Monday, April 23, 2018

Veneto-Paliokastro-Spilies-Agios Nikolaos (circular)

Distance: 15,9 km
Time: 7 hours with stops
Altitude: from 240 m. (Veneto) to 534 m. (max) to 0 m. (Agios Nikolaos)
Total elevation gain/loss: 877 m.
Signed with metal signs, red paint, sky blue paint (see text)
Drinking water on walk: at Flamouri mon. (extra 1/2 hour with return)
Download GPS track (gpx): from Wikiloc

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            This is a 7-hour circular walk in the wild nature of North Pelion, which gives us the chance to visit the mysterious Paliokastro (Old Castle) of Veneto and Flamouri monastery`s ruined dock at cape Agios Nikolaos. We can also visit the monastery, walking an extra half hour with return.
            Starting from the square of Veneto, we climb the steps up to the cement paved road, on which we walk to the left (east). We go past the church of Agios Nikolaos and a drinking water fountain below on the left, and exit the village. At the road junction we go straight ahead towards ''ΠΕΤΡΟΜΕΛΙΣΣΟ'' (Petromelisso beach). In a short distance we come to the road-path junction, signed with plenty of signs, where we enter the path on the right towards Flamouri monastery. The path-kalderimi goes into woodland, alternating with rocky terrain.
Into the woodland
       Further on we come down to cross a large ravine, called Kakorema, which opens to the sea at Petromelisso beach.
Going down to cross Kakorema stream
       Climbing on the other bank, we reach a rocky plateau on the ridge, called ''Petrialo'', with a nice view to the Aegean sea. The path continues on a straight line and comes down to cross another stream. On the other bank we come shortly to a signed junction.
              The path on the left descends gently towards the monastery`s ruined dock (Agios Nicolaos). We take the other path on the right, which climbs on the slope, becoming a kalderimi. At the ridge we come to a yellow signpost, indicating the left turn we will take, in a direction towards Koromblia peak, Alfons memorial and also Paliokastro. The Flamouri monastery is about fifteen minutes of walking time from here (on the path straight ahead), so if we want to visit it will take half an hour with return.
Flamouri monastery

           From the yellow signpost at the ridge, we turn left and descend on the rocky slope, cross the stream of Vathoulomeni. and climb on the other bank in an easterly direction.
          We enter woodland for a little while and continue climbing on rocky ground, where vegetation is lower, always following red marks. At the point where the red waymarks begin to take a southerly direction to the right (attention!), we notice sky blue marks on our left and follow them, going gently downhill on a northeasterly direction. We pass by a small clearing called Loggarakia and continue descending into woodland.
Arbutus andrachne
              Exiting the woodland, the blue arrow to the left indicate the location of the Paliokastro of Veneto. This is a ruined fortification, with thick walls up to two metres high in a trapezoid shape. It remains unknown who, when and why would undertake such a building in this remote, unpopulated area, without water. There is absolutely no mention of it in written archives. Kostas Liapis, whose book about the many ''Paliokastra''  of Pelion (in Greek) contains valuable information about the subject, makes the assumption that it might be built around the 14th century A.D., to protect local shepherds from pirate attacks.
The north wall of Paliokastro
           Leaving the mysterious Paliokastro of Veneto to its quiet, we return back to the arrow and follow the other one to Spilies, descending on the slope into woodland in an easterly/southeasterly direction, finding the path again. Soon we meet a small stream and follow its course in a northeasterly direction, having the stream on our left.
Marking with sky blue paint
          Further down, the path becomes unclear for a small section, but we keep walking on the same direction following the sky blue waymarks. The path becomes obvious again, and finally opens to the wider O2 national path (Veneto-Pouri), some fifty meters above the sea level, on which we walk to the left (northwest). We can see the sea caves on the coastline. This area is called Spilies (Ipnoi in ancient times, when a considerable part of Xerxes` fleet sank in the rocky coast in a storm, during the Persian invasion in Greece).
The sea caves
            After a while, watching on our right, we come to a junction and follow the sky blue signs that mark  the coastal path to Agios Nikolaos. On our way we pass next to the hollow roof of a sea cave (we can see the sea below). Reaching the small rocky beach, we can see the ruins of Agios Nikolaos chapel next to the derelict building of Flamouri monastery`s old dock (tarsanas), At the far distance, if the sky is clear, we can make out Athos mountain.
Looking at Agios Nikolaos from the north
           Continuing on the path uphill, this joins again the O2 path, always marked with red paint, near an abandoned pen. Here the blue marks cease. We follow the main path to the right (north), cross two streams and then the path-kalderimi opens out to an earth road (which leads to Petromelisso beach). We walk on that road uphill to the left, finally reaching Veneto after about half an hour on the road.

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 elevaton gain: 86 m.  Total elevation loss: 111 m.
Signed with red paint and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: Alexeika (near Pinakates)
Download GPS track: from Wikiloc

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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).
Signs on an electricity pole

                    We walk now on a downhill earth path in an easterly direction, below and roughly parallel to the asphalt road, that offers some nice views to the Pagasitic sea below. After crossing a small stream, the path keeps on a steady altitude. We join an earth road for 20 meters and continue on the path on the left. It opens to a sharp turn of 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 thirty meters, we come to a spot with an excellent view to Pinakates at 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 walk around the fence of 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 Alexeika, 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 marble  neoclassical-style drinking water fountain, built in 1894, under the main church of Agios Dimitrios. 
Square of Pinakates

Friday, April 6, 2018

Milies-Niaou-Chalorema ravine-Afissos

Distance: 12,5 km
Time: 5 hours with stops
Altitude: from 385 m. (Milies) to 235 m. ( Niaou) to 0 m. (Afissos)
Total elevation gain:  314 m.  Total elevation loss: 697 m.
Signed with red paint waymarks and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (at Pavlakia, Zervochia)
Download GPS track: from Wikiloc

LAST UPDATE October 2023: After the catastrophic storms and floods of September 2023, the wooden bridge below Niaou is gone, literally disappeared, and a section of the kalderimi above it badly damaged. So any attempt to walk through can be dangerous.

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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 Niaou (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 Niaou (Afetes) 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, corral'', until in 1955 the authorities decided to rename it as Afetes,  after an ancient seaside settlement which, however, is unrelated to the area (archeologists currently assume that ancient Afetai 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 stream
           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).    
Platanorema stream
             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 at Afissos

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 elevation gain: 176 m.  Total elevation loss: 260 m.
Signed with: round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: at the monastery (if open)
Download GPS track: from Wikiloc

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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.