When I heard about the plans for placing large-scale wind farms on Greek mountain ranges, I thought to myself that if there were one such place I’d want to keep just as it is, it would be Agrafa, the southernmost part of the Pindus range in central Greece.
It may sound strange to want to hang on to a place that can’t be accessed by paved road, that doesn’t have gas stations or auto repair shops, that is, in fact, just a maze of dirt tracks leading to remote villages and lightning-struck summits, but Agrafa has everything I’ve always loved in my travels through Greece, and all that would be needed for a restart after mass destruction: pristine mountains – Borlero, Flytzani, Pente Pyrgi – wild goats and contented cows grazing in the high plains of Niala, and the tastiest feta cheese made by Nikos Tsigaridas at the famed Sarakatsani pastoral settlement at Kamaria (1500m altitude).
It even has a tale to inspire optimism; in the Greek Civil War, fighters on both sides paused hostilities briefly and spent the night of April 12, 1947, huddled together, waiting for a blizzard to pass.
If you’re coming from Evrytania, you’ll notice that the Agrafiotis river valley narrows soon after the village of Varvariada, and you may feel you’re entering a different world, the world of Agrafa.
Nature asserts itself, and the spruce-covered slopes, deep gorges, and rushing streams seem to leave little room for the area’s tiny villages: Marathos, Agrafa, Tridentro, Trovato, Epiniana, Monastiraki and Vrangiana.
Drive carefully here; every bend in the road hides a surprise.
There are fallen rocks, flocks of livestock and walkers headed for Asprorema – one of the most beautiful trails in Greece.
On the road to Agrafa, the main village of the region, you must take a dip at Tripa tou Agrafioti (a 20-minute walk along the riverbank) and stop to visit Neromylos. In the summer, the plateau of Niala plays host to the shepherds who bring their animals up from the plains to graze. In the village itself, narrow walkways offer beautiful views.
The Guesthouse Kyra Niki is known for its amazing food, prepared with vegetables from the owner’s garden and eggs laid by her hens, and served in a lovely terrace.
It’s also the best place to ask about the history and geography of the area.
You’ll hear how the mountains hardened the locals, and how modern life all but wiped out the herding lifestyle, although some traces remain.
Small communities live on very little and welcome a few visitors year round – visitors who made the choice to come here.
The locals are guardians of an unsullied landscape, and I for one hope that their region can remain that way.