Day and Weekend Trips from Athens for a Winter Getaway
Thanks to its combination of ancient monuments, unique culture and exquisite environment, Athens is most undoubtedly a city for all seasons. But sometimes the routine of the city makes us long for a quick getaway. Winter being once again on our doorstep, Greece has to offer various picturesque winter destinations that await for your visit. Our “travelling compass” has searched for and proposes some worth-visiting places in a short distance from the Greek capital.
1. Kalavrita: The gem of Achaea
A stone's throw from Athens, Kalavrita is the idyllic resort of Western Greece. Kalavrita is famous for its abundance of historical and religious monuments as well as for the ski resort on Mount Helmos. It rightfully holds the title of the most ideal destination for those who love the winter holidays in Greece.
This small picturesque town is full of natural beauty, stone-built mansions, scenic walks, and traditional guesthouses. Make sure to taste the local dishes in the famous Varvitsiotis restaurant in the center of the town. We recommend “ghiulbassi” (slow roasted lamb in parchment), ideal for a cold winter day.
Just a 10-minute ride outside of town, one may find the Monastery of Mega Spileo. Standing in complete harmony with the wild and impressive landscape that surrounds the area, the imposing eight-storey complex of the Monastery takes every visitor's breath away. Next part of your visit is the ski center of Kalavrita, which is considered to be one of the best in Greece. Whether you are looking for a calm day over the clouds or you feel adventurous and want to try one of the 12 slopes the center has to offer, the trip will not disappoint you. Τhe ski center stands out because the slopes of Mount Helmos are overlooking the sea!
What you should never leave out from your visit in Kalavrita is to get on board the Odontotos train, the most spectacular railway line in the Balkans. The train travels along the Vouraikos river and passes through the Vouraikos Canyon. The 60–minute journey offers a glimpse of the environment which consists of stone bridges, small and big waterfalls and caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Kalavrita is the perfect destination for an unforgettable weekend trip during winter time.
2. Arachova: The winter's Mykonos
Arachova has been the most popular winter destination in Greece for many years due to its proximity to Athens. If you are looking for a cosmopolitan winter trip with abundant accommodation, high level of service and Greek nightlife, Arachova is the perfect weekend destination, especially during Christmas time.
Take a stroll along the narrow streets to the Clock Tower, which is considered the highlight of the village. If you love walking, climb the 264 stone steps up to the church of Ai-Giorgis to take a photograph in the most breathtaking view. Relax in one of the many coffeehouses of the town and drink a cup of hot chocolate to warm up.
Fancy a ski break? At a short distance from the village is the famous ski resort of Mount Parnassus. We recommend visiting this place to mesmerize at the beautiful view, to enjoy a hot beverage, to walk on the mountain, to enjoy the snow in a safe environment. It is certain that the upgraded facilities have made the Parnassus ski center absolutely friendly to visitors of all ages especially if you are fond of winter sports.
3. Oreini Corinthia: A unique spectacle of nature
If you are looking for a chance to get in touch with the incomparable natural environment of the country, the region of Oreini Corinthia combines all the elements that will create a unique experience at just a 2-hour drive from Athens.
First part of your visit is Trikala Corinthias, a complex which actually consists of three villages (Upper, Middle, Low Trikala). As for the name Trikala, they say it comes from the three good things the area offers: fresh air, good wine and spring water! The three villages are built at 1.100 m and offer an excellent panoramic view to the Corinthian Gulf. There you will admire the stone paved squares, the exquisite church of Agios Dimitrios, the abandoned mansions and high towers that still stand strong since the Ottoman era. The delicious food offered by the numerous taverns in the area completes the journey in the best possible way. We recommend paying a visit to the Dekleris tavern to taste traditional homemade pies such as manitaropita (mushroom pie) and kotopita (chicken pie).
You could not possible leave this area without taking a journey through history. Really close to Trikala lies Lake Stymphalia which has been repeatedly described as the ultimate natural paradise. The lake is associated with the sixth labor of the legendary demi-god Hercules and the defeat of the Stymphalian birds. Today, if you feel like unraveling the explorer in you, indulge in the exploration of its surroundings and soak up the beauties of this place. The short escape to the lake will offer the refreshment you were looking for. You should also pay a visit to the very interesting Environment Museum of Stymphalia, which examines how nature may serve human needs without being destroyed.
If you have a little more time to spare, pay a visit to the artificial lake of Doxa in the waters of the River Olvius. This area is characterized by visitors as the “Switzerland of the Peloponnese” thanks to the blue-green and calm waters of the lake and the flawless landscape. The scenery looks like an impressionist painting.
4. Mainalo Arkadias: An unforgettable winter escape
In the center of the Peloponnese lies Mount Mainalo, an area inhabited since antiquity, where myth is intertwined with reality. The mountain hosts dozens of villages known for their unparalleled beauty and graphic scenery. There someone may witness the most beautiful examples of Greek architecture. Each of these villages is suitable for an one-day excursion from the city, but we have picked out some.
Your first stop is the beautiful picturesque village of Dimitsana. This historic village is built at an altitude of 950 meters. The stone-built houses and its picturesque streets make up the ideal winter setting. Do not miss a visit to the Library of Dimitsana and the Open-Air Water Power Museum, which highlights the importance of water-power in a traditional society.
The traditional Lagadia village is otherwise called the "hanging village of the Peloponnese", because it has been built on a steep slope over a canyon. This gives the illusion of hanging. The central square of the village, with cafes and restaurants, is full of plane trees. Since ancient times, Lagadia was famous for its excellent textiles, a tradition that continues to this day. In shops you can buy woven as well as local pasta, sweets and wood products. Last but not least, your journey should finish by visiting the traditional village of Vitina, which is mostly well-known nowadays for its Road of Love, a romantic tree-lined road at the entrance of the village suitable for a romantic stroll through nature's best.
5. Parnitha: An ideal short excursion
Are you looking for a quick getaway from the city? Then, the mountain of Parnitha is the perfect place to plan your one-day winter excursion. After all, it only takes 40 minutes to get there, so you have plenty of hours to make the most of this wondrous landscape. Parnitha is the most ideal place for hiking as it offers various, perfectly mapped hiking trails that lead to hundreds of paths and gives you the opportunity to explore the flora and fauna of the mountain as well as its dozen small caves. After an unforgettable hiking, it's time to eat some hot soup to get warm and drink a cup of coffee. You can do this by visiting the Bafi refuge in the heart of the mountain. The view from up there is breathtaking, especially during winter when the snow has set in.
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Have you ever visited any of the above destinations? Which one was your favorite? Let us know by commenting below!
Words: Olga Georgousi