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 marvelous 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.

Photo: Enpatrais

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.

Photo: Sotiris Marinopoulos

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.

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Location - Achaia

Aktaio Beach, Rio

Spanning 850 meters, this sandy beach was nominated as a blue flag one recently and varies in width between 20 and 40 meters. The municipality of Rio sometimes organizes events but also eco activities such as beach cleaning.

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Kalogria Beach, Larissos

Here’s a sandy beach that’s 80 kilometres long, located near a protected site under the Ramsar convention, not far from the Prokopos Lagoon and Strofilia forest. Sporting activities including windsurfing are available at this beach. If you rent a bike you can discover the natural area around.

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Kalavrita ski resort

The Kalavrita ski resort is considered the second largest in Greece, located on Mount Chelmos (or Helmos) among fir trees and a rocky alpine landscape, hovering between 1,700 meters and 2,340 meters. It is also one of the most organized ski centres in the country with 12 ski runs spread over 20 kilometres, along with two chair lifts and five ski lifts. For advanced skiers, the Styga runs are considered quite challenging and particularly attractive.

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You'll love the Kotychi lagoon if you're a birdwatcher. Brackish in nature with many sea dunes and marshy patches of saltwater, the lagoon is part of the International Bird Areas (IBA) included in the Ramsar convention. This is a vacationland for birds, who stop by to breed and en route to other countries. Breeders such as the Fudge Duck and Lesser Kestrel compete with passers-by such as Little Egret, Great Egret, Glossy Ibis and others.

Photo: Nvlahopoulos

Hunting is a serious problem, and any birdwatcher would be wise to report infractions to authorities. You must also be careful with the dunes and topography of the place as tourism hasn't always been kind to it. In the nearby Strofylia wetlands, you are sure to spot the Collared Pratincole and Little Tern, considered rare bird species in the area. Your trip to Kotychi and Strofylia wetlands can begin at the village of Lappa, where there is a Visitor Centre that provides information.

In Achaia, the rivers Ladonas and Erimanthos are ideal for kayaking and rafting. In this uniquely beautiful area, one can combine physical exercise with the beauty of nature.

Photo: John Karakatsanis

Cave of Lakes, Kastria

This is a huge cave by any standards and the largest in the area, lying some 17 kilometers south of Kalavrita and barely 2 kilometers from Kleitoria. With an stunningly enchanting entrance and three different levels the cave looks almost otherworldly, complete with haunting galleries and hanging formations.

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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!

Photo: Dimoulas Panagiotis

Yet another awesome part of Greece for hiking year round. In the vicinity of the Papa lagoon and the Strofili forest, there are some 80 hiking routes to explore, most of which will take you into the mountains. Hiking is a pleasure in the Vouraikos Canyon, as well as in mountains such as Erympanthos/Olonos, Chelmos/Araonia and around Kalavryta, to mention just a few. Here are some hikes around the prefecture that will give you an idea:

Ski center – Alpine refuge – Neraidorachi – Psili Korifi – Mavrolimni – Styga Waterfalls.
Elevation: Alpine refuge 2100 meters – Neraidorachi 2340 meters.
Level: Hard
Duration: 7 hours

Ε4 hiking path: Diakofto – Zachlorou – Kalavrita – Kato Lousi – Planitero – Arvounas – Αgios Nikolaos – Τourlada – Krinofita Likouri
Elevation Kalavrita 750 meters
Level: Medium to hard
Duration: 48 hours

Peristera route (Solos) – Styga Waterfalls
Elevation: Peristera 1,000 meters
Level: Medium to hard
Duration: 3.5 hours

Route Kato Lousi – Psili Korifi – Kato Kampos – Kefalovriso – Elatofito – Planitero (Ε4)
Elevation: Kato Lousi 1,000 meters, Psili Korifi 2,318 meters
Level: Medium to hard
Duration: 9 hours

Pournarokastro – EOS shelter (Psarthi) – Giorgis Mountain – Ano Kastritsi
Elevation: 1,256 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 8 hours

Ano Kastritsi – Pashanianes Springs – Dritselo
Elevation: 1,094 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 4 hours

Pournarokastro – Psarthi shelter – Koryfi (summit)
Elevation: 1,224 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 5 hours

Path of Palaion Patron Germanos: Achaia Clauss – Moira – zoumbata – Leontio – Lapanagoi – Selinountas River – Makellaria Monastery – Pontia forest – Flamboura – Kalavrita
Elevation: 900 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 48 hours

Pteri Aigiou – Klokos Peak
Elevation: 977 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 2.5 hours

Pausanias' Path: Achaia Clauss – Katarraktis – Kompigadi – Ano Vlassia – Psiles korfes (1500 m) – Lehouri – Tripotama
Elevation: 1,300 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 2 days,

Alepochori – Katarraktis – Moni Taxiarhon (Taxiarches Monastery)
Elevation: 500 meters
Level: Easy
Duration: 2 hours

Miha (Tsapournia) – Mougila – Olenos
Elevation: 1,224 meters
Level: Medium to hard
Duration: 7 hours

Kalentzi – Profitis Ilias – Erymanthos
Elevation: 1,224 meters
Level: Medium to hard
Duration: 3.5 hours

Metohi Vlasias – Kallifonio
Elevation: 1,096 meters
Level: Medium to hard
Duration: 5 hours

Peristera/Solo – Styga Waterfalls
Elevation: 1,100 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 3.5 hours

Ski Centre – Shelter – Neraidorachi – Psili Korfi – Mayrolimni – Styga Waterfalls
Elevation: 430 meters
Level: Hard
Duration: 7 hours

Diakopto – Zahlorou – Kalavrita – Kato Lousi – Planitero - E4/Arvounas – Agios Nikolaos – Tourlada – Krinofyta – Likouria
Elevation: 760 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 48 hours

Ladonas Springs – Pagratio – Klima Paysania
Elevation: 360 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 2 hours

Skepasto – Panaghia Plataniotissa – Makellaria Monastery
Elevation: 300 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 7 hours

Kato Lousi – Psiti Korfi Kato Kampos – Kefalovryso Elatofyto Planitero – E4
Elevation: 1,218 meters
Level: Medium
Duration: 9 hours

As with hiking, the Vouraikos Canyon is a superb starting point for mountaineering. Over half of Achaia is chock full of mountains and valleys, such as the Erymanthos mountain at 2,220 meters, the Chelmos mountain at 2,138 meters, and the Panachaikos mountain at 1,924 meters.

Mount Erymanthos on the border of the Ilia prefecture is as exciting as it is challenging. It offers four ascents that are moderately difficult to quite difficult:

  1. Begin from Miha village and head for Muggila peak up to the summit, at the top of Olenos mountain (2,224 meters).
  2. Climb from the historic village Kalentzi up to Profitis Ilias (2,214 meters), continuing to Mount Erymanthos.
  3. Somewhat easier, begin from the village of Alepochori and follow the path parallel to Katarraktis until you reach the Monastery of Taxiarches at 1,000 meters of altitude.
  4. Head from Metochi Vlassias to Kallifoni peak at 1,996 meters.

Mount Panachaikos, closer to Patras, features three ascents to the top, considered mostly of medium difficulty level: Head up from the village of Pournarokastro to the mountain shelter of Psarthi which falls under the responsibility of the Greek Mountain Club. Continue climbing to Ai-Giorgis mountain at 1,806 meters, then return through the village of Ano Kastritsi or continue climbing from Pournarokastro up to Vodia and the Prassoudi mountain shelters. You will end up in Palavou Pyrgou at 1,926 meters above sea level. Alternatively, from Ano Kastritsi you can climb up to Pigi Paschalianon, which ends at Dritselo and the Prassoudi shelter, at an elevation of 1,594 meters.

Photo: poseidon-hotel.poseidon-hotels.gr

Mount Chelmos is ideal for climbers with limited experience, with four main ascents taking you to the top, categorized from medium to high difficulty.

  1. Start your ascent from the Kalavrita Ski Resort to reach the Stiga Waterfalls (Idata Stigos) at 2,100 meters. Follow the path from the Mountain Shelter to Neradorachi to Psili Korifi and on to Mavrolimni
  2. Alternatively you can climb from Peristera or Solos to reach the Styga Waterfalls
  3. Climb from the village of Fteri Aigiou to reach the Klokos peak at 1,777 meters
  4. Take the E4 trail from Diakopto near Kalavrita and head to Lykouria, passing through Zachlorou, Kalavrita, Kato Loussoi, Planitero, Arvouna, Agios Nikolaos, Tourlada and Krinofyta.

Mount Afrodissio offers 3 ascents of medium difficulty:

  1. Begin the Ladonas river springs and head through the village of Pagrati to reach Klima Pafsania or Pausanias Vineyard at 860 meters of elevation.
  2. Begin from Skepasto at 700 meters and cross Panagia Plataniotissa, heading on the path up towards the Monastery of Makellaria.
  3. Alternatively take the easy path from Nassia at 700 meters and follow the trail to the end of lake Ladonas, passing by the Barbo forest, Kokkinovryssi and Ksirokritena.

There are also numerous crags made of limestone, ranging from a height of 20 meters to 700 meters, be they by the coast or atop mountains. The crags vary in colour, texture angle and level of difficulty, with many considered on the 7th or 8th level of difficulty on the French scale. This makes the area attractive for extreme climbing, which is best done in spring or autumn. Here are some crags with notes:

  • Alepochori: with tuffas classic overhangs
  • Chatzouri: Also known as "the temple"
  • Chelmos: reaching an altitude of 2,200 meters
  • Kalogria: spectacular views next to the beach
  • Kleisoura: very large and steep
  • Portes: features a large underground cave
  • Santameri: amazing setting
  • Spartia: with a small and steep cave
  • Vasiliki: lies not far from the sea near Varasova

The area around Patras is nature's treasure of limestone crags, ranging from 20 meters to 700 meters. The latter refers to Mount Varasova, which is one of the most exciting rock-climbing destinations in the country. The crags are located in the countryside or by the seaside, with some perched on mountains such as Helmos. There's a lot of diversity in colour, texture and angle, making it ideal for both beginners and highly skilled rock climbers. The prefecture also offers 7th grade and 8th grade climbing (French scale) making it popular with die-hard climbers and extreme sports enthusiasts.

Photo: www.gonafpaktia.com

  • Kleisoura (requires strength and stamina, suitable for summer and winter, huge and very steep)
  • Vasiliki (on Mounta Varasova, requires stamina, lies by the sea)
  • Chatzouri (requires strength, suitable for summer, near the temple)
  • Santameri (requires balance, suitable for winter, lovely scenery)
  • Portes (requires stamina, suitable for winter, represents a huge underground cave)
  • Alepochori (stamina, strength and balance are required, with classic overhangs and tuffas)
  • Spartia (needs strength and stamina, it is a small steep cave)
  • Kalogria (requires strength and balance, also suitable for winter, next to a beach, superb setting)
  • Chelmos (requires strength and balance, suitable for summer, a summit of 2,200 meters)

The Gulf of Patras or Patraikos is an amazing place to sail thanks to its northerly winds (plus north-easterly and north-westerly), surrounded by natural beauty and coastline all over.

Photo: PATRAS SAILING CLUB

There are supposedly no less than 14 shipwrecks in the bottom of the gulf ready for exploration. The gulf is about 33 kilometres long and 22 kilometres wide, offering a surface area of about 400 square kilometres. At its deepest somewhere in the middle, the Gulf goes done 120 meters. Consider the following for your sailing trips:
  • Patras Sailing Club
  • Rio Sailing Club 'Jason'
  • Aigio Sailing Club
  • Patras City Marina

Kalavrita ski resort

The Kalavrita ski resort is considered the second largest in Greece, located on Mount Chelmos (or Helmos) among fir trees and a rocky alpine landscape, hovering between 1,700 meters and 2,340 meters. It is also one of the most organized ski centres in the country with 12 ski runs spread over 20 kilometres, along with two chair lifts and five ski lifts. For advanced skiers, the Styga runs are considered quite challenging and particularly attractive.

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Aktaio Beach, Rio

Spanning 850 meters, this sandy beach was nominated as a blue flag one recently and varies in width between 20 and 40 meters. The municipality of Rio sometimes organizes events but also eco activities such as beach cleaning.

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Alyki Beach, Aigio

A pebbly beach that’s one kilometre long, Alyki or Aliki is about 10 meters wide and features many trees around. Importantly, there is a wetland only 500 meters away, attracting over 230 species of birds every year. The area falls under the Natura 2000 network. No sports facilities are available at this beach.

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Digeliotika Beach, Aigio

This 2-kilometre beach is quiet, clean and pebbly. It Is 15 metres wide with different types of trees growing nearby.

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Kalogria Beach, Larissos

Here’s a sandy beach that’s 80 kilometres long, located near a protected site under the Ramsar convention, not far from the Prokopos Lagoon and Strofilia forest. Sporting activities including windsurfing are available at this beach. If you rent a bike you can discover the natural area around.

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Lakkopetra, Larissos

Lying between Araxos and Kato Achaia here’s a 500-meter beach with mixed sand and pebbles. To the north lies the popular beach of Mavri Miti or ‘Black Nose’ which has amazing find sand and great views of Mesolongi.

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Pounta Beach, Diakopto

Pounta beach is a clean, attractive beach with pebbles in the Municipality of Diakopto. It is 800 meters long and a full 30 meters wide. Eucalyptus, heather and pine trees dot the beach, which also offers a couple of cafes and restaurants.

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Rizomylos

Not far from this village which is being excavated to find remains of an ancient city, there is a clean beach that is popular with local tourists.

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Aktaio Beach, Rio

Spanning 850 meters, this sandy beach was nominated as a blue flag one recently and varies in width between 20 and 40 meters. The municipality of Rio sometimes organizes events but also eco activities such as beach cleaning.

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Kalogria Beach, Larissos

Here’s a sandy beach that’s 80 kilometres long, located near a protected site under the Ramsar convention, not far from the Prokopos Lagoon and Strofilia forest. Sporting activities including windsurfing are available at this beach. If you rent a bike you can discover the natural area around.

Find Out More

Kalavrita ski resort

The Kalavrita ski resort is considered the second largest in Greece, located on Mount Chelmos (or Helmos) among fir trees and a rocky alpine landscape, hovering between 1,700 meters and 2,340 meters. It is also one of the most organized ski centres in the country with 12 ski runs spread over 20 kilometres, along with two chair lifts and five ski lifts. For advanced skiers, the Styga runs are considered quite challenging and particularly attractive.

Find Out More

Cave of Lakes, Kastria

This is a huge cave by any standards and the largest in the area, lying some 17 kilometers south of Kalavrita and barely 2 kilometers from Kleitoria. With an stunningly enchanting entrance and three different levels the cave looks almost otherworldly, complete with haunting galleries and hanging formations.

Find Out More

Aliki/Egio

Peloponnese / Achaia
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There are four AOC wines produced in this region. These are the dry white wine called Patra and made with the Roditis grape, two sublime white dessert wines known as Moschato Rio and Moschato Patron, and last but not least the well-known Mavrodaphne, a strong and sweet red wine made from Mavrodaphne and Corinthian grapes. Also worth mentioning is areas of Mintilogli and Roitika in the municipality of Paralia not far from the Gulf of Patras are also known for their vineyards and quality wines.

Achaia Clauss

Peloponnese / Achaia
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