Here's another splendid prefecture in the Peloponnese that represents a pleasurable handful for the alternative traveller and eco-tourist, combining city, nature and beach in a marvellous way.
Take Akrata on the northwest coast overlooking the Korinthian Gulf, where there are pristine beaches, wonderful villages and lots of culture to boot. Vineyards, archaeological remains (Grasidopia) and delicious raisins and good wine await visitors. In the same municipality hides the village of Zarouchla, hovering between 1000 and 1200 meters above the sea, on the slopes of mount Helmos, with stunning greenery, fauna and flora. Cold water springs, as well as trees full of cherries, apples and nuts will whisk you to a dreamier state. Here, the towers of Haralambi and Fotila add to the mystique, while the churches of Panagia, Agia Triada and Taxiarhes throw in some Orthodox spirit for good measure. Exploration of nearby village and Lake Tsivlou is recommended.
Moving on, the preserved character of Diakofto and its environs will leave you gaping in delight as well. Visit the old train station and the railway museum, then hop on the train to the Vouraikos gorge, through the forest of Zarochlou up to the delightful traditional ski-town of Kalavrita – worth visiting any time of the year. Note how the village of Zachlorou lies serenely on the slopes of Marathia. This too is an excellent all-year-round destination, with monasteries, caves and the Vouraikos gorge all nearby. In winter, skiers will always want to make the quick jump to Kalavrita. Worth mentioning too is that Diakofto is well known as a hotbed of arts and culture, a comfortable locale of choice for many a painter and actor. In the mountain village of Upper or Ano Diakofto, traditional dwellings, tavernas and the source of the river Psamiakos will undoubtedly titillate you.
Similarly, the many villages of Aegio on its hills are surrounded in greenery and the lower villages by olive groves and vineyards, while further down, the beach of Punta beckons in the distance. One of Aegio's municipalities is Fteri, built on 1,100 meters of altitude, and proud of its mineral waters, natural springs, mountains and forest which takes you to the village of Pyrgaki. Villages tucked around Fteri and worthy of a visit are lush Plataniotissa, quite Petsaki with its 10 small churches, hidden Lapanagi and the historic Ano Mavriki. Each has attractions, traditions and feasts that seduce the newcomer.
On another front, some 49 kilometres from Patra lies Kalentzi, full of guest houses, flowers, trees and the small gorge of Poros. While its inhabitants initially settled at a high 1,300 metres above sea level to escape the Ottomans, they eventually descended to 900 meters to avoid the cold mountain winters. Now the old village stands hauntingly empty, awaiting the daring summer explorer. The inhabitants of the area, incidentally, are known to live a long, healthy life.
On an eco front the village of Klitoria, surrounded by rolling water and water mills boasts an environmental training centre complete with hostels and guest houses, as well as a school that undertakes environment-related seminars.
Meanwhile, Patras, the capital of the prefecture and the third biggest city in Greece, holds one of the most fabulous carnivals worldwide with Venetian influences, taking place 40 days before lent on the Greek Orthodox calendar. Patras lies below a great archaeological castle and beside the remnants of an ancient city as well. It must be visited for its many amazing museums too.
If you like crystal clean beaches and blue seas, head to the village of Rodia, made prettier by its two churches and a adorable village square. Nearby is the the village of Mamusia and archaeological ruins of Kerynia, complete with a theatre, cemetery and parts of the old city's walls.
The Helmos TopoGuide, a fantastic new hiking app, has just been released for Helmos, Peloponnese. Great images, 31 wondrus hiking routes, geological curiosities and even roadmaps will guide users on amazing journeys. www.ecotourism-greece.com is proud to have contributed its insights to this app! You can download this app from Google Store here!