After a 2.30 hours’ road trip from Veria (along with a stop to overview Florina) and you reached the shores of Little Prespa! As the road descents towards the lake basin, the eye stretches to the vast bean fields that extend up to the riparian reeds and the wet meadows! That’s where the happiest cows graze! Pelicans, lagons, cormorants and herons in low flights over the waters! The area is protected due to the rare biodiversity of the wetland which is home to one of the largest colonies of silver pelicans. An ideal place for bird watching!
Leave the car in the open space near the lake and walk on the 650 m long floating footbridge (built in 2000) that connects the mainland with Agios Achilleios, the remote island in Lake Mikri Prespa. In the unique settlement of only 23 permanent residents of the island stand only 11 houses. Some in ruins… Cars are not allowed on the island and the locals moor their boats in the port of the settlement. A kiosk / mini market and a small cafe will serve you fine.
Take the path to the basilica church of St. Achilles. You will soon see one of the largest basilicas in Greece that gave the island its name and stands there since the 10th century. You will be impressed! Today, in the surrounding area of the archeological site, the cultural events “Prespeia” take place every August.
The island is ideal for hiking! The circular hiking route that starts from the lakeside settlement in Agios Achilleios and passes through the basilica of Ag. Achilles, leads from one end of the island to the other, overlooking each side of the lake. On the way you come across the churches of Agios Georgios (15th century) and Agios Dimitrios (14th century)
On the hill above the settlement stands the modern church of Ag. Achilles that offers panoramic views.
Take the uphill road between Mikri and Megali Prespa leading to Psarades, a village on the banks of Megali Prespa! Time to taste the local delicacies. Don’t leave without tasting fresh carp, trout or roaches, fresh from the lake. Florina peppers as well of course! Their meat dishes are super, too. We have eaten well at “Syntrofia” (tel. 23850-46107, www.syntrofia-prespes.gr) and at “Paragadia”.
Before leaving Prespa, take a boat trip to Megali Prespa setting off from Psarades. The cruise to Triethnes, on the water border between Greece, Albania and FYROM, and the visit to the hermitages with the rock paintings hanging above the lake, will be unforgettable.
Move on to the unique village of “Agios Germanos”! No luxury, no restored mansions! A real movie scene with its abandoned houses! Be sure to enter the old church of Ag. Germanos right at the square with the most remarkable hagiographies. Visit the watermill (read here: https://www.spp.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&catid=6%3A2010-03-04-13-52-03&id=190%3A-europa-nostra -2016 & lang = en) and the Information Center of the Society for the Protection of Prespa. If you feel like having a bite, enter the “Tzaki” (tel. 23850-51303), which bakes in the wood oven. This time we chose the dreamy courtyard of the Guest House”Agios Germanos” (Guest House Agios Germanos, see here: http://prespa.com.gr/). Some homemade sour cherry dessert accompanied our coffee… The day ended sweetly before the return trip!
Do not underestimate the mountainous Halkidiki. Not even in winter. Great routes and villages that it’s time to put on the schedule, with Arnaia appearing first in line. Beautiful Arnaia, built at 600m. at the foot of Holomontas Mt., named “Liarigovi” in the past, preserves to this day both its wonderful natural environment and the traditional character of the settlement and is the most beautiful village of Halkidiki.
Restored houses, traditional mansions, unique examples of Macedonian architecture, cobbled alleys for unforgettable walks, traditional cafes and restaurants, take you on a journey through time in a setting of fairytale beauty. We found it very interesting that after the general restoration of many buildings, informational signs with a brief history of each building have been posted on the walls of about a hundred historical buildings of Macedonian architecture enlightening the visitors with details! Visit the Folklore Museum, tel.: 2372 350100 open: 10.00-14.00 ) housed in the famous “Iatrou” mansion, and the unique Textile Museum, tel.: 2372 351100, open: 9.00 – 13.00). Entrance €2 – single ticket for both museums which are in the same neighborhood.
Further down, in “Horostasi” you will see the School of 1871, the so-called “urban school of Liarigovi” today’s Town Hall. Be sure to enter the Historic Holy Metropolitan Church of Agios Stefanos (open almost all day). You will be impressed by the unique, artistic, wood-carved iconostasis and the transparent floor.
You will have a delicious and traditional meal at the square at “Platanos” tavern. Opposite, at “Aristotelous” cafe, enjoy your coffee next to the plane tree and next door, around the corner, taste 5 types of the award-winning “Georgaka” honey and excellent “mundovina”. Go to “Passalimani” café for nice cocktails and the musical evenings it hosts.
Life flows at a calm pace in Arnaia, with tradition elements overflowing the place and magically transporting you to other times. We enjoyed every hour we spent strolling around its cobblestone streets dinning and having our coffee near the gurgling water under the plane tree in its historic Square.
Walks in Arnaia
The residential area of Arnaia, rich in images and great examples of traditional Macedonian architecture, definitely needs one or more walks to be revealed. Only by walking will you recognize its importance, but also the dozens of reasons why it was designated a “Historical Site” by the Ministry of Culture.
Starting from the main square, whichever street you take you will need between 10 and 20 minutes at most to complete a very interesting walk. The Municipality has designed 6 distinct walking routes with the aim of serving visitors and making it easier to get to know the architectural wealth of the settlement. All routes start and end radially in the central square revealing both the near and far corners of the settlement. The shortest walking route (10 minutes) is the one marked in red on the map and passes through “Gerogianni” Square and “Kari Pazari”. The longer ones, such as the green and the yellow, lead to the northern edges of the historic center, reaching Horostasi and the church of Agios Stefanos.
What to see
Even today, Arnaia preserves samples of an old local society in terms of its urban planning and architectural character. The settlement did not develop on top of some organized pre-existing settlement. It is old, without an urban plan and densely built. According to tradition, the inhabitants who returned to the city after its destruction by the Turks began to rebuild the settlement around the squares. The houses are very close to each other and without yards, to protect them from the wind and keep them warm during the winter. There are no free spaces within the building fabric. There are narrow, cobbled streets and squares that make up an attractive combination of the beauty of the surroundings and tradition. The core of the settlement is the central square, the “market”, where there is a large plane tree through which drinking water flows. Around the square and the main street, where public services, banks, shops and dining areas with traditional cafes and taverns are concentrated, the commercial center of Arnaia is developing. In the alleys that start radially from the central square, creating smaller squares and neighborhoods along the way, one can admire the rich traditional reserve that this unique settlement has. South of the central square, in the district of “Gannoudena”, is the famous “Iatrou” Mansion, which functions as a Historical-Folklore museum and further on the Textile Museum. The most remarkable examples of Arnaia architecture are gathered in this district. Houses built after the disaster of 1821, painted in strong indigo or ochre, form beautiful neighborhoods.
Going down the main road from the square you will find yourself in front of the famous School of 1871, the so-called “urban school of Liarigovi”. It is the most well-built school of the 19th century in Halkidiki and since 1990 it houses the Town Hall. Next to the Town Hall is the church of Agios Stefanos, a three-aisled basilica with a famous bell tower dating from 1889. The church was completely burned down twice. During the reconstruction and renovation works, the existence of three older buildings was revealed inside the church: a large three-aisled early Christian basilica dating from around 400, a small one-room Byzantine church from the 10th – 11th centuries and a large rectangular post-Byzantine building from the 16th – 17th century. It is the only temple in Greece that works for the needs of the faithful while it is built on antiquities of great value – and indeed visible, since there are special glass panels on the floor of the temple, which allow you to see the illuminated and specially designed archaeological site and the findings that were discovered under the temple! In the famous bell tower of the church opposite the Town Hall and Agios Stefanos is the old inn and today “Alexandrou’s” guesthouse in two beautifully restored buildings. This whole area used to be the center of the village, the so-called Horostasi. The cruciform church with a dome of Aghii Anargyri, painted in 1919 by monks of Mount Athos, is also noteworthy. The imposing building of the Primary School with its huge courtyard is also of interest. It is a typical example of school architecture of the 1930s.
Keeping a low profile, without boasting for its virtues, Sifnos reveals very quickly its rich qualities! It’s picturesque, with a valuable gastronomic inheritance, rich in folk art and tradition, architecture, aesthetics and natural beauties which are everywhere around you.
Do you like walking around? Start with a walk along the “Steno” in Apollonia. Especially during afternoon/evening hours. Everyone’s there at that hours! Have a drink while listening to fine music, make your purchases…. Don’t miss the unique strolling around the alleys of the medieval “Castle” settlement. Follow the descended the stairs to the chapel of “Eftamartyros”, perched on a rock emerging from the sea. You will be compensated! Still not enough walking? Walk from Apollonia to Artemonas through the narrow streets, taking pictures at every corner / courtyard / door way that suddenly looks more scenic than all the others and reach Artemonas with the magnificent neoclassical buildings, the bougainvillea houses and the elaborate ceramic pots that decorate the chimneys (flaroi). Are you a real hiker? Sifnos has a well organized network of trails with maps and all (100 km) – www.sifnostrails.com
Do you like swimmming? Of course! You don’t have to go far! Covering all tastes and at short distances you can reach every beach. Sandy ones (Kamares, Platis Gialos, Apokofto, Glyfo, Fasolou, Vathi, Herronissos – the furthest …), rocky, for dives from rocks (Panagia Chrisopigi, Seven Witnesses / Castle …). Organized … in Kamares, Platis Gialos and Vathi and you will find everything at your feet . Or maybe you and the beach trees (Glypho) and then settle there for hours. If you fancy a boat tour you can have it, too. You will discover small lonely bays just for you.
Do you want to eat well? You came to the right place. The path was well shown by Tselemendes the first Greek cook to publish a cook book! You will traditionally eat: “mastelo”, capers’ salad, dishes with “manoure” and local “mytzithra” (local types of cheese) and of course “revithada”, the famous chick peas soup. Do you want more modern dishes, gourmet cuisine, appetizers, Italian cuisine? There are top choices in every field, hosting excellent restaurants in narrow streets, verandas, courtyards with immense views …
Do you love sunsets and sunrises?
“Chrysopigi” church on the cracked rock, with her bell tower, is the perfect scenery to see the sun rising up, coloring the Aegean sky. Then sunset at “Agios Simeon”, at the highest point of the island. You can see the church from “Kamares”. At night it’s illuminated looking like a spacecraft! In the evening it “dives” in orange. Do not miss the sunset view from up there!
Do you want to entertain yourself? Drink your cocktails at the bars along the “Steno” in unique settings. See if your visit comes upon a local feast “Panigiri” at some chapel or the “Tselemendes festival” or some other event organized by the superactive Cultural Association of the island. Be informed about the cultural events of the island on their pages: https://www.facebook.com/PSSifnou/ , http://sifnosps.gr/
Lots of things to learn about Sifnos on the most accurate web tourist guide
Where the unique charm of Sifnos comes from, it is up to each one of you to discover. Look for its hidden gems and take with you what will make you want to turn back over and over again.
We stayed at Meropi Rooms & Apartments . We also highly recommend Nymfes Hotel both in Kamares
We TRIED & we liked: “Maiolica” in Platis Yialos (modern Mediterranean cuisine- fantastic!!!)
“Drakakis Cafe” in Apollonia, (small dishes – very good)
“Cayenne Restaurant Art Gallery” in Apollonia, (more gourmet, slightly expensive but it’s worth it- perfect)
“Okyalos” in Apollonia, (We had wonderful Sifnian dishes)
“Mamma Mia” in Apollonia (Italian cuisine) (very good)
“Doloma” Bar in Apollonia (on a nice corner)
“Kitrino podilato” in Artemonas (for a nice dessert or coffee in a lovely courtyard)
“Smaragdi” in Artemonas (we had a nice breakfast)
“Syrma” in Kamares (delicious breakfast on the beach) . Free sun loungers!
Beach bar “Old Captain Bar” in Kamares. Really nice shadowy setting, great music, good service.
“Kyma” beach bar in Kamares. Nothing special. The sunbeds are charged for 3€ each
We tried “loukoumades” at “Three blond angels”. . Average for our standards.
WE VISITED the ceramics workshop of Yiannis Apostolides, on the road from Kamares to Apollonia. Do not miss it!
At the high mountains of Zacharias Papantoniou we met the beauties of Evritania during Holly Week, when the peaks and the spruce-covered slopes were still waiting for spring to come and liven them up. Plane valleys, canyons and vertical cliffs everywhere…. Water rushing along rivers, torrents and waterfalls. A place for those who love nature. Numerous trekking paths in a most imposing scenery … A few visitors here around these days. The definition of calmness! Few smoking chimneys, as the weather was demanding it especially in the morning.
Evritania and Karpenissi are not exclusively winter destinations. Although it’s considered the “Switzerland” of Greece and it is mainly known for its ski center, Velouchi mountain and the surrounding area are a great destination all around the year. It’s an ideal spring and summer destination especially for those who love walking in nature. The land here also boasts of its great history and folklore, which has been depicted in the many folklore and historical museums of its villages.
We stayed in Megalo Chorio, in the Guest House “Archontiko“, (tel: 2237041414 – 6977389078). We found ourselves with a wonderful room view and a fantastic host, Panayiotis who served us the greatest handmade breakfast and leaded us with information and suggestions about places worth seeing in the area. Thank you Panayiotis!
We tried and suggest:
Walk around the narrow, cobbled streets in Megalo Chorio, which is built at the foot of Mount Kaliakouda, in a lush landscape, 20 km from Karpenissi and at an altitude of 720 meters. The village with its traditional architectural mansions, its narrow streets and its abundant running waters is one of the most beautiful villages in the prefecture. Stop at the church of Agia Paraskevi and the chapel of Agios Thanasis, just before the entrance of the village, offering a stunning view. At the bottom of the village take the path to the left leading to Kefalovrysos. Proceed a little in the ravine with the high planes and bridges. The village played an important role during the Revolution of 1821, with many battles taking place here. The revival of the past of Megalo Chorio, is well depicted in its Folklore Museum, which is housed in an old stone mansion of three levels, completely renovated. The exhibited material is an offer of the Megalochorites, showing the representations of Megalohoritic House, the traditional occupations of the residents, household utensils and agricultural tools, folk art objects, traditional costumes and a library with more than 5000 titles of various thematic categories. (Open at weekends – tel : 2237 041502). Stop at the square with the incredible view for food or coffee. For dinner we were suggested “Vakaki” and galaktoboureko in “Karveli”. But we ate at Nasiopoulos, in Neo Mikro Chorio. He is famous for his meat dishes, but we ate Lenten dishes because of the Holy Week. Tasted indifferent.
Walk to Neo Mikro Horio and Palaio Mikro Chorio (altitude 900 m), on the slopes of Mount Helidona, opposite Megalo Chorio, at 3 km distance between them . A place of great historical significance, as here on December 1942 a battle took place between the rebels of Aris Velouchiotis and 2000 Italians. The rebel conquerors burnt alive and executed 13 people. This battle is considered pan-European as the first battle of resistance against the fascist regime. In Palaio Mikro Chorio there is the Historical and Folklore Museum, which is housed in the building of the former Primary School, where you will see videos of the village’s history and a very remarkable library. (Museum Tel: 22370 – 41023- Information: http://www.mikrohorio.gr/ and http://info-karpenisi.gr/karpenisi-portal/tourism/sights/preview.jsp?id=11. On its beautiful square you can eat or enjoy your coffee. Studio Merses hotel is also a point of magnificent view.
An evening walk to Karpenissi, which was recently groomed and changing its “aura” as its most central streets were paved and the square Markou Botsari, with the church of the Holy Trinity was reformed, adding positively to its image! Otherwise it is not famous for its beauty but only for its hills and for the surrounding nature: at the foot of the imposing mountain Velouchi, with numerous trekking / hiking trails, and the ski resort.
Head to the famous monastery of Panagia Prousiotissa (17km – 20′ far from Megalo Chorio). Cross the village of Gavros (fresh trout served from the local fish farm) and enjoy the nature along the way. The road passes from a point where the valley broadens and Karpenissiotis river meets Krikelopotamos and give birth to Trikeriotis river (at Dipotama as the locals say) and continues along with the flow of Karpenisiotis to the location of “Kleidi”, passing beneath the huge rock which is so impressive that makes you unconsciously bent. Perched on the rocks above the gorge, the monastery is known for the miraculous icon of the “Virgin Mary Prousiotissa”, which originates from Proussa (Bursa) of Asia Minor and is presumed to be the work of the Evangelist Luke. In 1821 the monastery was a refuge for many fighters, George Karaiskakis, Markos Botsari e.t.c.. Climb the hill of the stone clock to enjoy the breathtaking view to the Monastery and the canyon.
And once you get here do not turn back! At the edge of the village, you will find the gorge of Mavri Spilia (Black Cave), a wild and exciting setting, a path that passes through waterfalls and bridges and leads to a cave over a double waterfall. 30′ hiking on a path through the woods! Next to is the “Stremmenou” salami shop, where a great prosciutto is made.
Return from the same street. After Dipotama, on the left, the road leads to Chelidona (8 km from the junction). Pulses go up on every turn of the road admiring the landscapes. A dreamy route on a road hit by continuous landslides. A unique pass over the river is an iron bridge bailey-painted with wooden beams – which we would hesitate passing if we hadn’t seen a car passing by the moment we arrived! Read more about the unique Chelidona (meaning: swallow bird) here: http://www.greek-crossroads.gr/en/evritania-helidona-village/
Noon finds us in the picturesque Koryschades (5 km far from Karpenissi), having a nice coffee at Villagio overlooking the fir covered slopes, next to the National Resistance Museum, where the National Council of Free Greece met on May 14, 1944. It is housed in the building of the Primary School and houses remarkable material of the time with photographs of the great photographer Spyros Meletzis and newspaper clippings to remind us that the Mountain Government was set up here in 1944. Check the opening hours (Museum: 2237024996). Particularly impressive are the old mansions and the church of Agios Athanasios (1865). There is another cafe and tavern in its lovely square.
The other villages sound impressive mainly by their names: Klafsi, meaning “cry” (nice plateau with cafe and tavern), Voutiro “sounding like the greek word for butter”, Nostimo, (meaning “tasty”) … Ideal for a mini road trip. It is worthwhile to drive/ walk around them and enjoy the journey. Besides, the distances from the main road are so short!
The day ends with a delicious dinner in Messostrati (tel: 2237 041118) cooked by Mrs Antigone, on the way to Meg. Chorio. Rooster with noodles and green pie … We fully recommend!
We wanted to see Lake Kremasta before we left. The largest artificial lake in Greece was created after the construction of the Kremasta dam in 1965, concentrating waters from four rivers: Acheloos, Agrafiotis, Tavropos and Trikeriotis. Panagiotis suggested the route to Fidakia (village built at 980 meters) and Tsagaralona location with the unobstructed view of the lake. After a 35′ drive from Karpenissi we reached the entrance of the village. Paved alleys, old stone houses, blooming courtyards, all characteristically clean and tidy. The picturesque square with the imposing church of the Birth of the Virgin complete the image of the preserved settlement built in a magical spot. Opposite the church tavern “Ochalia” offers food and coffee and accommodation as well in the homonymous hostel on the other side of the settlement, under the hill with the threshing floor. It is obvious that the people are united by the love and care for their village! A little further down to the “Tsagaralona” location, enjoy the amazing view to the lake, and if the weather is “dry” you’ll take impressive photos.
The senses awaken in Evritania. Everything we explored this weekend is engraved in our memory and photos and written here for those of you that wish to follow the same path. The natural beauty of the area does not end there. And we long for the next time we return here to discover the rest of its beauty.
- We set off from Veria. We needed 2 hours to get to Karditsa region and 30 minutes to the end of Central Greece Highroad (very well-built road with cafe and Shell station) at the exit to Makrakomi. ATTENTION at this point because there is neither a junction nor a shaped exit. You will need to revert. (Drive at a low speed and follow Google maps instructions) There is no signage and you are in danger of finding yourself on the stream to Karditsa !!! From then on, the road is slow. Another one hour for 60 km.
- We paid adout 9 euros for tolls
- Read more on the official websites: www.karpenissi.gr and www.evritania.gr
EXTRA (information we collected from the internet)
> For rafting, canyoning, organized trekking, mountain biking and other activities, contact Trekking Hellas Evritania (22370-25.940, 6978-187.863, www.trekking.gr) and Ef Zin (22370-80.150, 6945-396.808, www.active.com.gr).
> The ski resort is located in Velouchi (22370-21.112, www.velouxi.gr) and has 18 ski slopes, a snowboard track and 4 off piste routes.
> For the Toronto trails look for the local map or contact Gerasimos Palaios (6944-151-508).
> For children there are two wonderful places for activity: Salon (22370-24.606, www.saloonpark.gr), with climbing tower, archery, air passage, riding etc., and the brand new Karavaki Park (22370-24.614, www.ninemia.gr/park), within the hostel Ninemia bungalows resort, at the 7th km of the national road Karpenissi – Prousou. This is an extremely interesting and original park, where the theorems and laws of science meet their practical application through impressive interactive games. Of great interest is the fact that everything is made of everyday materials, proving that physics is next to us. The Archimedes screw and spindle, the principle of maintaining the spin, Einstein’s theory of relativity and a whole host of other phenomena are framed by fine toys such as labyrinth, air passage, trampoline etc. Recycling department, livestock farm and sports facilities complete the ultimate educational and yet entertaining experience.
Taken from KATHIMERINI newspaper