“Bridging the gap”. A weekend in the villages of Grevena

Written by katerina

25 January 2014

The tour began immediately after our arrival at the hotel “Pindos Palace”, on the slope over the village “Lavda” and only a few kilometers far from the ski center of “Vasilitsa”.

      Setting off from Veria at 9.30 we arrived at “Pindos Palace” hotel after a 2 hours’ drive including a stopover for stretching our legs a bit in “Grevena”. After checking in at the hotel and a delicious coffee we had, enjoying a wonderful view of the pine-covered slopes of the mountain, which at that time were covered with fresh powdery snow, we set off for our walk in the area. We have come here many times and in different seasons but each time the images are different. We marched in the snow, on a hill opposite the hotel and visited the small chapel standing at its highest point. The view was unique. We got in our cars and took the road to “Smixi”, “Vasilitsa” and finally “Samarina”. A pleasant journey that lasted about 40 minutes, as the snow that was falling was delaying us. But who was in a hurry anyway? In “Samarina” the snow had reached the 30 points in height, and it was untrodden in many streets and yards, as in the great courtyard of the Church of the Assumption (Megali Panagia). Taverns in the village square and two shops with traditional products gather all the human activity in the village. There are a few residents in the village in winter. The streets are deserted.the Church of the Assumption (Megali Panagia)

    The local grilled meat dishes and the famous mushrooms as well as the dairy products are a trademark of the area. We tried several of them and really enjoyed them! In the evening we decided to go to “Spileo” and have dinner in the tavern named “Partridge”. It’s better to visit “Spileo” during daytime. Following the narrow road, almost carved into the rock, on which the village is built, in a location of unparalleled beauty that cannot be easily described in words. The view seams endless! In the east you can see “Kamvounia”, “Pieria Mountains”, “Olympus” and “Ziygos” and in the west the “National Park of Pindos” with the beautiful valley of “Valia Calda”. That’s the reason they named it “the balcony of Pindos”. We were “compensated” by the delights of “Partridge”, since the rain that was falling incessantly would not allow us to walk around the village even in daytime. The attractions in “Spileo” are many with”Portitsa gorge” and the homonymous stone bridge being on top of the list. However, the road is and would be impassable with the rain falling or even after it. The dirt road would be too muddy!  On our way back to the hotel, in the dark mountain road we played a game: “Who will see the most hares”  jumping from the roadsides with their eyes shining in the lights of the car. The fireplace was lit in the hotel lounge when we returned.

the road to "Pindos Palace"    So was the next morning. Around it we planned our morning stroll. The weather was getting better, so we happily decided to visit two of the many stone bridges of the area. The bridge of “Ziakas” over “Venetiko River” is right next to the road and well maintained. But what we saw after “Trikomo” could never be forgotten! The impressive arched bridge of “Aziz Aga”, which is the highest of Macedonia, with the colored cliffs standing at the side of it, changing the flow of the river and forcing it to make a major shift in its waters. You have to literary climb it if you want to go over it. I cannot think of anyone that doesn’t want to be on the top, to feel how everything from up there looks, from the 15 meters height. The thought of having a trip just for to visit the bridges of Grevena comes to our minds. It will not be long before we make it true!

    Our tour to the landscapes of unique beauty in “Pindos” is a real experience: dense forests of conifers, firs, beeches, maples, elms, lindens, poplars, pines, oaks and bushes, but also taps with running water to quench the thirst of the passer-by- travelers. Among the villages of the region, “Samarina” is located at the foot of “Smolikas Mountain”, “Smixi” at the slopes of “Vasilitsa” (where the ski center is), while “Perivoli” and mainly “Avdella” and Krania are gateways to the national park of “Valia Calda”. These are the “Vlach villages” in the area and are all built at high altitude.

    On the contrary, at a lower altitude lay the so called “Koupatsochoria” of  Grevena In Grevena , “Koupatsochoria” are villages in the southwest of the city, particularly around the mountain “Orliakas” (which is 1433 m. high). The word is derived from the Turkish “Koupati”, that means “oak”. There are the villages “Ziakas“, “Spileo“, “Kosmati”, “Trikomo“, “Lavda“,”Polyneri“,  “Panorama“, “Perivolaki”, “Alatopetra”, “Monachiti”, “Kipoureio“, “Aetia“, “Filippaioi” etc. The Koupatsaraioi were normally breeders or kyratzides (mule drivers).

Samarina square Pindos Palace

The “Vlachochoria”

  Perched on the slopes of Pindos, between crystal clear streams and rivers, dense forests of pine, fir, beech trees and bushes, in a truly wonderful landscape, are built the “Vlach villages”, namely Samarina, Perivoli, Smixi, and the Avdella the Dogwood, which belong to the prefecture of Grevena.

  Each visitor can see and enjoy the natural beauty offered by beautiful forests where several species of animals and birds (bears, wolves, deer eagles) live, while on the mountain slopes there are endless pastures where herds of sheep and goats graze. Moreover, the visitor can visit the picturesque churches, the stone bridges, samples of the culture of the Vlachs in the region.

region map Perivoli: a charming village which is located about 45 km from Grevena at an altitude of 1350 meters, in a lush dense forest of beech trees, bushes and trees, in the Pindos National Park Valia-Kalda (warm valley in Vlach). In the square stands the statue of Rigas and the church of St. George with the wooden iconostasis of 1770 and icons of that era.

Avdella: Built on the back side of the ski resort of Vasilitsa, Avdella is built at an altitude of 1250 to 1370 m. It has a beautiful paved square shaded by huge plane trees. Here as well residents number about 100 people in winter and in summer during the feast of the Transfiguration rises as high as 800! At the highest point of the village is built modern outdoor theater with endless views! *The “La fitsiorlou di la Mundi” restaurant meaning (“Stalwart Mountain”) is located on the square.

Smixi: Smixi is the village chosen as a residence by those that visitat the “Vasilitsa ski centre” . Vasilitsa is the second highest mountain of Law. Grevena 2,249 m. The name of the village came from the smiximo settlements tables and bingo. The same phenomenon here: the farmers are leaving during the winter and the village is inhabited only by the hotel owners, the restaurant owners, waiters and chambermaids, around 200 people. But in the summer the population reaches  1,000 residents! In the second square the former primary school building is maintained in good condition (stone building of 1933) and has already been converted into a hostel.

Samarina: It is the most famous village of the Vlachs at an altitude of 1450 m. in the square. However, some houses are located at 1530 m. It also holds the title of most mountain village not only in Greece but in the whole Balkans. The inhabitants are occupied with farming and logging wood. In winter (especially on weekdays) residents do not exceed 50, on Saturdays are usually over 200 in the summer reaches 700, culminating in a fortnight from 5 until August 20, so high as 2000! More specifically, a large festival is held here to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin, on the yard surrounding the church of the Assumption. In the central square of the village the visitor will see the church of Virgin Mary (Megali Panagia). Built in 1819, with a characteristic pine that grew in the sanctuary of the church, which protrudes above the roof of the church, while the roots are not visible in the church.
For local cheese, as well as several other local products traditional products shop The House of Cheese you will find in the square in. Sale slice, Gruyere, Parmesan, galotyri, gruyere, cream cheese, cottage cheese, cheese, frumenty, noodles, liquor and sweets. Tel. 6946466101 and 6946466102.

Spileo (meaning “cave”) Spileo is a settlement 25km west of the city of Grevena, in the mountains of northeastern Pindos. It belongs to the municipality Theod. Ziaka of N.Grevenon and today has 160 residents. It is built at an altitude of 980 m. on the southern plateau of Mount Orliakas Two rivers, Perivoliotikos from the west and Smixiotikos from the east are joined beneath a steep cliff but with great beauty and create “Venetikos”,  the main tributary of Aliakmonas. The location of the village is exceptionally beautiful. The view is vast and you can see Kamvounia -Pieria-Olympus-Zygos in the east and the National Park of Pindos with the beautiful valley of “Valia Calda” in the west. That’s why they call the village “the Balcony of Pindos” , Aetofolia (eagle’s nest) etc. Because of its great location and long history, the village and the hole region are protected and have been classified by the Ministry of Culture in June 1973 as a Historian and of outstanding natural beauty place.
The sights of the village you will really enjoy have been created by the erosion of the limestone rocks, through the years, especially by the two rivers,  which created two rare and remarkable gorges. Firstly, the canyon of Portitsa, with the stone bridge at its mouth. Its height is 300 meters and its wild beauty fascinates you. The river that crosses it, is “Perivoliotikos”. Secondly, “Liatisas ” gorge, having the same beauty but it is hardly accessible. “Smixiotikos” river crosses this one. There are two stone bridges in the area as well, “Katsoyannou” and “Liatisas”. Another attraction is “Vaenaki”, a tunnel 10 meters long that permeates “Portitsa” rock. Of course, a visit to the Monastery of Virgin Mary is necessary, to admire some remarkable paintings and the architecture of the church. It would be ideal to reach “Portitsa” on foot going downhill on the dirt road. Hold your strength  for the return, though!

Portitsa gorge Grevena Town Clock

Ziaka bridge

    The Mushroom Museum in Lavda Grevena opened on 6 November 2011. In a traditional stone building a great collection of mushroom exhibits is hosted : natural wild mushrooms, dried ones, and sculptures, which were incorporated in showcases which are miniature of nature. Information is given for all mushrooms along with rich literature and audiovisual material.


     In the prefecture of Grevena you can see 17 arched bridges: Portitsa Bridge, Kagelia bridge , Aziz Aga bridge, Stavropotamou bridge, Spanos bridge, Tourkogefyro, Katsoyannou bridge, Liatissas bridge, Stampeki bridge, Matsagkani bridge, Dotsiko bridge, Pasha bridge, Pramoritsas bridge, Paliomagero bridge, Papataki bridge, Prosvorou bridge and Castle bridge. The stone bridges of Grevena will travel you from the eastern slopes of Pindos until Vasilitsa and the southern slopes of Voio and will help you pass Venetiko river, Velonia river and the dozens of streams and tributary of Venetiko and Aliakmonas.

Aziz Aga bridge

 For those that want more information on the bridges
You can find information in the following link :http://www.grevena.gov.gr/
Or ask us for a detailed map and directions

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