Escapist State of Mind
Weekend Escapes

Aspropotamos Villages: Discover the Unspoiled Beauty of the White River

Perched on the southern side of Pindus Mountains, the villages of Aspropotamos still echo the glory of Aheloos, one of the most important rivers of Greece, which was worshiped as a river god and father of the Nymphs and the Sirens with its mighty waters. Surrounded from the mountains and hidden between verdant forests, the villages of Aspropotamos have managed to retain their authentic character in their entire splendor. Built at an altitude between 950 and 1.480 meters, among fir trees and the riverbanks of Aheloos, those villages share an eternal identity of genuineness. Every single village has a central square with a sycamore tree, a traditional fountain and a stone church among the picturesque cobblestone alleys and the picturesque stone houses that decorate the surrounding area. The nature of these villages is absolutely stunning with mountains, high pine trees and wonderful gorges all around maintaining an excessive natural beauty ought to be admired. Whoever visits the villages of the Greek mainland will understand the genuine unspoiled beauty of this country. Whether you are a lover of the mountains or not, Aspropotamos’ region will offer you an experience on mainland Greece you will never forget! Let yourself immense in the endless beauty of the Greek nature!

NEED A REASON TO TRAVEL

The spectacular craggy mountains of South Pindus hide the pristine beauty of the legendary birth of mythical Aheloos along with a group of Vlach villages embracing one of the most beautiful regions of Greece. Fir trees, mountains and rivers create the most authentic environment one could ever find. This is Aspropotamos of Trikala, an area perched on the western edge of Thessaly surrounded from the gigantic slopes of Southern Pindus and eight endless forests, populated from bears and wolves. The ride from the mysterious monasteries of Meteora to the villages of Aspropotamos is absolutely amazing. Why travel so many kilometers and admire only the monasteries of Meteora? The Greek mainland offers a glimpse of the authentic face of Greece with monuments of unspoiled beauty that you should explore even for once in your lifetime. Gurgling waters, impressive waterfalls, beautiful riverbanks, picturesque villages, stone houses, labyrinthine roads overflown with massive oak and fir trees fill the sceneries of Aspropotamos with the most beautiful colors of Picasso’s palette. If you want to find your own spiritual freedom and your divine tranquility, it is certain that the villages of Aspropotamos will leave you speechless. Aspropotamos will make you feel like you have never seen the mountains in your life and you have never heard the river flowing; an authentic experience on the mountains! The genuine Vlachs, however, are the true soul and spirit of Aspropotamos, who created a divine paradise with repect to nature working with her for centuries. Of the most famous professions were the kyratzides who transported people and commodities to all of the inaccessible villages and the tseligades of Pindus who visited the alpine meadows with their flocks on to graze freely all summer. At that time, the communities on the slopes of Pindus were full of life and love. That’s why they decorated the entire region of Aspropotamos with stone bridges and stone churches, leaving their own stigma. The Vlachs built villages of austere beauty and splendid mansions, defining the area as the southernmost distribution of their race in the Balkans; however, they were completely destroyed from the Germans in retaliation for the strong presence of the rebels between the villages of Anthousa and Kalarrytes. Today, the villages of Aspropotamos are something far more than beautiful with a true spirit of authenticity. Though, you might feel a bit lonesome if you are travelling to the villages of Aspropotamos during the winter months. It’s more probable to see more wolves and bears than local people and cars! Driving upon carpets of orange, yellow and red leaves, you will notice that Aspropotamos is nothing more than a silent artwork. As the farmers form the main community of the villages, they take their flocks and families in September and descent to the valley, as it befits to the semi-nomadic culture of the Vlachs. However, the villages of Aspropotamos are full of life in the summer months! It is the time when nature changes one million faces, since Aheloos transforms into creeks, the mountains and villages bloom in the shadows of greens and the Vlachs enjoy their glass of tsipouro at the central squares of the villages. Isn’t a shame those beautiful villages to be emptied during the winter months?

EXPLORATIONS TO ASPROPOTAMOS VILLAGES 

You might not be acquainted with this knowledge, but did you know that Greece is a primarily mountainous country where more than eighty percent of the land is covered from mountains? Indeed, the Greek mountains distinguish for their diversity, their rare scenery, their spectacular forests and their unsurpassable rich flora and fauna. Enriched with steep slopes, deep canyons and flowing rivers, the Pindus Mountain Range, the backbone of mainland Greece, is the biggest mountain range of the country extending naturally from the Greek Albanian borders to the mountains of northern Peloponnese. Starting from lovely Kalambaka, the adventure culminates from the villages of Aspropotamos and the craggy neck of Baros, one of the few accessible mountain roads from Thessaly to Epirus, to the Vlach villages of Tzoumerka. Throughout the heart of Pindus, the renowned Kakarditsa of Peristeri with its multi-ridges is one of the most inaccessible passages of Pindos known for its tremendous snowstorms that break out unexpectedly, even in the spring. The mountainous crossing of Baros was known for the kyratzides who transported people and commodities to all of the inaccessible villages and the tseligades of Pindus who visited the alpine meadows with their flocks on to graze freely all summer. At that time, the communities on the slopes of Pindus were full of life and love. With the passage of time, especially after the Civil War, all those magical places were lost in time and roads were asphalted connecting the villages of Tzoumerka with Arta and Ioannina and the villages of Aspropotamos with Trikala and Kalambaka. The region of Central Pindus is considered one of the most beautiful regions of Greece worth exploring even for once in your lifetime. Driving from lovely Kalambaka, your first stop will be at the beautiful mixed forest of Kastania village with its autumnal colours; a quick detour in order to admire the views from Kiatra Broasta is highly recommended. Now we continue towards the village of Doliana, a wonderful drive among a dense forest, in order to admire the church of Timios Stavros with the thirteen domes, a magnificent Byzantine monument of Orthodoxy. Just five kilometers away from the village of Krania, a beautiful village divided into two opposite sides of the stream of Kraniotis, you will discover the restored bridge of Katouna. It is also worth visiting the Folklore Museum that has an interesting exhibition for the mountain life of the communities of Pindus. Further away, at the intersection to Polythea and Agia Paraskevi, you will find the location of Tria Potamia, a wonderful place where you will have the opportunity to admire the riverbanks of Aheloos. There, you will find a recreation area with a stone fountain where yo can spend wonderful moments under the shade of trees. From there you can either make a detour to Polythea village in order hike to the peak Kap Gras (1.400m) in order to enjoy a wonderful view to the mountains of Aspropotamos, or you can go to the village of Agia Paraskevi, else known as Tzourtzia, perched on the treeless slopes of Tzoumerka. The ride from Tria Potamia to Agia Paraskevi is one of the most beautiful rides! This village distinguishes for its wild beauty sceneries and its craggy mountains; a quite notable monument is the waterfall of Mantani tou Diaolou (15m) in the location of Livadia. Beware that approach is relatively difficult. Continuing on the opposite direction of Aheloos’ course, you will pass from the charming Katafyto village for a romantic stroll, and continue to the traditional settlement of Anthousa in order to admire the views from the central square. From there, you can make a detour towards Kalarites in order to visit the bridge of Mihos, well-hidden between the riverbanks of Aheloos, and the monastery of Panagia Galaktotrofousa; a forgotten monastery built in 1799 that used to host the kyratzides travelling from Thessaly to Epirus. The last stop would be the largest of them all, the village of Haliki. Perched at an altitude of 1.240 meters, under the imposing slopes of Peristeri Mountain, Haliki is offered for a stroll in the picturesque square of the village, while you can also visit the stone church of Prophet Elias and the stone monastery of Metamorphosis of Sotiros. However, they say that the best come last. Near Haliki, you will have the opportunity to discover the lake of Drakolimni Verliga, a geological phenomenon caused from the ice age.

TOP THINGS TO DO

First of all, one of the best things to do in the villages of Aspropotamos is to visit the church of Timios Stavros with the thirteen domes in the village of Doliana, a magnificent Byzantine monument of Orthodoxy. If you are a lover of adventure, head to an agency of outdoor activities to go for rafting in Aheloos River; the most famous ride runs on the first part of the river, from the springs till the Alexiou bridge, a route distinguished for its narrow passages, its sharp turns and the need for precise maneuvers, an exciting experience! You should definitely taste the tasteful pies of Thessaly! Whether you love spinach, cheese or milk, it is definite that you will take a piece for take away. Depending on your physical condition, it is worthwhile to discover the alpine lake of Drakolimni Verliga situated at an altitude of 2.050 meters; starting from the dirt road in Haliki, with a northwest direction, you will reach at Karvelou fountain. From there, you will need to follow a path for twenty to thirty minutes. At last, drive to the spectacular ride ideal for photography aficionados starting from the springs of Tria Potamia towards the village of Agia Paraskevi; you will have the opportunity to capture sceneries of inimitable beauty.

BOUTIQUE HOTELS & ELEGANT SUITES

Whether you are looking for a boutique hotel to stay with your family or you desire to find an elegant suite to stay with your other half by the fireplace, we have drafted a list with the best accommodation choices in the villages of Aspropotamos! Arhontiko Velousi in Athamania is a wonderful hotel located in an authentic environment amidst the mountains with panoramic views to Pindus. With a warm and family atmosphere, this large mansion is an ideal destination for family and friends! Mantania Tower in Kaliroi is another beautiful hotel built with a respect to the traditional character of the wider region. Wooden ceilings with handmade walls from painters and stone houses with intense colors promise an amazing experience for whoever wants to escape from reality. Acheloides Hotel is yet another wonderful hotel located in the village of Kalliroi. Traditional architecture design combines stone and wood in absolute harmony. Wooden traditional furniture, comfort bedrooms, handmade carpets with warm colors and patterns, all are carefully setup to give the suitable atmosphere.

TRADITIONAL TAVERNS AND CLASSY RESTAURANTS

If you are craving for authentic recipes from Thessaly, you should definitely visit La Verliga tavern in the village Haliki. You should try the traditional pies, the baked fries and the lamb with pilaf of Mrs Sotiria! If you call in advance, you will eat better. La Korno in Krania is another great choice for tasting the traditional local cuisine. Eleni bakes the most amazing Vlachic pies while Stefos is famous for the best sheep kebabs of Pindus! Beware that those two taverns remain open during the winter.

TRAVEL INFO

Access to the villages of Aspropotamos is easy from Trikala through Kalambaka. Along the Trikala-Ioannina highway, turn at the intersection of Mourgani and continue towards Kastania and the other villages.
Some images are copyrighted from Aspropotamos.org!