A hike to the Kaisariani Monastery is a nice alternative way to spend a day of your Athens trip. This medieval site, nestled in the heart of the dense Vyronas forest, is overlooked by most visitors to Athens.
It sits just south of Athens’ Zografou and Kaisariani districts. Although the monastery may be tucked out of the way, its off-the-beaten-path location has its advantages.
Kaisariani monastery often escapes the eyes and footsteps of most international tourists. It sees just a fraction of the crowds that you will see at the Acropolis, Mount Lycabettus, and the steps of old Plaka.
If you are travelling here out of season, you may find that you have the place entirely to yourself. A trip to the monastery can be paired with an exploration of Athens’s southern neighborhoods.
Alternatively, you may wish to hike further along Mount Hymettus. Countless trails weave through the foothills of the mountain and you have several routes available here – whether you want to reach the summit and have a picnic at the top, or you want to discover botanical gardens and ruined churches.
About the Kaisariani Monastery
The Kaisariani monastery dates back to the 11th century. However, it is believed that there has always been some form of religious shrine occupying the site, even prior to the construction of the monastery.
According to local legend, the site initially housed a woodland shrine to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. A small stream runs parallel to the monastery.
It was once said that the water here had healing properties if consumed or bathed in. Sadly some of this magic has disappeared as evidenced by an abrupt sign that sits adjacent to the monastery today.
The sign reads “not potable, unsanitary water” so as to deter those hoping to drink it and obtain a miracle. It’s not quite so alluring or mysterious, is it?
The fascinating thing about the Kaisariani monastery is that it has been extended, amended, and modified numerous times over the centuries. This is because the building, (and Greece, generally), has passed hands through various different rulers in just a few hundred years.
Kaisariani Monastery was originally a simple Christian church. The narthex and the barrel-vaulted chapel were added in the 17th century when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
There was once an extensive library of philosophical books and scholarly articles at the Kaisariani Monastery. However, they were unfortunately destroyed during a fight against the Turkish in 1821.
The Monastery interiors are just as beautiful as its exterior. Like most religious Orthodox sites, the walls inside Kaisariani monastery are painted with bold, vibrant frescos.
These frescoes are believed to have been painted during the 17th century and are remarkably well preserved considering their age. They depict various figures and scenes from the bible.
Kaisariani Monastery Points of Interest
The Kaisariani Monastery is far more than a small little chapel. Visitors can also explore the monk’s quarters, the library, and the picturesque gated courtyard.
The monks that lived here historically were very self-sufficient. They pressed olive oil and produced honey in order to make money. These quintessentially Greek natural products can still be purchased nearby.
There is also a charming little cafe situated close to the monastery where visitors can enjoy a coffee or a pastry. This makes a nice break from walking as you revel in the scenery and the peaceful ambiance of the Vyronas forest.
The monastery is open between 9 am and 15.30 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
Hiking Through the Vyronas Forest
The walk from the Kaisariani neighbourhood to the monastery takes just 20 minutes. Follow the well-trodden woodland pathway that veers off into Vyronas forest at Leof. Alimou Katechak.
The trail leads you through woodlands filled with fragrant pine and cypress trees and areas of colourful flowers before arriving at the monastery. At this point, you can either take a rest at the nearby coffee shop and continue onwards toward Hymettus peak, or you can backtrack.
It should be noted that the walk to the Kaisariani monastery follows a steady upward incline, but it is by no means difficult. Many people pass through the forest so if you are hiking alone, you don’t have to worry about your safety.
Continuing onwards, the trail zigzags through the lush landscapes of the Vyronas forest and leads past the Asteriou monastery. From there, before it gradually ascends towards the peak.
There is a transmitter park and a military radio at the top, so nothing particularly interesting. However, from up here, hikers can enjoy one of the best views of Athens city.
The entire network of Athenian suburbs extends in front of you – from Pagrati and Kaisariani, all the way to Egaleo and Peristeri. It is easy to make out the port of Piraeus and its docked ships. On a clear day, you can see all the way across to the Saronic islands.
Getting to the Kaisariani Monastery
Address: Kaisariani Monastery, Kesariani 161 22
Kaisariani Monastery is easily accessible from Athens city centre. If you happen to be staying in the southern suburbs of Pagrati, Hilton, or Zografou, it is wholly possible to walk to the forest entrance and the monastery.
Alternatively, you can take the 250 bus from the city centre. Just ask the driver to notify you when you reach Kaisariani monastery.
If you don’t want to do any walking, you can have the cab take you directly to the monastery entrance as an asphalt road runs all the way through Vyronas forest to Hymettus peak, via Kaisariani Monastery. You can take a cab using Athens’ BEAT taxi app for 4-5 euros.