This time we aimed further north, to the mountainous area of Grammos, with its incredible beech and pine forests. The forest roads that cross through the dense green, give us the opportunity to get lost again in this four wheel paradise.
Our destination is none other than the small alpine lake Mutsalia of Grammos (or Arrenes)... What do we need? A 4x4 car, a good map and endless mood for new experiences!
Text & Photos: Spyros Chalastras
Three of the most beautiful mountains in Greece, Smolikas, Grammos and Gamila, share except of the unprecedented flora which changes every season wearing a different color suit, three magical alpine lakes. They all have a common feature, they are not easily accessible and in order to approach them, you need to be properly informed. The reward is invaluable, and is given to those who love and seek the unknown and the fascinating.
So what are we waiting for? Let`s go…
From Konitsa we take the road to Eptachori. In my humble opinion, this is the most beautiful mountainous asphalt route in Greece. Two kilometers before Eptahori is a sign where we turn left to Chryssi and Pefkofyto. We take the same road when we come from Kozani. A beautiful, winding road in the broader forested mountain zone of Grammos, prepares us of what we are going to experience. Six kilometers after the junction, we find the first village, Chrissi, while three kilometers later we meet the village Pefkofytos. In these classical mountain villages, we can get supply of fresh water from crystal springs or fountains. The hospitable residents will gladly inform you about whatever you want to know.
We enter a world full of greenery, silent and unaltered
We absorb the beauty of the unlimited thick green. As we drive to the dirt road we see now and then information signs about the altitude, the distance and the coordinates, something which is really helpful. From Pefkofyto to the pond, the distance is 20 km. At some point of the route, a forgotten marble monument reminds us of the sad events of the Civil War. Memories that we must not forget, some names of casualties- no matter on what side – who lost their lives even before they knew to live. The pine forests gradually begin to give their place to the most beautiful trees of the Greek territory, the beeches with the unparalleled foliage and the familiar gray trunks.
A water mirror with shaded woods as a frame
We count bachwards the kilometers as we approach our destination, taking big breaths and absorbing greedily the surroundings that unfold in front of us and ... shock! Suddenly among the beeches, on our right, next to the dirt road, some green reflections, water mirror and ... brake! An amazing canvas, where nature exhausted as much green as it was to offer, as a reward for the lucky ones who made it to come up here with their cars. Sitting on a fallen log, I let my eyes slip on the water mirror with its shady forests for a frame.
Absolute silence ...I can hear only the rustling of the leaves from the light breeze, making me expect, that soon, fairs and elves will appear from the forest. Trying to have a holistic view of the lake, I hike around among the trees, finding every now and then, a different point of reference.
Return through Aetomilitsa
We can go back from the same road or continue to the mountain village of Aetomilitsa and from there to the highway. We chose the second option… thankfully. To arrive in Aetomilitsa, we made 13 kilometers with endless and impressive beech forests, unprecedented dirt paths and magic images of the pond. Behind a bend appears the village of Aetomilitsa, which has recently been revived by its scattered inhabitants as well as by the visitors of mountainous Greece.
A stop in the simple small tavern is all you need for this occasion. From here a dirt road continues to the bare part of the mountain Grammos, the Arrenes. Aetomilisa at an altitude of 1,550 meters, is one of the highest residential Greek villages. From here, the view is endless: You can see in front of you the mountains Smolikas and Gamila with its alpine lakes, and nearby, the river of Sarantaporos. How small is Greece and how big it is at the same time!
The Aetomilitsa of Ioannina
Our wish is to come back and find everything as we saw it without the slightest human intervention.
I highly recommend to visit this beautiful place. On the descend to the main road to Konitsa, I wondered if what I saw was real or an illusion and I looked unconsciously at my camera beside me...