Greece is a land of major geological change. Millions of years of continuous mountain building have endowed this part of the planet with amazing natural monuments. Five sites of outstanding beauty boast some extraordinary natural formations, namely the Lesvos Petrified Forest, the Mt. Psiloreitis Natural Park, the Mt Chelmos - Vouraikos National Park, the Vikos - Aoos National Park and the Agios Nikolaos Petrified Forest in Laconia. You will have the chance to admire nature’s creative impulses, wander around and explore phenomena that are millions of years old. These areas carry a significant and rich geological heritage where the Earth appears to have wielded its powers with artistic temperament.
Lesvos Petrified Forest – Where time stood still
The Lesvos Petrified Forest was created in the Miocene period some 20 million years ago! It was the result of intense volcanic activity in the Aegean region. The park was declared a Natural Monument in 1985 and a Top European Geopark for 2011 – 2014.
The singular beauty of the Petrified Forest is really beyond description. The Park lies in the western part of Lesvos Island, where the petrified tree trunks are scattered in a 150 km2 area surrounded by Sigri, Eresos and Antissa villages. A Natural History Museum opened in the village of Sigri in 1994, located right in the heart of the petrified forest. It was the first museum of this type in Greece and its purpose is both to protect and showcase the region’s geological wealth. Getting to know the area’s natural beauty and its rich archaeological and folk heritage is a real life-changing experience.
Mt. Psiloreitis Natural Park – Unspoilt beauty
Mt. Psiloreitis Natural Park on Crete is a landscape of wild beauty, bound to move and stimulate travellers in equal measure. Gorges, caves, charming trails and dense forests make this a real outdoor natural history museum, while the area’s considerable biodiversity -comprised of unique endemic flora and fauna species- makes this a living natural tapestry.
The natural and man-made trails which spread out over the mountainsides are ideal for rambling and trekking, allowing walkers to come into direct contact with the primeval force of nature. The Mygia trail, the path from Doxaro to Ptyches Vossakou and the trail down the Platania Gorge are all well sign-posted and well maintained, the ideal choice for those among you who try to escape the hum-drum of day-to-day city life.
Mt. Chelmos – Vouraikos National Park – A glance at the Earth’s past
The sensation you will have as you stand atop Mt. Chelmos in the Peloponnese is that you are looking at an ancient seabed which has over the course of millions of years risen to the surface; a seabed moulded, formed and shaped by the sheer force of the sea. This is a place of arcane charm, with countless sights to be seen.
Mt. Chelmos used to be known as the Aroania Mountains in the past. It is Peloponnese’s third highest mountain range, after Mt. Taygetos and the Ziria Mountains. Here, you will be able to visit the Styga river source, Kalavryta town with its famed monasteries and modern ski centre, the Mt. Chelmos Observatory and Lake Tsivlou, while the experienced mountaineers among you will mostly enjoy climbing some of Greece’s most demanding mountain trails such as Chtenia trail on Mt. Chelmos. And if you cherish thinking when hiking, you will definitely enjoy rambling along the numerous, winding and charming mountain paths.
Vikos – Aoos National Park – In search of prehistory
The Vikos – Aoos National Park is located in the Zagori region of Epirus, to the north of the city of Ioannina. Traces of human settlements dating from 40000 BC have been found in the thickets and caves in the Vikos National Park. The area’s geological formation is based on water which has created landscapes of incredible beauty. The Park has been dubbed ‘Towering Peak Park’ because of the soaring mountains here. This is the location with the most impressive geological formations in the country. There are five caverns on mostly vertical precipices. The depth of one of them, called Provatina, reaches 407 m. which makes it the second deepest in the whole world.
Enchanting nature trails and a range of sporting, trekking and mountaineering activities have transformed the area into a hotspot, attracting travellers no matter what season it is. Traditional villages untouched by the passage of time are oases where travellers can rest and relax in the bosom of Mother Nature.
Agios Nikolaos Petrified Forest – The Wonder of Laconian countryside
Some 18 km south of Neapoli, Laconia (8km off Agios Nikolaos village) lies the petrified Palm tree Forest of Kavomalias which is part of the Atlas of Geological Monuments of the Aegean and is a strong candidate for a place in the European Geoparks Network.
A long interaction of geological phenomena over the course of millions of years has led to the creation of the Petrified Forest. Its singularity is about the way the tree trunks were petrified. Some two to three million years ago when the climate in that area was subtropical, there was a huge palm tree forest which also included date trees, conifers, and broadleaf trees. As seawater levels rised, the forest got eventually submerged; as a result the trees were covered by lime instead of being covered by silica contained in the ashes of volcanoes, as was the usual case with other petrified forests of Greece.
The petrified tree trunks combined with the rugged and imposing landscape of Kavomalias, next to Agia Marina’s deep blue waters create a scenery of great beauty which cannot but fascinate you. The seawater goes through some of these trunks and gushes out of their top as in a fountain! In the area surrounding the seashore and further deeper into the land you can walk past shrubs of kermes oak and lentisks growing from a soil full of shells, molluscs, starfishes, crabs and fossils in abundance. Wear your mask, dive into the water from the rocks of the petrified forest and enjoy the shallow underwater area and lovely seabed!