Photo: GNTO/ K.Vergas

Known as the geographical centre of Greece, Fokida (or historically Focis) is home to the ancient spiritual locality of Delphi, the stunning yet quiet naval town of Galaxidi, the mountains of Vardoussia, the sandy shores of Efpalio and the nature reserve of Parnassos. Blue skies, majestic mountains and rolling olive groves mingle with remote villages, remote archaeological sites and age-old churches that fill every visitor with wanderlust.

Even the quiet capital of Amfissa, tucked away among green mountains, beckons with its Frankish fortress and the Byzantine church of the Saviour from the 11th century. Its very old neighbourhood of Harmena which still features rope-makers cobblers and other nearly extinct professions must be visited. Yet it is the town of Delphi some 20 minutes away, both in its ancient and modern elements, that inspires visitors – a must-see before moving on to the rest of the prefecture. Delphi’s oracle, fountain, gymnasium, ruins and stadium are awe-inspiring, so is the sophisticated museum that harbours its treasures. The traditional stone-built town of today boasts a myriad of usual tourist shops, in addition to more interesting boutiques from a delightful health store to a unique photography shop.

The touristy modern town of Itea on the coast facing Delphi, particularly its centre, is best dropped in favour of the infinitely more charming Galaxidi some 20 minutes away, particularly if you want an enchanting overnight stay. That said, Itea has two good if popular beaches (Trocadero and Miami) and two modest archaeological sites in the vicinity (Kirra and Tritea) although very little actual ruins have remained from these once bustling ancient settlements. In Galaxidi do visit the Maritime museum and sample the unique baked-rice dessert, as well as the almond-sugar pudding, both unique to this little town.

Further down the coast from Galaxidi is another picturesque fishing town of 700 inhabitants, known as Eratini in the municipality of Tolophon, where there is an ancient site by the same name. From here you can go inland and explore nature towards Lidoriki and the X-shaped Lake Mornos, or you can continue on the coast to Efpalio with its irresistible beaches such as Monastiraki.

Photo: Hariklia

Only a short distance further down the coast beyond Tolophon, the village of Glifada boasts old fortifications and an important acropolis from ancient times. Across the shores lies the sizeable island called Trizonia, beckoning to curious visitors with its seaside villages.

Photo: Dimitris Karagiorgos

Up the mountains, the municipality of Lidoriki – considered the heart of Doric Greece in ancient times – boasts medieval castles, notable archaeological sites, an old resort town of Diakopi that used to house patients of Tuberculosis, and the lake of Mornos, as well as an archaeological museum. Higher up, the same municipality offers excellent mountain climbing opportunities and caving activities.

Indeed, the mountainous areas of Fokida are impressive. As with neighbouring Viotia, the mountain range of Parnassos also blesses Fokida with adventure, trekking, skiing and exploring, particularly at Eptalofos and Lilea. The E4 hiking route passes through the area and takes you on many adventures, while Lilea (Kato Agoriani) will captivate with its ancient city walls and castle, as well as its two main springs.

If one side of the prefecture inland boasts the mountain range of Parnassos, the other side competes with Vardoussia, a lesser known mountainous haven but equally awesome, hiding gems such as the lovely village of Krokilio rich with water, exotic flora and traditional architecture. Further up is the resort village of Pentagiou with a curious ‘School of Free Speech’, while on even higher ground there are the rival villages of Artotina and Dorida who both claim that national hero Athanasios Diakos hailed from their village.

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Location - Fokida

Kallithea beaches

Between Eratini and Glifada lie the seaside villages of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Spiridonas. Agios Nikolaos offers a ferry service across to the Peloponnese, reaching Aigio (or Egio).

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The rocky mountains and fir-tree forests (Abies Cephalonica) of the National Park of Parnassos, which is shared between the prefectures of Fokida and Viotia, offers an amazing habitat for birds. Among the prime species you would are the Black Woodpecker, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Rock Nuthatch, Rock Partridge and Rock Thrush.

Photo: Frank Vassen

Meat, seafood, cheeses and pies in all their forms are available all over the prefecture. In line with the favourites of Central Greece, Fokida is known for its specialty meats and offal, such as spleen sausage, lamb on the spit and animal intestines. While westerners may not be used to all these meats, they are considered a delicacy by eastern standards. Yet those who aren't meat eaters can also enjoy hearty meals in Fokida. Apart from seafood and mussels, you will find excellent olives, first grade feta cheese and quality sheep's yoghurt. The mountain villages produce fir honey, almonds, noodles, nuts and herbs such as thyme.

It is worth mentioning that the town of Galaxidi produces two unique desserts found in the two or three patisseries near the port. One is the sugared almond sweet reminiscent of marzipan, and the other is a baked rice pudding sprinkled with cinnamon. Both are delicious and must be tried if you're in Galaxidi. The authentic village of Desfina is also known for its traditional bread rusks and features a wood-oven bakery with authentic bread. George's patisserie in Agoriani offers a mix of traditional and organic products, including honey and fruit preserves. In Polidrosos head to the farm of Tirovoli Bros. to discover great dairy products, also at Vounichora which offers delicious and dairy and pastry products.

Overall, apart from the more touristic points such as Itea and Eratini (even if they cater to Greek tourists more than foreign tourists), almost all restaurants around the prefecture – be they inland ouzeries or seaside tavernas – offer great authentic Greek food.

An inspiring mix of mountains, plains and plateaus, Fokida has some enchanting routes that will take you past the Oracle of Delphi, across forgotten villages, through olive groves, by captivating churches and into fir forests that all culminate almost into a spiritual transformation. For the more mountainous routes, mountain shelters are available and local clubs or associations will be more than happy to provide maps and advice.

Mountain Shelters

Local associations and clubs will help with all the advice and maps needed. Mount Parnassos, Mount Vardoussia and Mount Ghiona all have mountain shelters with accommodation for true mountain trekking and hiking in the most beautiful highlands of Greece.

The shelter of Parnassos is at an altitude of 1,900 meters and is open in warmer months for hiking and mountain climbing, and in winter for skiing and other alpine activities. The shelter at Mount Giona or Ghiona is about 1,700 meters above sea level. More information from the Athens Hiking Club, tel. (210 8811520, 8218401).

There are two shelters in the Vardousia mountains: the Amfissa Alpine Club shelter at 1,950 meters. For information call +30 22650 62195 and +30 22650 62484, as well as the Hellenic Alpine Club of Amfisa, (tel. +30 22650 23420) and the Hiking Club Shelter at 2,050 meters both near Athanasios Diakos. More information at the Athens Hiking Club (see above). In this area there is an amazing hiking experience that awaits visitors at the Reka gorge, a 12-kilometer trek from the top of Mount Giona to the plain of Viniani below. Many vertical slopes for climbing in spectacular natural surroundings are available.

From Kirra to Delphi

The E4 coincides with the ancient route used by pilgrims to visit the Oracle of Delphi once they arrive to the port of Kirra by boat. The path starts at Kirra and goes through Chrisso and olive groves along the Plystos River for a while before climbing up to Delphi after around 2.5-3 hours, then Kroki (almost 5 hours from Kirra) and the Kalania plane (7 hours). Ancient graves, Byzantine churches and a historic horse track can be found on the way.

Photo: www.thetoc.gr

From Delphi to Desfina

From Delphi, you can descend the mountain again following the E4 until you get to the Plystos River. After about 1 ¼ hours cross the small bridge on the river at about 110 meters. Follow the clay road once you arrive to the plateau until you get to the observation point after a little over 3 hours for a great view over the Delphic plain.

From Parnassos to Arachova

From the main square of the village of Parnassos there are signs using E4 hiking route that will lead you either to Delphi or to Kaloskopi. A long, 24-kilometer, nature-filled route through pine trees will take you to Arachova, the peak of Liakoura or to the climbing refuge (Greek Climbing Association).

Photo: arahova.files.wordpress.com

Mount Giona or Ghiona has a well-known slope called Orthoplagia with a negative inclination and over 1,200 meters in altitude, representing one of the best climbing regions in the continent. Mountain climbers only reached the peak in the 1960s after three efforts lasting between 15 and 20 hours. A climbing centre was established near the area including accommodation, reception and information area. The mountainous landscape is quite spectacular and offers an exciting climbing adventure.

Photo: eosartas.gr

Considered the first and only institution for social therapy intended for handicapped adults, Estia Agios Nikolaos engages its residents in workshops to produce ceramics, traditional Greek embroidery, decorative jewellery, and wooden toys. Visitors to Galaxidi are encouraged to pass by the centre and visit the workshop and showroom where they can choose artisanal and handcrafted items. All proceeds go for maintaining the centre.

Photo: www.tsemperlidou.gr

Fokida and particularly Parnassos have been blessed with abundant nature, fauna and flora, making it ideal for rock climbing. The slope of Sykia with its negative inclination is considered one of the best spots for rock climbing in Europe.

Photo: hikingexperience.gr

Considered the most popular ski resort in Greece and being the closest to Athens, Parnassos features two ski locations known as Kellaria and Fterolakka. The Parnassos ski area rises from 1,640 meters to 2,260 meters above sea level, with 23 ski runs and 13 ski lifts. The ski runs represent a total length of 27 kilometers, active from mid December to mid April at the very least.

Photo: parnassos-ski.gr

Church of Ioannis Prodromos, Kirra

In Kirra, there is the small church of Ioannis Prodromos (or John the Baptist) is well known for its thermal spring or ‘Agioneri’ which is said to help alleviate stomach problems.

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Around Desfina

This is the least known part of Fokida. Beaches in the Desfina peninsula are quiet yet difficult to get to. Explore Stenos, then more remote corners like Sikia, Prosakos, Agios Andrias and beyond Agios Nikolas. Settlements are not connected to each other by the coastal road, so some backtracking is required.

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Around Galaxidi

Right in Galaxidi there’s Kalafati beach with some locals, close to seafood restaurants. There’s also a beautiful beach near Agios Vassilis, with sandy shores and hidden rocky coves. Closer to Galaxidi though not as beautiful is a quiet beach next to the hotel school at the very edge of town behind the hill.

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Around Itea

Itea has two beaches: Trocadero and Miami, once holders of Blue Flags, so quite clean. These gather a lot of Greek tourists, and can be noisy at times although pretty. Other good beaches include Nafsika and Evaggelistria. Not far are the beaches of Kirra including the organized beach of Vrachakia with water sports.

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Glifada and Trizonia Island

Visit also the nearby villages of Spilia and Glifada near the sea as well. Across the coast lies the little island of Trizonia which you can also visit, complete with good beaches, restaurants and a little port.

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Kallithea beaches

Between Eratini and Glifada lie the seaside villages of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Spiridonas. Agios Nikolaos offers a ferry service across to the Peloponnese, reaching Aigio (or Egio).

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Marathia Beach

As the village is built close to the sea, Sergoula has a quiet island feel. The beach between Fokiotrypa and Skaloma is great for swimming and has been designated as a Blue Flag beach. This beach is in the prefecture of Fokida, yet is close enough to Aitolo-akarnania and its main city, Nafpaktos.

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Monastiraki Beach

The village of Monastiraki on the road to Nafpaktos lies on the hill next to the beach, and the beach is well known for its crisp yet crystal clear waters. The fish restaurants by the port are worth visiting for a meal.

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Municipality of Efpalio

This municipality has beautiful beaches, including the sandy beaches of Chiliadou. Monastiraki is reputed to have one of the best beaches around the Gulf of Corinth. Sergoula beach with its picturesque windmills and Marathia beach are good to swim in, so is the coast and lovely bays between Fokiotrypa and Skaloma.

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Municipality of Tolophon

A charming town by the beach, Eratini is traditional yet popular with Greek tourists, offering very decent beaches to discover. Tolophon beach is simply delightful, if touristy.

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Paralia Sergoulas

About 600 meters of crystal clear and very clean waters await you for the ultimate swim near this traditional village that still harbours an old water mill. It lies 24 kilometres out of Nafpaktos on the Itea-Nafpaktos road.

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Kallithea beaches

Between Eratini and Glifada lie the seaside villages of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Spiridonas. Agios Nikolaos offers a ferry service across to the Peloponnese, reaching Aigio (or Egio).

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Castle of Kastriotissa

Central Greece / Fokida
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Castle of Salona, Amfissa

Central Greece / Fokida
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Apart from the main ones listed below, there are many notable caves around Fokida, such as Agia Elousa Cave, Neraidospilia in Poludroso, Katvothra in Vargiani and others in Agoriani. Several caves are also found in Sikia. A small church has been built in one of these (Zoodochos Pigi), and the cave contains stalactites, stalagmites and a natural lake. Also noteworthy is Agia Eleoussa which was transformed into a church.

Photo: www.golden-greece.gr

Kefalogiofyro, Efpalio

Central Greece / Fokida
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The Parnassos National Park actually extends over three prefectures, Fokida, Viotia and Fthiotida, covering 18,400 hectares (184 square kilometres). Snow blankets the park for at least two months, and the region is blessed with rain as well in fall and spring. The forest of Tithorea near the village by the same name offers many caves to explore and interesting geography. Evergreen trees appear at an altitude of 500 meters, giving way to mountain conifers on higher elevations around 800 meters. Oak trees are also present, while at the summit of Liakoura some 2450 meters up there are Greek fir trees and a couple of other species that reinforce the biodiversity of the area.

Photo: en.parnassosnp.gr

Birds of prey, including alpine birds and woodpeckers are native to the area, with 38 species of birds protected under legislation. Some birds are considered endangered under the National Red Data List (Coturnix conturnix and Columba oenas), so are some mammals (Spalax leucodon and Dryomis nitedula wingei).

Overall, the site boasts 82 species of invertebrates, many being endemic to the area, and 93 endemic species of plants. Plant species protected under law and designated as 'Rare' are numerous:

• Alyssum doerfleri
• Genista parnassica
• Astragalus lacteus
• Seseli parnassicum
• Athamanta densa
• Beta nana
• Silene barbeyana
• Rindera graeca
• Campanula rupicola
• Stachys swainsonii swainsonii
• Poa trichophylla
• Euphorbia orphanidis
• Centaurea musarum
• Abies cephalonica

Photo: Franz Xaver

Many other flowers, herbs and plants are 'threatened' or 'vulnerable', rendering any adventure in the mountain all the more special. Several vertebrates are also protected by law:

• Dryomys nitedula wingei,
• Sciurus vulgaris,
• Rana dalmatina and Rana graeca,
• Salamandra salamandra,
• Triturus vulgaris and Triturus alpestris

The following invertebrates found in Parnassos are considered as needing help in Europe and/or Greece, designated as either rare or endangered:

• Carcharodus flocciferous
• Iolana iolas
• Styrmonidia w-alba
• Thersmonia thetis
• Parnaasius apollo
• Leptidea duponcheli
• Cyaniris helena
• Hipparchia aristaeus
• Thersmonia thetis

Photo: Zeynel Cebeci

Mammals in the area include the Cape Hare, Eurasian Badger, Eurasian Wild Cat, Red Fox, Red Squirrel and Stone Marten.

The mountains of Fokida

Providing water to Athens, Lake Mornos in Lidoriki is a site to behold. In dryer seasons the submerged old village of Kallio resurfaces magically from the water. Nearby Sykia has a rocky cliff that's well known by professional climbers around the world.

A particularly verdant area with cedars, plane trees, oak trees, chestnut trees and fir trees can be found in the municipality of Kallieis, at an altitude of 1,100 meters near the village of Athanasios Diakos or Ano Moussounitsa. Springs, ravines, wild animals and unique flowers combine to create a superb biotope. The lower village of Kato Mossounitsa at a height of 900 meters is replete with springs, fir trees on the nearby mountain and a stunning view of the Mornos river and surrounding mountains.

Worth visiting as well is Polidrossos or Souvala, the capital of the Parnassos municipality. The residents originally descended from Apano Souvala (Upper Souvala) after a large earthquake destroyed their village in 1870. Today upper or Pano Souvala offers spectacular hiking opportunities through fir trees, cedars, pines and springs gushing with water, leading eventually to the Parnassos Ski Centre after 8 kilometres. Here's where nature seekers will find bliss. The Manna spring in the region is particularly well known, so is the Elatos wooden resort village. The Eptastomos bottomless cesspit and the Korkeion Andron caves are part of the natural attractions.

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