Tour 11 - Sithonia - MTB

The small fishing village of PORTO KOUFO is the start point for this tour. When the fishermen return with their catch early in the morning, it is worth spending some time watching the lively hustle and bustle on the pier. Leaving the village, warm up on the flat coastal road before riding on sand and gravel high into the interior of the peninsula. The long ascent over the next 5 km is somewhat relieved by a few flatter stretches. If you use these as short recovery stops, you'll have time to let your gaze wander out to sea or over the barren hinterland.

The east coast and the village of SIKIA are visible from the small chapel above. From there it's downhill towards SIKIA, outside which there is a choice of two routes to continue the tour. Version B is easier though longer in terms of distance. It leads through the village to the coastal road and back to PORTO KOUFO.

Fitter and more experienced riders will certainly see the challenge in opting for version A, which is the more difficult inland route. This is a true riders' paradise; once up on the ridges, the route offers unique panoramas over a large part of the south Sithonia Peninsula to the Athos Peninsula beyond, with the Holy Mountain itself rising steeply and imposingly from the sea to its summit 2033m above.

A solidly constructed sand trail leads from here over the ridges of the southern Sithonia Peninsula back to the coastal road. The route passes right by a number of large goat sheds; take care not to ride past too fast, otherwise the goats will scatter in all directions, angering the goatherds and their dogs.

The shed architecture and herdsmen's simple dwellings are interesting to look at. The wonderful long descent on the solidly constructed coastal road back to PORTO KOUFO will reward you for all the steep uphill trails inland. Shortly before reaching the port, the pinnacles clearly marking the harbour entry to PORTO KOUFO heave into view.

Tips: Always wear a helmet and cycling glasses when riding. Take sufficient food and water for the trip with you. The good fish tavernas in PORTO KOUFO are well worth visiting in October, when fresh tuna fish is available.

Start point: The petrol station on the road just before PORTO KOUFO.

Getting there: Drive along the coast road on the west of the Sithonia Peninsula from NEOS MARMARAS further south. The small fishing port of PORTO KOUFO lies beyond the villages of Tristinika and Toroni. Shortly before the village entrance there is a petrol station with a few shaded parking spaces.

0.0 km Leave the petrol station and ride back along the coast road away from Porto Koufo towards Toroni. The first houses in Toroni will soon come into view; just before the coast road begins a long ascent you will leave them behind.

2.7 km Turn RIGHT and follow the asphalt road that runs gently downhill parallel to the coast road. At the point where the road turns left through a tunnel under the coast road, turn RIGHT onto a sand track. At the next fork in the road go half right UPHILL. Follow this wide, easily passable trail on uphill, staying on it until you see a chapel to your left.

7.7 km Ride past the chapel on its downhill side, go round a sharp left hand bend and follow the trail DOWNHILL. The route now continues downhill with a view towards the village of Sikia. Note: The simplified version B of this tour involves riding down into the village, then heading towards the coast road and along it past Kalamitsi back to Porto Koufo. Route A described below is for fitter riders well versed in riding technique. The trail through the hinterland is extremely narrow in places, on a rough gravel surface with numerous deep ruts and some extremely steep ascents.

9.8 km After a gentle S-bend you will come to a rubbish dump. Leave the gravel descent at this point and turn RIGHT onto a track that winds its way along the mountainside, leading steadily uphill around narrow hairpin bends. The next goat pen is a short distance away; go past this and on along the narrow trail. Turn RIGHT at the next crossroads and then LEFT uphill at the following intersection, riding on until you come to a wider trail. Here at

12.6 km turn LEFT and follow the mountain road. Some distance further on you will come to an intersection by a small red brick hut. Turn LEFT here and follow the trail over the ridges of the Sithonia Peninsula. The road becomes somewhat wider at this point and leads along the mountain ridge, passing right next to a number of large goat pens. After the pens at

14.0 km bear HALF LEFT at the fork in the road, straight on past a waterhole and the rubbish dump and you will come to an isolated largish white house. From here you will be able to see the coast road, which you will reach a short while later.

17.5 km Turn LEFT onto the coast ride and ride on a few hundred metres to a viewpoint and a small taverna. From here there is a sweeping view over the south of the Sithonia Peninsula, the Gulf of Athos, the monastic republic and Mount Athos, which rises almost vertically from the sea. Turn round at the viewpoint – do not ride further on downhill – and follow the coast road back towards the mountains. Stay on this road on a wonderful long descent until you arrive back at the fishing village of Porto Koufo.

23.2 km At the village signpost turn LEFT off the coast road, following the narrow asphalt road right by the beach towards the centre of the village and the port. Opposite the port there are several tavernas huddled next to each other. Just in front of the first taverna there is a small connecting road leading up to the RIGHT. Take this and follow it up to the coast road. Then turn LEFT, ride on a few hundred metres and at

24.6 km you will find yourself back at the petrol station.

At a number of crucial points en route, the right direction is clearly indicated by specially posted bicycle signs.