The Parikia- Kakapetra- Thapsana- Marathi Hike
A distinctive hike through old, forgotten footpaths on hillsides & untouched rural landscapes, passing by Thapsana Monastery and the valley of Vounia to end with an exploration of the ancient marble quarries in Marathi. Also includes visit to the 16th c. Aghios Minas monastery – can be extended to 6h30m circular tour.
Description After meeting at Parikia main square, we go through the traditional settlement before getting on an uphill concrete-paved road to Kakapetra. As we leave the town behind and get on our way to the mountains, the road turns to a dirt track and a footpath later.
The footpath gets narrower as we go through a ravine. We walk surrounded by lots of fragrant bush such as sage, oregano, savory and thyme, as well as cistus, lampwick plant, Jerusalem sage (Phlomis), Spanish broom, and trees like juniper, wild olive and cypress. When plants are in bloom, the hillsides are multi-coloured, dotted with all sorts of wild flowers (poppies, anemones, irises, lillies) and herbs. In springtime, what is especially striking is the multitude of the tall lupin flowers, forming purple carpets in the olive groves on the sides of the ravine.
Exiting the walled but sometimes rugged footpath just below Thapsana monastery, we walk on dirt road before entering another centuries-old footpath. This mild, downhill path goes through olive groves, vineyards and some grain fields. As we go past some old, crumbling farmsteads, we are reminded of the times when the green valley of Vounia (mostly desolate now) was a rural community, served by the same walled footpaths we walk on.
The path gets wilder as we advance towards Marathi, with more greenery and thriving bushes. Our trail passes through olive groves, cereal fields and vineyards, some of which are cultivated. Feeling the tranquility of the gentle hillsides with the ‘pezoules’ (terraced, century -old hillside fields, we pass by a solitary chapel, before we pause for a snack in the shade of a large oak tree, a rare and amazing sight on the island.
From Vounia, we continue on a mildly uphill north until we reach Aghios Minas, a recently restored but uninhabited 16th-century walled monastery, a fine specimen of the numerous fort-like post-Byzantine monasteries in the Cycladic islands. After a tour of the monastery (including some anecdotes and tales from the monastery keeper), we go on to enter the marble quarries site. Walking on dirt and gravel tracks, we reach the Cave of Pan, one of the two ancient mining caves. Putting on headlamps and taking necessary precautions, we descend in the ancient marble quarry, where the prized ‘lychnites’ marble was excavated in classical times to be used in masterpieces such as the Venus of Milos, the Hermes of Praxiteles, the Acropolis Kore, the Nike of Delos and the Nike of Samothrace. Moving deep inside the cave, we explore the galleries, the traces of the titanic work of the ancient miners and the stalactites created through the ages, and hunt for the last lychnite slabs. After that, through winding trails in the bushes, we go down to the Nymphs’ quarry, open as mouth in the rock, and descend to find the Olympian gods’ relief (350 BC) in the cave entrance. After an optional visit to a modern open-air marble carving workshop, it’s high time for our hearty ‘Taste of Paros’ wine picnic in the yard of a nearby chapel, cooling off the shadow of tall cypresses. After that, it’s the bus for our return to Parikia.
As an extended, more demanding version (circular route, 18 km), we may continue along the medieval Parikia-Lefkes footpath (in parts widened to a country lane) that goes through the flat and serene grain fields and orchards of Marathi. A short uphill scramble around the wooded hills above Elitas and we’ re on our descent route through some rougher shepherds’ trails; from Elitas we go on dirt track, asphalt (metaled) road & trail back to Livadia and Parikia.
In a nutshell [The inland hike that has it all!] Countryside/hiking/views/history, moderate difficulty (with soft caving adventure!), distance 12/18 km, duration 5h/6h30m (with stops & visits), elevation ±400 m.