Thick fir trees and fairy tale footpaths, streams and breathtaking views of the snow-capped slopes of Mount Helmos await on this magical road trip to Achaia in the northern Peloponnese.
This enjoyable 41-kilometer journey begins at Akrata, and traverses alpine lakes and stone-built villages to terminate at one of the most popular ski resorts in the country. Do not be fooled by the small distance in kilometers; there are many twists and turns on the road, which is rather narrow. Driving can be tiring as a result, especially during unpleasant weather, but the wonderful landscapes you will meet on the way will reward your efforts.
Leaving behind the Olympia Odos, take the exit for Akrata. An approximately 25 kilometer incline stands between you and Lake Tsivlou, which was formed about one century ago at an altitude of 700 meters on the slopes of Mount Helmos, when a large landslide dammed the Krathis river. It was a heavy winter in 1913 when a lot of snow was concentrated in the highlands and there were frequent landslides, which resulted in the residents of Tsivlou, located at the same spot where the lake can be found today, abandoning their village. On 24 March, it just took a few minutes for the entire mountain side to slide down from 1650 to 600 meters. The debris ended up in the depths of Krathis gorge, thus damming a tributary and creating two lakes. Ten months later, one of the two natural dams broke, leaving just Tsivlou lake, which today attracts visitors all year around for hiking and picnicking, as well as swimming during the summer months.
Next stop, welcoming Zarouhla, the stone-built village in Achaia nestled in fir trees, an ideal haven for all types of nature-loving excursions, situated 13 kilometers from the lake (about a 30-minute drive). The country road twists and turns along the mountain side, and reaches an altitude of 1200 meters from 700, where the settlement is located. The village offers a variety of choices in accommodation and food, and is the starting point for footpaths that lead to nearby peaks or follow circular routes through the fir tree forest.
Turning 7 kilometers in the other direction, near Peristera village, you can take the road to Kalavryta. As you move along the slopes of Mount Helmos the road begins twisting upwards, and after about 14 kilometers you will arrive at the Kalavryta Ski Resort (1750m). Being a skiing or snowboarding aficionado is not necessary – even if this type of adventure is not for you, the ski resort chalet is perfect for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Do not miss
It is worth taking a short detour between Tsivlou lake and Zarouhla to head to Solos village, and to Zidropoulos’ taverna (Tel. (+30) 26960.339.91). Indulge in the well-grilled local meats and fresh local mushrooms.
Explore the settlement of Zarouchla, from the old primary school to the Aghias Triadas chapel that is currently being restored. In the chapel courtyard the large swing hanging from a tree will take you back to your childhood, with views over the mountain blanketed with fir trees.
Search out To Petrino taverna (Tel. (+30) 26960.341.90) at Tsivlou lake with homemade pies, sourdough bread, local grilled meats and daily specials, such as coq au vin with pasta.
And yes, you will also find a jazz bar in Zarouhla! To Rema (Tel. (+30) 26960.340.39) serves coffee, homemade desserts, and drinks with jazz music playing in the background, in a wooden house opposite the river.