Autumn has arrived and it is the perfect time for an excursion to the Greek mountains. The colours are wonderful and nature is preparing for the arrival of winter. In this article we are going to make a one-day road trip to Elati, Pertouli and the surrounding area on mountain Koziakas. We set as our starting and finishing point the city of Trikala and will try to present you this unique place, which has been named by some the “Greek Alps”. The total length of the trip is 160 km and quite easy to be done in one day.
Starting from Trikala, we make our first stop after 22 km at the stone Pyli Bridge. The village Pyli has been considered the gate for the quickest road from Thessalia to Epirus. The importance of the place dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times, when the village was a crucial commercial station. It kept its importance until the mid 20th century and since then it has been a lively and quite populated village. The famous stone Pyli Bridge is one of the most important stone arch bridges in Greece and until 1936 it was the only way to reach Epirus from Trikala. It was built in 1514 under the supervision of Saint Vissarionas, therefore it also known as Saint Vissarionas’ bridge. The area around the bridge is very nicely arranged and ideal for relaxing under the big plane trees.
We continue our trip and after just 13 km we make our next stop to the well-known Elati. Built 938 meters above sea level, this is the biggest village of the area. It has been touristically developed since the 1950s and you could find here many hotels, guest houses, restaurants, cafe and shops. The village retains its authentic atmosphere and is a welcoming place. The place is perfect for walking in its cobbled streets and shopping various local products. On the mountain above the village you will see the Red Rock, a huge red rock formation, which almost hangs above the village and is quite spectacular.
A few kilometers after Elati we reach a mountain plateau with green meadows, known as Pertouliotika. A wonderful place, where you can admire nature in all its glory. With a huge variety of trees and plants, with acres of natural green grass, with small water streams and ponds, with birds and other small wild animals, this is a place you are never going to forget. If you are a ski fan, during the winter months and according to the weather conditions, a small ski resort operates in Pertouliotika (more infromation about the ski resort you can find here). Also here, there are two locations on the road, where you can hire a horse and ride in the meadows.
Finally 16 km after Elati and after crossing the meadows, we arrive at Pertouli, the next stop of our trip. Pertouli is a picturesque village, built on a slope with fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. The village in the course of time has been destroyed many times. The last one was in 1943 when it was burnt to the ground by the Nazis. After the war the inhabitants built again the village and involved in lumbering. At the center of the village, we see the imposing Archontiko Chatzigaki, a magnificent tower built in 1890 by Swiss architects for Chatzigaki family. It had hosted many politicians, member of royal families and other famous personalities, until it was destroyed in 1943. Nowadays it has been restored and operates as a hotel. Apart from Archontiko Chatzidaki, Pertouli has other guest houses and restaurants, and it is a perfect place for a weekend in the mountains.
We continue our trip and after 4 km we cross another wonderful village, Neraidochori (which means the village of the fairies), built under the mountain peak Neraida at the center of a fir forest. Another 2 km up the road we meet the unique church of Agia Paraskevi, which is our next stop. The church of Agia Paraskevi is what has survived of the monastery with the same name which was built here in 1792. According to the tradition the hollow dome of the church was used as shelter and during the years of Ottoman rule as a secret school. There is a resting area around the church which offers magnificent view and also a spring of fresh water.
Leaving Agia Paraskevi our journey takes a new turn as we begin to descent the mountain and after a few kilometers the road follows the banks of Acheloos River. After totally 30 km we finally arrive to the next stop of our trip, a place called Tripotama. Here a smaller river, Skliniasotiko Rema meets Acheloos river. The confluence of the rivers gives the impression that three rivers are meeting at this point and this is why it is called Tripotama, which means three rivers. It is a place of unique natural beauty, deep in the mountains of Central Greece.
From this point we follow the signs for Kalambaka and after 6 km we turn right at the sign for the village Krania and make here the first small detour. After just 1 km we see the village hidden in a dense forest of firs and beech trees and admire the traditional architecture of the well preserved houses. At the entrance of the village we stop to visit and actually cross on foot the scenic stone Katouna Bridge, built between 1860 and 1870 and a representative sample of traditional bridge construction.
We return to the main road and continue our trip towards Kalambaka. Less than a kilometer ahead we see a small sign for Iera Moni Timiou Stavrou and we turn right. At this point we make our second and last detour to visit this exceptional building. None of the geographers and travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries, who visited the area, referred to the monastery. The only written documents related to the place have been found in the archives of a monastery at Meteora and they give information about the renovation of the church in 1839. The monastery was abandoned in 1924 but the last monk left the place in 1943, when the Nazis destroyed it and the only thing that survived was the church (the remains of the rest of the monastery could be seen a few meters from here). The archaeologists are not conclusive about the year of its construction but according to the architectural style they place it around 1770. The style of the church with 12 domes, very small windows which barely left the natural light to enter inside and the whole setup of the interior with no wall paintings, classify it as a very rare monument. The church is open from April to October if you want to see the interior (more information could be found here).
From this point there are two ways to continue the trip and return to our starting point. We either return back from the same road (90 km) or we continue towards Kalambaka, with final destination the city of Trikala (70 km). If we choose the second option we will come across a few more characteristic and authentic villages like Amaranto and Kastania.
If during this long road trip you want to visit a restaurant, the choices are many and every village has a tavern or a restaurant with traditional cuisine. During our two excursions in the area (during Autumn and Winter), the places we visited and we can certainly suggest are : Panseloinos and Papanastasiou in Elati (for traditional dishes with a modern touch), Anogi on the road to Pertouli (for grilled meat and local dishes), Niavis in Neraidochori (for grilled meat) and La Korno in Krania (a family run tavern with local cuisine).
Scenic villages, rivers, stone bridges, towers, churches, destroyed monasteries, meadows, forests and most important of all nature in all its glory, is what you are going to see during this trip. This is really a blessed place. In our description we referred only to the highlights of the trip and tried not to make long detours. The area has many more to offer and one visit here is never enough. You could come here during Spring, Autumn or Winter and each time would be different. Stay in one of the villages or in Trikala and indulge in the magic of this part of Greece. We offered you the basic guidelines and it is up to you to discover even more.
(* Katouna Bridge photo is from the site www.krania.gr)