The Greek Mainland Paradise You’ve Probably Never Heard About

Α 3,5-hour drive from Athens, the region of Evrytania boasts unspoilt nature, outdoors activities and opportunities for social distancing.


From Karpenisi to Mikro Horio and Megalo Horio and from Prousos to Roska, in a land of high peaks, deep gorges and raging rivers, Evrytania certainly stands out as a mountain destination. As you make your way through the heart of the region, traveling from Velouchi to the last houses of Kastania, the ever-changing scenery will give you plenty to see. In every village, there’s a good reason to make a stop, and every landscape presents an interesting challenge. From river swimming, gorge descents and forest walks to horseback riding, archery and abseiling, there is something for everyone, including kids. And most importantly, in a really cool place… literally!

STARTING OUT

The most famous and most photographed sight in Evrytania is known by the locals as Panta Vrechi (lit. “Always Raining”) Gorge. This deep canyon boasts a towering watery veil at the narrowest part of the Krikellopotamos River, which flows between Mt Kaliakouda and Mt Platanaki. It can be reached from the villages of Doliana to the north and Roska to the south, from the Krikello-Domnista Bridge to the east and, in what I think is the most impressive approach, from the Kastania-Prodromos Bridge to the west. Offering two hours of walking and swimming, it is undoubtedly among the most beautiful river treks in Greece. Leave your camera behind (or protect it with a waterproof case), put on your swimwear and get started. Most of the trail runs along the banks of the river. You’ll encounter natural pools, narrow defiles and small waterfalls. The route by car is equally impressive. The dirt road begins just outside Doliana and winds through forgotten villages, affording glimpses of imposing Mt Kaliakouda, before reaching the bridge at Roska. From there, it is a 45-minute walk along (and sometimes in) the river until you arrive at the remarkable aquatic spectacle that gives the gorge its name.

SALOON PARK

Saloon Park is located 4 km from Karpenisi, on the road to Prousos, in a beautifully tended expanse of 1.7 hectares. Here, children are free to play as parents enjoy a refreshing coffee, cool drink and light food or… become kids again themselves and accept the challenges of the climbing/rappelling tower, the zip line or the archery range. Another option is horseback riding along the banks of the Karpenisioti River, accompanied by a local guide. The park puts safety first and all children’s activities are under the close supervision of experienced instructors. There’s a dedicated play area with a special floor covering, mini-train rides within a fenced enclosure and leisurely walks on a footpath through the botanical garden (Tel. (+30) 22370.246.06).

SWIMMING OR CLIMBING

A mountain pool with vivid green water has formed at the base of a 10m-tall waterfall. The sign-posted path to the pool begins on the Prousos-Kastania road just before the old bridge. A 20-minute walk fairly high above the Prousiotis River will bring you to the waterfall. You can continue uphill along the winding footpath through an idyllic setting of plane trees, firs and babbling brooks. At the point where the gorge narrows and the landscape becomes even more enchanting, with more natural pools and small waterfalls, you’ll see, high up on your right, the Mavri Spilia (“Black Cave”) with a partially collapsed stone structure at the entrance. The cave was used by locals as a refuge during periods of foreign occupation. This is the starting point of a via ferrata, a climbing route equipped with cables, rungs and ladders fixed to the rock, which makes it possible to ascend rugged Mavri Spilia Gorge before continuing on foot to the Church of the Holy Apostles, for a total round-trip distance of 3.5 km. Because sections of this route require special equipment and relevant experience, you’re advised to contact one of the companies that organize outdoor activities in the area.

WALKS IN NATURE

A wonderful trail begins at Klafsi. If you set out on the main road from Karpenisi in the direction of Prousos, you’ll find, exactly at the 6th kilometer mark, a signpost for the village. As soon as you cross the concrete bridge, park the car and you’ll see a small wooden bridge, which is where the trail begins. To make sure you don’t get lost, walk along the Karpenisioti River and ignore the paths that lead higher up the slopes. Instead, follow the tracks left by the horses carrying riders from nearby Saloon Park. You’ll soon see the beautiful single-arch stone bridge of Koryschades on your left and, in the distance, the traditional settlements of Koryschades and Gorgianades. The vegetation along the trail includes plane trees and tall holly bushes and there are clearings next to the riverbank. After passing two wooden huts, the trail continues along the verdant slope, always parallel to the river, until you reach a set of concrete steps that will take you to the celebrated village of Kefalovryso, site of a historic battle during the Greek War of Independence in which Markos Botsaris, a hero of the war, was killed.

CANYONING

Rappelling down gorgeous waterfalls, diving into mountain pools, whooshing down natural waterslides on smooth rocks, taking exhilarating dips in the river: you can do all this and more in the 13 gorges of Evrytania, all presenting varying levels of difficulty. The Mikro Panta Vrechi Gorge (or Halikorema) at Tornos is perhaps the best introduction to the magical world of canyoning, along a route that has water all year round and takes no longer than three hours. If you aren’t an experienced canyoner, you’re strongly advised to arrange your trip through an outdoor activity company with qualified guides.

NOTES
  • Dining suggestions: in Gavros, the foody paradise between Karpenisi and Prousos, head to Petalo (Tel. (+30) 22370.41487) for meat dishes, To Spiti tou Psara (Tel. (+30) 22370.412.02) for fresh trout. In Megalo Horio, the most popular local taverna is Aghios Athanasios (Tel. (+30) 22370.412.50). In Mikro Horio, choose from a wide variety of spit-roasted meat at To Horiatiko (Tel. (+30) 22370.412.57), while for good food and a great view of Mt Velouchi, head for the village of Palio Mikro Horio: classic dishes at Helidona (Tel. (+30) 22370.415.09) and an intriguing selection at Stin Poli (Tel. (+30) 22370.415.44).
  • If you wish to organize guided excursions, contact Trekking Hellas (Tel. (+30) 697.818.7863, 22370.259.40) and F-Zein (Tel. (+30) 694.539.6808). For information about walking routes, look no further than the Mountains of Evritania hiking map published by Anavasi.
  • With Karpenisi as your base, you can enjoy a wonderful day trip with plenty of stop-off points as far afield as Prousos. Choose the most scenic route, heading for Klafsi, Mouzilo and Aniada. Stop at Megalo Horio for a stroll along narrow streets lined with stone-built houses before sampling the famed syrupy custard-filled pastry, galaktoboureko, at the Kafeneio tis Kyra Paraskevis. Carry on to Palio Mikro Horio, at the foot of Mt Helidona, a picturesque village renowned for its traditional architecture. Here, visit the Church of Aghios Sostis with its breathtaking views of the mountain’s east ridge, and explore the small lake at the edge of the village. In Prousos, be sure to see the Monastery of Panaghia Prousiotissa and its miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, which is said to have saved the life of Georgios Karaiskakis, a leading figure in the Greek War of Independence, by curing his serious illness. The monastery affords spectacular views of the Prousiotis Gorge. I also recommend Stremmenos Delicatessen outside Prousos for some top-quality charcuterie-tasting in an idyllic setting.


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