Nestled on Mt Parnassos, Arachova is a town that has been transformed into a popular destination for those seeking winter sports and relaxation. It sits at an altitude of 973 meters and thanks to its proximity to Athens, the winter months see it buzzing on weekends with city slickers escaping the rat race for a break in the refreshing mountain air. Follow in their footsteps and find out why this place is so adored.
Cosmopolitan mountain town
The village’s lively tavernas, bars and restaurants are home to endless entertainment – expect to see patrons dancing on the tables and urging you along to join in. But there’s more to Arachova than endless fun on weekends and during the holidays.
The rest of the year, when out of the spotlight of visitors, Arachova exudes a cosmopolitan charm. Last year, several new eateries opened, offering even more options to enjoy the local cuisine. One of these is Panagiota Plus, with sophisticated offerings. For shopping, several new stores have also opened, such as the L’Escalier concept store with design items and jewelry, 2803 Ave Loft for clothing or Local Bear for handmade leather bags. The shops arranged along the main road and the crisp mountain air make window shopping a refreshing experience.
Many young people have returned to Arachova since the tourism boom, and they keep local traditions going with great enthusiasm. One of the highlights is the Ai Giorgis (St George) Festival, which takes place in spring. People wear their traditional costumes which include clogs and necklaces, and follow a procession behind the icon of their patron saint to kickstart a three-day celebration to the beat of daouli drums and the tunes of pipiza flutes. The event is a magnet for visitors from the wider region. The church named after the saint lies at the top of 264 steps, but it’s worth the climb.
If you don’t feel up for the hike, explore instead the warren of streets and drop by one of the traditional houses open to visitors, which has been decorated with Arachovite woven textiles. The town’s Ethnographic Museum offers weaving and goldwork embroidery lessons to keep the local textile traditions alive. No mountain town would be complete without something strong to down on cold nights, so enjoy the ritual of seeing local tsipouro being distilled in huge vats. Later, you can buy some of the pomace brandy from independent producers.
A hike through nature
Hiking in the mountains around Arachova is an experience not to be missed by those who love putting on their walking boots and heading out to lose themselves in nature. A 3.5km uphill hike from Arachova brings you to the Corycian Cave, which the ancients dedicated the cave to the god Pan and the nymph Corycia. A section of the European E4 trail runs from the cave to the archaeological site of Delphi, and is one of the most beautiful hiking paths. The landscape around Delphi and the view towards the Crissaean Gulf and beyond to the mountain peaks of the Peloponnese is breathtaking.
PARNASSOS SKI CENTER
Skiers and snowboarders will find the facilities at Greece’s most important ski resort much improved this year. The new lifts, which went into operation last year, have a larger capacity and a smarter configuration. They are also faster, giving skiers more time for downhill runs.There are tentative plans to introduce artificial snow to the ski center, which would extend the ski season. Meanwhile, the first snowfall on Mt Parnassos came in early November. Snowskating, a new trend that combines skateboarding and snowboarding, has reached Parnassos from other European countries. It is particularly popular with the younger set who enjoy performing tricks and the extra rush of adrenaline it brings.• Tel. (+30) 22340.227.00
TREKKING HELLAS PARNASSOS
With paths that wind through the fir tree-covered slopes, trekking and mountain-bike excursions are two great ways to explore Parnassos. One of the most impressive features is Eptastomo, a cave that is home to the southern-most glacier in Europe. • Tel. (+30) 22340.227.00,
A short drive to Delphi
The archaeological site of Delphi lies just 8km from Arachova, distance which you can either drive or hike – part of the European E4 trail lies along the way. However you choose to get there, you will be richly rewarded with beautiful nature on the way. Delphi is home to a quiet spirituality that has endured through the millennia and is tangible – the air seems to hum with a unique energy. Stop at the Castalian Spring, the traditional source of inspiration for the ancients, before heading to Delphi itself.
Visit Delphi Archaeological Museum, which houses a large number of important artifacts, including the Siphnian Treasury (525 BC), the kouroi and korai, the exquisite statue of the Charioteer (478 or 474 BC), figurines and fine items made from gold, silver and ivory. Autumn and spring are the best times of the year to visit as the archaeological site remains relatively free of crowds compared to summer, and you can explore the nature and outdoor temples to your heart’s delight without the energy-sapping sun beating down on you.
Before leaving, visit the new Frynihos Theater, which hosts the Delphi Festival each summer, and the exhibition area of the European Cultural Center of Delphi, which periodically stages shows and conferences.
In winter, the archaeological site and museum are open daily 8:00-15:00 and 9:00-16:00 respectively • Admission: €12 and €6 from November 1 – March 31.• Tel. (+30) 22650.823.12 • www.culture.gr