Hortiatis is the mountain of Thessaloniki. It has 1201m altitude and is located northeast of Thessaloniki. Its peak is not accessible because there are military installations and an aviation radar. In ancient Greece the mountain was called Kissos and at its foot , there is the homonymous town which is a martyr settlement as it was burned by the Germans on 2 September 1944 and the whole male population was executed. The mountain flora consists of oaks, chestnuts, beech trees and firs, while its fauna includes various mammals such as squirrels, hares, foxes and wild boars, as well as various species of reptiles.
Distance from Thessaloniki: 18 km
European Emergency Number: 112
Fire Brigade Dept: 199
Medical Emergency: 166
Thessaloniki Forestry Dept: 231330903
Thessaloniki Greeks Mountaineers Association: 2310224710
Hortiatis refuge: 6936863488
Round route Village – Kolosourtis Summit – Refuge- Village
Our meeting point was on the outskirts of the village. We cross the village, following the main road, heading to the radar. At the last right turn, at the end of the village, there is a small parking place on the right side of the road. The time is 8 in the morning and there were already two cars, so we are not the only ones, we thought. That’s where we parked too. Diagonal across, there is an opening between the hollows. This is the beginning of the route that will take us higher up the mountain. We begin the ascent, with a relatively mild inclination, on the path formed between the bushes, while the rocks are forming natural stairs, making the hiking easier. The day is sunny, with good temperature, although February’s cold makes us to climb with jackets and gloves. In a while, we meet a forest road, but we continue our course on the well-marked path, heading east. The path is bringing us, in about an hour, to a large plateau with chestnuts and beeches. Here, we find the first rays of the sun that are passing between the bare branches of the trees.
Now the hiker has two choices. The first one, is to continue east on the trail of the “Icemakers” and reach to the SEO refuge. The other one is to turn south southwest and follow the stone path that will take him to the west side of the mountain and from there to the small (secondary) peak, called “Colosourtis”. And this is the path, we are going to follow. The inclination has grown and we continue to climb, through a beech and chestnut forest, until we meet another forest road at the base of the small peak. Next to the stacked timber of the lumberjacks, we are sitting down to relax. We begin hiking again, following the marks on the path.
The inclination has become steeper, the path narrower and requires more attention, since the morning dew on the fallen leaves makes the ground quite slippery. We are slowly ascending to a higher altitude and soon we are leaving the forest and we are at the top. Two skeletons of iron balls on two semi-finished concrete constructions, the remains of an attempt to build radar, characterize the small top and the vanity of man against nature. The flat top is smooth and large and the view is fantastic. On the one hand, we are facing the lakes Koronia and Volvi, Vertiskos mountain and in the background Menikio mountain. On the other hand, the view is the whole town of Thessaloniki and Thermaikos gulf up to the first “leg” of Halkidiki. And across the horizon, we can see the coast of Pieria and the magnificent Olympus. This is our payback for the difficult climb.
After relaxing and admiring the view, we started the descent, heading south southeast. The path rough and narrow, takes us down to the asphalt, just outside the gate of the military camp. Opposite to us, is the beginning of a forest road that is closed by a metal bar. We enter the road and the scenery is changing. To our right and left, towering pine trees are rising, creating a dense forest .We walk loosely in the middle, as this corridor seems to have been created only for us.
We continue our stroll, since the inclination is almost zero. The forest road moves around the great peak and by following it, we come out of the dense forest, now having the camp and the radar view on our left, while on our right, Thermaikos gulf and the first foot of Chalkidiki. The forest is here again, but a different one, with beech trees this time. And somewhere in the beginning, a sign tells us to turn right for the refuge of SEO. We are entering the forest and after a while we reach the stone building of the refuge. Now a hot coffee is what we need.
We relaxed quite long, so long that we had forgotten the time and now we had to rush. We started our return by turning left into the gates of the refuge in the north direction, walking freely in low vegetation. Now we are coming across the earth road leading to the refuge, we follow it for a while and we are passing across, following the red marks that are putting us on the “icemakers” path. The path, lead us to the village, passing through a beautiful beech forest.
Along the path, we find many large holes, having the size of a small pool. In these holes, the icemakers were making the ice from the waters of the springs. They were preserving the ice with their unique techniques and transported it with mules, from the same path, to Thessaloniki where they sold it. After an hour, we arrived to the point where our path meets the stone path. From here, we continue downhill and a little while after, we are into our cars. This was the end of this circular route to the nearby mountain. Hortiatis, always full of surprises, stands above our town and is waiting for us to visit again its friendly slopes.