No matter the season, there is much to uncover on the slopes of Vermio whose peak reaches 2,052m (6732 feet). The cities of Veroia and Naoussa and some off-the-beaten path villages are great jumping off points for exploring this rich terrain. Here are just some of the reasons this is one of the best mountains you’ve never heard of:
1. THE SPRINGTIME AND SUMMER ACTIVITIES
During the spring and summer it is an excellent off-the-beaten track destination for many northern Europeans who have discovered their quiet Greek paradise away from the islands. During these months the local climate is ideal for all athletic activities which is why some of the most celebrated football clubs come here to practice in training camps.
From early April you will also occasionally hear the roaring of engines echoing through the lush forest. Spring is when off-road, 4X4 tours begin through rough terrain and muddy paths. Enduro mountain bikers and cross country cyclists also take to the trails around the ski resorts and beyond after the snow has disappeared under the warm Greek sunshine.
Summer is also the season to head to the area of Grammeni for alpine camping at an altitude of 1000m and above.
In the areas of Aghios Pavlos and Kresta in Yanakohori, there are rock climbing routes accessible to all levels, including beginners. Meanwhile climbers who love bouldering can experience epic moments during the Vermio Boulder Fest in the summer and autumn.
2. THE SKIING AND SNOWY FUN
Greece is not normally associated with snow sports. Yet “I’ve been skiing since I was three” is something you often hear from the locals, with some even competing at an international level.
Vermio is actually home to not one but two ski resorts that attract thousands of Greek and foreign skiers every year. The Mountaineering Club of Naoussa has taken part in a total of 12 Winter Olympic Games and 18 World Championships, training over 180 athletes over the years.
Lovers of alpine skiing, athletes from Europe and the Balkans, freestylers, back-country skiers and snowboarders visit the 3-5 Pigadia ski resort which is the closest to the city of Naoussa. Equipped with new snow cannons, it has 10 ski runs and hosts international and Panhellenic endurance ski races, while there are also ideal locations to snowboard off-piste. ‘Snow Buses’ also offer tours around the snowy landscape and forests for up to 10 people at a time.
About 20 km from Naoussa, lies the National Ski Center of Seli – the oldest organized skiing facility in Greece, established in 1934. Even when the snow melts on the 6 slopes in the spring, Seli remains popular among mountaineers, being crossed by the E4 international hiking route.
TIPS FOR HIKERS AND CLIMBERS
• Where to rent climbing gear: Sfendamos Wood Village, Aghios Pavlos Imathias
• Where to rent a mountain bike: Ride (Tel. (+30) 2331503515/ (+30) 6932412472) The store is in Veria but the staff can get you bikes wherever you are on the mountain.
• For wild trout fishing gear: Arxontiko Agonari, Metamorfosi Imathias
3. THE ‘LAZY TOURIST’ WALKS
For those more inclined to take a pleasant stroll through the forest rather than an arduous trek up the mountain, Vermio also has you covered.
An unforgettable path starts in the village of Metamorfosi and winds through the woods for about 2km before reaching a waterfall. This is a popular trail not only because of the stunning natural beauty of the forest – whether covered in snow or bursting with color – but also for its zero incline which makes it very walkable and gives it the name ‘lazy man’s trail’.
Although the path is tucked between tall chestnut trees and old beech trees, as it runs along a slope, walkers are afforded glorious panoramic views of the plain of Imathia.
After about a half-an-hour walk, you will reach the waterfall and a small temple dedicated to the «Μetamorphosis tou Sotiros» (Transformation of The Savior). Locals believe the water to be blessed with the power to cure acne and other skin ailments. When the melted snows have dried late in spring, the site attracts many visitors who come to walk the trail, have a picnic by the roaring waters and fish for fresh wild trout and freshwater crayfish, every weekend until the end of the fall.
4. THE EXCEPTIONAL WINES
Home to some of the best wineries in Greece, Vermio is a popular wine-tourists’ destination all year round. According to written records, vineyard cultivation and wine-making in the region date back to the 16th century.
On the southeastern rolling slopes of mount Vermio, grapes of the Xinomavro variety are cultivated that end up in the reds the region and nearby town of Naoussa are now famous for. A unique microclimate and great wine-making expertise help create some of the most refined wines Greece has to offer. Indeed Vermio’s slopes form part of the PDO (Protected Designated Origin) zone of Naoussa, established in 1971.
Many of the owners and winemakers offer tours, providing behind-the-scenes looks at the cellars, walks around the vineyards and wine & local product tastings.
5. THE FOOD
Rabbit-onion stew, bison, deer and boar dishes and of course «batzios» the local salty pan-fried cheese made of sheep’s and/or goat’s milk, are among the delicacies that foodies will enjoy in Vermio.
Residents from Thessaloniki often take the 90-minute drive to the village of Metamorfosi, just for a meal at the stone-built restaurant of Arhontiko Agonari guesthouse. Sit by the fireplace on the sofas decorated with ‘kilimia’ (traditional carpets) or on the balcony with great views of the slopes.
The dishes of the day depend on what ingredients ‘speak’ to Pasa, the owner/cook, when she goes foraging in the forest or shopping in and around Naousa. The traditional bean soup has been simmering for hours, the pan-fried sweet-and-sour wine-glazed pork is a must try, so too is the oregano, tomato and olive oil marinated flank steak.
Next door at the guesthouse «Lydia’s Lithos» , Lydia herself makes exquisite ‘glyka tou koutaliou’ (‘spoon sweets’), forest fruit tarts and all kinds of desserts that you can enjoy while you play boardgames in her cozy parlor.
At Arkochori, the wood stove is lit before dawn at Harama Restaurant to bake bread and local delicacies that you can enjoy with a wide range of aged wines.
Local smoked trout is a must-try, and you can savor some in the Four Seasons Restaurant in Aghios Nikolaos Park. For some excellent fried cod, head to Naoussa to the local ouzeri «Stou Thoma». And while you stroll the city streets drop by one of the most popular joints, ‘Home’ where you can try a great eclectic variety of local dishes, accompanying them with great local wines served by the glass.
TIPS FOR WINE LOVERS
• Famous “Ktima Kir Yianni” in Giannakochori (6 km from Naoussa) founded in 1997 by Yiannis Boutaris, one of the leading figures in the Greek wine industry, is a must-visit, tel: (+30) 23320 51100, (+30) 69.3825.0088
• Estate Chrisohoou in Strantza 4 km from Naoussa has also a small museum with various viticultural and oenological displays, tel: (+30).23320.4508
• There are also smaller wineries at the foot of Mount Vermio, near the town of Naoussa, which are definitely worth a visit, such as Dalamaras Winery (+30 233.2028.321) and Karydas Estate (+30 233.2028.638). Despite producing a limited number of bottles, their award-winning wines have devout followers all over the world.
6. AGHIOS NIKOLAOS PARK
Have you ever sat inside an ancient and hollow tree? In Aghios Nikolaos, located a few kms outside the town of Naoussa on the slopes of Vermio, you can do just that. Just spot the right one, as you walk among the centuries-old trees. It’s a heavenly place, filled with fragrances, birdsong and criss-crossed by babbling brooks – perfect for families who want to enjoy a picnic in the spring or summer.
Rest on the benches near the duck ponds, while agile squirrels run along the branches overhead. Whichever route you take in the park, you will hear the constant low rumble of the “heroic river” as they call the Arapitsa River.
The name dates to 1822, when Naoussa women jumped in together with their children in a desperate attempt to escape enslavement by the Ottomans. If all you need is a warm place, choose one of the nearby restaurants. But before resting make sure to take a horseback ride around the park, following an experienced guide.
7. BECAUSE ARISTOTLE WAS HERE
Even if your schedule does not include visits to any archaeological sites – knowing that you are where two of the most influential personalities in world history once walked is probably worth any museum visit.
Aristotle and his pupil Alexander the Great set in motion world-changing events from this very area; the great philosopher’s school is only 2km outside Naoussa, in Isvoria county, on the road to Kopanos. Start an inspirational tour from the video room of the “Cultural Center of the School of Aristotle“.