The Valleys of Lefkes & the Byzantine Way: 3 Hikes
by xkorov · Published · Updated
Longer or shorter (8-15km), easier walks or rewarding hikes, our three hikes in the broader Lefkes and Marpissa area have it all; the famous Byzantine Way, countryside nature, rugged hillsides and traditional village charm- even a hike with a beach ending! (Click on alternative routes below for details)
Description Meeting at the heart of Lefkes village, the mountain island capital in medieval times (arrival from Paroikia on the early morning bus). We start with a brief tour and see some of the important sights & picturesque corners of the traditional village. Then we find the so-called “Byzantine Way”, a stone-paved donkey trail built many centuries ago to connect some of the island’s major locations. We start on a mostly downphill route, going by delapidated old cottages, Byzantine stone-built bridges, walking on age-old marble rocks paving the way to Prodromos.mini-ravines and streams, olive groves, pastures and ‘pezoules’ (age-old terraced hillside fields). We admire century-old olive trees and spectacular views to the Paros-Naxos channel, and savour the sweet scent of the various wild aromatic herbs that skirt the route, i.e. sage, oregano, thyme, wild fennel, honeysuckle and felty germander (Teucrium Polium). Half-way to Prodromos, we leave the Byzantine Way to enter an old footpath in the olive groves. A narrow, winding footpath takes us down and up a small gorge with lots of green and great views to the valley of Lefkes. After crossing a rocky white-marble dry river bed, we scramble up on the hillside over the ancient stone-built terraces. After a while, a dirt track takes us to the white-washed 17th c. monastery of Agia Kyriaki, a typical, well-preserved specimen of the late medieval fort-like monasteries of the Cycladic islands. After exploring the monastery’s chapel, the inner courtyard and the monastery facilities, we sit at the monastery courtyard to enjoy our special “Taste of Paros”picnic with local food and wine prepared on the spot, in the shade of the grapevines and fruit trees or in the colours of dusk (for late afternoon/hikes hikes).
Then it’s time to take a centuries-old walled footpath or ‘mule road’ leading back to Lefkes (or dirt road in the starlight – for evening tours). Apart from beautiful views from high up to the valley, in spring and early summer, the trails. the hillsides and pastures all around are dotted with multi-colored wild flowers, fragrant herbal bush and cypress, juniper, pine and olive trees.
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 gigantic stone cairns lining the hilltop!
Questions or more info? Ask here.
In a nutshell [A walk for all] Countryside/hillsides/traditional villages/history, easy/moderate diff., distance 8/11km, net elevation 150m, duration 4-5h (incl. breaks).
Description Sharing a large part of Route 3, this is a 9.5km easy walk, combining traditional village charm, rural beauty… and a beach end-point!
Meeting at the heart of Lefkes village, the mountain island capital in medieval times (arrival from Paroikia on the early morning bus). We start with a brief tour of the village and continue on a mild uphill route through old footpaths and dirt tracks towards the Aghia Kyriaki Monastery, going by dilapidated windmills, old cottages, ravines and streams, pastures and pezoules (old terraced hillside fields). In spring and early summer, the landscape is dotted with multi-colored wild flowers, fragrant herbal bush and cypress, juniper, pine and olive trees. We stop for a short visit and a snack at the recently renovated Aghia Kyriaki Monastery (17th c.)
Afterwards, we continue uphill through the Agrilies (lit. ‘Wild olive trees’) area and admire centuries-old olive trees and spectacular views to the Paros-Naxos channel on the one hand and Mt. Strouboulas (724 m) on the other. We start descending and arrive at the Aghios Arsenios chapel and the Afkoulaki ravine, with its stream and sheltered spring, the perfect spot for a shady picnic. Continuing downhill on dirt track and paved road, we go east through the grain fields of Tourlos, all the way down to Logaras beach, where we either lounge at one of the seaside cafes, or swim at the clean, sandy beach. Our return is with the next bus to Parikia.
Questions or more info? Ask here.
In a nutshell [A walk for all] Countryside/traditional village/history/sea, easy, distance 9.5 km, elevation loss 270 m, duration 3.5-4 h (incl. breaks).
Description Departure from Parikia with the early morning bus and arrival at Prodromos village (tickets for Line 1 cost 1.80 euro). We start mildly uphill, following the Byzantine Way, an ancient path that used to be the major throughway to Lefkes up until the ’70s. Before WWII, it was central to the island’s transportation as the main port was located at Molos, on the coast below. The path is sometimes paved, sometimes earthen but always straightforward and clear. Name wise, Byzantine is a bit of a misnomer, as some say that this (and all) paths of Paros go back to mythological times, when muse Echo lived on the island: the paths are ancient, petrified echoes.
At Lefkes, the medieval-times main village (founded in the 9th c. AD to protect the island population from the Saracen pirate raids), we take a brief tour of the village. We walk through the centuries-old, maze-like alleys with houses blending the traditional cube-like Cycladic style with the neoclassical, 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 cross the biggest stream and 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). 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 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 through Agrilies (lit. ‘Wild olive trees’) grove, admiring the century old olive trees and spectacular views to the Paros-Naxos channel, at the shadow of Mounts Strouboulas (724 m) and Aghioi Pantes (774 m).
We start descending and arrive at the Aghios Arsenios chapel and the Afkoulaki ravine, with its stream and sheltered spring, the perfect spot for a shady picnic. 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 the Marpissa plain, the bay of Molos and Kefalos Hill, with Aghios Antonios monastery and the old fort remains, the last bastion of Venetian Paros to fall to the Turks in 1537. Prodromos (‘The Forerunner’) is a quaint agricultural village that took its name from the church (with its distinctive belfry) dedicated to John the Baptist built in the 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 to Parikia.
A shorter version (10 km, 4h) is available, especially in the hot summer months, starting from Lefkes and following the route above until to Prodromos, basically taking out the ‘Byzantine Way’, which is clearly signposted and can be taken on another visit to Lefkes or Prodromos.
Questions or more info? Ask here.
In a nutshell [A beauty-full walk for all] Countryside/traditional villages/history, easy, distance 10/13 km, elevation 300 m, duration 4-4.5/5-5,5 h (incl. breaks).