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A short getaway to Mt Pelion

11 Feb
Milies Village, Pelion. Photo Source thepaper.gr

Milies Village, Pelion. Photo Source thepaper.gr

Pelion is a mountain in Thessalia, Greece that in Greek mythology was thought to be the homeland of  Centaurs. Today, the traditional villages of Pelion are an ideal destination for a weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of Athens or Thessaloniki. Keep in mind though that as they are over 20, and the distance between some of them can be long, you either need to choose a couple of them for your weekend or decide to take a longer break to have a better taste of Pelion. Here are the best choices if you decide to stay in the Milies area. Enjoy! Continue reading

7 tips you need to know before heading to Elati

13 Jan
Elati village via http://www.xpatathens.com

Elati village via http://www.xpatathens.com

1. Go by car. If you want to really familiarize yourself with the area and take as much as you can back with you, you should really go by car which will give you the flexibility to explore this mountainous place even more. Elati is an amazing village itself but driving in the surrounding area will really take your breath away! On your way up from Trikala take a few minutes and stop to admire the traditional bridge in the village of Pili.

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2. Don’t miss (1): Plastiras lake. A few kilometres from Elati is the artificial Plastiras lake.

Plastiras Lake via Evangelos Vissariou, Flickr

Plastiras Lake via Evangelos Vissariou, Flickr

The surrounding area, which was radically developed after the creation of the lake, offers many activities for the visitors, apart from the unique landscapes! Many cafes and restaurants give you the opportunity to enjoy the view of the lake and the mountains in the background! Very close to Neochori you will find “To Manitari”, an excellent choice for lunch or dinner and a restaurant that many locals choose to visit! 😉

3. Don’t miss (2): Ski centre of Pertouli.

Ski Center of Pertouli, Photo Source  sdimitris via Flickr

Ski Center of Pertouli, Photo Source sdimitris via Flickr

Continuing on the road after Elati and before reaching the nearby village of Pertouli, you will find the ski centre. Although it is a very small one, it is worth visiting as the view from the top of it is just amazing; you will have the chance to see the surrounding mountains, standing gloriously usually full of snow!

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4. Continue even further down the road and visit Pertouli and Neraidochori! The magnificence of this area is not captured only in the villages of the area but also in the road connecting them! The views while driving are breathtaking!

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You will find many spots  to stop and enjoy the view! One of them is just after Neraidochori, where you will find a refurbished church and a great place to admire the nature!

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The back door of the church!

Close to Pertouli you will find a restaurant called “Niavis”; a traditional spacious Greek taverna, with amazing view of the mountains and the surrounding area and excellent food; again a choice of many locals from the area!

5. Explore the area! Don’t just admire the view from the car; let yourself explore on foot or bikes the area especially near the ski centre where you will find many off road roots and paths and enjoy the heavy forest!

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6. A restaurant that you should really visit when you are in this area is called “Ta Kanavia” and it is located in Elati.

Kanavia Restaurant via www.touristorama.com

Kanavia Restaurant via http://www.touristorama.com

Excellent spot overlooking the area and the mountain opposite to Elati, amazing food comprising of well prepared and served firsts and amazing main dishes with many choices on hunting and traditional dishes. The wine is also excellent!

7. Downtown Elati you will also find “To Kechri”, beautiful cafe where you can enjoy relax and enjoy a hot chocolate in a cold winter day!

Café “To Kechri” via elati-pertouli.gr

Café “To Kechri” via elati-pertouli.gr

You should really try the homemade cherry spoon sweet which is absolutely delicious!

Stavros Tsoukatos

7 traditional villages you should visit when travelling in the Greek mainland

2 Dec

1. Nymfaio, Florina

Nimfaio Village via www.ethnos.gr

Nimfaio Village via http://www.ethnos.gr

Nymfaio has been often included in “The ten most beautiful villages of Europe” lists, and has claimed the UNESCO “Melina Mercouri International Prize” for the excellent management of the area’s cultural heritage and the surrounding natural environment.

Nimfaio via danezis.blogspot.com

Nimfaio via danezis.blogspot.com

Arcturos’s (NGO dedicated to the protection of brown bears and wolves) headquarters are situated just 1,5 km from Nymfaio and their sanctuary is open to visitors year round (depending on weather conditions).

Don’t miss the chance to visit the “Goldsmith, Folklore and History Museum”, with exhibits including authentic local furniture, traditional tools for jewellery making, and, of course, jewels. Before leaving the area dine at Thoma’s, a 5-star tavern in Amyntaio, a few kilometres away from Nymfaio.

2. Palaios Panteleimon, Pieria

Located at the foothills of the most famous and mysterious mountain of antiquity, Mount Olympus, the village of Palaios Panteleimon is renowned for its hospitable people. The village, also named “the balcony of Olympus” is an ideal destination for every season. Nature lovers and adrenaline enthusiasts will have the opportunity to choose between hiking, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding and off-road driving. After a day full of exhausting activities, relax in one of the traditional cafes (or kafenia in Greek!) on the main square and enjoy authentic Greek coffee prepared on the coals and served in a copper pot, always accompanied by a locally produced spoon sweet!

3. Palaios Agios Athanasios, Pella

Situated within short distance from the border between Greece and FYROM, Palaios Agios Athanasios has become a trending destination in the last couple of years due to its proximity to the ski centre of Kaimaktsalan. For travellers seeking relaxation, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Palaios Agios Athanasios during the winter season, but if you are in pursuit of cosmopolitan ski holidays rush to book one of the charming guest houses; from traditional cafes and taverns to luxury restaurants and nightclubs, you will find everything you need in this small village.

4. Zagorochoria, Ioannina

I would need more than 20 pages if I wanted to fully describe this corner of Greece. Zagorochoria is a set of 46 villages that meet the needs of every kind of traveller. Here you can find cosmopolitan villages, quiet villages, or even secluded villages, only accessible on foot! Either on the peaks of Pindos mountain range or hidden in the woods, each and every one of them will take you back to older times.

The hiking trail of Vikos gorge, part of the E4 European path, and Drakolimni (or “Dragon Lake”) are two places of incomparable natural beauty totally worth your time.

Beautiful spot in Vikos gorge via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186829084515616237/

Beautiful spot in Vikos gorge via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186829084515616237/

The local cuisine is amazing, its cornerstones being the pies (or “pita” in Greek), several traditional recipes with meat and spoon sweets. Pair your meal with a nice red wine made in the area, and spend your evenings drinking tsipouro, a strong spirit made by local producers.

5. Pelion

There are 24 villages on Mount Pelion, some of them hidden in forests of beech and chestnut trees and other on the coastline. During your visit in Portaria village, which is probably the most picturesque one, and after you walk its cobbled alleys, follow the “trail of the Centaurs”, a circular path of 2,7 km (approximately 1 hour), to get inspired by the ancient Greek mythology.

Portaria via pilionterra, Flickr

Portaria via pilionterra, Flickr

Before leaving Portaria, have some coffee and cake at the Cafe “Aeriko” while enjoying the magnificent vista over Pagassitikos bay. The cosmopolitan village of Makrynitsa, known also as the “balcony of Pelion” is located just 4km away from Portaria. Once you get tired by strolling through its picturesque streets with the small shops, head to the restaurant “Gefsokratoras” to treat your sense of taste with a delicious meal.

Makrynitsa; the balcony of Pelion via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/336995984586522246/

Makrynitsa; the balcony of Pelion via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/336995984586522246/

What is more, from horse riding in the woods and skiing to scuba diving in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, the area of Pelion can offer you numerous dreaming experiences!

6. Monemvasia

Perched on a rock thrown in the sea, Monemvasia gives the impression that the rock and the settlement were created together at once. Surrounded by walls and almost cut off from the mainland, the scenery will make you think that you just discovered a time travel machine! The entire old town looks like a museum, with narrow alleys and small squares while some buildings still retain their marble coats of arms, remnants of an era of wealth and glory.

At sunset, relax on the balcony of your hotel room, empty your mind and lose yourself among shades of red you’ve never imagined.

7. Vatheia, Laconia

Resembling an open-air museum of architecture in the heart of Mani, Vatheia remains untouched by time. A settlement positioned on a hilltop, Vatheia looks like an abandoned village since the permanent habitants are no more than a few dozen, living in tower-like mansions. The fairytale 2-3 -floor chateaus made of stone have very small windows, once used as ramparts during the war against the Turks or pirate invasions.

Many mansions have been renovated and are now charming guest houses. Don’t miss the chance to swim in the turquoise waters at the nearby beaches of Kapi and Exo Kapi.

Labros Psomodotis

Skiing down Greece; discover 9 amazing ski resorts

10 Nov

1. Parnassos

Being one of the closest ski centres from Athens (and the largest in Greece), Parnassos gets quite busy especially during the weekends in the winter. The nearby town of Arachova, full with modern bars, restaurants and cafes, attracts loads of people and is one of the most famous entertainment hubs in Greece during the winter!

Distance from Athens:180km

Ski runs: 21

Total length of ski runs: 22km

2. Kalavryta

Source http://4.bp.blogspot.com

Source news.gtp.gr

 

At an altitude of 2340m, in the northern part of Peloponnese you will find the 2nd largest ski center of Greece, this of Kalavryta, situated close to the town of Kalavryta. Due to its close proximity to Athens, this ski centre also attracts many people during the winter, who enjoy the 12 ski runs of different difficulties including a black one, this of Ino (1400m long), considered to be one of the most challenging runs in Greece.

Distance from Athens: 203km

Ski runs: 12

Total length of ski runs: 20km

3. Kaimaktsalan

Source http://2.bp.blogspot.com

Source e-xionodromika.com

Kaimaktsalan ski centre, very close to the border with FYROM and the traditional village of Palaios Agios Athanasios, offers 13 ski runs of different difficulties. From up there (2500m) you will also be able to enjoy the view of lake Vegoritida and the peak of mountain Olympos!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 139km, from Athens: 660km

Ski runs: 13

Total length of ski runs: 15km

4. Pelion

Source money-tourism.blogspot.com

Source money-tourism.blogspot.com

In the extremely picturesque and full of nature mountain of Pelion, in Agriolefkes, there is a ski centre, at an altitude of 1500m. What is really worth saying about this ski centre is that offers the opportunity to ski while enjoying the view of the…sea! Yes, that’s right, you can go skiing whilst admiring the Mediterranean sea!

Distance from Athens: 346km

Ski runs: 8

Total length of ski runs: 5km

5. Pertouli

The ski centre of Pertouli, near the uniquely beautiful village of Elati, is not a big one; on the contrary, with only 3 ski runs, is probably one of the smallest in Greece! Still, it is worth visiting if you are in this magnificent area and spend some time skiing in all levels of difficulty!

Distance from Athens: 375km

Ski runs: 3

Total length of ski runs: 2km

6. 3-5 Pigadia

3-5 Pigadia (pigadi meaning well in Greek!) is the ski centre of Naoussa in Northern Greece. In this unique location you will find many ski runs and the only ski centre in Greece with a system of artificial snowing to ensure that the quality of skiing will be at high standards throughout the winter season!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 108km, from Athens: 557km

Ski runs: 10

Total length of ski runs: 9km

7. Seli

The ski centre of Seli, near Veroia in the north of Greece, was the first established ski resort in Greece back in 1934. Still a famous winter destination, it attracts people from all parts of Greece and offers a variety of ski runs for the visitors in its well organized facilities.

Distance from Thessaloniki: 95km ,from Athens: 540km

Ski runs: 19

Total length of ski runs: 15km

8. Vasilitsa

Vasilitsa is another very famous ski centre in northern Greece which attracts many ski lovers. Situated near Grevena, it offers high quality facilities and you will find it full with skiers especially during the weekends as many people from the surrounding areas visit to enjoy the snow!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 216km. from Athens: 468km

Ski runs:18

Total length of ski runs: 22km

9. Falakro

The ski centre of Falakro is one of the most important ski centres of northern Greece and one of the biggest as it has 21 ski runs. Although the name of the mountain suggests that there is not much flora (as Falakro means bald!), the mountain is quite rich in nature and magnificent sceneries. The ski centre is situated in an advantageous position which stays covered with snow more months per year compared to other ski centres in Greece and as a result is quite popular!

Distance from Thessaloniki: 210km

Ski runs: 20

Total length of ski runs: 20km

Enjoy your winter vacations in Greece!!!

Stavros Tsoukatos

6 reasons why driving along the main Greek highway is not boring

20 Oct

The highway connecting the two largest Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, is one of the most common routes in Greece. It is 500km (or 5 hours) long so you could probably use a pit stop or two.

Acropolis via www.seemous.eu, Thessaloniki via http://www.gtp.gr/

Acropolis via http://www.seemous.eu, Thessaloniki via http://www.gtp.gr/

This is why I have decided to write a post on the places where it is worth stopping on your way from Athens to Thessaloniki!

1. Kamena Vourla

Kamena Vurla via www.panoramio.com

Kamena Vourla via http://www.panoramio.com

The exact meaning in Greek may sound a bit funny, but this town is certainly worth paying a visit. 177 km from Athens and after a small diversion following the signs to Kamena Vurla, you will arrive to one of the most renowned Greek thermal bath sites. Here, the water is naturally high in Radon and other salts and minerals, making the thermal baths one of the most important in Europe. In the town centre you will find the Ippokrates and Asklipio health spas, while if you go a bit outside the centre towards the Knimi Mountain you will find a variety of thermal baths (Koniavati, Kallintika, Aphroditi). My personal suggestion would be the Aphroditi thermal baths: apart from the natural baths they also have a wonderful outdoor pool.

Extra tip: Don’t forget to stop at Thermopylae (just before Kamena Vourla) to see the famous battle site and the statue of Leonidas.

2. Karavomilos

This little village just next to the highway is famous for its tavernas and especially for the delicious, supersized burgers they serve! Choose the Gklatzounis taverna and make sure you order the beef liver apart from burger, they are both irresistible (and so are the prices!). If you are not a huge meat fan though, skip Gklatzounis and head towards the beach were you will find the Antonopoulos fish tavern, offering fresh and delicious fish and seafood.

3. Farsala

30 km from the highway, Farsala may be more a diversion than a pit-stop but it is worth making. Here they make a unique type of halva, named Halva Farsalon after the town’s name. Halva Farsalon can be found in different shapes and tastes in almost every dessert shop or bakery in the city center. Enjoy!

4. Ambelakia

Ambelakia village via http://www.lastoffertravel.gr

Ambelakia village via http://www.lastoffertravel.gr

In order to reach Ambelakia village you just need to take the left exit at the Tembi junction and continue straight for 5 kilometers. This village is known for the luxurious traditional buildings constructed during a very wealthy era during which the main professional occupation was fabric production and dying with a red pigment derived from the processing of parts of a plant called rizari (Rubia tinctorum). It also worth mentioning that the first ever professional cooperative was formed here in Ambelakia. Stroll around the picturesque paved streets of the village, surrounded by mansions and head to towards the Georgios Mavros mansion that is open to the public. The Saint George church and Folklore Museum are also worth visiting.

5. Rapsani

The wine and a local spirit called tsipouro from Rapsani are famous all over Greece. Some of the wineries are open to the public and I would totally recommend visiting one! The route through the vineyards may be adventurous, going uphill through narrow dirt roads, but it is a unique experience: the sensation of freedom and inner strength you feel admiring the breathtaking view is one you will never forget. Inside the winery one can see the local architecture and the traditional oak barrels.

Extra tip: On your way back to the highway don’t forget to stop at the canteen right on the junction to try authentic souvlaki and traditional sausages.

6. Palaios Panteleimon (Old Panteleimon)

Palaios Panteleimon is my favourite traditional settlement in Greece. It is situated at the foothills of Mount Olympus, 5km away from the new settlement and the highway. A walk around its picturesque streets is totally worth it, as you can find small shops with traditional local goods, while the wonderful sea view and paved central square will surely seduce you! Choose your favourite traditional cafeteria on the square and sip on Greek coffee served with a traditional Greek dessert called “glyko tou koutaliou” or “spoon dessert”!

Extra tip: On your way back to the highway visit Platamonas Castle, and if the weather is nice, head towards the beach and enjoy the wonderful blue-green waters!

Have a nice trip!

Labros Psomodotis

11 Greek water paradises that will keep you away from the beach

13 Oct

1. Lake Orestiada, Kastoria

Kastoria is a magnificent town built on the side of lake Orestiada. A famous winter destination in Northern Greece, offers unique landscapes; take the road by the lake and walk in order to explore not only the lake but also the architectural magnificence of Kastoria. Don’t miss  the Panagia Mavriotissa Monastery, by the lake, hidden in the trees.

Kastoria via tiniakos.wordpress.com

Lake Orestiada via tiniakos.wordpress.com

2. Lake Prespa

Two beautiful lakes, located northern of Kastoria and shared by Greece, Albania and FYROM. There you will find many small traditional villages where you can eat fish from the lake.You can also explore the rich flora and fauna of the area. In the smaller lake you can walk to the Agios Achillios island and in the bigger one (which is the one shared by the 3 nations) you can take a small boat and go around and “see “the point where the 3 nations’ borders meet as well as symbols and icons of christianity painted on the rocks.

Prespes via aggelioforos.gr

Lake Prespa via aggelioforos.gr

3. Edessa waterfalls, Edessa

Well, I think the waterfalls of Edessa are the most famous in Greece! After falling down from 70m, the water ends in the river of Edessaios creating a majestic and quite imposing picture. You will have the chance to stand inside the waterfall without getting wet as there is a small bridge built in the inner part of the waterfalls!

Edessa via visit.com.gr

Edessa Waterfalls via visit.com.gr

4. Lake Plastiras, Karditsa

Plastiras lake is an artificial lake very close to the town of Karditsa. The landscapes being formed at this altitude offer amazing pictures. Plastiras lake (named after the politician who planned it and created it almost a century ago) is famous for the many activities it offers; canoe kayak, horse riding, trekking, mountain climbing and many more are offered in the area.

Plastiras Lake via hotelslimnisplastira.gr

Plastiras Lake via hotelslimnisplastira.gr

5. Pamvotida lake,  Ioannina

Situated in the town of Ioannina, Pamvotida offers an amazing, always nostalgic atmosphere and accompanied with the Mitsikeli mountain in the background, creates a unique picturesque landscape that has nothing to be jealous of the famous landscapes of the Alps.

Pamvotida Lake via laketour.gr

Pamvotida Lake via laketour.gr

6. Pantavrechi, Evrytania

Pantavrechi is an area close to Karpenisi that it is hard to reach (especially during the winter) but it’s totally worth to try! There you can go river trekking and enjoy the canyon where it is always raining (as Panta-vrechi means always raining in Greek); the reason for this is that there is always water coming down from the cliffs above the canyon! You can also go horse riding in the nearby river of Karpenisiotis!

Pantavrexi via travelstyle.gr

Pantavrexi via travelstyle.gr

7. Waterfalls of Neraida, Kithira

Walk through a small canyon and enjoy the magnificent beauty of this unique route from Mylopotamos village (which is the closest place to park your vehicle). You will also find abandoned watermills that used to operate years ago.

Waterfalls of Neraida via http://artcms.arttravel.gr/

Waterfalls of Neraida via http://artcms.arttravel.gr/

8. Neda waterfalls, Messinia

Neda is canyon in Greece, inside a heavy forest that will offer you an amazing experience! To walk (through the river at some parts!) the whole canyon you will need roughly 7-8 hours. There are 2 waterfalls but the best part is the route by the river that provides amazing views. Don’t miss your chance to swim in the river; although the temperature of the water is very low..!

Neda via http://www.in2life.gr

Neda Waterfalls via http://www.in2life.gr

9. Drimonas waterfalls, Eyvoia

In the northern part of Eyvoia you will find the waterfalls of Drimonas. Close to a small village that was built centuries ago, the place owes its existence to the monastery of the area. The path to the waterfalls starts from the road and after the 15m high waterfalls splits into 2 smaller ones, one leading to the monastery.

Drimonas via http://www.voriaevia.net

Drimonas Waterfalls via http://www.voriaevia.net

10. Melissani lake, Kefallonia

Melissani is a lake in a cave! And it is on an island, this of Kefallonia. Part of the cave collapsed in the past, allowing sunlight to spread in the cave and create amazing colours and a unique feeling to the visitor. Visit Kefallonia, take a boat tour in the lake and the experience will stay with you forever.

Melissani Cave via http://www.kefaloniataxi.gr

Melissani Cave via http://www.kefaloniataxi.gr

11.Polylimnio, Messinia

You will find 15 lakes (as the name of the area suggest, Polylimnio means many lakes), each one more picturesque than the other! You will have to walk through small paths on the mountainous surroundings in order to explore the area and take advantage of the elevated points for amazing vistas!

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