Saturday, April 7, 2018

Agios Georgios-Pinakates

Distance: 4,1 km
Time: 1,5 hour
Altitude: from 605 m. (Agios Georgios) to 667 m. (max) to 575 m. (Pinakates)
Total ascent: 86 m.  Total descent: 111 m.
Signed with red paint and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: Argireika (near Pinakates)
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              This route was explored, opened and signed during the winter of 2017-18, thus completing the South Pelion Trail. Agios Georgios is also connected with hiking trails to Ano Lechonia, Agios Lavrentios, Kato Gatzea, Kissos, Hania, Tsagarada and Mouresi. Pinakates is also connected to Kala Nera and Vizitsa.

                Starting from the square of Agios Georgios, we walk on the asphalt uphill through the village. After 250 m, passing by Vogiatzopoulos mansion, a downhill concrete road on the right is the start of the walking route to Kato Gatzea. We keep on the asphalt, exit the village and after about one kilometer we leave it at an angle to the right, watching for the signs on the electricity pole (we don`t take the concrete road).
             We walk now on a downhill path in an easterly direction, below and roughly parallel to the asphalt road. After crossing a small stream, the path keeps on the same altitude, offering nice view to the Pagasitic sea below. We join an earth road for 20 meters and continue on the path on the left. It opens to an asphalt road on which we walk uphill. A large water cistern is on our right. As the asphalt takes a sharp left turn, we walk straight ahead, cross a concrete irrigation ditch and join the main asphalt, going now downhill. In fifty meters, we come to a spot with excellent view to Pinakates on the opposite slope.
View to Pinakates
          Here, noticing the signpost, we take the downhill path that comes to cross the Kakorema stream, another beautiful spot of our walk.
Crossing the Kakorema in spring
            On the opposite bank the path continues in oak forest, we cross an unused concrete irrigation ditch, then a grove and join the main asphalt again, on which we walk for 200 meters. At a left turn of the asphalt, we find a downhill path that leads down to the settlement Argireika, next to a drinking water fountain. 
            We now walk on concrete road. At the first junction we take the right branch and at the next two junctions the left branch. Meeting the first houses of Pinakates we walk on a flat stone paved track, which later becomes a proper kalderimi. Climbing a few steps, we finally arrive to the quiet and picturesque square, with the big old plane tree in the middle and the neoclassical style drinking water fountain, built in 1894, under the main church of Agios Dimitrios. 
Square of Pinakates

Friday, April 6, 2018

Milies-Afetes (Niaou)-Chalorema ravine-Afissos

Distance: 12,5 km
Time: 5 hours with stops
Altitude: from 385 m. (Milies) to 235 m. (Afetes) to 0 m. (Afissos)
Total ascent:  314 m.  Total descent: 697 m.
Signed with red paint waymarks and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (at Pavlakia, Zervochia)
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          This is a fullfilling and varied walk, lasting about 5 hours, that leads from the village of Milies to Abovos beach at Afissos, through the ravine of Chalorema, also crossing several other streams on our way. If one wants to make it shorter, it can stop at the village of Afetes (in that case, the time is 3.45' and distance 9,9 km). Other walks connecting Milies to the Pagasitic sea are Milies-Boufa and Kala Nera-Milies. There is also a walk from Afetes (Niaou) to Neochori
         Regarding to the name Afetes, we should have in mind that the village in question has always been called Niaou, a Slavic name meaning ''pen'', until in 1955 the authorities decided to rename it as Afetes,  after the homonymous ancient seaside settlement which, however, is unrelated to the area (archeologists currently assume it was located at modern-day Platanias). The village`s original name is still in use by the locals and should, in my view, be reinstated.
Niaou (Afetes)

           Starting from Milies square, we walk on the asphalt downhill and after 100 meters we take the wide stone paved kalderimi to the left, going initially uphill. This has also signs to ''Agios Nikolaos'' and ''Neochori''. We soon begin going downhill, exit the village crossing the asphalt and continue on excellent kalderimi.
         We cross a stream, ascend on the opposite bank and, reaching the ridge, we meet an earth road and follow it to the right (attention, we don`t go straight ahead towards Neochori!). We can clearly see the kalderimi inside the road. Further down there is a section of kalderimi on the right through woodland. We cross the road at an angle and continue downhill. Just after crossing the first stream, there is a junction with a path on the left going to ''Agios Nikolaos''. We keep on the main kalderimi towards ''Pavlakia'', cross a second larger stream and continue uphill. Further up, there is an olive grove on our right and the kalderimi becomes earth road, on which we walk uphill (ignoring a path on the right).
            Reaching the ridge called ''Pavlakia'', we cross another earth road and continue straight ahead downhill. At the shrine we turn right. The earth road ends at a cottage. At that spot also is a tiny chapel and a small drinking water faucet. We walk downhill into the olive grove (no clear path here) and, about thirty meters below the cottage, we find the continuity of the path, marked with red paint and a walking sign, which continues to descend in a southerly direction. 
           Further on, we go through an olive grove in a westerly direction, and then the path turns left (to the south) and continues to descend following a small stream, which we initially cross and then keep it on our left. Watching out for the red paint and signs, a little further on we come to a junction and go down to the left, cross the stream again and continue on the path, which eventually comes down to cross the large Platanorema stream. This spot lies approximately one kilometer lower than the Panayiotiko dam.On the other bank is an old building for waterwashing textiles (''dristella''). Here, under the shade of high plane trees and the sound of the running water, is a good place to have a stop.
Crossing the Platanorema
           On the other bank we climb up, initially on kalderimi, then on earth path. An earth track recently constructed to access the dristella cuts across the path and we have to climb a few meters on the stones. We cross another earth road and continue straight ahead on a path-kalderimi, having a small stream on our left. The path becomes a narrow earth road, which joins another one and we go right. Attention, at this junction someone takes off our signs and even breaks the stones on which there is red paint. So, if no signs or waymarks may be seen, we must remember to go right at this junction (to the left, the earth road comes to an end at an olive grove a little further on).    
             We now keep walking on the agricultural road for a fair distance on a southerly direction and on even ground, ignoring junctions with uphill or downhill roads. We go past a drinking water fountain and then walk through the rural settlement of Zervochia, which is related to Neochori.  After exiting Zervochia, walking on asphalt, we keep watching for the signs on our left and take the narrow earth road ascending gently to the left. Soon it starts going downhill, we cross the main asphalt at an angle and continue down on a straight line. We cross a small stream and then take the first uphill earth road on the left, following the signs. This becomes a wide kalderimi, which opens to an asphalt road next to the cemetery of Afetes (Niaou). This asphalt road leads down to Afissos, but we don`t take it, because if we did, we would miss the best part of our walk yet to come (the Chalorema ravine).
Frangakis stone bridge at Niaou (Afetes)
               From the lower corner of the cemetery we take the road-kalderimi on the left, walk over the arched stone bridge of ''Frangakis'', then on the uphill kalderimi and reaching the parking lot continue to the right to reach the cosy shady square of Niaou (Afetes) with the main church of St. Jonhn the Baptist (Agios Ioannis Prodromos). At the square operate two cafe-restaurants.   
The square of Afetes
               From the east side of the square (opposite to the church), we take the downhill kalderimi, watching for the red waymarks at junctions. Constantly descending, the kalderimi comes to an end as we reach the Chalorema ravine. Here a wooden bridge, built by volunteers, will help us to get down to the streambed. 
Getting down to the streambed
        We now walk into the dry streambed, in a breathtaking scenery with high vertical rocky banks, shaded by high trees. It is difficult to believe that we are in South Pelion. Nevertheless, this was a path regularly used by locals to get to their groves near the sea.  
Walking into the ravine

          After a fair distance, the ravine opens and we walk on a concrete road, which leads down to the tourist beach of Abovos in Afissos, at the corner of cafe-restaurant Marabou. An ideal end to such a fabulous walk is to have a swim in the calm waters of Pagasitic sea.
Abovos beach

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Lafkos-Agios Spiridon monastery-Promiri

Distance: 7,8 km
Time: 2,5 hours (walking time 2.15')
Altitude: from 310 m. (Lafkos) to 230 m. (Promiri)
Total ascent: 176 m.  Total descent: 260 m.
Signed with: round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: at the monastery (if open)
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              Although this may not be the shortest route from Lafkos to Promiri, it surely is the nicest and we recommend it.
          Starting from Lafkos square, we walk on the main kalderimi to the south (away from the church) and pass by the bakery. At a  signed V-junction we take the left branch (the right one goes towards the cemetery).  We soon come to another junction where we see the school in front of us. Here we go left again and come down on the main asphalt road junction. Walking on the asphalt towards Promiri for 200 m., just before the electricity substation, we leave the asphalt to the right on the kalderimi towards Platanias. Climbing on the hill, we enjoy beautiful view to the Pagasitic sea.
View to the Pagasitic sea
             Reaching the wide earth road that goes to Mikro beach, we cross it at an angle and further down join it again. After 100 m. on the road (attention!) we take the narrow earth track to the left. After another 200 m. there is a junction where we go to the right. The earth track ends at a vineyard, and we continue on path through oak forest.
        We come to cross the wide earth road which goes to Agios Spiridon, and continue on the beautiful woodland path, which descends on a section of kalderimi, until it enters a gorge by a small stream, normally without water. 
           The path continues on the left side of the stream and eventually opens to an earth track, We turn left and soon join the earth road just above the monastery of Agios Spiridon.
Agios Spiridon monastery
                        Related to the village of Promiri, built at time unknown, the monastery was destroyed by the Turks during the Greek revolution in 1823 and was rebuilt in 1834. Later it became deserted, but from 1980`s and on operates again as a nunnery. At time present (2018) it has three nuns.

            Leaving the monastery, we take the narrow earth track on the right, going downhill on a straight line following the fence. Further down it becomes a path incorporating traces of kalderimi. This comes down to cross an overgrown gully. On the other bank we continue on a path which later becomes earth road and we go past a hut. At the first junction we go left uphill and at the second junction left downhill. We walk next to a barbed wire fence and after that fence, we find a downhill path which soon joins the wide kalderimi going from Promiri to Platanias, on which we walk uphill, going past a water fountain (nowadays without water) at  the location of Randi. 
The fountain at Randi
          We walk uphill on the wide and well preserved kalderimi in the direction of Promiri. There is a section of earth road, the kalderimi continues on the right, and then crosses the road.  Further up we come to cross the main asphalt to Platanias. On the other side of the asphalt there is a wide earth road on the right going towards Rodia. We take the narrow one on the left on a northerly direction, which later becomes a kalderimi and we walk on a straight line following the course of a gully. 
The overgrown kalderimi
           After a fair distance on the overgrown kalderimi, we go past a junction with a path on the right going to Kanalaki-Rodia, we cross a stream,  then ascend and join the asphalt at the entrance of Promiri. The recorded track ends at the village square.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ano Lechonia -Paliokastro -Agios Vlasios (circular)

Distance: 3,4 km (one way) / 6,5 km (circular)
Time: 1.15' (one way) / 2.15' (circular)
Altitude: from 85 m. (Ano Lehonia) to 305 m. (Agios Vlasios)
Total ascent/descent: 302 m.
Signed with red paint and various signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Paliokastro, Agios Vlasios)
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        At the area of Paliokastro (meaning ''old castle''), between Ano Lechonia and Agios Vlasios, there are ruins of a medieval fortification, and also the remains of a minaret from the Ottoman era mosque. In this circular walk, we walk from Ano Lechonia to Paliokastro on the traces of the old path, and from there to Agios Vlasios on kalderimi. We return back to Ano Lechonia through a connection to the kalderimi coming from Agios Georgios.
            From the main road junction at Ano Lechonia, at the bus stop (Volos city bus nr. 5), we start walking on the asphalt road going towards Agios Vlasios, crossing the rails (the Pelion train station is on our right and, if we have a car, we can leave it at the parking there).
Ano Lechonia train station
           After 100 m. there is a V-junction, where we leave the main asphalt and take the asphalt to the right, leading to the square. On our left is the main church of Agios Athanasios, under the shade of high plane trees. We climb some steps, cross the main asphalt at an angle to the right and continue on a narrow stone paved road, soon becoming asphalt again, obviously an ex-calderimi.
        A little higher up, we come to cross the main asphalt again. Here is a lone tree and a road mirror. Just after crossing the asphalt, we face another V-junction. This time we take the narrow asphalt road to the left, following a blue sign in Greek to ''ΚΟΙΜΗΤΗΡΙΟ'' (cemetery). The road bends gently through old mansions and estates.
Earth path through olive groves
       After 300 m., as the road takes a left turn downhill, we leave it to the right and follow an earth path next to a stone wall, on a northerly direction. The path enters an olive grove climbing gently, marked with red paint. On the slope we can see ruins of fortification.
Fortification ruins on the slope
          Eventually, the path joins an earth road, on which we continue uphill. We come to a junction and go right. After some more climbing, our road starts going downhill and joins a concrete paved road, on which we continue downhill to the right and come to the church of 12 Apostles, a good place to have a stop. If we walk on the earth track, in a few meters we`ll reach the ruins of a minaret, the only remains left  of an old mosque from the Ottoman period.
Ruins of the minaret at Paliokastro
             We continue downhill on the narrow paved road and come to the small square of Paliokastro, sadly empty of people. At least the drinking water fountain keeps running. The road opens down to the main asphalt, crossing the stream over a concrete bridge, next to the old arched stone bridge, patiently waiting to be restored by the authorities. Just after the bridge, we can see the kalderimi to Agios Vlasios climbing on the left.
         Higher up we climb some concrete steps opening to an asphalt road and continue on the uphill kalderimi, marked with red paint (we don`t have to keep walking on the asphalt). This brings us to the square of Agios Vlasios (formerly called Karabassi, a turkish word meaning ''blackhead''). At the square operates a restaurant for refreshments or food. From here we also have the option to continue  walking to Agios Lavrentios (one way or circular). 
Agios Vlasios
         Now, to return back to Ano Lechonia, we climb the track to the right that leads to the homonymous main church (of Agios Vlasios) and continue on the asphalt road. We go past the pharmacy store and, at the left turn of the asphalt, we leave it to the right and descend on a kalderimi, which opens down to a narrow asphalt road and we go left. Further on, we cross the main asphalt at an angle and continue on the other side on a road becoming kalderimi. We immediately reach a junction with the kalderimi that goes from Ano Lechonia to Agios Georgios (attention!). Here we turn right downhill towards Ano Lechonia. After the small chapel of Agios Achillios, the kalderimi opens down to the main asphalt, om which we walk as it takes a sharp turn. At the end of that turn we take the downhill concrete track on the left. Further down, concrete paving stops and the kalderimi reappears. We can see views of Paliokastro on our side as we descend amidst olive groves.
The small concrete bridge
       We come to cross the stream over a small concrete bridge and, after 100 meters on the main asphalt, seeing a shrine at the junction, we take the concrete paved track on the right and walk on this down on a straight line, back to our starting point.

Monday, September 11, 2017


View of Makrirachi

Distance: 2,5 km
Time: 1 hour'
Altitude: from 300 m. (Makrirachi) to 160 m. (minimum) to 370 m. (Anilio)
Total ascent: 201 m.  Total descent: 130 m.
Signed with red paint dots and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: no
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          Many people from both villages remember the wooden bridge down at the stream in normal operation until the 1970`s. When Nikos Haratsis walked this route in 1994, only some stones of the south base remained. Nowadays there is absolutely no trace of the old bridge. Crossing the stream on our own can be difficult in the spring when the snow melts or following heavy rain, so it should be avoided under these circumstances, until a new bridge is built some day. In summer and autumn, when the flow of water is reduced, crossing the stream is relatively easy.
        Starting from the square of Makrirachi, we descend on the kalderimi (cobblestone track) next to the restaurant. This soon becomes a cement track with a central cobblestone lane. As this track opens out to a small parking area, we find the continuity of the original old kalderimi looking down on the right (attention to the red dots!).
Οn the way down from Makrirachi, view to Anilio
          The kalderimi soon is covered with concretre and we reach a junction, where we turn left on the asphalt. In the next junction we turn right downhill on the concrete track. We do the same at the next junction and finally the concrete track ends at an apple orchard.
The apple orchard
We can make out the kalderimi as it continues to descend on the right side of the orchard, its stones covered with soil. In a few meters there is a section blocked by vegetation and we have to follow its course stepping down the low stone wall. After that, the kalderimi ends and continues as an earth path leading down to the streambed.
At the streambed
        We walk another fifteen meters just next to the stream in the direction of the sea and then find a way to cross it to the other side, where the continuity of  the kalderimi is easily seen. Its stones are covered by fallen leaves, ivy and soil. Water emerges from the earth and runs on the surface for a short distance, producing mud and making our life difficult.
         Climbing into chestnut forest, we come to join an earth road and follow it uphill. This passes in front of the old chapel of Panagia (Virgin Mary), nicely renovated. An inscription above the door informs that it was built in 1745. Next to the chapel is the old cemetery, surrounded by cypress trees.
Panagia chapel of Anilio
       Further up, the road becomes concrete paved and we have a junction, where we turn right, heading for the square. If we intend to continue to Plaka beach, it is better to take the other cement road straight ahead, which joins the asphalt near the new cemetery, from where the kalderimi to Plaka starts. From Anilio, one can either walk down to Plaka beach, or up to Hania (see the walk Hania-Anilio-Agios Ioannis). If, on the other hand, we are walking from Anilio to Makrirachi, we can continue uphill to Hania (two routes, the Path of the Waterfalls and the main kalderimi via Profitis Elias) or walk the asphalt down to Agii Saranda and Horefto.
View to the sea above Panagia (notice the cypress trees)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hania-Tria Remata-Kissos

Distance: 12,9 km
Time: 5,5 hours
Altitude: from 1300 m. (refuge at ski center) to 1430 (max) to 506 m. (Kissos)
Signed with red paint marks and various signs
Drinking water on walk: no
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       Τhis is a suggested alternative route from Hania to the village of Kissos.  The standard route Hania-Kissos is shorter (7,5 km starting from the second parking lot of the ski center, or 6,5 km if we start from the base of lifts -approx. 2,5 hours), but the problem is that nowadays half of the walking is on the main asphalt road to Kissos. By contrast, the route presented here is almost twice as long, but much of it takes place on fabulous path in beech forest, and the last part is on earth road in chestnut forest, following the course of the large Kissotiko ravine. In Kissos, apart from the renowned church of Agia Marina (featuring an excellent carved wooden iconostasis and byzantine-style frescos from 18th century), there are restaurants and hotels operating all year round. From Kissos, one can continue walking to Mouresi and Agios Ioannis.
        The start of the walk is at the refuge of Volos Alpine Club (EOΣ) at the ski center. If we start from the end of the asphalt road at the third parking lot, we walk on the uphill stone paved lane which leads to the refuge (the higher one) in 15 minutes. Left to the refuge we start walking to the east, on an uphill dirt road that ends at the wide ski track “Panorama”. At the other side of the track and a little higher, we find the entrance of the path marked with a signpost. This path also leads to other destinations (Tsagarada, Mouresi, Eastern Refuge, Xourihti, Agios Lavrentios, Agios Georgios).
Path in beech forest
         Walking in beech forest initially to the east and later to the south, we climb  to the clearing of Golgothas peak at 1430 m. of altitude. Here in 2006 two F16 fighter jets crashed, killing their four pilots. Searching around, one can still find some debris from the planes. In 2015 the father of one of the pilots built here a memorial to the dead.
       Leaving Golgothas, our path heads downhill in a southeast direction. We pass two signed crossings on the right to Agios Lavrentios and Agios Georgios respectively, and then the path opens to a narrow earth road, at the area called Monastiraki. 
The earth road at Monastiraki

         Here we follow the road to the left (there is a sign to ''Kissos''). After 50 m., looking to the left (attention), we see the small round sign and a red paint mark on a tree,  indicating the continuity of the path. We descend into beautiful beech forest in a northeasterly direction, noticing some charcoal pits and other traces of past human activity. 
          After a while, the path opens to an earth road. We have to watch for the red marks, as stretches of path and stretches of road alternate on the way down. Eventually, we come to cross the large Kissotiko stream. After a final section of path, we walk on the earth road for about an hour, because this has replaced the original path. Walking into chestnut forest, we can see excellent views of the Kissotiko ravine and the overgrown opposite slope. 
Approaching Kissos
       Approaching Kissos, we pass by the chapel of Profitis Elias on the right. The road is covered now by concrete. At a V-junction we go right and then continue on kalderimi down to the village square with the main church of Agia Marina, built in 1745. 
Kissos square -Agia Marina church