Evrytania is a county that lies in the very heart of the Greek mainland. By far the less populated area of Greece, it is for sure the most unspoiled, and wild place Greece has to offer. Forget about the beaches and the sea for a while and experience a different side of Greece with high mountains, dense alpine forests, fast-flowing rivers and pristine lakes along with a true Greek hospitality.
For those that want to experience the wild side of Greece, the region of Evrytania will definitely satisfy their needs. This area is the less populated place of Greece, therefore its high mountains and deep gorges host an unspoiled natural habitat for every nature lover to admire. The difficult terrain of the area made this part of Greece relatively inaccessible since ancient times. Its inhabitants were known as Eurytanians, named after the hero Eurytus, the grandchild of Apollo and the father of Iole. They were known as formidable warriors and really crude people. Homer mentions them in his work Iliad, as some of the Greeks that sailed to Troy. Their reputation spread all over the rest of the Greek world and during classical times the Athenians met their match. Demosthenes (not the orator), who was serving as a general at that time, campaigned against the Eurytanians and the Aetolians only to fail miserably. The ancient sources describe the Eurytanians as hard mountainous people who had their own dialect making the rest of the Greeks unable to understand them. Their resistance also showed during the Roman times when they fought courageously against the Roman occupation of their land.
During the Byzantine times, the region remained under the rule of the Emperor and after the coming of the Ottomans, it fell under their conquest just like the rest of Greece. The Ottomans though never had a strong grasp on the lands because of its difficult terrain. The organised Ottoman army was incapable of climbing the high mountains and the task came to be even more arduous by their lack of knowledge about the area. Therefore, from really early on the region faced a particular kind of autonomy. Even though they were all subjects of the Ottoman Sultan, no Ottoman was to be found in the region. On the contrary, they used the pre-existing local elite to collect the taxes for them in return for lands and privileges. This autonomy resulted in the undisturbed development of Evrytania but at the same time operated as the most fertile land for the seed of the Greek Revolution to blossom. In 1821, the contribution of Evrytania to the Greek War of Independence was immense. Many of the most decisive battles of the War happened up to the mountains with figures such as Markos Botsaris or Georgios Karaiskakis.
Today, Evrytania is a popular autumn and winter destination of Greece, loved especially by outdoor travellers. The mountainous terrain and the sheer natural beauty of the region offer many options for those that want to experience a different but certainly more authentic side of the country. Here are the locations you should not miss while being there.
The bridge of Manoles
The forests of Tymfristos mountain during autumn - credits: e-karpenissi.gr
This stone bridge was constructed during the 17th century and took the place of a much smaller, less efficient bridge that used to be nearby. Up until the 19th century, this bridge was the main connection between the regions of Evrytania and the western part of Greece, therefore it was a really busy trading point with caravans of goods following the medieval trails. It was named Manolis after the name of the constructor who originated from the northern region of Epirus. According to the legend, the number of people that the project required was phenomenal, and more than 2000 goats and sheeps had to be slaughtered to feed the workers! In 1965, a huge construction programme resulted in the creation of the Lake Kremaston which submerged under its waters the traditional stone bridge. Today, the visitor can see the bridge during the summer months when the level of the water is down, standing in the middle of the river valley it once used to cross.
The hill of St. Demetrius
Karpenisi - credits: siete_vidas/Shutterstock.com
Overseeing the modern city of Karpenisi, the capital of the region of Evrytania, the hill of St. Demetrius is the most impressive natural landmark of the city. The hill was created thousands of years ago probably because of a landslide from the nearby mountain and was inhabited since ancient times. Proof to that stands the treasure of Karpenisi, a collection of golden and silver artefacts found on the hill, examples of exquisite craftsmanship of the Hellenistic times. Nowadays, the treasure is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. In medieval times, the ancient castle that used to stand on the top of the hill was repaired to ensure the security of Karpenisi. Today the visitor has the chance to enjoy a panoramic view of the area from the top of the hill, admire the natural beauty of the mountain Tymfristos, and explore the ancient and medieval ruins of the castle. Do not miss the chance to visit the small church of St. Demetrius probably built on top of an ancient temple.
Hike the mountain Tymfristos
For those that feel adventurous enough and want to have an outdoor physical experience in the region, mount Tymfristos is an option you should not overlook. Part of the Pindus mountain range, mount Tymfristos is one of the highest peaks to be found in Greece. Many trails of different hiking levels pass through the lush pine forests and the rivers of the region, leading up to the alpine lake of Velouchi, a small lake sustained by the melted snow of the high peaks all year long. The shepherds of the mountain use the lake for their livestock while they are following their herds in the grazing season. Also known as Dragon Lake, it hosts a species of alpine newt, a salamander that scientists believe to be there since the last Ice Age. Before getting to the trails of Tymfristos mountain, make sure you are already equipped with a reliable hiking map in advance.
Explore the village of Prousos
Deep in the high mountains of Evrytania lies the village of Prousos. This small picturesque village was developed near the medieval monastery of Prousos. The history of the monastery goes back to the 10th century AD. According to the literature sources, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire ordered two monks to go to this area and Christianise the inhabitants that were not Christian by that time. The two monks that answered this order were Dionysus and Timotheus that arrived in the area and founded a monastery at the very spot where the sanctuary and the oracle of Odysseus used to be. Today, the monastery is famous for the icon of Virgin Mary that exists inside its church. The ancient icon came from Asia Minor to Greece during the years of iconoclasm that shook the Empire to its very core. According to tradition, the painter of the icon is the Evangelist St. Luke himself.
The region of Prousos is a place of spectacular natural beauty worth exploring. In a really close distance from the monastery starts the trail of a gorge that leads to the entrance of the Black Cave, a location that many believed -although there is no proof for that- that it hosted originally the Oracle of Odysseus. Follow the path through the forest and cross the old stone bridges to find yourselves to a via ferrata that ends at the entrance of the cave. Another option nearby is the gorge of Panta Vrexei (which literally means ever going rain). Follow the signs to the entrance of the gorge and prepare to get wet. The waterfalls of the surrounding mountains dive into the gorge from such a height that it seems that the rain never stops there! Put on comfortable trekking shoes and set on a hike to explore the riches of Evrytania.
High mountains, traditional architecture, alpine lakes, snowy mountain peaks, medieval monasteries or exciting forest trails, those are just a fraction of what the region of Evrytania is offering to the traveller. Waste no more time, plan your own trip to the wild side of Greece or perhaps check out the rest of our Greece tours.