The little-known natural attractions of Mount Parnitha

Home to about 1,100 plant species (a sixth of the country’s flora) and 42 of the country’s 116 mammal species, including rare red deer, Mount Parnitha is just a few kilometers outside Athens. The largest of the four mountains enclosing Attica and one of the most important biotopes in Greece, it remains largely unknown to most the population. WWF Hellas, in conjunction with Eurobank, has undertaken to remedy the situation in a program titled «Knowledge, Participation, Protection» that includes guided tours for adults, families and schoolchildren and environmental seminars for children and teachers. The Parnitha National Park usually only makes the news when it is on fire or covered in snow, yet it is the most important green space in the prefecture, with 25,000 hectares, of which 3,800 is pure vegetation. The mountain has been proposed for inclusion in the Natura 2000 program and has been declared a «Special Protection Region» for birds and as a game reserve. The fir forest along the mountain’s peaks (the highest is 1,413 meters) is unique in Attica. Along with the pine forests lower down, it provides a hospitable environment for dozens of animal species. There are no longer any bears or jackals, but some 400 red deer still roam the forest, the only remaining large herd in Greece. WWF Hellas Director Dimitris Karavellas said the program was aimed at encouraging Athenians to discover an important area just 30 kilometers outside the city, and the need to protect it. A «good visitor’s guide» to the mountain, including a map, was published in May, along with an «observation leaflet for groups participating in tours, and an environmental education guide for schools.»