It dominates the skyline in most southern and western areas of Kefalonia and runs like a spine through the south part of island. Mount Ainos is the highest mountain on Kefalonia and is 10km in length and it’s highest peak is Mount Soros, which stands at 1628m. Mount Roudi is an extension of this range to the north-west, the highest peak being Yioutari, which rises to 1125m.
The mountain is known for it’s dense forest of Kefalonian fir trees (Abies cephalonica), with its straight trunk, its rich pyramid-shaped foliage and its characteristic pine needles. The species retains its purity on Kefalonia since it is protected by the isolation of the island. The forested area of the range now covers an area of 2826 hectares. There are three different habitats which can be observed: the fir tree forest, the rocky and stoney slopes which has sparse vegetation where one can often come across interesting floral elements and the rocky peaks and the non-forested upper regions of Mount Ainos, on which several endemic plants of Kefalonia or the Ionian Islands can be found.
The easiest way to get to the summit is to drive along the Mt Ainos road from the North West to the transmitter station. Leave your car here and then continue along the dirt track on foot for about 15 minutes until you reach some steps to the right and a sign post.
Go up these steps for another 10 – 15 minutes to reach the summit. A concrete post at the summit has a metal container strapped to it, this contains a visitor book. For safety and comfort wear walking boots/trainers and take fluids with you/sunscreen and wear a hat.
The forest flora includes many varieties of wild flowers, other wonders hide there, like a large variety of orchids, of which certain endemic, just like the violet of kefalonia. You will also find mushrooms, and its fauna consists of various species of reptiles, bird such as the woodpecker, blackbird and hawk, as well as mammals. These include the horses of Ainos, a species unfortunately threatened with extinction. They belong to the genus of the Pindos horse and are small, strong and have a great powers of endurance. They live in the area of the Zoodochos Pygi monastery, which stands amongst the south-east peaks of Mount Ainos, near the only source of water on the mountain. See Ainos Horses for more info.The National Park of Ainos is a real paradise for all the nature lovers.
History; The British Governor, Charles Napier showed particular interest in Ainos and built the first road up the mountain. Napier introduced the species of Kefalonian fir tree to Europe by sending seeds so that nurseries could be created. Loundon’s first scientific study classified it as a unique species and gave it the name Abies Cephalonica.
After the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, the Greek government appointed the first official forest guards. In 1936 the Kefalonian benefactor Vallianos built a wooden house on Ainos for his family, which became known as the ‘log cabin’. The then Kefalonian born Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, built a sanatorium, which was converted into a tourist centre. However, due to the war, it was never opened. In the earthquake of 1953 it was damaged and abandoned. In october 2004 renovation work started on the building. It is hoped that it will be an information centre.
In 1962 Mount Ainos was declared a National Park by the Greek state.
Ancient Ainos; Ainos fuelled the imagination of the ancient Greeks, who considered it as the home of the gods. The regular storms and thunderbolts were seen as proof that the father of both gods and men could be found here. It was to the highest point of the mountain that the god made his descent. On this highest peak, there was a sacrificial altar, known as Ainias, dedicated to the worship of Zeus. This peak is called Great Mound, a name which it acquired owing to the huge piles of bones from the sacrifices.
When the priests on Ainos sacrificed to Zeus on the altar, the smoke which rose into the sky was the ‘signal’ for a second sacrificial ceremony to begin on the rocky island of Dias (Zeus), just off Avithos.
Ainos, with its peaks rising up in the middle of the sea, was a reference point for ocean-going vessels in ancient times. As they left the shores of mainland Greece behind, they saw Ainos on their way west. Furthermore, since it was a wooded mountain, it supplied the raw materials for the building of both merchant and pirate ships.
Ainos was also used as a symbol on coins in the Pronnus area in the 4th century BC.
There are various well known traditions linked with Mount Ainos. The most popular one is the legend of the dragon of the mountain, Loukissas. The islanders believed it to live amongst the enormous grey rocks of the mountain. A depression in a gigantic rock was said to have been the imprint of its head, made while it lay there in wait for its’ victims.