Giona is the highest mountain in central Greece and the fifth highest in the country. Located between Parnassus and Vardousia, its peak offers a view of Olympus and several other mountains. It boasts one of the steepest slopes in the Balkans, beginning at Plaka village and rising 1,100 meters high, up to Giona’s highest peak- Pyramida- at an altitude of 2,510 m above sea level. The only ugly sight in the area are the bauxite mines, which continue to destroy the natural landscape. Fortunately, the side overlooking Sykia village remains refreshingly pristine.
The mountain is suitable for hiking all year long, while on its lowest part you will find several rock climbing routes. Those who prefer traditional rock climbing will not be disappointed, thanks to the limitless choice offered by the mountain’s rocky terrain. Foxes, hares, wild horses, boars, wolves, griffon vultures and golden eagles inhabit the slopes, with the thick fir and cedar forests of the south side giving way to lower, alpine vegetation as you get higher. Giona is home to 60 endemic Greek flora species, including three local one
Sykia-Lazorema- Vatheia Laka- Pyramida: The starting point is next to the basketball court of Sykia. The track is clearly marked for most of the way, while its initial section extends parallel to a stream- locally known as Lazorema- and then turns left. Steep at start, the pitch becomes milder as you go on, and the path winds through a fir forest. You should finally come upon a sheepfold, marking the beginning of the route’s most demanding section.
The trail turns right and ascends through the firs, then into a steep gully. Fallen trees mean that the signs disappear at parts; you should head straight towards the summit without turning. When you reach the gully, you may either cross it directly and continue your ascend from the left side, or keep right and later cross to the left. This part of the mountain remains shaded for several hours a day and the snow is often frozen, making the climb dangerous unless crampons are worn.
Waymarks gradually disappear as you get higher and crains are the only reference points. Traverse keeping the peak to your right side. Continue your hike on shaky grounds, then pass through the rocks and turn right at the opening. Vatheia lakka should be visible now; you may catch your breath at this part, as the trail follows a relatively flat course. The peak will suddenly appear before you when you reach Vatheia Laka. Head left; the slope becomes steeper until you reach a col offering a panoramic view of Mount Parnassus, before heading right towards the peak. The whole hike should take you over five hours. It is quite demanding and not recommended for inexperienced mountaineers.
Selene, a goddess identified with the moon in Greek mythology, was believed to regularly visit Mount Giona, to meet her lover, shepherd Endymion. Every time she would visit him, the sky would be left without a moon, giving the mountain the name “Aselinon” (Moonless). Giona became a battlefield in May 1821; Greek guerilla fighters eventually won the battle against the Ottoman army. More than a century later, ELAS’s guerrillas reportedly klled an entire battalion at the Battle of Karouta. For retaliation, the German army burnt many mountain villages, forcing the villagers to flee.
If time allowes it, explore Oria kastle in Amfissa or enjoy a few moments of peace at Mornos man-made lake. The Mornos Dam, built in 1980, is 126 meters high and rates amongst the tallest in Europe. Depending on water levels- the lake was created to provide for the ever increasing needs of the capital- you may be able to see the remains of a submerged village, itself built upon the remains of an ancient city. Some 10 kilometers west of Kaloskopi, at an altitude of 1,500 meters, is a cave known as Spilia (cave) Myers by locals. It was named after Edmund “Eddie” Myers, the leader of a British team of saboteurs, who collaborated with Greek resistance fighters to blow up the Gorgopotamos during WW II.
(Pyramida) 2,510 metres
209 km from Athens.
361 km from Thessaloniki
Grigoris Perdikis (laka Karvouni): tel. (+ 30) 210 8218401
author – photographer: Panos Bampaloukas