acropolis from the roof bar.
The Hera - A step up in quality from the Attalos but still great value, very comfortable and convenient and with a superb breakfast buffet.
In Steni we recommend;
The Vasiliki Guesthouse - Perfectly located a 10 minute walk above Steni village the Vasiliki is everything we'd want in a mountain guesthouse. Your hosts will be a very friendly local family, the rooms are decorated to a high standard, there's tasty, homecooked food on offer for breakfast and the views of village and mountains from balcony and common area are such that you'll be thinking of them long after you leave.
Bars & Restaurants
Whatever style you enjoy eating Athens will have something great for you, every bit as good as what you're used to in your home city and probably a lot cheaper. You can get a legendary kebab at Kostas for E2, or a large felafal wrap for the same price at Ellinkikon, just around the corner at 39, Koloktroni Str, or a simply superb 4 course meal for wine at Aleria for around E50, which is probably a third of what you'd pay for a similar standard anywhere in North America or the UK. Vegetarians and vegans are catered for at almost every restaurant we've ever visited, especially at those we mention below.
In Steni the situation is slightly different. For a small village there are a lot of restaurants as it's popular with Greek day trippers but the area is known for it's meat so menus reflect that; if you'd like to eat vegetarian it's easy enough if you can say 'no meat please' in Greek but vegans may struggle as the concept of not eating dairy is still very unusual here. Luckily, though, there's a well stocked grocery store in the village so there'll always be fresh fruit, salad and breads if you can't find a restaurant to your liking.
Beer Time is without a doubt the best all-round bar experience we've had for several years. Greece has a stunning craft beer scene - based on German brews and in many cases surpassing them in quality - yet usually each beer is only served in the area it's created so if, for instance, you want a beer made on Crete then you have to travel to Crete. But thanks to Thanasis, the owner of Beer Time, you can enjoy over 40 Greek beers (plus several other classics from around the world) here in the centre of Athens, served at the correct temperature, and in the right glass. The pub's location on downtown Iroon Square in Psiri is buzzing at night; there's also great music and the bar menu is well curated to match the beers.
Mystic Pizza is the place to go in Athens for healthy, tasty pizza and pasta (and lots more besides; the salads are excellent). Vegans and vegetarians are excellently provided for and they have their own, light house beer and a well thought out cocktail list. We especially enjoy the location behind the Kallimarmaro Olympic Stadium; there are lots of tables so you never have to wait to be seated, there's a cosy roof garden and it's in a friendly, residential neighbourhood only a 20 minute walk from Syntagma Square. If you're coming down from running Hymettos mountain this is on your route back to the centre of Athens; it's a perfect stop off for a cold drink to refresh you for the final mile or so that remains to the base of the Acropolis.
Bock Beer serves up excellent food (the best mushrooms we've ever had!) and, of course, beer, in a friendly, diner-style location very near to the Hera Hotel. There's an obvious German influence in the style and quality of the fare and the modern, clean design; the 4 young people who run the place studied in Germany and learnt much of their trade there. There's an extensive drinks list, and they specialize in beer cocktails.
Oinopoleion is our final 'must-visit' choice for central Athens. It's a cosy taverna serving wine from it's own vines and traditional food to a mainly local clientele. There's live, authentic village music several nights a week but if you'd rather a quieter visit there's a pretty, shaded garden to the rear. Of all the tavernas offering a taste of traditional Greek food, wine and music, we believe this one to be the best. It's super convenient too if you're staying in the centre as it's just a few steps from Beer Time and a 5 minute walk from both Monastiraki Metro Station and The Attalos Hotel.
These will give you a flavour of what waits for you when you run the trails of Athens and Steni.
If you've any questions, fire away - firstname.lastname@example.org
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We run, we hike, we swim, we bike, we travel. And then we write honestly about it all and make non glossy films as an alternative to the advertiser-focused, unsustainable and largely unethical sports, activity and travel magazines that tend to pass as our mainstream media nowadays. Share our values and want to join us? Get in touch.
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