Lake Karla & Mavrovouni

There’s an impressive success story surrounding Lake Karla, one about ecological progress, hope and sustainability that can stand as a model for many areas of the world. A few decades ago in the 1960s, fuelled by a misguided vision to increase farmland, the authorities emptied ancient Lake Karla and caused major damage to an ecosystem that was thousands of years old. Wetlands perished and biodiversity suffered, taking with them the livelihood of whole communities as well. The mythical Lake Voeveis-Karla – once described as a paradise where they Argonauts built their kingdom – now lay barren.

This is a nationally protected area that falls under the Management Body of the Eco-development Area of Karla-Mavrovouni-Kefalovrisi-Velestino. The body is striving to manage the environment in and around the lake, including the fauna and flora found there. It also encourages environmental training, ecotourism and sustainable development. (visit the Management Body of Lake Karla’s Gis platform)

Photo: NCC

Today, with the support of the lake’s management body, European efforts to bring back the lake have paid off, recreating an important wetland for different birds such as flamingo, egret, grey heron, wigeon, teal, cormorant, coot and mallard duck. Of special note is the delicate small-sized falcon known as the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) or ‘Kirkinezi’ in Greek, which unlike its larger cousin, Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), mainly feeds on insects instead of mammals. The EU-funded LIFE project has undertaken steps to protect the Lesser Kestrel which is under threat from different manmade factors.

An eco-tourist’s paradise

The plains surrounding the lake are virtually untouched by tourism, offering valuable insight into rural Greek living and an intriguing contrast in nature to the lush mountains of Pelion nearby. Mavrovouni or ‘Black Mountain’ along with the Polydendri Forest (once owned by the Glucksbergs and Greek Royal family) are now protected under the EU legislation and are teaming with biodiversity. The greater region offers equally stunning forests such as Kouri in the Almyros area and the Farsala Forest, dubbed one of the country’s 19 ‘aesthetic forests’.

In the lake area, you’ll do well to hike in areas around this re-emerging body of water, especially as there are numerous hiking trails (See section on hiking) that reveal the riches of the region. You can hike to the deserted mountain village of Ano Kerasia, as well as the Flamouri Monastery and Sourvia Monastery. Walking almost 6 hours through gorgeous nature to the seaside village of Keramidi will thrill experienced trekkers so will hiking through different Natura 2000 sites. Wells, archeological remains, Byzantine churches, old-style fishing huts, verdant forests and rich biodiversity await hikers at every turn.

Photo: NCC

Beyond caving, birdwatching, biking and canyoning enthusiasts will also revel in the area around Lake Karla. A canyoning escapade through the Polydendri Gorge and Rakopotamos Gorge in the area of Mount Mavrovouni will thrill you with strange geological formations. If you’re into birdwatching you’re going to thoroughly enjoy the different varieties of birds mentioned previously, from the black storks around Mavrovouni to the lesser kestrel and flamingos. Trekking Hellas combines cycling tours with birdwatching, offering a great way to experience the stunning nature in the area.

Captivating villages around the Lake

Surprisingly, there are no hotels or guesthouses around the lake. The closest areas to stay in – about 30-45 minutes away – are either the beautiful villages of Makrinitsa and Portaria above the city of Volos, or the delightful little seaside town of Keramidi with its three or four little hotels and guesthouses on the coastal side of Mount Pelion (there is a picturesque road from the lake area across the mountain). That said, you can make a day trip to the lake area from practically anywhere in Pelion, as well as from the region of Larissa.

Despite the lack of accommodation, the villages and areas around the Lake offer some intriguing attractions and landmarks that tourists don’t know about. To begin with, the Lake Karla Culture Museum (open by appointment) outlines life before the lake was drained, as well as the social and environmental challenges. It’s refreshing to know that this lifestyle along with old traditions are slowly re-emerging.

Photo: M.Tzali/NCC

Check through the ‘Landmarks’ section to prepare your visit to the Monastery of the Dervishes dating from 1942, as well as historic stone bridges, revered war memorials, a one-of-a-kind map of the Balkans from 1797, a bakery from 1897 and a 100-year-old coffee shop to name just a few. Two towns that show what rural Greek life is like, very close to the lake, are Velestino and Stefanovikeio. Stop for some treats from the local bakeries, try the family restaurants and admire the old churches for a true Greek experience without the intervention of tourism.

And if you travel a bit further to the town of Farsala deep in the Thessaly plain, you must stop by the Ottoman tower of Karamichos before trying the town’s famous ‘Halva Farsalon’, a pudding-like dessert with buttery caramel overtones. The contrasting nature of magical lake, fertile plain, Mediterranean coast and rolling green mountains makes the overall region undeniably unique for nature lovers, adventurers and those seeking deeply authentic experiences.

Read more about the LIFE Programme and effort to preserve the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni): www.life-kirkinezi.gr/ – www.facebook.com/LifeKirkinezi

 

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Location - Lake Karla & Mavrovouni

Ai Giannis, Keramidi, North Pelion

On the way from Keramidi to Kamari, turning left towards Agiokampos you will find the pretty pebble beach of Ai Giannis.

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Nea Anchialos, below Volos

Awarded with a Blue Flag in 2013, Nea Anchialos offers 20 km of impressive coastline, where there is something for everyone… You’ll find beaches with a unique reddish sand, suitable for sand-baths for people suffering from rheumatism, and golden sand beaches and rocky cliffs to dive from into the crystal waters. Here you will also find facilities for water sports, seaside restaurants as well as deckchairs and umbrellas to rent. Beware that at some parts of Nea Anchialos coastline, the sea shelves quite steeply downwards off the beach, so non-swimmers need to take care.

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Polydendri Forest

This is an important habitat for raptors and the falcons, which spend its summers here. Breeding species include the European honey buzzard Pernis apivorus, the Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, the Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, the Levant sparrowhawl Accipiter brevipes, the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, the Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the Roller Coracias garrulus and the Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius.

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Rakopotamos, North Pelion

You’ll come across this yellow sand beach with some pebbles on the road to Polydendri, around 8km from Agiokampos. The beach is a popular spot for alternative tourism lovers who enjoy canoeing and following sea trails that lead to waterfalls up to 30 meters high, while at the very end of the beach campers freely pitch up their tents.

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The Lesser Kestrel – protection of a species

The Lesser Kestrel (Kirkinezi in Greek) is one of the most characteristic examples of birds have adapted their lifestyle in order to coexist with humans, feeding mostly on larger insects and small rodents.

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Birwatchers will delight in the region around Lake Karla and Mavrovouni as it is home to many types of birds. Not far from the delightful seaside city of Volos in Central Greece and the gorgeous mountain resort villages of Pelion, Lake Karla and its surroundings are designated as an Important Bird Area and a NATURA 2000 site . Ducks and birds – including pelicans and flamingos – love the lake, while the mountain of Mavrovouni attracts chiefly birds of prey. The recently restored Lake Karla was once the second largest wetland in Europe, and EU efforts are helping to bring it back to its formal glory.

Photo: NCC

Lake Karla

Cormorant, coot, and mallard duck are just some of the types of waterfowl living in Lake Karla, which has developed into a very important wetland that’s home to many types of birds.

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Polydendri Forest

This is an important habitat for raptors and the falcons, which spend its summers here. Breeding species include the European honey buzzard Pernis apivorus, the Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, the Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, the Levant sparrowhawl Accipiter brevipes, the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, the Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the Roller Coracias garrulus and the Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius.

Find Out More

The Lesser Kestrel – protection of a species

The Lesser Kestrel (Kirkinezi in Greek) is one of the most characteristic examples of birds have adapted their lifestyle in order to coexist with humans, feeding mostly on larger insects and small rodents.

Find Out More

Rakopotamos, North Pelion

You’ll come across this yellow sand beach with some pebbles on the road to Polydendri, around 8km from Agiokampos. The beach is a popular spot for alternative tourism lovers who enjoy canoeing and following sea trails that lead to waterfalls up to 30 meters high, while at the very end of the beach campers freely pitch up their tents.

Find Out More

Nea Anchialos, below Volos

Awarded with a Blue Flag in 2013, Nea Anchialos offers 20 km of impressive coastline, where there is something for everyone… You’ll find beaches with a unique reddish sand, suitable for sand-baths for people suffering from rheumatism, and golden sand beaches and rocky cliffs to dive from into the crystal waters. Here you will also find facilities for water sports, seaside restaurants as well as deckchairs and umbrellas to rent. Beware that at some parts of Nea Anchialos coastline, the sea shelves quite steeply downwards off the beach, so non-swimmers need to take care.

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You'd be surprised at what you find in Greece's rural regions, beyond the touristic hotspots of the country. This is where unique local recipes dominate, and the region around Lake Karla and on different sides of the Thessaly Plain is no exception. Seafood, hearty mountain cuisine and even desserts conspire to tease your palate with authentic flavors.

Photo: "Η ΔΗΜΗΤΡΑ"

Fish and seafood pies
Lake Karla locals share an old-time love for fish and seafood, so it’s not surprising they have come up with some deliciously creative recipes based around these fresh and variable ingredients. One of the most well-known dishes representative of the area is the traditional fish pie, made with mixed vegetables, chili and olive oil. Fish stew is another longtime favorite in the area, with several renditions, but most commonly made with fish, baby onions, garlic, tomato, red peppers and other vegetables.

Legend has it that fishermen staying and working in lakeside fishing huts daily followed an eating regime that included a hearty portion of breakfast wine soup (basically warmed red wine in which they would dunk or float chunks of bread), a midday snack of the previous day’s leftovers, and a lunch and dinner of fish soup, fried or baked fish, or waterfowl.

On the seafood front, locals also developed a love of limpets (Patella vulgata), the tiny brown conical shells that can be found adhering to rocks in shallow water along the beach. Limpets are relished around the country for their subtle yet unmistakable sea flavor and various health properties (many also consider them an aphrodisiac). They are gathered by swiping a knife underneath them with a quick sweep, before they can cling tighter to the rock, and the people of Lake Karla have also created a limpet pie, made with flour, onions, olive oil and seasonings.

Handmade pasta, Manestra
The region is also known for its handmade pasta, such as trachana, hilopites and kritharaki, or orzo. The latter is the main ingredient in a pasta dish called Manestra, delicately cooked with tomato sauce, olive oil and garlic into a thick soup-like consistency. The trick with this dish is to cook it very gently and add enough olive oil, otherwise it sticks to the pot and burns.

Plasto pie
A healthy and flavorsome vegetarian favorite among locals, Plasto is a kind of pie made with any choice of wild and domesticated local greens like nettles, like nettles, spinach, Swiss chard, amaranth greens (Vlita) and a crumbly dough of cornmeal.

Photo: vivian's cook

The Tsipouro & Meze Tradition
Tsipouro, a pure, clear spirit distilled from grape marc, is enjoyed nationwide by Greek bon vivants. In Nea Anchialos, as in other parts of the country, the strong drink is (very wisely) often accompanied by meze dishes. In the region, it is thought that Greeks coming from Asia Minor began the tradition of serving tsipouro in a 25ml bottle. According to the tradition, each person orders one bottle (and goes on to order as many as he or she could handle) and accompanies it with one meze dish (in order to stay upright longer). Local favorites enjoyed alongside the 25ml tsipouro bottle include saganaki prawns (cooked in melted cheese), steamed mussels, vinegar-cured octopus, fresh salads, roast potatoes and stuffed calamari.

Wine in Nea Anchialos
Nea Anchialos is also known for its top quality wine. The region’s vineyards are predominantly in the lowlands and at sea level, so the sea air and its humidity is said to offer the wine a special quality.  Wine tours and tastings at local wineries can be arranged by appointment.

Pelion Cuisine

The more mountainous cuisine in the villages of Portaria and Makrinitsa, Pelion, is also worthy of attention, with special stews and dishes that will leave you begging for more. Learn about Pelion cuisine and the best of Magnesia's flavors www.peliongastronomy.gr.

Photo: www.peliongastronomy.gr

DESSERTS

Mustalevria
Grape must, the juice of grapes after they have been pressed and before fermentation, is a star ingredient in the regional mustalevria dessert, and is also used for making bread, or as a sweetener for other dishes. Mustalevria is made using the grape must and boiling it up with flour, sugar, almonds, sesame seeds and cinnamon. The result is a gelatinous dessert that is both healthy and traditional.

Farsala halva
This specialty from the other side of the Thessalian plain is worth a mention. A mixture of corn starch or corn flour, vegetable oil, water and sugar is boiled, sometimes with the addition of almonds and a caramel topping, to create the nationally famous halva of Farsala. The dessert is served throughout the year but is also considered a prime choice of sweet to be served at the culmination of local festivals.

Fruit preserves (Spoon sweets)
The apricots, sour cherries and other fresh fruit that grow abundantly in the area are boiled with sugar and made into jams and fruit preserves known as spoon sweets, often by the women’s cooperatives, to be enjoyed with yogurt, ice cream and other desserts or even on their own.

The Lake Karla walking guide details 10 outstanding hikes (summarized below), complete with maps that you can download here:

Map 1AMap 1BMap 2AMap 2B

Get the Guide for Lake Karla here: Lake Karla Walking Guide   (Dodouras, S., Lyratzaki, I. and Papayannis, T. (ed.) (2013), Lake Karla Walking Guide, Med-INA, Athens)

Photo: Κατερίνα Χαριτωνίδου

Ano Kerasia – Kerasia (map 1A – trail 1)

In this one hour (5.9km) walk downhill from Ano Kerasia to Kerasia, hikers can enjoy taking in stunning panoramic views of Lake Karla and the lush natural beauty of the local flora as its colours and varieties change significantly with the drop in altitude. The walk follows a combination of dirt roads and cobbled paths lovingly maintained by the North Pelion Information Centre. Start the day by exploring the abandoned village of Ano Kerasia, a village that was destroyed by Nazi forces in 1944 as it hosted the 54th E.L.A.S. (Greek People’s Liberation Army) Regiment. Stop to visit the Church of the Apostle Saints and the nearby chapel of Saint Athanasios, and finish with lunch or evening dinner in one of the tavernas of Kerasia, where you can sample local delicacies such as spit-roasted goat or lamb.

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Kato Kalamaki – Lake Karla’s artificial wetland area (map 2B – trail 10)

A relatively easy walk that offers some great sights, this trail mainly leads you along flat roads and the western dike of Lake Karla, close to the artificial wetland area (created in a bid to help protect and promote the local natural life after the Lake was drained). It takes around 2-2.5 hours to get from Kato Kalamaki, where you will observe 12 water reservoirs, to the lake’s pumping station. Bird watchers will enjoy this route, as there are various great spots for sightings, while visitors can even stop to enjoy some fishing.

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Ano Kerasia – Flamouri Monastery (map 1A – trail 2)

A moderately challenging trek that takes around three hours one way (6.4km), this trail will lead you into the embrace of high shady forests, in a part of Mt Pelion that is characterized by steep green hillsides and cascading waterfalls. Apart from enjoying the beauty of this idyllic floral paradise, the walk will bring you to stupendous panoramic views of Mt Pelion’s north-western coastline and Lake Karla. Male hikers may visit the Flamouri Monastery, built in a fabulous location above the village of Veneto. Cyclists, mountaineers and horseback riding enthusiasts can also find recreation in the area around the village.

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Kerasia – Sourvia Monastery (map 1A – trail 3)

This 8.9km walk, which takes around four hours one way, is similar to the Ano Kerasia – Flamouri Monastery walk but considered far more challenging as it involves more hiking on narrow, upward and descending, footpaths. The trail will take you through gorgeous greenery, dramatic panoramas of Sourvia Monastery and its mountainous landscapes angling skyward, and encounters with the area’s fauna. You can also visit the chapel of Panagia Leshiani and the stone-arched bridge at Leshiani and enjoy drinking from natural springs in Kerasia and Leshiani.

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Keramidi – Palaioskala (map 1B – trail 4)

This 17 km trail (around 5.5 hours walk) is one of the most scenic walks in the greater area of Lake Karla, starting from the quaintly traditional village of Keramidi. The restored cobblestone trail meanders through a lush forest of oak, chestnut, walnut and various species of Mediterranean maquis along the western slopes of Mt Pelion and Mt Mavrovouni, and offers you the chance to discover the archaeological site of Palaioskala, where remnants of a prehistoric human settlement have been unearthed. Hikers heading along National trail 02 are also likely to come across free-range herds of cows, goats and pigs.

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Ano Kanali – Pyrgos (map 1B – trail 5)

The trail is part of the Natura 2000 sites of Karla-Mavrovouni-Kefalovryso-Velestino and Mt Mavrovouni, which are areas of rich biodiversity. Even expert hikers consider this trail difficult, chiefly because it covers more than 14 km (around five hours walk) in a single direction. However, if you plan ahead and opt to stop at various points of interest, you can make a great day of it. Regional authorities are working on numerous plans to revamp the area and add museums, ecological, hiking, riding, cycling and bird watching facilities and more. For now there are also lovely views of Lake Karla as well as stopovers at the chapels of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, Saint Panteleimon, Saint Paraskevi and Saint Athanasios in Ano Kanalia.

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Glafyra – Saint Nikolaos of Kanalia (map 2A – trail 6)

A relatively easy hike that takes around two hours one way (7.9 km), the trail combines some vibrant mountain landscapes, interesting archaeological and religious sites, zones of geological and architectural attraction, agricultural fields and various scenic perspectives of Lake Karla. Glafyra, also called Kapourna, is a picturesque village mainly inhabited by farmers. Although the trail ends at Saint Nikolaos chapel, the village of Kanalia is one of the prettiest on the northwest side of Mt Pelion, built on the foundation of the acropolis of ancient Voeveis on the plains of Metochi – while there, don’t miss the Byzantine Church of Saint Nikolaos, declared a historical monument. Also to be enjoyed on this trail are the remarkable scenery of Lake Karla, together with its diverse flora and fauna.

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Kanalia – Drakopigado (map 2A – trail 7)

A trail you can walk round trip in just over two hours (6.6km) but not with ease, as it’s not marked as a designated path and consists mainly of uphill trekking on narrow and rocky footpaths. The dense vegetation and gorgeous views of Lake Karla and the plain of Thessaly make it worthwhile, as does the a visit to the magnificent, vertical cave of Drakopigado (Dragon’s well). Start at the main square of Kanalia, otherwise known as ‘the women’s village,’ where two old-style fishing huts and a traditional boat can be found, and visit the Ecclesiastical Museum in the Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Be careful not to confuse sheep and goat tracks with the walking path.

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Chatzimisiotiki Magoula – Agios Athanasios hill (map 2A – trail 8)

Unlike most of the other trails in the area, which involve trekking high into the mountains, this trail takes you along Lake Karla’s southwestern shores, past picturesque wetlands and mountain landscapes. The trail is ideal in springtime but somewhat unpleasant in high summer when hot temperatures along the Rizomilos-Stefanovikeio plain can be stifling. Chatzimisiotiki Magoula is a former islet and prehistoric site, and only the beginning of a wonderful walk that includes great bird watching spots as well as several Mycenaean tombs along the southern shores of Lake Karla. St. Athanasios chapel, on top of a hill, is a great place to end, offering excellent views of Lake Karla, Thessaly’s plain, Mt Mavrovouni and, on a clear day, Mt Ossa and Mt Olympus.

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Stefanovikeio – Petra (Skala) (map 2B – trail 9)

This 2.5 hour trail (7.5km) starts at was the base of Lake Karla’s administrative seat during the Ottoman occupation, and concludes at Petra, one of the area’s most important prehistoric sites. Along the trail you can visit the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Stefanovikeio and the remote chapel of Saint Paraskevi, while also soaking in wondrous panoramic views of the entire area from atop Petra, which is surrounded by Mt Mavrovouni, Mt Pelion and extensive agricultural fields.

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If you’re visiting the lake region and would like to go for a swim – especially since the lake is off-limits to swimmers – you’ll find a number of great beaches on the other side of Mavrovouni. One of the quietest is the beach of Kamari on the water of the picturesque village of Keramidi, only 45 minutes away from the lake. Also north of the lake are the quiet pebbly beach Rakopotamos and the long blue beach of Agiokampos, which are a little longer to get to but quite worth it.

Photo: Georgia Tsakanika

Agiokampos, Larissa

Clean, wide, fun and beautiful Agiokapos beach connects with Sotiritsa and Velika beaches in a 14 km stretch of Blue Flag awarded coastline. The beaches, which are on the southern coast of Larissa, also have two child-friendly camping facilities and nearby tennis and basketball courts. At Velika you can also enjoy the shade of lush trees, while at Agiokampos you can hop on a boat and visit the sea caves in Veneto and the beaches of Magnesia.

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Ai Giannis, Keramidi, North Pelion

On the way from Keramidi to Kamari, turning left towards Agiokampos you will find the pretty pebble beach of Ai Giannis.

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Milos Glymeni, North Pelion

Around 15 km from Agiokampos, this somewhat isolated beach can be reached by following the road to Sklithro, after Rakopotamos beach. Ideal for nature lovers who want to get away from organized beach sports and umbrellas, this pebble beach is also popular among divers as there are some shipwrecks to be explored, including a German vessel originating from WWII.

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Nea Anchialos, below Volos

Awarded with a Blue Flag in 2013, Nea Anchialos offers 20 km of impressive coastline, where there is something for everyone… You’ll find beaches with a unique reddish sand, suitable for sand-baths for people suffering from rheumatism, and golden sand beaches and rocky cliffs to dive from into the crystal waters. Here you will also find facilities for water sports, seaside restaurants as well as deckchairs and umbrellas to rent. Beware that at some parts of Nea Anchialos coastline, the sea shelves quite steeply downwards off the beach, so non-swimmers need to take care.

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Rakopotamos, North Pelion

You’ll come across this yellow sand beach with some pebbles on the road to Polydendri, around 8km from Agiokampos. The beach is a popular spot for alternative tourism lovers who enjoy canoeing and following sea trails that lead to waterfalls up to 30 meters high, while at the very end of the beach campers freely pitch up their tents.

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Veneto, North Pelion

Access to the sea from Veneto, a tiny village perched on a distant hillside of Pelion, could be described as challenging, but worth it. Adventurous visitors with a penchant for small, beautiful and secluded beaches traipse a dirt road that begins a short distance from where the village’s last houses stand, to seek out Petromelisso beach, a little bay with white rocks and small pebbles.

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Ai Giannis, Keramidi, North Pelion

On the way from Keramidi to Kamari, turning left towards Agiokampos you will find the pretty pebble beach of Ai Giannis.

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Nea Anchialos, below Volos

Awarded with a Blue Flag in 2013, Nea Anchialos offers 20 km of impressive coastline, where there is something for everyone… You’ll find beaches with a unique reddish sand, suitable for sand-baths for people suffering from rheumatism, and golden sand beaches and rocky cliffs to dive from into the crystal waters. Here you will also find facilities for water sports, seaside restaurants as well as deckchairs and umbrellas to rent. Beware that at some parts of Nea Anchialos coastline, the sea shelves quite steeply downwards off the beach, so non-swimmers need to take care.

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Polydendri Forest

This is an important habitat for raptors and the falcons, which spend its summers here. Breeding species include the European honey buzzard Pernis apivorus, the Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, the Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, the Levant sparrowhawl Accipiter brevipes, the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, the Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the Roller Coracias garrulus and the Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius.

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Rakopotamos, North Pelion

You’ll come across this yellow sand beach with some pebbles on the road to Polydendri, around 8km from Agiokampos. The beach is a popular spot for alternative tourism lovers who enjoy canoeing and following sea trails that lead to waterfalls up to 30 meters high, while at the very end of the beach campers freely pitch up their tents.

Find Out More

The Lesser Kestrel – protection of a species

The Lesser Kestrel (Kirkinezi in Greek) is one of the most characteristic examples of birds have adapted their lifestyle in order to coexist with humans, feeding mostly on larger insects and small rodents.

Find Out More

Acropolis of the ancient Feres

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Archaeological site of Dimini

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Area of Ancient Krannon, Krannonas Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Athanasakeio Archaeological Museum, Volos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Castle of Velika, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Centre for Wild Orchids in North Pelion

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Farsala Forest

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Information Centre for the Lesser Kestrel

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Museum of Lake Karla’s Civilization

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Polydendri Forest

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Wine festival (Nea Anchialos)

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Both the Mycenaeans and the ancient Greeks boasted a strong presence in the region of Magnesia, and there are still some remains to be seen. About half an hour's drive from the lake – closer to Volos – are the worthy sites of Sesklo and Dimini. Around the lake itself there are some remains of ancient civilizations, such as at Agios Athanasios, Agios Trifon, and Aleriani (Aeriani) all not far from the village of Kanalia. On the northern tip of the lake lies Palioskala and on the western bank lie some remains on the mound known as Chaltzimiksiotiki Magoula.

Photo: Kritheus

Acropolis of Farsala & other ruins

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Acropolis of Pyrasos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Acropolis of the ancient Feres

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Ancient Eretria, Farsala, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Ancient Kasthanea, Keramidi

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Ancient market arcade theatre

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Ancient Skotousa, near Farsala, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Ancient spring of Hypereia Krini

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Archaeological finds (Kileler, Larissa)

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Archaeological site of Dimini

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Archaeological site of Sesklo

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Archeological site, Dimitriada

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Area of Ancient Krannon, Krannonas Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Athanasakeio Archaeological Museum, Volos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Castle of Skiti

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Castle of Velika, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Goritsa Hill, Dimitriada

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Neolithic settlement and Byzantine church, Amygdali

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Neolithic settlement, Nikaia, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Neolithic settlements and Ottoman building, Platikampos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Neolithic settlements, Melissochori, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Palioskala, Elafos, Agia

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Fthiotides Thebes, Nea Anchialos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Prehistoric and ancient mounds (magoula)

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Rocky hills, Sotirio, Larisa-Magnesia border

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Ruins of Ancient city, Glafyra, Volos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Temple of Zeus Thaulios

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Trani Magoula, Armenio, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Vaulted Mycenean tombs, Megalo Monastiri, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Vaulted tombs of the geometric period

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Castle of Skiti

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Castle of Velika, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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AGHIOS ATHANASIOS CAVE

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Alogopati – Karapla Cave

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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CAVE WITH MYCENAEAN TRACES

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Caves in Lake Karla

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Despot’s Cave, Veneto

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Drakopigado

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Τhe region around Volos has many different museums and information centers to visit, and Lake Karla itself has three or four that are noteworthy: the Centre for Wild Orchids in the village of Kerasia, the Elias Lefousis Museum which is on the same property as the Orchid center, the Museum of Lake Karla’s Civilization in Kanalia, and the Information Centre for the Lesser Kestrel also in Kanalia. It is best to call ahead to make sure that these small museums are open when you visit, as most are ‘by appointment’.

Photo: Κ.Ε.Π.Α.Ο.Β.Π.

Athanasakeio Archaeological Museum, Volos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Centre for Wild Orchids in North Pelion

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Folklore Museum, Nees Karies

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Historical & Folklore Museum, Portaria

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Information Centre for the Lesser Kestrel

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Kitsos Makris Folklore Center, Volos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Museum of Lake Karla’s Civilization

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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The ecological abundance of this area is evident through a broad variety of characteristics such as a mountain, two wetlands, a spring and several natural habitats.

Photo: T.Dimalexis/NCC

Centre for Wild Orchids in North Pelion

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Farsala Forest

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Kouri forest, Almiros Area

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Mavrovouni

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Polydendri Forest

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Polydendri Gorge

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Acropolis of the ancient Feres

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Archaeological site of Dimini

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Area of Ancient Krannon, Krannonas Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Athanasakeio Archaeological Museum, Volos

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Castle of Velika, Larisa region

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Centre for Wild Orchids in North Pelion

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Farsala Forest

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Information Centre for the Lesser Kestrel

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Museum of Lake Karla’s Civilization

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Polydendri Forest

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Wine festival (Nea Anchialos)

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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The varied geography of this area gives rise to numerous different habitats. It is the stomping ground of a significant variety of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and fish, most of which are protected under national and European legislation. Previously, Lake Karla had great fish populations. The species found in the lake today is the carp, the Tsironas and butterfly, and there are efforts to regenerate the area. Not far off, the Polydendri forest is rife with wildlife, including the wildcat lynx, wolf, deer, hare, wild boar, etc.

Photo: NCC

According to the Management Body of the Eco-development Area of Karla-Mavrovouni-Kefalovrisi-Velestino there is a list of mammals, amphibians and reptiles in the area, mentioning some of the threats that they face:

MAMMALS

  • Wild boar (Sus scrofa): on the increase in the area, causing a bit of trouble for farmers, especially in the corn fields.
  • European badger (Meles meles): roams around the foothills of Mavrovouni and Karantao, and is often in danger as it tries to cross the Volos-Larissa national road. Crossings under this highway would help preserve the badger and many other animals.
  • European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): permanent resident of the eastern part of Mavrovouni including oak and beech forests, as well as the dense holm oak forests. A ban on hunting in the area has helped maintain a number of these animals but more can be done.
  • Beech Marten (Martes foina): a nocturnal creature yet travels also during the day. It is found all over the mountain and near animal farms around the Lake Karla area.
  • Grey Wolf (Canis lupus): can be found in the area, and a ban on hunting has helped increase populations nationwide. There are about 2 or 3 lone wolves in the area and no evidence of a herd.
  • European hare or brown hare: lives in the shrublands and grasslands within the dense forests of Mount Mavrovouni and some other high areas in the region.
  • Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris): thrives in Mavrovouni in large numbers, feeding on wild fruit and nuts from trees, hampering the production of nuts and chestnuts. It is often hunted by farmers, requiring better measures to protect crops and prevent the unnecessary killing of these animals.
  • Red fox (Vulpes vulpes): thriving in the region thanks to the presence of rodents and birds around Lake Karla. However it too is a victim of the Old National Road (Volos-Lamia), implying a need for better management measures.
  • Wildcat (Felis silvestris): roams around the plains of the Lake Karla region, particularly around the shallow parts of the lake where it finds much food.

AMPHIBIANS

  • Yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegate): spends much time around the shallow areas of the lake, almost always near the water. The back is generally very dark but can change color according to its environment, while the tummy area ranges from a bright orange to pale yellow depending on the subspecies. You may see gray or dark spots on the belly, or it could be completely yellow.
  • European tree frog (Hyla arborea): a small green frog that prefers wet areas with dense vegetation.
  • Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) loves damp places and holes mainly in flowing streams on the eastern part of Mount Mavrovouni.
  • European green toad (Bufo viridis): mainly a nocturnal toad, green in color, and likes drier places.

REPTILES

  • European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis): one of two species of freshwater turtles that has spread to Greece and prefers water with a slow flow. It is protected under national and EU regulations.
  • Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni): a land turtle belonging to the family of Testudinidae with 40 species. Herbivorous slow-moving turtle that can live in dry habitats, common in the Lake Karla region.
  • Horned viper or sand viper (Vipera ammodytes): considered the most poisonous viper in Europe because of its large size, long teeth (up to 13 mm) and highly toxic venom. Found primarily in the southern and western parts of Mount Mavrovouni and in plains with more rodents. Protected at national and EU level, it is under threat due to human pressures and loss of habitat, as well as use of drugs to kill mice in the fields.
  • Grass snake or water snake (Natrix natrix): A non-poisonous snake with a great variety of colors and designs. Bathes very skillfully and quickly, often found near water and feeds almost exclusively on amphibians. While it prefers wetlands it can thrive well away from it.
  • European green lizard (Lacerta viridis): Could be of one color or with light colored stripes along the spine. This big, fast and agile lizard prefers sunny spots with shrubs, where it can hide. It feeds mainly on invertebrates and occasionally on vertebrates and fruits.
  • European blind snake (Typhlops Vermicularis): reaches up to 40 cm in length but normally less than 30 cm, it has adapted well to life underground. Eats ants, termites, small arachnids and larvae among other small invertebrates. Located in Mavrovouni and North Pelion.
  • Glass lizard (Ophisaurus apodus): Europe's largest lizard with a total body length reaching 140 cm and the tail not clearly separated from the body. This legless lizard is protected under national and EU legislation. Heavily threatened as people think they're snakes and kill them all the time.
  • Balkan whip snake (Coluber gemonensis): a harmless snake and the longest in Greece. It feeds on rodents and insects. It shouldn't be killed, just left alone to go on its way.
  • Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis taurica): prefers open areas such as pastures, fields, olive groves, gardens, sparsely vegetated dunes and sometimes open scrub. Threatened by habitat loss through intense agricultural activity and use of agrochemicals. Protected by national and EU legislation, and is common in the region.

BIRDS

The Lesser Kestrel (Kirkinezi)– protection of a species

The Lesser Kestrel (Kirkinezi in Greek) is one of the most characteristic examples of birds have adapted their lifestyle in order to coexist with humans, feeding mostly on larger insects and small rodents. It is a small bodied falcon with no particular requirements for nesting – which is why it has managed to create its home in man-made buildings – under rooftop tiles, inside warehouses or even churches. The traditional style of buildings with tile roofs in the villages of Thessaly was an ideal abode for this species. But as architectural styles and construction methods changed over time, it became increasingly difficult for the kestrel to find suitable nesting spots in the region’s villages and towns. This is one of the reasons why its population declined significantly over recent decades.

As a result, the Greek Ornithological Society, in cooperation with the nearby municipalities Riga Fereiou and Kileler, created more than 150 artificial nests for kestrels in 11 villages across the plain of Thessaly, under the EU-funded LIFE program. Thanks to these efforts, in 2015 the Society recorded more than 600 lesser kestrels in four villages neighbouring the lake.

Information Centre for the Lesser Kestrel

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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The heart of winemaking in Magnesia is to be found in ther area of Nea Anchialos, where the largest part of the vineyard is located. Fans of organic wine can rejoice as the wines produced here are made following traditional methods and strictly forbidding the use of pesticides and fertilizers. A little towards the west in Microthebes, you’ll find the Timblalexi estate, which cultivates Roditis-Savvatiano grapes.

Photo: Κτήμα Τιμπλαλέξη

Apostolakis Winery – distillery

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Wine festival (Nea Anchialos)

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Eos Traditional Guesthouse

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Eos Traditional Guesthouse

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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Eos Traditional Guesthouse

Thessaly & Sporades / Lake Karla & Mavrovouni
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