Rising like a beacon in the middle of Evia, Mt Dirfis is the secret escape of day-trippers from Athens and visitors to Central Greece who love nothing more than challenging themselves in nature.
The focus here is mountain biking across a wild and tree-filled landscape (although the same paths are also a favourite with hikers). You’ll be expecting the greenery, having witnessed the forested slopes of the 1,743m-tall Mt Dirfis get closer as you approach it by car. But the running water and mountain villages – as well as the grand feeling of escape – in this part of Evia (strictly speaking an island but connected to the mainland by the bridge of Chalkida) are what make the experience extra special.
Valleys, brooks, waterfalls, sweeping views towards the Aegean’s Sporades islands and the quaint cobblestone alleyways of an authentic settlement await.
Every season on Mt Dirfis comes with its own colours and charm, so your best experience will be with a guide who can match the route to your ability and the weather conditions. You’ll find short or full-day excursions, ranging from challenging off-road routes to easy downhill rides.
Our day begins and ends in the village of Steni (the start of many paths up Mt Dirfis), following a circular route up to and back down from the mountain’s main refuge.
This traditional mountain hamlet is full of authentic village touches, with houses rising amphitheatrically up the slope and a picturesque square with plane trees, tavernas and cafes. You’ll lose count of the number of sources with running water. Make sure to stock up on bakery treats before setting out and to reward yourself with a wholesome taverna meal on your return. Your journey starts just north of the village, at the ‘Doctor’s Source’ (Vrisi tou Iatrou), by the small Church of Agios Kirykos.
It won’t take long before you are cycling amongst chestnut, oak, plane and fir trees – with wildflowers or mushrooms depending on the season. Steni Forest is a 500-hectare nature reserve (part of the Natura 2000 network of protected European biotopes) on the southern slopes of Mt Dirfis, ideal for families and all nature-lovers. You’ll cross gorges and streams as you follow the S2 route (as it’s marked). See how many different species of bird (amongst them peregrine falcons) and other animal-life you can identify.
The Michalis Nikolaou Refuge
Named after one of the region’s pioneering mountaineers, Mt Dirfi’s main refuge marks the peak of your climb (1,120m). The views of the Aegean and inland towards the rest of Central Greece are magical and, in the colder months, you can huddle indoors around the fireplace. The refuge has around 50 beds if you want to continue your bike ride the next day or hike towards the peak. Most of the mountain’s winding paths end or pass by the refuge. Your route down will be along the S1 path, passing through the dense fir tree forest of Elatia, before you return to Steni with a ravenous appetite.
By car: 107km (1hr40mins)
By bus: To Chalkida and from there 30km (40mins) by car. More Information
- Starting Point: Steni village
- S2: Steni (by the Doctor’s Source) – Steni Forest – Refuge
- S1: Refuge - Elatia Forest – Steni (by the Municipal Stadium)
- Distance: About 13km
- Difficulty: Medium to high
- Max. altitude: 1,120m
- Min. altitude: 450m
- Duration: S1 (2hrs30 mins) & S2 (2hrs)
- Equipment: Organised groups will supply all the necessary equipment, including bike and helmet, or you can hire equipment in Athens or Chalkida.
- The refuge operates upon demand so you will need to call first if you aren’t part of an organised group (Tel. +30 22280 25655)
- There are many mountain bike routes in Evia, so you will always be able to find one that matches your abilities.
- If you are not cycling with a guide, make sure to check the weather conditions before setting out, especially on windy days.
What to pack:
- Suitable shoes
- Comfortable clothes (preferably quick-drying)
- Water bottle
- Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
- There are many accommodation and recreation options (hotels, guesthouses, tavernas, shops etc) in Chalkida
- You will find some traditional guesthouses and a choice of tavernas in Steni.
- Rental shops are open all year round as it’s possible to mountain bike in Evia in every season. But the majority of organised excursions operate from April-October, when weather conditions are best.
- Each season has its own beauty on Mt Dirfis, with lush vegetation and wildflowers in spring, the forest offering an oasis of coolness in the summer, and falling leaves turning the landscape golden during autumn. It’s better to avoid the winter months, as the conditions can be unfavourable.
The charm of mountain biking on Mt Dirfis is that it is a wild and unspoilt environment, so please help keep it that way.