The Valley of Lefkes & the Byzantine Way: 3 Hikes
by xkorov · Published · Updated
Longer or shorter (5-11km), easier walks or rewarding hikes, our three hikes in the broader Lefkes and Marpissa area have it all; traditional village charm, the famous Byzantine Way, countryside nature, rugged hillsides and old monasteries and chapels! (Click on alternative routes below for details)
Description This is a 5km circular hike accessible to most, combining traditional village charm, rural beauty… and a traditional coffee & sweets ending!
Using private transfer private transfer/ on the morning bus from Parikia (10 km), we arrive at Lefkes village, the biggest inland settlement in medieval times. We start at the main village square with a short tour around the labyrynthine alleys and the stacked white-washed houses, visiting chapels, the cathedral and & other picturesque corners of the traditional village that dates back to the 10th c. AD. Then, we find the beginning of the so-called “Byzantine Way”, a stone-paved donkey trail built centuries ago to connect the island’s main villages. We start on a mostly downhill route affording great views to the Paros-Naxos channel and walk on age-old marble rocks that pave the way to Prodromos village. As we go by ancient terraced hillside fields (‘pezoules’), farmers’ stone huts and Byzantine-age stone-built bridges, we admire centuries-old olive trees and savour the sweet scent of the various wild aromatic herbs that border the route (sage, oregano, thyme, wild fennel, honeysuckle and felty germander – ‘Teucrium Polium’).
Half-way to Prodromos village, we leave the Byzantine way to start on a winding dirt track through fruit orchards, olive groves and vineyards. The track becomes the old, narrow stone cutters’ trail (that used to connect the village with the nearest marble quarry), which climbs up to the Holy Trinity church (with is sculpted marble iconostasis) and the old square of Lefkes, where our efforts are rewarded with a nice cup of Greek coffee and traditional hand-made cookies and sweets at a local cafe (included in tour price).
Questions or more info? Ask here.
In a nutshell [A walk in the heart of Paros] Countryside/traditional village/history/taste, easy, distance 5 km, net elevation gain/loss ±80 m, duration 3h30m (walking time: 2h30m).
Description Sharing a part of Route 1, this route offers hikers a taste of traditional culture & architecture, as well a rewarding hike in unspoilt Cycladic countryside! We start at Lefkes, the medieval central village (founded in the 9th c. AD to protect the island population from the Saracen pirate raids), and walk through the centuries-old, maze-like alleys with houses blending the traditional cube-like Cycladic style with the neoclassical. We visit chapels (sometimes built with architectural salvage from ancient temples), the old village square and the marble-built cathedral of Holy Trinity – where the Byzantine Way can be spotted, a serpentine unfolding on the terraced hillsides opposite the church.
We only walk the ancient, herb-scented trail half-way: we leave the stone-paved main path to go east on an agricultutal track through the olive groves and abandoned vineyards, which forks to a narrow, winding footpath. This eventually takes us down to a small gorge, green with wild olive tree, juniper, cypress and shrub. We cross a dry, marble-white river bed and scramble to the other side, up ancient stone-built terraces. After a while, the white-washed 17th c. monastery of Agia Kyriaki comes in sight. It is a typical, well-preserved specimen of the late-medieval fort-like monasteries that abound in the Cycladic islands. After visiting the monastery church, its inner courtyard and facilities, we can opt for a “Taste of Paros” picnic in the monastery courtyard, prepared with local food and wine on a marble table, and enjoyed in the shade of an old grapevine or in the colours of sunset (for late afternoon hikes)!
Finally, it’s time to return on another walled single-footpath to the old windmill zone and eventually Lefkes (or an easy dirt road for evening/starlight tours) to enjoy beautiful views from a high point, down to the valley and the sea, as well as of the amphitheatric layout of the traditional village.
A more difficult but rewarding alternative version (11 km, 4h30m-5h) includes a hike up Rachi hill (+325m) from Agia Kyriaki on old shepherd’s trail to enjoy sweeping, panoramic views to the island’s coastline to the N & E, the Paros-Naxos channel, the surrounding islands and the open sea, as well as exploring the mysterious giant stone cairns lining the hilltop!
Questions or more info? Ask here.
In a nutshell [Hike in Parian countryside & tradition] Countryside/hillsides/traditional villages/history, easy/moderate diff., distance 9/11km, net elevation ±120m/±210m, duration 4-5h (incl. breaks).
Description We make a morning start at Lefkes, the medieval central village, founded in the 9th c. AD to protect the island population from the Saracen pirate raids. We walk through the centuries-old, maze-like alleys with houses blending the traditional cube-like Cycladic style with the neoclassical, and visit chapels (sometimes built with architectural salvage from ancient temples), the old village square and the marble-built cathedral of Holy Trinity.
Leaving the village, we continue on a mild uphill route through dirt track and old footpath. Dilapidated windmills, olive presses (there used to be 9 of each), and old stone-built cottages tell the nearly forgotten tale of the olive oil, wine and dairy production in the island’s heart. The landscape changes in every turn, as we go past ravines and streams, pastures, orchards, flat grain fields and ‘pezoules’ (age-old terraced hillside fields). We continue on dirt road towards the 17th c. Aghia Kyriaki Monastery, where we pause at the court yard for a snack and a drink of water at the old fountain. Then, we continue uphill to the Agrilies (lit. ‘wild olive trees’) area in the shadows of Mounts Strouboulas (724 m) and Aghioi Pantes (774 m), admiring the terraced hillsides, as well as spectacular views to the Paros-Naxos channel. In spring and early summer, the country lanes and paths are dotted with multi-colored wild flowers (cistus, lilies, irises, chrysanthemums, poppies, St. John’s wort, phlomis, sheep sorrel, dock, mallow, even wild gladiolas and orchids!), a pot-pourri of fragrant herbal bush (oregano, sage, savory, rue, spiny broom and fennel), as well as cypress, juniper, pine and olive trees.
We start our descent towards Afkoulaki ravine on a narrow walled cobblestone footpath surrounded by ancient olive trees. After a stretch of dirt road, we reach the white cluster of the chapel of Aghios Arsenios, patron saint of Paros, perched in the valley. Behind the chapel we find the stream and sheltered spring (the perfect spot for a picnic/ break in the shade), and the beginning of Afkoulaki ravine. Continuing downhill, briefly on concrete road, then on old footpath and dirt track, we return to Prodromos, enjoying the view to the green fields of Marpissa plain, the bay of Molos and Kefalos Hill, the last bastion of Venetian Paros to fall to the Turks in 1537, now crowned with the miniature Aghios Antonios monastery and the old fort remains. Prodromos (‘The Forerunner’) is a quaint agricultural village that took its name from the church (with its distinctive marble belfry) dedicated to St. John the Baptist (18th c.). After a short tour of the village, we stop for coffee or refreshments at a traditional coffee shop, where we lounge before taking the bus/transfer back to Lefkes or Parikia.
A longer but rewarding alternative version (15 km, 5h-5h30m) is to close the loop at Lefkes by hiking up the Byzantine Way from Prodromos. Apart from the marvelous marble-paved wide footpath (the work of successive generation of islanders dating back to the medieval times), one can enjoy shifting perspectives that include views to the island’s interior and mountains, as well as the coastline to the N & E, the surrounding islands and the open sea.
Questions or more info? Ask here.
In a nutshell [A beauty-full island hike] Countryside/traditional villages/history, easy, distance 10/15km, net elevation +100/-220 m, duration 4h/5h30m (incl. breaks).