Forests of fir trees, snow capped mountain tops, bubbling streams, and crackling log fires. Am I in Switzerland, Austria, perhaps the Italian Alps? No, I’m in Greece!, Karpenissi to be exact, located approximately 4 hours north of Athens, on the southern slopes of Mount Tymfristos. Greece is usually associated with white sandy beaches, azure seas and waterside tavernas, but Karpenissi is a world away from the main tourist track, in a region where we see the country in its most natural and beautiful state.
This is a perfect region for outdoor activities. Popular with the Greeks in winter for skiing, hiking, rafting and cycling take over as popular pastimes in the summer months. The air here is said to be the cleanest in Europe and it is truly invigorating! The region’s numerous walking trails, including parts of the E4 Path, link traditional villages following river banks, past waterfalls, across stone bridges, and with stunning scenery at every turn. When I visited in early April this year, the snow was still visible on the mountain peaks but the spring flowers had already started to poke through. Another couple of weeks later, I was informed, and the area would be transformed.
In addition to the stunning countryside, the area has plenty to offer culturally too. The National Resistance Museum in Koreshades tells the Greek resistance story, both the villages of Tournos and Megalo Chorio have folklore museums with some interesting and personal artefacts, and there’s the magnificently positioned Prousos Monastery, seemingly clinging to the side of the mountain.
I already love Greek food, and as a vegetarian I find plenty to choose from, and it was nice to have dishes that I was familiar with and to discover new ones. The honey, cheeses, pastillas, and vegetable dishes are delicious. For meat eaters, the area is famed for its pork, lamb, and sausage so I can assure you – no one will go hungry! You may also want to try the locally produced tsipuro, a form of raki, and something definitely to be tried! For something smoother, the local mountain tea is delicious.
If, like me, you love travelling to Greece but have visited many of the islands and are looking for something new, then Karpenissi is a must. The scenery is reminiscent of Switzerland, the welcome typically Greek, and the walking opportunities plentiful.