Breaking the Vouraikos gorge with Odontotos rack railway
Vouraikos gorge, a sheer beauty of Achaia (near the picturesque and historic town of Kalavrita in Northern Peloponnese) is adorable and visitable with a little help from Odontotos rack railway.
Consisting of just two small carriages, the railway ascends rapidly from the coast to the mountainous interior of the Peloponnese via the narrow gorge. Its main characteristic is a cogwheel mechanism used on the steepest sections of track to allow an ascent of 750m from the sea level over a distance of 22km - hence the Greek name "Odontotos", which means "tooth train". All aboard for this spectacular rack and pinion rail trip, voted as one of the most fascinating train rides across the whole Europe!
The stunning view to the cliffs, the successive ravines and the amazing natural surroundings will take your breath away; cascading waterfalls, caves with stalactites and stalagmites, dense pine and oleander forests, lush vegetation and rare plant species complete the picture of eternal beauty.
Trekking is an alternative way to take in the impressive scenery; you can get off the train at the station of Zachlorou, a small village nestling amidst overhanging rocks, and reach the final destination, Diakopto, on foot. Bear in mind that the best time to visit Vouraikos Gorge is in spring, when the green and richly blooming valley is more beautiful than ever!
Visiting the environmental museum of Stymphalia
Located in a mountainous area of northern Peloponnese - at an altitude of 600m- the Environment Museum of Stymphalia invites you to an unusual journey through time; according to the Greek mythology, it was here that Hercules shot with his arrows the man-eating Stymphalian birds. Featuring the largest mountain lake of the Peloponnese, the Balkans' southernmost mountain wetland hosts a rich biodiversity, acknowledged by the European Network of Protected Areas NATURA 2000.
Upon your visit to the Environment Museum of Stymphalia, you will grasp the importance of harmonious coexistence between humankind and Nature. You will also discover the region's technological achievements as well as the human activities developed in it. The Museum’s permanent exhibition is presented through a variety of modern approaches of display, such as audiovisual media, so as to achieve interactivity and better understanding of the exhibition's displays.
Even if you are not familiar with environmental museums, one thing is for sure: the unique 3D display presenting the geographic formations, erosions, waterways and valleys of the greater region around Lake Stymphalia will amaze you.
Note that inside the Museum there is an accessible cross-section of the lake offering you the possibility of first-hand observation of some of the region's plants and fish. Outside the Museum special binoculars are waiting the bird watching lovers!
Discovering the incredible flora and fauna of lake Kerkini
Lake Kerkini in Northern Greece, one of the most important wetlands in Europe, is considered to be one of the top European bird watching destinations. About 300 bird species have been observed here: some of them nestle, some winter, and others stop over for rest or food. Among them, Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant are threatened with extinction. The area is also one of the most important cormorants and herons colonies of the Northern Balkan Peninsula.
The lake is surrounded by mounts Belles and Mavrovouni; in this exciting surrounding birdwatchers can observe birds of Prey, such as the Lesser Spotted and the Bonelli’s Eagle, the Great Spotted Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, the Eurasian Hobby, the Levant Sparrow hawk and the Northern Goshawk. Enjoy this bird-watching paradise ideally during spring and autumn migration periods, when a great number of species can be easily spotted. However, you can offer yourself an intense birding experience in Kerkini all year long. Just remember to be kitted out in the right bird watching equipment and let the unparallel beauty to put a spell on you forever...
The lake is a rare example of human intervention: the delicate balance of the ecosystem has been preserved to offer great benefits to the region. The Lake is approximately 15 km long and its maximum width, when full, reaches 8,5km. In the surrounding area you can trace the greatest number of buffalos in Greece. There are also at least 10 amphibian species (frogs, salamanders, tritons), 5 snail species, 19 reptile species (lizards, snakes, turtles) and a great variety of insects.
During your visit, don’t miss the chance to participate in various outdoor activities that will refresh your mind and soothe your soul: go on a romantic boat ride (with traditional boats called “plaves”), and observe – at a safe distance from the birds– the special constructed platforms where pelicans nestle. Go canoeing, horseback riding or even walking in the footpaths of the area’s mountain range and enjoy the undulating scenery! Kerkini is waiting for you!
Explore the intoxicating wine road of Chalkidiki
Explore the gorgeous region of Chalkidiki boasting famous peninsulas, crystal clear seas and an undulating countryside through its wine roads! The combination of traditional local dishes and mouth-watering wines will fascinate you. Cassandra, Sithonia and Athos: three peninsulas, three different worlds, three sites of unparallel beauty. The Wine Roads experience suggests an alternative journey comprising visits to vineyards, wineries and wine-tasting experiences.
The first vineyards are to be encountered in Agios Pavlos, a village whose inhabitants are mainly occupied with viticulture. You can also visit the nearby Petralona Cave, where archaeologists have discovered the skull of an ancient man.
Continue your trip through the western side of Sithonia, where the verdant, sun-drenched slopes of Mount Meliton are perfectly combined with the crystal water of the Toroneos Gulf. On your way uphill the Mountains of Chalkidiki, you will come across Arnaia, one of the most picturesque mountain villages of the area. The Wine Route of Chalkidiki would not be complete without a visit to Mount Athos and Chromitsa village.
Wine lovers can sample distinguished wines in the wineries of Chalkidiki; among them stand out the PGI Chalkidiki (Protected Geographical Indication), the PDO Slopes of Meliton, PGI Sithonia wines and the PGI Mount Athos. The hot and dry climate favours the production of wines, such as Assyrtiko, Roditis, Malagouzia and Athiri (white varieties) or Xinomavro and Limnio (red varieties).
Chalkidiki’s vineyards, surrounded by an idyllic landscape and blessed with a privileged microclimate invite you to set off on a unique intoxicating journey. We are hereby handing you the compass: discover the wines!
Let’s hike through the Valia Calda National Park!
Set out on a fascinating journey to Valia Calda National Park, situated at an isolated mountainous area of Grevena. You’re invited to take in the wild beauty of this forested area, which is rich in pine and beech trees, and forms one of the most attractive trekking destinations in Europe. Admire impressive mountain ranges, forested slopes and the breathtaking natural landscape unfolding before your eyes. Meet the challenge to explore the mysteries of nature, and feel your adrenaline rush. Hit amazing trails in a truly unspoiled paradise, where crystal clear rivers flowing through the forested area of Aoos meet the meandering Arkoudorema River.
The purity and the ecological value of the mountainous ecosystem of the Valia Calda National park is enormous, as this forest is a refuge for many wild animals, several mammals (wolf, fox, wild hog and mountain antelope), rare bird species (the golden eagle and the black stork) as well as reptiles. In this area many species are protected. The Forest also hosts 415 plant species and 86 mushroom species. In the highlands of Valia Calda and during spring, you are likely to spot brown bears ambling down to Arkoudórema (meaning Bear Creek) to drink water and searching for their food.
Start a trekking adventure in Ziákas, a village that lies 23km west of Grevená. Note that in order to reach the trekking path, you first need an off-road vehicle. Leave Ziákas, and follow the path to the Exarchos spring. There you will see straight ahead the Avyó peak, on the eastern flanks of which you will spot a beautiful lake.
You pass through Perivóli, one of the most attractive villages of Grevená, and soon the road turns left towards Valia Calda. Don’t forget to make a stop-over at the “Stavrós” location (meaning crossroads) to take in a panoramic view over the valley. Upon reaching a natural spring (where usually the shepherds bring their flocks to drink water), you will realise that at this point the dirt road ends.
Leave the four-wheeler, and follow the trail leading to the European path E6. Cross a small wooden bridge; after taking a 10-minute walk, leave the trail E6 behind you and head for the Flégkas lakes. Hit the trail going uphill through old beech trees, and admire a lush green meadow on your right. On your left, you will spot the two mountain Flégkas lakes.
After passing the lakes, the trail continues uphill to the peak, where the artificial Aóos Lake lies amidst spectacular mountain scenery.
The best way to go back is by walking down the ridge. The alternative route by the lakes leads through very steep slopes that require technical climbing.