Greece

3 of the Most Charming Train Routes in Greece

When visiting Greece, many tourists stick to the cities or the islands, meaning that they miss out on the country’s enchanting countryside. They’re also missing out on one of the best ways to see it: by train.

Because Greece has a fairly craggy landscape, the train system is not quite as extensive as other countries in Europe. However, Greece actually has claim to the very first railway on the continent. Found in Corinth, this railway was used in ancient times to transport boats across the isthmus. Nowadays, tourists have access to several different lines, including a high-speed train that connects Athens to Thessaloniki.

Some of the routes that tourists may want to check out include the following:

 

  1. Little Train of Pelion

Located in southeast Thessaly, Pelion is a mountainous, forested area between the Aegean Sea and the Pagasetic Gulf. This part of the country is home to two dozen charming villages that attract many visitors throughout the year. Plus, hiking trails and stone paths lead visitors to various springs, beaches, and coves.

mountain-329278_1280

In Greek mythology, Pelion is the source of many medicinal herbs, as well as the home of Chiron, a centaur who tutored heroes. Chiron lived on the top of one of the mountains in this region, and getting to him was part of the hero’s journey.

The initial railway in this area dates back to the late 1800s and was built to connect Pelion to the coast as a means of improving trade without expanding roads. An Italian engineer named Evaristo de Chirico led the construction of the track in 1897. The original train rain until 1971, but it was revived in 1996 for local and tourist use.

Locals call the train the Moutzouris. The track crosses many viaducts and goes through multiple tunnels between its two stations, Ano Gatzea and Milies. The whole journey takes only 90 minutes, with the train running once daily between spring and autumn.

 

  1. The Rack Railway

One of the oldest lines in the whole of Greece is the so-called “rack line,” which is a rack and pin line that connects Diakofto to Kalavrita in the Peloponnese.

The small village of Kalavrita is located on Mount Helmos. In the ancient world, the city was destroyed by the Aetolians, but it was later rebuilt by the Roman emperor Hadrian. By the 13th century, the city had ceded control to the Franks. The ruins of a medieval fortress and castle sit above the town and can be explored by visitors.

Kalavrita also had an important role in the 1821 Greek war for independence against the Turks. At the nearby monastery of Agia Lavra, a local bishop raised the revolutionary flag that has now become a national treasure. The monastery is also home to a monument to the fighters of the war.

In 1889 a railroad was built to connect Kavrita to Diakofto, a seaside town located along the Gulf of Corinth. Engineers used stone and wood to build the original track, which stretches for 14 miles. At the turn of the millennium, the track was renovated.

Locals call the train the Odontotos, which means “tooth.” The whole journey takes about an hour and runs parallel to the Vouraikos River through tunnels, over a waterfall, and along cliffs. Riders will also pass through dense forests populated with oleander and pine. The train runs daily throughout the year.

 

  1. Katakolon Train

The city of Katakolon serves as the gateway to Olympia, the part of Greece that is home to the original Olympic Games. For that reason, the seaside village is a popular tourist destination. Because of its strategic location on the Ionian Sea, the village has also become a popular port of call for cruise lines.

Katakolon

In this area, tourists can visit the Sanctuary of Zeus and explore the stadium, temples, treasuries, and athletics quadrangles. A museum housing many fine sculptures is also close to the town. The Sanctuary of Zeus has emerged as one of the most popular destinations in all of Greece.

Getting to Olympia from Katakolon is a 25-mile car or bus ride, but travelers would do best to travel by train, which takes only about 45 minutes and costs relatively little.

The train opened in Pyrgos in 1883, operated by the Pyrgos-Katakolon Railway. However, a different railway company took the tracks over in 1951 and diverted the pathway. The line got an update in 2007 and continues to run for limited passenger service.

The trains run about every two hours throughout the year and continue to stop at Pyrgos, which could be another part of the adventure on the way to Olympia.

Kos

7 Must-See Attractions for Tourists Spending Time on the Island of Kos

Greece offers travelers a number of incredible islands to explore. One option that remains a bit off the beaten track but has a lot of sights to see is Kos, the third-largest island in the Dodecanese group, close to the coast of Turkey.

Kos served as an administrative center in classical times, so it has a number of interesting ancient ruins. However, the island also has a number of gorgeous beaches, including several that are rather secluded. Some of the places to visit while on the island of Kos include the following:

 

  1. Agios Stefanos Beach

This beach provides travelers with white sands and gentle pebbles next to a charming islet topped with a massive boulder. You can rent a pedal boat to cross the channel and visit the islet, which is home to the church of Agios Nikolaos. However, you don’t need to go to the islet to see some incredible features of the beach—on the eastern side of Agios Stefanos sit the ruins of two Christian basilicas that date to the 4th and 5th centuries CE. Earthquakes caused these buildings to collapse, but they were subsequently excavated in the early 1930s. The excavation revealed some columns and a set of mosaics.

 

  1. Ancient Agora

Kos’ ancient agora (Greek for “an open-air place of assembly”), is one of the largest in all of Greece. Sitting close to the main port, the agora is home to structures dating back to the 4th century BCE, although many of the buildings and sanctuaries have been rebuilt several times due to earthquakes.

Information boards help tourists learn how to distinguish between the ancient buildings, created from limestone, and the newer ones, which were built using marble.

You can get a real sense of what the agora once looked like by checking out the old city wall and colonnade, as well as sanctuaries dedicated to Hercules and Aphrodite. Some foundations of residences and infrastructure are also apparent.

agora

 

  1. Asklepion

Visitors to Kos should not leave the island until they get the chance to explore the Asklepion, which is where the ancient physician Hippocrates trained in the 5th century BCE.

Discovered in 1902, near Kos Town, the Asklepion is a sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine. People experiencing various illnesses would travel long distances to the temple to get treatment. Today, visitors are encouraged to download an app that allows them to see three-dimensional reconstructions of the facility as they explore.

The site sits on four massive terraces accessed by a grand staircase. The top terrace houses the Great Altar.

 

  1. Palio Pili

Accessible only by car, Palio Pili is an abandoned town on the inside of the island that served as Kos’ capital for eight centuries. However, inhabitants abandoned Palio Pili in 1830 in the midst of a cholera epidemic.

Today, visitors can explore the falling walls of a Byzantine castle built in the 9th century, later used by the Knights of St. John for safety during pirate attacks, as well as other buildings in various states of decay.

The panorama on top of the town will allow you to see the Turkish coastline, as well as the islands of Kalymnos and Pserimos, not to mention almost the whole of Kos.

 

  1. Cavo Paradiso

For a really unique beach experience, head south from Kefalos in the direction of Capo Crichelo on the southern part of the island. There you will find Cavo Paradiso, an area featuring rugged and arid slopes with virtually no sign of human civilization.

On the southern end is a very private beach experience with few other people present. The northern part of Cavo Paradiso is a bit more populated and is home to a bar that rents out beach gear. Swimming can be difficult here due to the surf, but there is a large shallow area to explore.

adventure-beach-cavo-greko-cliff-432807

 

  1. Neratzia Castle

In the 15th century, the Knights of St. John built Neratzia Castle to safeguard the entrance to the Kos harbor from the Ottoman Empire. The castle features two layers of walls, with the innermost dating to the mid-15th century and the outer walls dated about 50 years later.

The Ottomans captured Kos in the 1500s and the castle was converted into a garrison and the home of the island’s commander. While not much is located inside of the walls, tourists often like checking out the spolia, or recycled ancient building material. For example, on the main gate is a Hellenistic frieze barely visible under a newer coat of arms.

 

  1. Therma Hot Springs

On the east side of Kos is a beach with natural hot springs that bubble up through the rock. The shoreline consists of dark gravel, so few people spend time at the beach, but the hot springs are the real attraction.

The reserve, first discovered in 1934, is partially walled off by rocks to form an oval pool. The water here is high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium and is said to help with a wide variety of health conditions, such as arthritis and rheumatism. The water also contains sulfur, but the smell is not very strong.

seafood

What Tourists Need to Know about Fishing Opportunities in Greece

Seafood plays a prominent role in Greek cuisine, especially in towns and cities along the coast of Greece, as well as the country’s many islands. Surrounded by the Mediterranean, Ionian, and Aegean Seas, Greece remains one of the best places in all of Europe for fishing. Tourists who enjoy this pastime may want to spend some time out on the water during their visit to the country.

What makes fishing so exciting in Greece is the variety of things to catch (from shrimp and lobster to octopus and tuna) as well as the range of different techniques utilized. Not only do locals fish from boats and the shore using fly techniques and flat lines, but they spearfish, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

The Must-Know Information for Fishing Adventures in Greece

While Greece offers a wide variety of opportunities for fishing, tourists must abide by some very important rules. For example, fishing with a net is outlawed in the entire country. Furthermore, you cannot fish with the help of compressed gas or explosives.

Individuals are never allowed to spearfish with the aid of underwater light sources, such as flashlights or torches, and in the month of May, spearfishing is outlawed entirely.

fishing

You should also pay attention to local regulations. The coastal regions of Greece, as well as the islands, have many great spots for fishing, but there are several areas where fishing is forbidden among both professionals and amateurs. These protected lakes or parts of the sea often have ecological problems that further fishing could exacerbate.

You should also know that you do not need to pack fishing equipment if you want to spend some time on the water. Specialty stores across the country sell and rent equipment such as rods, lures, and even handheld lines. The smaller stores abutting harbors are great for learning about what techniques and approaches work best in that area. Also, you can charter boats for fishing adventures. Locals are often happy to have tourists come along on a fishing trip, but it is also possible to rent a boat or a skippered vessel depending on your comfort and/or experience level.

 

Where to Stay for the Best Fishing Experience in Greece

Most people who come from abroad to fish in Greece choose not to stay in the major cities. Instead, they opt for accommodations in the small fishing villages close to the water where they can blend with locals and learn their fishing techniques. One of the most popular villages is Finikounda, which has a charming harbor in a small bay with several gorgeous beaches, providing a wonderful backdrop to a fishing adventure. Another popular choice is Methoni, which has an ancient fortress and stunning cliffs.

While these towns can become quite crowded in the summer months, the opportunities for fishing are seemingly endless, so you are unlikely to be disappointed.

In the fishing villages, many residents have their own vessels and they will head out for their daily work early in the morning when the waters are calm and not many people are out on the water. Getting up early with them is the best way to get some tips about where to head for the best fishing experience.

Greece seafood

 

A Look at Some of the Best Spots for Fishing in Greece

The islands are popular among locals because they provide a peaceful, restful backdrop and some of the best spots for fishing. Among the Ionian islands, many people fish in the channel close to Corfu, an area that has gained much acclaim for its great fishing. Another popular choice is the western coast of Paxos (but in the early parts of the day, as the waters can get quite choppy in the afternoon). If you’d like to catch swordfish, head to the waters between Ithaca Island and Atoko.

In the Cyclades, check out Serifos if you want to go spearfishing. This area, known for its underwater fishing, is home to plenty of bass and sargo. Lindo and Tourlo are top spots for underwater fishing, not to mention Syros, which features shoals, coves, and shallow water, perfect for all types of fishing. The islets of Stroggylo and Gaidaros are the most popular fishing spots in Syros, but for catching octopus, head to Mykonos. Meanwhile, Panormos offers sandy beaches, where novice fishers can get their start.

Greece Christmas

7 Excellent Places in Greece to Celebrate Christmas

While many people think of Greece as a summertime destination, the country also has a lot to offer tourists during the winter months. Greece is a particularly great place to celebrate Christmas. The various regions throughout Greece each have their own unique ways of celebrating the holiday. In Greece, Christmas remains a solemn and meaningful occasion that does not have the same commercialism it does in Western European countries. The season commences with the feast of St. Nikoloas on December 6 and continues throughout the month. Most of the events place a heavy emphasis on family and faith, making these celebrations truly moving to see. Some of the top Christmas destinations in Greece include:

 

  1. Drama

A small town in Macedonia, Drama maintains a theme park inspired by Christmas throughout the month of December, a tradition that began in 2004. Known as Oneiroupoli, the park is built within Drama’s Municipal Garden. The festival includes Christmas light displays, as well as small wooden houses that serve local delicacies and sell handmade crafts. Oneiroupoli also hosts outdoor concerts and live performances. Additionally, there are small trains that guests can ride, an attraction that is especially fun for families traveling with young children.

 

  1. Stanos

Throughout Macedonia, Thrace, and Thessaly, locals celebrate with a pig feast known as gourounohara. This custom involves buying a pig early in the year and raising it for a Christmas meal. Pork is the traditional Christmas dinner in many parts of Greece. The small village of Stanos turns gourounohara into a celebration for the whole town. At the start of the Christmas season, the community gathers to roast pigs and drink. The festival also features a local orchestra performing on the main square. During this occasion, residents frequently break out into spontaneous song and dance.

 

  1. Florina

On the day before Christmas Eve, Florina residents light bonfires throughout the town, and the largest one is set in the main square. During the festivities, a local brass band plays in the streets to call residents out to the square. This practice also takes place in other towns, and its roots go back to ancient times when lighting a fire was a way to worship the sun god. Today, churches in the area connect the bonfires to the shepherds who lit fires to keep baby Jesus warm in the stable. The event is a way to commemorate the nativity in a fun and unique way.

 

  1. Trikala Korinthias

One of the most well-known Christmas destinations in the Peloponnese, Trikala Korinthias consists of three distinct villages: Kato, Mesi, and Ano Synoikia. Mesi Synoikia offers tourists numerous traditional taverns that serve local food and beverages, and people will enjoy the hospitality of the region. The area, which is set in the breathtaking Ziria Mountain range, provides visitors with easy access to Ziria’s small ski space, as well as Lake Doxa. Individuals who want a classical snow-covered scene for Christmas will definitely enjoy this part of the country.

Ziria

Image by trikelef | Flickr

 

  1. Elati and Pertouli

Also located in the Trikala region, Elati and Pertouli are two of the more famous Christmas destinations. Here, travelers will find the awe-inspiring Koziakas mountains, which present a fairy-tale scene. Built along the mountainside, the towns’ landscape features a natural elegance intertwined with Thessaly’s traditional mountain architecture. The area always has plenty of snow, and the fog often freeze on the trees to create a whimsical look along forest paths.

 

  1. Athens

Of course, Greece’s capital offers visitors a lot of seasonal fun during Christmas. Travelers should check the local schedules to find out when concerts and other recreational events are occurring in the various squares. In particular, Syntagma Square has a large Christmas tree and a carousel, along with other children’s rides. Additionally, Athens boasts Christmas villages and outdoor ice-skating rinks. People can also stop by Electra Metropolis, a hotel that is well-known for its stunning Christmas decorations.

 

  1. Chania

Crete is the perfect destination for individuals who want to celebrate Christmas somewhere where it remains warm. The Cretans have their own range of unique traditions that travelers can discover. One of the newer ones is the Santa Run in Chania. During the event, people dress in Santa costumes and race to raise money for charity. Those who visit Crete during the holiday season can also try some of the local delicacies, including kourabiedes and melomakarona. The former are shortbread cookies usually flavored with rose or orange blossom, while the latter are cinnamon and clove cookies dipped in syrup and covered with nuts.