I love summer. It’s definitely my favorite season, at least here in Greece. Over the years I have been accustomed to high temperatures (or low, doesn’t really matter to me) hiking or cycling on the mountains during the hottest days of the Greek summers. This is a valuable advantage because mountain roads in Greece (and possibly other European countries of the South) during the hot season have even less cars thus your trip is more relaxing and enjoyable. The golden colors of the hills and valleys, the pure bliss of drinking freezing cold water from the springs, the healing shade of the Platanus Tree, the relaxing sounds of Cicadas while you’re taking a nap, the delicious free figs, cherries, almonds, wild berries and pears you find on the sides of the road (I’m thinking of creating a map/infographic of what fruits you can find and eat in Greece while you cycle) and much more are some of the magical ingredients of a bicycle tour in Greece during the Summer.
For the above reasons and more, I decided to start a 5 days Trip into the mountainous northern part of Peloponnese. Though I like to brag about how much I ‘ve cycled in this area, I was surprised to see new incredible places, making this trip one of the best I have had in the last years.
Me and Mitsos decided to start on Monday morning after some struggling days I had at work. We’ve cycled together for the most part and left each other few days later to return from different routes. The first days were hard with rough gravel roads, steep inclines and wild landscapes (some were devastated from the wild fires of 2007) but as we were pushing forward things were getting easier and easier towards the end.
You can find the route here
(I took the outer part of the route that goes though the ‘111’ high road. I recommend the other one via klitoria – lagovouni – Vlasia.) Here is the video:
And here is a photo travelogue :
After a morning of riding in the highway of Patras – Aigio and then few more kms under the hot sun, we had a break in a tiny square before Mavriki Village to rest.
When we reached Taxiarchon Monastery to rest and eat lunch, we spotted the Old deserted Monastery (from the Byzantine era) across the rock. I found this place on the blog of a speleologist and always wanted to pay a visit. It looks beautiful!
As we were ascending towards the old monastery, the night was closing in and heavy clouds were gathering above us. We found a rough area under an olive tree right before rain fall. The big tree didn’t protect us completely from the rain, but it was enough for us
Mitsos had a great time. He even read some Nietzsche!
We are in the old monastery and we are exploring the place. Recently the State did some heavy repairing jobs to protect this ancient place from the elements. Unfortunately, repairing always removes some of the magic. The most interesting part of the monastery was this hole inside the rock. This was the hermitage of Saint Leontas. I imagine he spent thousand hours inside this simple cave hole with nothing than a chair and a cross.
This nice gravel route to Pteri Village was a beautiful ride. You could see some brave big old pine trees that survived the 2007 wildfire.
One of the harder parts of the trip was this mountainous road to Kastri village. Hot noon sun didn’t help either. The landscape was beautiful (slopes full of vineguards). You could still see the city down bellow.
Right after Pteri Village. It used to be famous for its magnificent black fir tree forest. The colossal 2007 wild fires completely destroyed it. Fortunately mother earth along with volunteers managed to restore a tiny part of it over the last 9 years.
You can find chapels like this everywhere in Greece. Usually they are not locked when they are high on the mountains. They are an incredibly valuable for bicycle tourists in Greece! I’m going to write an article about them soon.
This is the golden colored hills of mountainous Greece in Summer I was talking about. This beautiful place was few km befor Kerpini village.
I found some not so riped Greengages and we sat down to eat them along with some nuts. You rarely see cars on those areas thus you can relax as much as you want on the roads.
This is where we spent our nights on. A flat area above the gravel road. At our left one of many chapels of the village (Kerpini). These golden hills have been hosting goats and sheeps for centuries thus the thorns and lack of trees.
A shepperd with his mule stopped by and have a chat with us. It’s almost impossible to ninja camp without one of them see you. But I haven’t meet any hostile shepperd in my life as a bicycle tourist in Greece. And I’ve met hundreds.
We always ask locals for clean spring in villages. You rarely see a mountainous village without a clean spring.
We found these ancient mulberry trees right after the Vrachni village. They were big and full of ripe mulberries. If you are in Greece during August, try to find them. They are full of valuable sugar (they really taste incredibly sweet) and they taste DELICIOUS! We ate so many, I almost fell sick. Incredible!
The incredible road to beautiful Souvardo village. Beautiful view on mountains full of Fir trees.
I am not usually fan of these benches, but I can understand why people from Souvardo made some on this spot. Perfect place to stop and eat some walnuts.
One of the rare times when we decide to eat something in a tavern. But we ‘ve earned it climbing all these mountains. Also the main square of the village is plendid! A huge ancient platanus tree provide enough shade for 100 people and the old traditional little restaurant is a thing of beauty. We ate Greek salad and french potatoes. I won’t forget the taste of those potatoes!
This was one of the best routes I’ve cycled in my life. A small gravel road (only good Jeeps and Tractors could ride it) from Souvardo village to Tsivlou Lake. Inside a healthy and thick fir tree forest.
Before we set our ‘beds’ for the night we stand on a small clearing to enjoy the sunset.
One of the most important things of bicycle touring is where you decide to stop for the night. Though it’s not always easy to find good spots, forests are always full of nice places. Like this one under a huge fir tree.
I always carry plastic bags for the garbage I collect when I am touring. I filled those bags with plastic bottles, and tin packages I found on the clearing spot we spent the night in. People are savages, they don’t deserve this beautiful land. This trick with the stick is the best way to carry stuff like these bags. I’ve ridden on nasty roads with plastic bags full of garbage. This trick does the job perfectly! I will write some day about the uses of a stick in your tours.
Inside this virgin fir tree forest, we ride quietly enjoying the singing of the birds. We are at 1400 m altitude at this time and as happy as we can get.
The route to Tsivlou Lake continues like this for many kms. When you have felt the feeling of riding in places like this You never want to go back and ride on highways. A night and day difference.
A small break to have a shit. Do you like my new bike stand? It’s totally natural (and heavy).
We are starting to descend, that means we are close…
…to the Tsivlou Lake! A beautiful sight! A crystal clear lake inside the forest at 800m altitude. This lake crated naturally when the ancient lake Krathis was blocked from a landslide in 1912. This ancient river is still running inside the lake.
had a fantastic swim in the lake all alone while I was admiring this beautiful place. The water is crystal clear. I actually filled all my water bottles from it.
As I was riding alone now (Mitsos left me few hours earlier) I noticed the heavy grey clouds above me. These summer rains are a rare phenomenon but we already encountered two so far! Rain started to fall as I was taking this photograph of a basketball court of the mountainous Agia Varvara village
After a short but heavy rain I start again towards the famous Zarouchla village. It used to be a popular touristic attraction filled with traditional tavernas and shops with local products. The magnificent forest of Zarouchla and it’s amazing gravel road to Doxa lake was again, the best route I’ve done in Peloponese.
Right before the center of the village, I’ve stumbled upon this kind man who offered me wild berries. He has a shop there that sells wildberries jams and other local products. If you ever visit the place, please send greetings from me (tell him I am the cyclist he offered wild berries to).
Fortunately, I had the full day to ride and explore the mystical paths around Zarouchla forest. Most of them were dead ends, but they provided an extraordinay experience. I don’t know if the photos do them justice, but these places are the reason I’m claiming Greece has one of the best cycling paths (not exactly cycling paths, but you very rarely see a car there) in Europe. Right on the sides of this path you can see freezing crystal clear river running along.
This is where I spent my night. In the heart of this thick forest full of giant fir trees. I camped on the side of the road as it was dark and couldnt find a clear nearby. It was a beautiful night. I even spotted 3 falling stars while I was awake.
Unfortunately both my gopro and camera are dead by now, so I only could use my crappy cellphone to take some more photos of the next Lake. Its called Doxa (Glory). It’s similar to Tsivlou but bigger.
Usually only mountain bikes could ride here and not trekking bikes with thin road tires and a big load on the back. With some practice though you can ride any terrain with any bike.
Finally on the shores of Doxa Lake. I spent the next 2 hours here swimming and eating. Not as relaxing and clean as the Tsivlou lake but beautiful as well!
A miscalculation in Ancient Feneos left without water. After many kms of hard climbing (I had to ascent 1200m in few hours) under the relentless sun without water I was feeling week and dizzy. I was desperate, so as I was pedaling I almost missed the hissing sound of a water source somewhere on my right. I went and look…and I almost cried from joy! A metal pipe was filling a buried tank with freezing cold clean water! I will never forget moments like this!
All this hard climb for nothing. My next milestone, Likouria village is atleast 700 m bellow. As I am rolling down the mountain I enjoy the rough and dry landscape.
And this is where my phone battery died too! Fortunately the rest of the route is not that interesting as I chose the old Patra – Tripoly way for the return (it was a bad choice as I could take some more difficult but better mountain roads). The traffic was big and annoying because of the holidays and I had to endure a day of noise and a not so interesting landscape.
Other than that it was a hard but magnificent trip into the luscious mountains of northern Peloponnese. It might not have many lakes, but they ones it has and I saw are beautiful!