Trikala – The majestic mystical beauty of landlocked Greece
When it comes to vacationing in Greece, what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re like most holiday-dreamers, the first images that come to mind include endless white-sand beaches, sparkling blue seas, and squat whitewashed homes dotting hilly islands. But what about the parts of Greece that are landlocked, on the mainland, without any of the iconic aspects of Greece that we all love? Well, if you choose to visit one of these regions, and especially Trikala, you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a part of Greece most people will never know. And you’ll fall in love with snow-peaked mountains, villages plucked from the pages of history, stunning pristine forests, and roaring rivers. Because Trikala offers fanatic eco-tourists the possibility to get lost in the majestic natural beauty little-known to mainstream tourists. Mountain climbing, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and horseback riding are just a few of the activities you can throw yourself into as a way of getting lost in the mountains, waterfalls, and lush forests Trikala boasts about. Best of all, Trikala is an ideal vacation destination year-round – which means both summer and winter visitors will be awestruck with the sheer number of activities and sites available.
Trikala, one of the most breathtaking regions of the Greek mainland, offers visitors a plethora of sports, vistas and cultural activities. If you love nothing more than to explore remote villages that boast traditional architecture and winding roads, you’re in luck. All you need to do is pick one of the three mountains Trikala is famous for and explore traditional villages. Perched atop soaring mountain peaks and surrounded by lush fir forests – the largest in Greece – early morning fog wisps its way around stone homes and winding roads to create an almost mystical atmosphere. Interested in cultural sites? Trikala is home to Meteora, the second most important network of monasteries in Easter Orthodox Christianity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monasteries of Meteora sit atop sky-scraping sandstone boulders, silent witnesses to the natural wonders of the area. If you love nothing more than combining city life with stunning parks, you’ll fall in love with Trikala town and the region’s villages. Stone bridges cross gushing rivers, winding walkways line near-urban cascading waterfalls, and trails zigzag through lush green parks.
Nothing attracts eco-tourists more than eco-sports. If you’re an adrenalin junkie, the region of Trikala is a veritable eco-amusement park. Thick fir forests, a trio of soaring mountains, interesting rock formations, wild rivers and rugged terrain offer sports enthusiasts ideal arenas for rock-climbing, mountain-biking, mountain-climbing, hiking, horseback riding and skiing. In fact, you can combine the mystical experience offered at Meteora by exploring it via rock-climbing. One of the premiere rock-climbing destinations in the world, Meteora offers rock-climbing fanatics almost 700 routes. And the views and monasteries will astound you.
No beaches in Trikala? No problem. You won’t waste a minute missing them.
Mystical magic of Meteora
Begin your trip with a bang by heading to Meteora, in Kalambaka town. Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is made up of a network of Greek Orthodox Christian monasteries perched atop a complex of 1000 sandstone boulders, each soaring to 400 meters. As you approach, you’ll feel Meteora’s mystical aura, and from afar these huge brown boulders look like giant monks huddled in congregation – a rather fitting image for the second most important monastic site in Orthodox Christianity. This unique geological formation is 50 million years old and was created when a great earthquake drained the lake that once stood in Meteora’s place. As the terrain reshaped itself, the silt, rocks and sand that lined the depths of the lake took the form of the huge boulders we see today.
Soaring to the sky, these imposing boulders were chosen by the first monks as ideal spiritual locations for monastic cells. Beginning in the 12th Century, monks attempted to scale the boulders by pushing logs up against the sides of rock pillars, climbing the logs and then dropping rope ladders down for other monks to join them. To this day, monastic cells dot the sheer face of the rock – evidence of the monks’ determination to worship and meditate as close to God as possible. Make it a point to visit as many monasteries as possible – each one hides treasures that span the ages and which will leave you with a deeper appreciation of religious art, monastic life and spiritual scholarship. Monks and nuns will be happy to tell you more about the historically and religiously important documents, old illuminated manuscripts, precious books, church artifacts and stunning hand-painted icons that are centuries old.
If you’re an adrenalin junkie and eager to take part in something other than cultural and spiritual activities, you’ll find that Meteora offers the perfect coupling of spiritual reflection and intense sports as you commune with nature. The soaring sandstone boulders of Meteora are a premiere world destination for rock-climbers, with 700 routes along the 1000 pillars. If you’re into low-impact sports, take the time to hike or mountain climb around the rock pillars. Routes take you through lush forests thick with plane trees and the occasional squirrel. This is another way of reaching some of the monasteries at the top of the boulders, so take the land-based scenic route to meditate as you traverse some of the most pristine forests in the country. It’s the perfect prelude to your tour of the one-of-a-kind spiritual site of Meteora.
Medieval villages come to life
Mist-veiled villages, winding streets, buildings plucked from the pages of Greece’s history. That’s what you’ll find when you explore the beautiful towns that Trikala’s natives are so proud of. If you’re looking for an alluring atmosphere when you go sight-seeing, you won’t be disappointed. Dipped in mountain-top mists that make every nook you explore that much more mysterious and quaint homes reminiscent of those found in fairy-tales that will make you feel like you stepped into a childhood dream – that’s what you’re in for when you begin your travels. What’s more, Trikala’s towns and villages blend into the region’s stunning natural habitat, and you’re never far from lush forests, mountains perfect for hiking, and wild rivers that beckon to be followed. No matter where you go, Trikala’s natural wonders will be there to regale you.
Begin by exploring the village of Neraidohori. Perched at the top of a mountain at 1140m, almost defying gravity like Meteora, this beautiful village will take you back in time and into a fairytale. In Greek Neraidohori means Fairy Village – an apt name for such a magical village. Stone and timber homes are topped with bright red shingles, winding roads lead to quaint tavernas and inns. Follow the enchanting sound of gurgling springs – they’re dotted all over the village. And all this amidst pristine fir forests. If you love going on winter getaways, this is an ideal winter wonderland for you. Make sure you go visit St. Nicholas’ church at the center of the village. Built in 1764, it was known for its beautiful murals before a fire destroyed much of the artwork. It’s still worth your attention as the sketches and outlines drawn by the artist and served as an initial guide for his final masterpiece are visible. Hatzipetrou Bridge is another must-see, as its stone masonry is unique.
Pili town, 18 km from Trikala town, will be a highlight of your vacation if you’re a nature-lover. Pili hit the trifecta when it comes to nature – a canyon, mountains and a river. Situated at the mouth of a canyon and framed by mountains, you’ll be surrounded by a pristine landscape that’s almost alpine. Even as you walk around town you’ll be reminded that nature is never far in Trikala - a roaring river flows through the center of town and gives Pili a cosmopolitan feel. Make sure your walks take you to Pili’s Byzantine church. Built in 1283 by the Byzantine regional emperor Komninos, the heavy stone masonry of the Church of Porta-Panagia coupled with a golden aura of icons and lit candles indoors will take you back to the Middle Ages. Take some time to admire the two huge mosaic or psifidoto icons that greet you as you enter the church – they’re unique in Greece and something you’ll never come across again. Even the indoor masonry is exposed stone and offers an eerie mystical feel in the glow of candles lit by worshippers.
If you want to sustain this serene feeling, go visit Paliokaria, about 35 km from Trikala town. This town is literally dipped in lush forests, stunning waterfalls, and gushing rivers that will lure you into their fold. Paliokaria’s perfect for long walks beside a roaring river that includes a stunning waterfall, so take the time to walk the quaint pathways, cross the mossed stone bridges and feel like you’ve lost yourself in another time and place – the land of fairies. Ask the locals for the myriad legends about fairies and nymphs. In ancient and medieval Greek mythology, rivers and waterfalls are believed to be the home of fairies and water nymphs that often interacted with their human neighbors. Once you’ve listened to these tales of otherworldly intrigue and romance, pack a picnic lunch to accompany your hike through this water wonderland – soaring plane trees offer ideal spots for a quiet lunch. And don’t forget to look out for fairies! Locals swear they’re there. If you’re an architecture buff, make it a point to admire Paliokaria’s Porta bridge. Built in 1517 by St. Vissarion, this beautiful arched stone bridge traverses one of the largest rivers in the area. Continue by taking a tour of the 200-year-old stone watermill located beside the waterfall. It’s still in use – locals bring their carpets and rugs for washing, while wheat and corn is still ground here.
If you’re reluctant to leave the land of magic and fairies, you’re in luck because Elati village near Pili is the perfect destination for all you dreamers. Snuggled in the slope of Koziakas mountain, you’ll think you jumped into a Christmas card if you visit during the winter. Elati’s natives stubbornly preserved their village’s otherworldly feel – homes and shops are perfect examples of centuries’ old architecture, with wooden trim against stone walls. Inns, hotels and businesses are all family-run, and Elati’s natives will welcome you as part of the family, contributing to the village’s homey atmosphere. Make it a point to browse the local arts and crafts stores for stunning artsy souvenirs – you’ll be amazed by the level of talent and craftsmanship. If you’re a food connoisseur, Elati’s unique recipes will certainly satisfy even the most eclectic palate. Herbal teas collected from Koziakas mountain, halva sweets, and trahana are just a few delicacies you’ll find here. If you’re a nature lover, Elati combines the best of both worlds as the village lies nestled in the midst of the largest forest of fir trees in the country. If you’re after an adrenalin high, visit in the spring when you’ll be able to go hiking, mountain climbing and rock climbing. In fact, one of the region’s most popular rock climbing spots is located right next to Elati village. Kokkinos Vrahos is comprised of 7 routes and is a wonderful way of taking in the beautiful scenery.
Once you’ve taken in the mystical feel of Trikala’s misty mountain villages, explore Trikala town, the region’s capital. Not only is it beautifully built around a gushing river and hugged by parks, bicycle routes and thick trees, but it’s very high-tech as well, combining the past with the future. Trikala was first inhabited in 3000 BC and was known by the name of Trikki – quite apt considering the region’s fairy lore. Trikki was the name of a nymph, and the daughter of Pinio River. Lithios River, a tributary of Pinios River, now flows through town and the banks of the river in today’s modern city are lush with tall trees and bright green lawns. Perfect for walking, biking or jogging. Stone bridges cross the river at regular intervals, which give the park a nostalgic feel.
If you’re an archaeology buff, you’ll be interested in Trikala town’s illustrious history. It’s been well documented that this city was the birthplace of Asklipio, the Ancient Greek god of medicine. You’ll love exploring the archaeological park in the center of town. Here you’ll find remains of a temple dedicated to Asklipio Trikkis, including a building with gorgeous floor mosaics and baths, as well as the remains of a 10th Century Byzantine church. Architecture fanatics will enjoy exploring Trikala’s many neighborhoods – in fact, the city combines wonderful examples of traditional architecture with modern amenities. If you want to take a stroll through pages of history, visit the Varousi district. It’s the oldest part of town and boasts a number of stunning architectural examples from the 17th to the 19th Centuries. It’s located just outside the town’s medieval castle and was a Christian neighborhood during the Ottoman occupation. Continue your walk through history by admiring the Clock Tower which stands within the castle and is one of the most beautiful landmarks. Kozum or Osman Sack’s mosque is a testament to the city’s religious past, considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques in Greece and is worth a visit. It was built in the 16th Century by a Turkish prince who sought refuge in Trikala when wounded. The locals helped him recover and were very hospitable, and in return he built a mosque so they don’t forget his time spent with them. Now it serves as a cultural center for the city. For an example of the city’s industrial past, explore Matsopoulou Mill that was built in 1884. This mill played a crucial role in the city’s history – present in all facets of industry, its place in the region’s economy was honored by turning it into a municipal arts center that also hosts a movie theater, classrooms for art courses and other cultural activities. While you take in an art show, admire the mill’s stunning architecture. It’s one of the most unique venues of arts and culture you’ll see.
As you walk around exploring the historical treasures tucked away in Trikala town, you’ll no doubt notice how high-tech it is, masterfully blending the past with the cyber-future. E-Trikala is a project that the locals are very proud of, as it’s the first Greek town that’s truly e-established. There’s free wifi everywhere, for everyone, even in parks and along the river, while digital displays above all the bus stops notify you of any delays, ETAs, and other important information you’ll need as you use public transportation. An innovative app also lets you find available parking spots, so you don’t waste time circling around town. E-Trikala’s goal was to make the life of locals and visitors easier, more accessible, and very high-tech. Locals also use a special app to transfer medical documents and phone-based ECGS from remote villages to doctors in the town center, while another app lets locals vote on municipal decisions, determine items on the agenda of town meetings, and offer possible solutions to local problems.
Once you’ve experienced Trikala’s very high-tech e-environment, take a trip back to the past by visiting Kastraki village, squashed between the stunning pillars of Meteora and Kalambaka town. It’s got a very historical atmosphere, very traditional and a wonderful living museum of Trikala’s architecture throughout the centuries. When you’ve explored Kastraki’s old winding streets, head to Kalambaka. Although it’s a tourist town because of Meteora’s popularity, there are some hidden treasures to explore. The Konstantio School building is the oldest structure in Kalambaka, while the Byzantine church of St. Ioanni Prodromou is a fine example of religious architecture. If you’d like to admire a beautiful church, go to Kimiseos Theotokou church. It was founded in the 10th Century, is the oldest church in the region, and its ancient masonry adds to the spiritual atmosphere inside the church. It lies in the middle of a very old neighborhood, so if you want to see what Kalambaka was like in the past, this is the neighborhood to walk through. Another older neighborhood which is a must-see lies at the foot of Meteora. The stunning architecture that makes this corner of Kalambaka a gem isn’t the only reason to put it in your itinerary. If you follow the old trails that wind through the nearby trees and alongside streams, you’ll be able to take a relaxing walk up to St. Triada monastery up in Meteora. You won’t regret taking this very scenic route.
Natural wonders and never-ending eco-sports beckon all adrenalin-junkies in Trikala
If you’re a hiker, mountain climber, skier, horseback rider, kayaker or rock-climber you’ll fall in love with Trikala. Soaring mountains, roaring rivers and unique geological formations in the region have made Trikala a beacon for all eco-sports fanatics. Not only is there a plethora of choices that will leave you jostling your itinerary to fit everything in, but there are sports for all seasons, making Trikala a premiere vacation spot year-round.
If there’s one aspect of Trikala which will take your breath away, it’s the region’s majestic and pristine natural landscape. Meteora is one such site. Nowhere in the world will you be able to rock-climb up a UNESCO World Heritage site. And nowhere will you be rewarded for your effort with such stunning views of centuries’ old monasteries, lush forests, and a congregation of sandstone boulders. In fact, this spiritual monument doubles as a natural arena for avid rock-climbers. The complex of 1000 sandstone boulders that soar to 400m is one of the premiere rock-climbing destinations worldwide. And you’re in illustrious company when you scale these rock pillars, because the very first rock-climbers were 11th Century monks who built monastic cells in crevices in the sheer stone face. Meteora offers 700 routes for rock-climbers of all skill levels. If you’re more earthbound, or hate heights, don’t worry. Meteora is a perfect spot for hiking or mountain-climbing, so don’t hesitate to enjoy the lush plane forests and routes around the monasteries.
Another stunning area that couples beautiful pristine natural surroundings and the opportunity for many types of sports is Koziakas Mountain. Part of the Natura 2000 network, this mountain soars to 1901 meters, is a source of immense pride, and you won’t need much time to understand why. Its significance can be traced back to Ancient Greece, as it was known as Asklipios’ pharmacy because of the endless variety of natural medicinal plants that thrive along the slopes of the mountain. Asklipios himself gathered medicinal herbs to administer to his patients from Koziakas Mountain, so if you’re an amateur botanist, keep looking for an array of plants. As you hike or mountain-climb you’ll be able to revel in the pristine peace offered by lush fir, elm, oak and beech forests, while the gushing sound of the area’s two rivers, Portaikos and Kefalopotamos, will lure you to their riverbanks. When you need to rest, stop by one of the many springs that dot the mountain’s eastern slope.
Because sports lovers can’t help but see this beautiful natural arena and all its adrenalin-spiking possibilities, you’ll be glad to know that Koziakas mountain is a rock-climbing haven. An interesting spot for this sport is Kontina waterfall. You’ll find it near Agia Paraskevi village and its five routes offer an interesting journey along the gushing water. Another stunning rock-climbing location is situated near Elati village. It’s called Kokkino Vraho, is a limestone rock and offers 7 routes for rock-climbers of all skill levels. It’s a wonderful place to learn. If you love to kayak or canoe, head to the Tria Potamia area. There’s a kayaking center there that will help you plan a route along the Aheloos and Aspropotamos rivers. As it’s part of the Natura network, you’ll love the lush fir forests, stone bridges and churches and monasteries that are based in the area. Mountain-bikers will enjoy the many forest trails and rugged terrain around Pertouliotika and Livadia. It’s a wonderful way of exploring this pristine area. If you’re a hiker or mountain-climber, you’ll find Koziakas Mountain a real treasure. The E4 European Trail goes through the mountain, while many unmarked trails in the area lead to all the neighboring mountains as well, so use this opportunity to combine your love of nature with this wonderful sport. Some interesting routes include Pirra to Avgo, Pertouliotika Livadia to Astrapi, which takes you to the peak of Koziakas mountain, Pertouli to Neraida, Haliki to Peristeri, Neraidohori to Marosa, and Klino to Trissia. Horseback riders, you’ll be happy to know that the summer season offers riders wonderful trails. Gallop through the lush trees, stop by the river and springs, and visit some of the mountain villages and monasteries.
You’ll find a veritable treasure along the slopes of Koziakas mountain if you’re a skier. Pertouli ski resort is one of the most beautiful in the country as you’ll ski down slopes hugged by Greece’s biggest and most beautiful and pristine fir forest. There are 3 slopes and 3 cross-country ski routes that will satisfy skiers of all levels. If you’re a snowboarder, hit the slope on the south, as it’s a favorite of avid snowboarders. Don’t miss this ski resort, as you’ll feel like you’re skiing and snowboarding amidst oceans of huge fir trees.
Local delicacies and unique museums
We all know and love Greece’s stunning archeological museums, but Trikala’s museums are entirely different, quirky and unique. Begin exploring this very eccentric aspect of the region by heading to Trikala town’s Arts Center. This is a gem for all music lovers and for all of you who are interested in Greece’s musical history. In the Arts Center you’ll find a record of the creative life of a number of Greece’s prominent musicians, including Vasili Tsitsani who is a native of Trikala. This very interesting museum is found in the Varousi neighborhood, Trikala town’s oldest historical district, which adds to the museum’s allure. If you love antique musical instruments, here you’ll find guitars and bouzoukia (mandolins) used by Tsitsani and others when composing their lyrical hits. You’ll also be able to read handwritten rough drafts of lyrics, poems and letters and other correspondence as well as old records. You’ll also be able to see how beloved these musicians were by Greeks and the media, with photos and drawing as well as newspaper clippings combining to form a wonderful array of artifacts.
Another unique and quirky museum that you’ll no doubt love is the Kliafa Museum, also in Trikala Town. Kliafa used to be a factory where soft drinks were made and bottled. The buildings date back to 1926, which will also let you peek into the region’s industrial culture, but they now house a variety of small museums under one roof. Take the time to explore the Kliafa Museum of History and Culture and find out more about the everyday life of Trikala natives in the past. Household objects, manuscripts, and old photos provide a window into the past to transport you into a Trikala you’ll find enchanting. In another exhibition area you’ll be able to travel back in time to an early period of industrialism, as machines and contraptions from the Kliafa factories’ history are on display. If you’re a newspaper buff, you won’t want to miss the gallery that houses an antique printing press. It’s so different from what we all know, you’ll want to find out more about the newsrooms and printing press that documented critical moments in Greece’s history. You’ll also be able to admire old issues of Trikala’s newspapers as well as photos of the region’s prominent reporters and journalists. Quirky exhibitions are also the most interesting, and this museum certainly does not lack eccentricity.
If you’re a vintage soft drink bottle collector or are just interested in the history of food production, you’re in for a treat. The Kliafa Museum houses one of the most extensive collections of soft drink bottle caps and labels from all over the world. While you take a virtual tour of the history of soft drinks, you’ll also be able to admire locally produced soft drinks, all under the Kliafa label. It’s interesting to see how marketing and design changed throughout history. The Kliafa Museum also houses a Children’s library, so take a peek at the type of picture books published in Greece. Gearheads will enjoy taking a tour of the museum’s engine room, which has been pristinely preserved from the factories’ heyday. As you explore the many exhibitions here, make sure you admire the architecture. Painstakingly preserved industrial facets of the factories’ production lines and architecture frame every corner of the Kliafa Museum and all the exhibition halls.
Are you intrigued by the power of water and how it was used extensively in the past? If so, make sure you visit the watermill in Pili. Located in lush forests, this Hydroengineering Museum is housed in a watermill that dates back to 1665. Take some time to order a coffee and desserts at the café right next to the museum, and then make your way to the old stone watermill. The owner of the café and watermill has restored the mill to working order, and now put the mill to use to portray the power of this clean source of energy. Rugs and carpets are cleaned in the mill, wheat and corn are ground. Admire the engineering used to perform these everyday tasks, and learn more about the world’s industrial past.
As you explore Trikala’s misty mountain villages and quaint shops and tavernas, make sure you taste the many delicacies the region is famous for. Trikala is known for its delicious varieties of feta cheese, Equally mouth-watering are Trikala’s thick creamy yoghurts which are made in small family-run farms. If you like rustic-style butter and sour-milk, you’ll be amazed at the variety you’ll find throughout the region. The creamy texture and taste are a testament to the quality of locally produced dairy. If you’re a cheese connoisseur, make it a point to savor the different types of myzithra cheese that locals produce from fresh milk. You can eat it on its own or as part of the many pites or pies Trikala’s cooks have turned into an art form. Everyone’s a fan of spanakopita or spinach pie, as well as the popular tiropita or cheese pie, but Trikala is a pie-making center. Prasopita is a leek pie that will leave you wanting more, while hortopita is a pie combining a number of wild leaf greens Trikala’s cooks collect from the slopes of nearby mountains. Not only is it healthy, but you’ll find it will soon become a favorite of all vegetarians.
With all the stunning natural landscapes Trikala is famous for, its meadows and mountain slopes fill with wildflowers each spring. This is wonderful news for honey-lovers as the region’s eclectic varieties of honey will make you a lifelong fan. Good with tea, on bread or in baked goods, honey is a staple food in Trikala. As you venture through all these beautiful mountain villages, pop into the local shops and stock up on herbal medicinal teas. Following in Asklipios’ footsteps, the locals brew their tea from medicinal herbs they pick from the mountains. Take a bag home with you and you’ll understand why they’re very rejuvenating in the winter. Arts and crafts collectors will also be astounded by the level of talent you’ll find here. Local crafts workshops display and sell their art-work, so be sure to pick up stunning hand-carved wood artifacts. Trikala is also center for weaving, and the artifacts produced and sold double as a historical cultural record here as artisans focus on traditional patterns that date back hundreds of years. Take home hand-woven tablecloths, placemats and other decorative items and you’ll also take home a little piece of history. They make perfect gifts for your friends, and ideal keepsakes for yourself as well.
The glorious region of Trikala offers visitors a treasure chest of stunning natural landscapes, quaint traditional villages, the mystical magic of Meteora as well as a variety of eco-sports ideal for all adrenalin junkies. With all these stunning locales and challenging sports to experience, Trikala has nothing to envy and everything to be proud of. Perfect for visitors year-round, choose Trikala as your vacation spot and you’ll understand why this region can rival any island, any beach. Unique, majestic and gorgeous, it’s a favorite of all eco-travelers. And it’s all there for you to explore and fall in love with.