Photo: web-greece.gr

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.

Photo: Tselos Elias

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.

Photo: www.agrafa.gr

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.

Photo: Panos Bmpaloukas

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’.

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Location - Evrytania

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The high woodlands of Evrytania have bestowed upon it a cornucopia of berries that are almost unique to this part of Greece. The most notable of these is mulberry and blackberry, which both make delicious jams in the area.

Photo: kleitsos-eurutanias.blogspot.com

A good place to begin discovering the tastes of the area – particularly the jams and preserves – is at the women's cooperatives of the area (e.g. the Agro-tourism Cooperative of Karpenissi). Taste the preserves made of black cherries, quince, figs, wild apples and wild cherries. Chestnuts and walnuts also figure strongly in this area's cuisine. There's even a jam made with Cornelian cherry dogwood. Quality honey and Royal Jelly are also on the menu, so prepare yourself for a sweet surprise in this respect. Herbs and herbal teas are also abundant and well worth investing in. Try chamomile, mountain tea, oregano, lavender and lime that add fragrance to life.

Local pasta and grain products also aboud, such as the 'hilopites' noodles and dry 'trahanas' made with sheep's milk and grains, then reconstituted into a hearty soup.

Excellent cheeses such as Katiki and Tsalafouti must be savoured when visiting this prefecture. They are soft white cheeses, and the latter is almost difficult to find in the cities. On the meatier side Evrytania is known for its prosciutto, the only area in Greece that does so. If you're a fish eater you will delight in the trout served at the village of Gavros.

Lastly, many fruits and berries of the area are used to make spirit, such as the mulberry 'tsipouro' a liqueur that will warm you up quite well. There's also a local alcoholic spirit called 'mouro' for the adventurous drinkers.

There are hiking maps that document the hiking paths in all of Evrytania, including the E4 European hiking path. There are numerous other paths however that visitors can choose from to experience the uniqueness of this area and the virgin landscape.  The areas of Agrafa, Helidona, Kalliakouda, and Krenti are ideal for hiking or trekking. Exciting opportunities for river trekking can also be found in Evrytania by hiking on the banks of several rivers and crossing streams. This is best done in summer and doesn't require too much experience.

Photo: Panos Bampaloukas

Megalo Horio
A little before entering Megalo Horio we encounter the beautiful locale of Ai-Thanassi with the chapel of the same name. The village consists of many small picturesque streets and has a great deal of tourist activity. A museum of Folk Art is open there. At the border with Aniada village is Lakkomata area in which there is a monument to the battle of Kaliakouda (28-8-1823). Another worthwhile route for hiking or driving is the one which leads to the refuge of Kaliakouda. On foot from there we can either approach the high summit of Kaliakouda (elevation 2.101), Aniada village, or the Pantavrehi area.

Photo: Godiv

Tornos

Initiatives in the municipality of Tornos have created some decent sign-posted hiking paths and has designated them as follows:

Route A (Alpha): Hiking path of the rapids and waterfalls
Route B (Beta): Hiking path of the mountains
Route C (Gamma): The gorge of Tornos
Route D (Delta): Mikro Pantavrehi – high bridge
Route E (Epsilon): Hiking path of Koryfogrammis
Route F (Zita): Hiking path of Kastania
Route G (Eta): Hiking path of Palavogianni

Photo: Panos Bampaloukas

Lying at an altitude of 1,840 meters on Mount Timfristos, in an area known as Diavolotopos or Devil's Place, the ski centre of Karpenissi (or Velouchi) actually offers heavenly skiing over an extended winter season, with excellent quality of snow. This is one of the most important ski resorts in the country with facilities having been improved and renovated in recent years. Keep in mind that Evrytania is known as the 'Switzerland of Greece'.

There are 11 ski runs or slopes over eight kilometres, ranging between 1,750 and 2,100 meters in altitude. Two of these ski runs are considered advanced, six intermediate, and three very easy. Four chair lifts and six ski lifts are capable of carrying over 5000 persons per hour. The season starts from the middle of December until the end of March. In addition, since this is not the closest resort to Athens or Thessaloniki, it doesn't get as crowded and remains outstanding in its serenity. Ski shops for equipment and ski courses are also available. There's a chalet with a bar and even outdoor bars, and weather during the day can remain balmy even in snowy weather. This is Greece, after all.

Altar remains, Marmara

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Aroniada

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Kalesmeno

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Kastri at Fidakia

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Manoli Bridge

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Paparoussi bridges

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Stone bridge of Tembla

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Agia Triada Folklore Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Granitsa Folklore Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Karpenissi Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Megalo Chorio Folklore Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Palio Mikro Horio Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Proussos Monastery Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Tatarna Monastery Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Viniani Museum

Central Greece / Evrytania
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In the village of Roska (municipality of Domnitsa), the gorge of Pantavrechi has been dubbed one of the most beautiful and cleanest gorges in Europe. Technically this is not a gorge, just the narrowest part of the Krekelopotamos River which rushes through the area. While the gorge is barely 100 meters in length, it is a marvel of nature and biodiversity – a must-see spot for ecotourists. Springs and waterfalls and the sounds of flowing water can be heard all over the prefecture. Moss-covered rocks and unrecorded species of flora can be discovered here. Large waterfalls with rushing water form part of the beauty and ambiance in this area, complete with ponds at the bottom, encouraging the rich biodiversity in fauna and flora.

Photo: Nicos

Vinianis Canyon
 The Vinianis Canyon commences from a dirt road which unites the Old and Nea Viniani Villages and leads to Tavropos, just before the arched Vinianis bridge which connected the Village with Karpenisi. Planes cover the whole canyon. There are ald watermills which served the Old Viniani. It has 3 small waterfalls, the biggest of themis 30 meter height.

Photo: www.info-karpenisi.gr

Lake Kremaston
 Created in 1965 and formally considered an artificial lake, Kremaston has advanced the area's biodiversity and beauty, and is used as a hub for migratory birds. This is the largest dammed lake in Europe containing 4.7 billion cubic meters and is 11 times larger than Marathon lake near Athens. It has of course contributed to producing hydroelectricity for the area and contributed to irrigation. Curiously, a few villages had to be abandoned when the lake was created as they were submerged. When water from of the Acheloos, the Agrafiotis and the Megdova or Taropou rivers filled the lake, an aquatic habitat emerged, complete with carp, trout and other sweet water fish.

Photo: Giannis Boubouris

Various gorges
In Agrafa village there are the Tripa tou Agrafioti and Hondeika gorges, designated as Natura 2000 areas and offering great hiking opportunities. The Asprorema gorge in Epiniana also offers amazing natural landscapes with rare fauna and flora. Also noteworthy is the well-known Kedron gorge next to Platania (meaning plane tree) and near Kedra (which means cedars), offering a verdant area with cedar forests. Lastly, the Acheloos gorge between Raptopoulo and Vrouvianon is a great place for discovering nature and features the Temblas bridge built in 1904.

At the mountainous and semi-mountainous elevations you may come across the hare or hedgehog, squirrel or snow-mouse, ferret or weasel. Be on the lookout for the occasional wild goat, otter, fox, deer, wild boar, wild cat and wolf, to name just a few.

Here are some of the rarer animals:

Wolf (Canis lupus)
Considered endangered and vulnerable in the Red Book of Endangered Species in Greece, the wolf prefers large, dense forests and frequents lower elevations only where these forests exist. It feeds on small animals and mammals. The wolf lives in families or herds of up to 15 members, and is given the hostile treatment by farmers as it can attack livestock. Evrytania is actually the southern border of its habitat.

Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Preferring broadleaf and mixed forests that are not as dense, the deer avoides dense forests and lives in small groups. It is also classified as vulnerable in Greece according to the Red Book, and is under threat from the wolf but also from poaching.

Wild boar (Sus scrofa)
Living also in mountainous areas, the wild boar can be found around oak, chestnut and beech forests near crops. It also lives in family groups and its main enemy is the wolf. In certain areas it is illegal to hunt the wild boar as its numbers have declined.

Wild goat (Rupicapra rupicapra)
The wild goat likes high altitudes, particularly broadleaf and coniferous forests with steep cliffs. It lives in small herds and is included in the Red Book of Endangered Species, classified as 'Rare'. Consequently, hunting the wild goat is considered illegal.

Wild cat (Felis silvestris)
Amiable to dense, large forests and woodlands faraway from human presence, the wild cat feeds on small mammals (rodents and rabbits) as well as birds. It is also designated as an endangered species in the Red Book.

Yellow-Bellied Toad (Bombina variegate)
This toad loves ponds and streams and is common in the Balkans, with the southern border of its territory being the Krikelopotamos river in Evritania.

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Selestina Boutique Hotel 3 *

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Ninemia Stay and Play

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Archontopetra

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Selestina Boutique Hotel 3 *

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Archontopetra

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Ninemia Stay and Play

Central Greece / Evrytania
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Selestina Boutique Hotel 3 *

Central Greece / Evrytania
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