With the mood for exploration, we left for a circular route around Mount Killini also called Ziria, at the privileged playground of the gods and semi-gods, at the place where Hermes and Hercules were born.
Text & Photos: Hermes Katharakis
How to get there: From the National Road Corinth-Patras you take the exit of Xylokastro. Follow the signs to Kato, Mesaia and Ano Trikala and continue the route around Ziria. From Athens to Trikala you will need about 2 hours.
To Kato, Mesaia and Ano Trikala
We leave Xylokastro behind us and we cover 27 km of a progressively ascending road, through valleys and lagoons, at the foot of the mountain, until we reach Kato, Mesaia and Ano Trikala, which recently enjoy the acknowledgment of tourism and are an easily accessible solution for the weekend excursionists, who seek relaxation in a mountainous landscape with rich nature and hospitable people.
We start our journey from the area of Kato Trikala and we visit the Temple of Saint Dimitrios. We continue our adventure towards Ano Trikala and we meet the Monastery of Agios Vlasios, which dates back to the 14th century. It has an excellent altarpiece and icons by the icon-painter Skordilis from Aigio, as well as a picnic area in the backyard. Additionally, 4 km north, we see a wooden gazebo at which we can enjoy the open view of both Mikri (Small) and Megali (Big) Ziria.
An impressive picture from the mountain path just before Hermes`s Cave.
A cave with a view
After a short stop, we follow the signs to the ski resort of Ziria. As soon as we arrive, we are looking for the uphill marked path and after 45 minutes of trekking, breathing the clean mountain air, we finally discover, the famous Cave of Hermes on the west side of Flambouritsa. In this cave, according to mythology, the messenger of the gods first saw earthly light and a little later, he also hid the cows he had stolen from his brother, Apollo.
The panoramic view of Flampouritsa`s Valley from Hermes`s Cave.
Hermes`s Cave is vast, consists of a series of chambers with rich, colourful stalactites and stalagmites and is one of the few caves in Greece at such a high altitude (1,700 meters) with a splendid view over Corinthian and Roumeli Mountains. In the past, it has been explored by Anna Petrochilou and the Speleological Society and there are still ropes that allow you to descend, especially in the big chamber, but it is advisable to have special equipment and take special safety measures if you try to get inside. In any case, it is a good idea to have a torch light with you, to get an idea of its morphology, even if you do not move further into the interior.
On the way to Feneo
We fill our lungs with oxygen from the Greek fir`s forests, which cover the ravine of Flambouritsa and we return towards the ski chalet. We spot the path that starts from the small sanctuary, managed by EOS of Corinth, with which one will reach the top of Ziria at 2,374 meters after about three hours time. We leave Trikala behind us and drive towards Karya, passing through more humid areas, where walnuts, wild chestnuts, maples and oaks, grow together.
Olives, in the foreground, with Ziria's mountain mass to loom in the background.
We turn at the crossroad of Sarantapichou and we drive south to Feneos, crossing a valley with dense forest of fir and black pine trees, up to the village of Kato Tarsos. As we pass by the square of the village, we have the surprise of the few people sitting at the cafes. After 2 km of a smooth dirt road, we see a unique natural monument which reminds the smooth and metaphysical rocks of Meteora.
At one point, in the slit of two vertical chambers is built a dignified chapel, the Virgin of the Rocks, with a spectacular view of the green-green slopes of Zireia. If you find yourself here relatively early in the morning, the sun's rays penetrate through the skylight of the roof and illuminate the image of the Virgin Mary, constituting the awakening of the religious feeling.
The Monastery of Virgin of the Rocks is literally buried in the rock.
Lake Doxa, a harmonious combination of nature and human intervention
We go back to the asphalt road, we turn to the next big bypass to the village of Feneos and after a while we enter on a smooth dirt road looking almost blindly (fortunately there were some signs of the hostel "The Limeria of Pan"...) the pride and the main livelihood of the area, the blue Lake Doxa.
On its water surface are reflected the surrounding imposing mountains, covered from fir and although artificial, it looks as if it was always there. Since 1996, the lake has concentrated the waters of the homonymous river and offers the irrigation of the region's crops. It is so harmoniously integrated into the wider environment, demonstrating that human interventions and nature, can sometimes successfully be combined, for the benefit of both.
View of the riparian vegetation around the artificial lake of Doxa.
Do not forget to bring your bikes here, as the road that embraces the lake is about 4 km long. It is ideal for cycling and will give you generously idyllic moments. Characteristic is also the narrow strip of land at the edge of the lake, where the small church of Agios Fanourios is located, with the remnants of the historic monastery of Agios Georgios, which was abandoned by its monks, after the rise of the water level in 1693.
Every obstacle, however, is an opportunity, since the monastery now looks over the lake from a strategic position 500 meters higher, giving you the feeling that time has stopped. Its exterior impresses with its fortified architecture and its colorful balcony. However, if you want yourself to be soaked in the tranquility of the scenic beauty of its inner courtyard, dare to enter. Wander through its premises, see the exceptional art frescoes and the loft, where in the old days was a secret school. Finish your tour through the Monastery at the small balcony with the top view of the alpine landscape of the lake, and if you are lucky, the monks will treat you the lovely “spoon sweet of rose”.
The blooming courtyard inside the Monastery of Agios Georgios.
At Lake Stymphalia, searching for the Stymphalian Birds
We leave with an emotional uplift and we direct to the other famous lake of the region, Stymphalia. Before, however, and after crossing the heart of Feneos Plateau, we take a 4 km detour to Goura to admire this stone town with impressive mansions that adorn its beautiful square. We also do not omit to drink a "spasti" - a traditional sweet drink based on almond chocolate - in the well-known café of Bekiaris. We slowly approach the village of Messino and at the junction,7 km further down, we turn left, towards the drowned in the green village Kastania, enjoying the panoramic, almost airplane view of the Feneos basin. As we move eastwards, the firs around us grow thicker.
On the 11th kilometer we reach a gap called "Patima of Iraklis (Step of Hercules) from which, according to the legend, he shot with his arrows the Stymphalian birds, because they destroyed the fruits of the surrounding fields and fed with human flesh. We descend the winding road, we pass the village Karteri and after a short while we see before us the wetlands of Lake Stymphalia, nesting between the mountains of Ziria in the north and Oligyrtos in the south.
Lake Stymfalia (Photo: Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation)
Read more about the Stymphalia Environment Museum: The Environment Museum of Stymphalia
Below the road, the ruins of the Frankish Monastery of Zaraka, magnetize our gaze. It was built in the early 13th century by monks of the Cistercian Order, in Gothic templates, using building material from the ruins of the temple of Stymphalia Artemis. At this point, we park our car, look at the informative billboards and follow the path to the shores of the lake.
Half an hour later, we are walking among the remnants of the excavation of Ancient Styphalos. We climb the hill, where the citadel of the ancient city was growing, with the carved stone surfaces that point to theater seats and we gaze at the lakeside landscape around us. Unconsciously, we try to spot the famous Hens, but without much success. On the contrary, we observe clusters of more than 130 species of birds, such as Lefkotsiknia and Petroperdika, who choose this lake for their shelter.
The ruins of the Frankish Monastery of Zarakas speak... with their silence.
With these pictures, we take the way back, we pass by the relief hills with the fertile vines of black raisin driving through the village Kalliana and heading towards Kiato.
The beauties of Mountain Korinthia cannot completely be seen during one visit. They are the reason for short escapes from the city, and they can very well enrich your weekends and fill your batteries. If you have appetite for exploration, you will easily find dreamy and magical landscapes!