Among streams and springs, tall oaks, pines, firs, chestnut trees and fields of wildflowers, in the middle of dense trees that paint the horizon green as far as the eye can see, nature-lovers can explore a truly fascinating part of central Halkidiki, dominated by Mount Holomontas, or Holomon. This is an area of great beauty, ideal for walks along paths that take you through woodlands and hamlets alike.
This is also the site of the University Forest of Taxiarchis, a 5,800-hectare state-owned forest managed by the Forestry Commission in cooperation with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, home to amazing flora and fauna. Prevalent in this forest are broad-leaved trees, such as oaks at lower altitudes and beeches higher up, and different varieties of pine, along with an abundance of Erica shrubs that feed the area’s bee population. Reaching 811m at its highest peak, the forest is home in its remoter parts to wolves, foxes, wild boar and predatory birds – it is a magnet for bird-watchers – and has a museum where visitors can learn all about the local plants and animals.
“This is an area of great beauty, ideal for walks along paths that take you through woodlands and hamlets alike.”
On two wheels
In addition to nature walks and bird watching, there are more adventurous pursuits to be enjoyed here. Vasilis Paradas and Fotis Vezyrgiannidis are the friends and partners behind the company Breakfree Mountain Biking Club, which, among other activities, organizes mountain bike tours on Mount Holomontas. As fans of the sport themselves, they explain that this is an exciting alternative to walking the mountain trails. They cater to large numbers of visitors from countries like Britain, Germany, France, The Netherlands and Belgium, where alternative forms of tourism such as mountain bicycling are more established.
“Our philosophy is in tune with new trends in European mountain-bicycling. Bicycle tourism is a growing force worldwide and it is estimated that, in five years’ time, it will have surpassed golf in popularity,” says Vasilis.
All their organized tours include three escorts: the guide riding in front of the group, another cyclist at the back to keep the group together, and a driver in a car who trails the group, ready in case of any emergencies, like an injury or a flat tire.
Certified by the Mountain Bike Instructors Award Scheme, Breakfree Mountain Biking Club was, according to its founders, the first company in Greece to form a corporate partnership with the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
• To learn more about the activities organized by Breakfree Mountain Biking Club (including tours of Sithonia, Kassandra and Thessaloniki), visit its Facebook page or call (+30) 2310.348.073
• For information on visits to the University Forest Museum of Taxiarchis, call (+30) 23710.942.95.