Kerkini lake is most famous for its feathered residents (for more on birdwatching click here), but even for those who can’t tell the difference between a grebe and an ibis (and don’t care to) there are plenty of other adventures and experiences to be had in this beautiful part of northern Greece. Below are 9 of our favorite outings.
1. Watch the Sunset in a Magical spot
Enjoy sandwiches and cold beers at sunset with a view of the river Strymonas feeding into Lake Kerkini. After the Monastery of Timios Prodromos in Akritohori, you will see an uphill asphalt road. This leads to a beautiful spot with a small pond where you may see roe deer stopping for a drink. From the wooden observation point at the edge of the cliff you will enjoy panoramic views.
The spot is located 500m from the Monastery of Timios Prodromos
2. Take a Tour of WWII Fort Roupel
Even if you are not immediately drawn to war memorials, Roupel will give you goosebumps. The fort at this strategic point near the Greek-Bulgarian border was initially built in 1914. In 1941 the forces stationed here heroically halted the advance of German and Bulgarian forces for three days, only abandoning the fort after the surrender of the Greek army in Thessaloniki. Soldiers and officers will give you a tour of the memorial to those killed in battle, and of the military museum that houses weapons, medals, uniforms and photographs. A section of the fort can also be visited, and as you walk down the underground hallways, speakers recreate the sound of incoming bombardment, while some rooms feature life-sized dioramas of Greek soldiers and medics as they would have been in WWII.
Open daily 09.30-13.00
Tours can also be arranged outside of normal opening hours by calling (+30) 23210-95102
41km from Kerkini
3. Relax in a Natural Hot Spring
The best way to end (or begin) your day is in the baths that operate in the foothills of Mount Agkistro. Relax in the interior of the Byzantine bathhouse that has been in continual operation since 950 AD and is considered a cultural monument, or in one of the seven newer outdoor pools. The waters have therapeutic properties, good for easing musculoskeletal ailments, or just relaxing. In spring the waters have a temperature of 37º C.
Open around the clock, 6 euros per person for 30 minutes
Located 48 km from Kerkini, Tel. (+30) 23230-41420
4. Go On a 4×4 Safari
The ecotourism resort Oikoperiigitis organizes excellent 4×4 safaris. We recommend the following two routes: Climb Mount Belles, the natural border between Greece and Bulgaria, passing through forests of oaks, pines and beeches. If you are lucky you will spot animals such as roe deer, foxes and wild boar. You’ll stop at a WWII-era outpost and continue 400m on foot to the top of the ridge, where you’ll see old bullet cartridges, plaques bearing the names of soldiers, foxholes, bunkers, the grave of Greek Sergeant Dimitris Itsios and more. Alternatively spend a day exploring the small villages in Kilkis that were settled by the refugees from Asia Minor around the southwestern flank of the lake, such as Pontokerasia, Thodorakia, and Aghios Markos. Here you’ll find hilly terrain, narrow alleys and gullies carved by flowing water. A stop at one of the local tavernas will also be highly rewarding; don’t look for a menu, they serve what ever is fresh on the day.
5. Eat meze and drink ouzo in an old-school setting
The trains of the Thessaloniki-Alexandroupolis line still stop in the village of Vyroneia. Originally built in 1951, the small town’s railway station was abandoned in 2006, but was given a new lease on life five years ago when it was transformed into a traditional café-meze restaurant with retro touches and cuisine influenced by the Near East. Sit at a table next to the tracks at Methoriako Stathmo, as the establishment is called (meaning ‘border station’) and try lahmajoun, kebabs with yoghurt sauce and dishes made with buffalo meat such as kavourmas (a type of cured meat) with eggs and grilled tongue.
Tel. (+30) 6983-516481
Located 24 km from Kerkini
6. Live Like a Horseriding Nomad for A Couple of Days
Two-day horse riding trips are organized for 20 people, taking them to the summit of Mount Belles. Participants need not have previous horse-riding experience. The leader of this nomadic group is Thodoros Alatzidis who has been riding horses since he was five and today owns the Ixnilatis guesthouse and a ranch with horses. Trotting through the oak and beech forests on the mountain, you will spot roe deer and, as you climb, eagles. You will nibble on wild strawberries – a delicious summertime treat – and bathe in bracing waterfalls. After riding for five and a half hours you will reach the Belles ridge where you will set up camp and eat and tell stories around the campfire before turning in for the night. The next day you will make it to the summit at an elevation of 2,031m from where you can see Mount Olympus to the south and into Greece’s neighbors to the north.
The trips are organized every 15 days from the end of June until the end of August.
Cost: 90 euros per person, including food. Learn about upcoming trips from the Ixnilatis Guesthouse Facebook or call tel. (+30) 6932-031940, or visit http://www.ixnilatis.gr/.
7. Go on bike rides for Young and Old
Giannis Reklos, a cyclist and owner of the guesthouse Oikoperiigitis organizes kid-friendly bike rides around Lake Kerkini with stops at points that are great for spotting some of the wetland’s hundreds of species of birds. Mountain bikes are available in different sizes, as are helmets. The rides offered include easy trails over level terrain starting at 36 km long, mountain trails for the more advanced, a complete circuit of the lake (67 km), and more.
Tel. +30 23270-41450, www.oikoperiigitis.gr
8. Visit the Women’s Monastery of Timios Prodromos
A stop at the Monastery of Timios Prodromos in Akritohori on the slopes of Mount Belles is well worth it, especially if you haven’t visited the monasteries of Mount Athos, as this complex is built in the same architectural style. The female monks will offer you rose-flavored loukoumia (Turkish delight) and a glass of cold water.
Open daily 09.00-17.00, Sunday 07.30-17.00, tel. (+30) 23230-71189
Located 17 km from Kerkini
9. Eat trout under the plane trees
In a lush green oasis next to a mountain stream in the village of Ano Poroia, you will find the small Theodorakelis fish farm that has operated since 1981 and supplies the family-run taverna. Sit at one of the wooden tables under the plane trees and, with the soothing sound of the babbling brook in the background, enjoy fresh trout cooked in a number of ways: on the grill, pan fried, or smoked as a cold meze washed down by a glass of ouzo.
Open daily 11.00-17.00 (open in evenings on the weekends), tel. (+30) 23270-51500. Located 11 km from Kerkini.