The best view comes from the hardest climb.
From Anchorage Villas in Karavados (our base for this first leg of our travels) when you sit by the pool or anywhere to the front of the building you have the sea right in front of you and over to the left, imposing and impressive, looms Mount Ainos.
Mount Ainos (or Aenos) is the tallest peak on the island of Kefalonia, reaching 1,628 metres (5, 341 feet) at it’s highest point, which for my UK readers is higher than Ben Nevis in Scotland.
From the top you get incredible views down over the island and out across the sea to the islands of Zante, Ithaca and beyond.
As soon as we saw the mountain we decided we wanted to go and explore it, and we waited for a nice clear day to make our way up. Most of the mountain is a dedicated national park with a paved road that takes you most of the way to the summit. But the lower roads to reach the National Park are some of the scariest I have driven on. Very narrow in places, with large potholes and steep, unfenced sides making it slow going at times.
We stopped part way through the National Park at a little stop area with a play park and some information signs listing the do’s and don’ts of spending time hiking, think “no wildfires, no feeding the animals and go home before sunset”.
I have the AllTrails App and had found a 6km ish hike that looked like it would be challenging but doable for us all. Kris and I are fairly fit and active, Jake at 14 can probably out walk us all but Dexter at just 6 is obviously not quite up to adult standards yet so we tried to find something he could do too.
The hike started with a good half hour, very steep climb up through the forest. Greek fir and Black pine cover this mountain and we quickly got a little chilly under their shade. When we had left our villa it had been a clear sunny day around 18°c but we soon lost a good 10°c amongst the trees. Luckily I had been prepared for this and packed hats, gloves and extra layers for all of us.
We took it fairly slowly, taking in the sights and sounds all around us. The trail is well marked with wooden orange markers as well as red spray paint on trees and rocks so even when the path was little more than mud and rock we felt confident we were heading the right way.
Along with extra clothes we had packed plenty of snacks and water too and these were well needed. A few stops on that upward climb to eat the dried fruit and nuts was a great way to catch our breath and boost our energy levels.
After about an hour we reached the North ridge of the mountain and could not believe our eyes. Of course you hope you’ll get incredible views at a height like this, and we had seen photos and videos but it was so special to see with our own eyes. The trees started to thin and all of a sudden the mountain drops away in front of you revealing the island and sea far below.
We all stopped, taking it in. The boys were enchanted by the clouds shifting below us and as we trekked further up even Kris and I were lost of words.
Kris is a very practical, logical guy and it takes a lot to overwhelm him but at one point, as he stood watching the wind playing with the clouds, swirling them around and blowing them across the ground in front of us I spotted him slowly sit down, just mesmerised by the experience. It is a truly magical place.
As we neared the top Jake realised that up at this height his phone signal was incredible and he video called some friends of ours. There was much whooping and excitement as they realised we were calling from the top of a mountain and it was a really lovely moment in the day.
All along the hiking trails are little benches, picnic tables and covered huts where you can rest and take in the views. If you ever hike these paths allow extra time for photo taking and stops because every corner gives a vista more breathtaking than the one before.
We stopped right before the summit to eat the fresh bread and hummus we had collected from a bakery before we had set off and wow was that the best meal ever!
Reaching the summit is of course incredible, scrabbling over rocks to ensure your feet touch the highest point, but actually that’s not what I take away from this experience. We detoured off of the planned hike a little to hit the summit and with a bit of extra exploring we covered around 9km in 4 hours (remember we stopped for plenty of eating and photo ops) and it felt great to do it together as a family.
Dexter, 6 remember, did every step right along with us and although super tired by the end was so proud of himself, as he rightly should be. Jake also did brilliantly, leading the way for the majority of the time, proud parent alert right here.
The hike we chose, thankfully, had a much easier descent as it took us down the (mostly) paved road which was much easier to traverse (although saying that I did twist my ankle for the second time since we’ve been here this month which was not ideal, but we were fairly close to the car so it wasn’t a complete disaster).
This day is definitely one we’ll remember for a long time.
I’d love to hear your family hiking stories, and if you haven’t tried anything like this with your family I hope that we inspire you to give it a try. There are great apps that give all sorts of hikes right near where you live (Alltrails and Komoot are ones I’ve personally found really user friendly — not an ad!) . Please let me know if you try some out.