The Switzerland of Greece? Yes, and much more. In the beginning of the 1990s, Unesco designated Evrytania as one of the five purest ecosystems on the planet, and we intend to keep it that way. After all, Evrytania is the highest prefecture in the country in terms of altitude, and lies on the southern end of the Pindos Mountains. More than half is covered by dense forests, in addition to a variety of natural phenomena and captivating villages. Set deep in the heart of the Greek mainland, Evrytania offers eco-tourism, relaxation and discovery during all four seasons.
The prefecture's capital, Karpenissi, was built at an altitude of 1000 meters on the slopes of Mount Velouchi (pronounced almost with a 'ch' as in Loch) and is an absolute delight as far as Greek towns go. Stone bridges and Byzantine monuments blend with hiking trails, churches and traditional guest houses, all surrounded by chestnut and pine trees.
In winter, skiing in Velouchi – some 1800 meters above sea level – is very popular, complete with many ski lifts, ski tracks and a ski school. Snowboarding is also a favourite activity on the summits of Velouchi.There are many magnificent villages around Karpenissi. One of these is Agios Nikolaos, just 9 km away and known for its old church of Agios Nikolaos (1887) as well as its delicious beans and chestnuts. Just as far from Karpenissi is Myriki, another small village with a noteworthy church in the centre, that of Agios Giorgos. Visit the traditional fountain and church of Profitis Elias at the top end of the village.
Koryschades has also been designated as a historical area and protected one, playing a role in the emergence of the first government. Head to the school of the village which is now a museum, and wander around the old mansions with traditional architecture, as well as the church of Agios Athanasios. The village of Proussos known for its monastery and famous icon is another main attraction.
A short way from Koryschades is Koumasia where the Moastery of Panagia or virgin is located, as well as the Pantavrechi gorge, the chestnut forest of Ai Nikolas, Kremasta lake, and Kokkalia where ancient battles between the Aetolians. You can hike to Pantavrechi from Tornos, a nature-filled village with a folk museum and talents in quality wine production.
Visit Voutyro to admire its stone church of Agia Paraskevi and stone houses, as well as to enjoy a traditional meal at its tavernas. In the village of Agios Andreas there are many natural sites such as the waters of Astrapovrisi and Neraki.
Further away from Karpenisi at a distance of 22 km and an altitude of 1030 meters lies Kremasta lake in the area of Sella, which is dotted with picturesque stone houses. Just after Sella is Fidakia at 880 meters, dubbed as one of the most picturesque villages in the prefecture, complete with cobblestone streets and stone-built houses as well. The dirt road from Fidakia to the village of Agia Vlacherna offers gorgeous landscapes, and a visit to the area of Paliogonia-Helidona between 1550 meters and 1980 meters is highly recommended. Near Fidakia, traces of ruins and a fortress in Kastri (possibly Ancient Oihalia) can all be enjoyed in the area.
On the lower end of Lake Kremaston (or Kremasta) lies Episkopi with many Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, plus all the aquatic nature and beauty of the lake. Episkopi can be reached through an adventurous detour through Agalianos and Psilovrachos in neighbouring Aitolo-Akarnania, then over the bridge and back to Evrytania.
Beyond history, tradition and culture, Evritania is a paradise for eco-friendly outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain climbing, canoeing and horseback riding among other activities. Mount Timfristos (aka Velouchi) is one of the highest mountains of the region, show are Mount Panaeoliko and Kaliakouda. The rivers that breathe live and enrich the flora include the Aheloos, Megdovas, Agrafiotis, Karpenissiotis, Trikeriotis and others.
Way up in the northern part of Evrytania lies the bustling village of Agrafa, surrounded by gorges, mountains, and sycamores that are hundreds of years old. The Panagia post-Byzantine church and stone bridge of Agrafa can also be admired. In the same region lies the village of Saika with an old church, offering as well mountain climbing locations such as Tripa tou Agrafioti gorge, Hondeika gorge and Veli. Near here is Marathos with mountain climbing routs that take you to Ai Lia, and a windmill in the Veli area.
Also relatively close is Epiniana with its historic churches, also offering a two-hour hiking route to the gorge of Asprorema. Another proposed hiking route of natural beauty in the same area is from Anifora to Fteri, starting from the stone bridge of Geortia. Not far off is Monastiraki which features an underground cave at Syhniko, the mountain of Mosholi and many springs. Avid mountain climbers can take the 12 kilometres path from Monastiraki to Fteri.
In the southern part of Evrytania, villages such as Mikro Horio and Megalo Horio (literally: Little Village and Big Village) should also be visited. Megalo Horio is home to a great folklore museum that takes you back in time. Mikro Horio is also very interesting and was buried in part by a landslide.
Finally, for a fantastic view of the lake from a different view point, right in the centre of Evrytania, a great panoramic view of the lake can be seen also from Paparoussi, at an altitude of 660 meters. Note the two old bridges in the area and sample the 'Mouro', a black-mulberry liqueur. Needless to say, hiking and exploring the attractions of this region represents an unforgettable eco experience.
In all, practically any village or town hidden in the nooks and crannies of this mountainous terrain is a delight to discover and offers everything from sumptuous food to awesome hiking and mountain climbing opportunities. As we like to say here at Ecotourism-Greece.com, it's a world of 'endless possibilities'.