Mountain trails dressed in the colors of late autumn, stone houses nestled among fir trees, traditional coffee shops hidden under perennial plane trees and delicious, fragrant pot roasts. Now that the chimneys in the mountains have started to smoke and winter clothes have found their way into our closets, Greece’s villages invite us to enjoy the run-up to the festive season in close proximity to nature and tradition.
With only a few weeks left until the Christmas holidays, late November and early December is ideal for a quick getaway from the routine of city life. We don’t need to go far to enjoy the sight of falling leaves and the smell of fresh soil awakening from the rain. Greece is full of picturesque mountain villages and historic trails that showcase the beauty of this magical time of year. We have chosen five villages within easy reach of Athens that have not lost their warmth and authenticity.
Chestnut trees, fir trees, pine trees, historic churches, caves, and valleys make up the unique landscape that surrounds the village of Seta or Setta, on the southeastern slopes of Mount Dirfi on Evia. The village, supposedly named after the beautiful French wife of the area’s Turkish ruler, is notable for its traditional stone-built houses, springs, and exceptional food.
The “Alps of Evia” are only 128km (about two hours by car) from Athens. Seta is the island’s highest village, built at an elevation of 740m. It is ideal for a peaceful, rejuvenating weekend away from the city. Seta consists of two settlements, Ano Seta and Kato Seta, where the historic Aeton Square is located. It is also worth visiting the 19th-century chapel of Panagia Ampoudiotissa, the Cave of Seta, and Volathros, the deepest chasm in Evia. You can also explore the surrounding area and its villages, where the Greek chieftains are said to have found refuge during the Greek War of Independence. Seta has four tavernas that primarily serve meat, but you can also drive down to Amaryntho for seafood and ouzo.
The village of Kyriaki, one of the most beautiful villages in Viotia, on the northwestern slopes of Mount Helicon, is a two-hour drive away. Kyriaki is built at an elevation of 760m amidst a lush fir tree forest. With a population of over 2,000, Kyriaki has managed to survive because the younger generation is able to find work at the nearby village of Arachova.
In addition to strolling down the winding streets to the village square, you should definitely visit Palaiokastro, the hill on which the town of Phlygonion once stood before it was destroyed by the Persian armies of Xerxes during their passage through ancient Phocis, as well as Arvanitsa, which is only 8km from Kyriaki and is known for its music festival. You can unwind at the café-restaurant in the village or explore one of the many trails on this unique plateau in the foothills of Mount Helicon.
The small village of Pisia, in the Geraneia Mountains, just above the town of Loutraki, is even closer to Athens and ideal for day trips. Pisia is located at an elevation of 650m and is surrounded by pine trees, plane trees, and springs. This beautiful village of about 100 inhabitants, just 15km from Loutraki and 100km from Athens, offers visitors excellent views of the Gulf of Corinth, as well as many beautiful trails throughout the region, which is dotted with churches, such as the Byzantine Church of Aghios Athanasios.
Pisia has two good tavernas, one in the village square and one further out in the forest, as well as a café-bar. You can also combine your visit with a trip to Loutraki, Lake Vouliagmeni, and the archaeological site of Heraion.
The village of Pavliani is located in the highlands of Phthiotis, hidden within a forest of evergreen pine trees on the southeastern slopes of Mount Oeta at an elevation of 1,040m. Just three hours by car from Athens, Pavliani is one of the most beautiful destinations for fall and winter weekends and short nature getaways. Known for its Park and the artistic temperament of its inhabitants, who have managed to transform their village into a popular destination, Pavliani is ideal for families with young children as well as older children who love hiking.
The village consists of two settlements, Ano Pavliani and Kato Pavilani. Between the two villages you will find the Park with its many hiking trails, such as the one that leads to the “Throne of Zeus,” which is 1,260m above sea level and offers amazing views of the Malian Gulf. Many other trails begin at Pavliani, if you’re keen on exploring the surrounding mountains. You can also visit the National Park of Oeta, with its impressive canyons and Kremastos, the highest waterfall of Central Greece.
Lying southwest of the city of Sparti, on the eastern slopes of Mount Taygetus, 235km from Athens, the village of Anavryti is another beautiful wintertime destination. At an elevation of 800m, with stone-built houses and numerous springs, which may have given the village its name, Anavryti is known for its many hiking trails that extend all over Mount Taygetus.
In the 19th century, Anavryti had twice the population of Sparti due to its thriving tanning industry, but today there are very few residents left and only one traditional coffeeshop–taverna. However, it is home to many churches from the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period, and the Church of Faneromeni, as well as the abandoned settlement of Perganteika, are both within walking distance of the village. If you’re up for a night on the town and don’t mind the long, winding roads, you can take the 15-km drive down to Sparti.