Travel Destinations

Monday, August 10, 2015

Delphi to Meteora: Central Greece Attractions

Meteora Central Greece Attractions
The monasteries of Meteora.
Can I be honest?  Greece wasn’t really at the top of my list for travel destinations I wanted to visit.  I’m not exactly sure why that is.  I love ancient ruins, and Greece has a ton of those.  The quintessential picture of Greece, the blue domes and white walls of Santorini, is stunning.  But Rome wanted to go to Greece, and when I read about Tripology Adventures’ off-road trip through Central Greece, it sounded exactly like the adventure for us.  We always like a good drive.  What I didn’t anticipate was falling head-over-heels in love with all the varied landscapes and attractions of Central Greece.  What we discovered, with Tripology Adventures’ Greece road trip itinerary, was ancient monuments, picturesque villages, and nature, from impossibly clear blue seas, emerald rivers, green sceneries that rival Switzerland, and snow-capped mountain ranges. 

Piralia Distomou and the Bay of Corinth

Lunch at Le Perroquet Piralia Distomou Central Greece Attractions
Lunch with a view at Le Perroquet.
Our first introduction to Central Greece, after getting out of Athens, was lunch along the Bay of Corinth.  This was our first glimpse of Greek waters, which are crystal clear throughout the country.  How could we not start to fall in love with Greece with such a picturesque view?  We ate lunch at a lovely restaurant, Le Perroquet, which has an outdoor patio overlooking the bay.  The restaurant is located in the small town of Piralia Distomou, also called Aspra Spitia, which was originally founded to support the aluminum plant nearby.  Aspra Spitia means white houses, and it is called such because the white houses of the town were built for the aluminum plant workers.


Temple of Apollo Delphi Central Greece Attractions
Delphi's Temple of Apollo.
One of Central Greece’s popular attractions is Delphi.  The story of Delphi begins with Zeus though, surprisingly, this is one of the few Zeus stories that doesn’t start with his hormones.  Zeus wanted to find the center of the earth, so he released two eagles at opposite ends of the earth.  Where they met was Delphi, which came to be known as the naval of the world.  Here Zeus threw a stone down, an omphalos or naval stone, to mark the spot.

Treasury of the Athenians Delphi Central Greece Attractions
Treasury of the Athenians.
Delphi is located at the base of Mount Parnassus.  The Temple of Apollo was built at Delphi in the 4th century BC.  People came to the Temple of Apollo in Dephi to visit the oracle.  While many think the oracle was a person, our tour guide Penny explained that the oracle was actually the site, not the person.   The message of the oracle was delivered by Pythia, the priestess who was an intermediary to Apollo, and interpreted by the priests of Apollo.  Pythia’s abilities are attributed to hallucinogenic vapors that came to the surface through faults in the ground below where the priestess sat.

Delphi Theatre Central Greece Attractions
Delphi Theatre, the best preserved monument of Delphi.
In addition to the Temple of Apollo, other monuments that can be visited are the Treasury of the Athenians, the Theatre, the Stadium, and the Polygonal Wall.  Not only can ancient Greek writing be found here, but also Greek songs, as some of the engravings have musical notes along with words.  

Charioteer of Delphi Bronze Statue Central Greece Attractions
Charioteer of Delphi, one of few bronze statues surviving from Ancient Greece.
The museum at Delphi is also worth a visit as it displays many of the artifacts unearthed when the site was excavated. 

Penny Kolomvotsou Delphi Tour Guide Central Greece Attractions
Celebrity tour guide Penny Kolomvotsou.
The writing is on the wall, but it's all Greek to me.
While most of the Tripology Adventures off-roading tour is guided by a Tripology guide, guided tours of sites like Delphi must be visited with a local Greek guide.  Tripology Adventures has been working with Penny Kolomvotsou for decades (not that she looks remotely old enough for that).  I was surprised to recognize her from an episode of Rick Steves' Europe.  (To book a tour with Penny, she can be emailed at


Kremasta Lake Evrytania Central Greece Attractions
Evrytania's Kremasta Lake.
I never imagined there were parts of Greece so green!  Evrytania is rightly referred to as the Switzerland of Greece and has some of the cleanest air in Europe.  This area of Central Greece is mountainous with emerald green rivers flowing between the mountains into Kremasta Lake.


Krikello War Memorial Central Greece Attractions
Krikello war memorial.
Krikello is a village in Evrytania where we stopped for lunch.  The village’s platia (town square) is large and open, has a war memorial, and is bordered on one side by a church.  

Krikello Church Central Greece Attractions
Krikello church.
When we arrived for lunch I noticed the church door was slightly propped open, so we got to take a peek inside.  The churches of Greece are very small compared to other European churches, but they are jam-packed with icons and other religious ornamentation.


Arachova Preserves and Liqueurs Central Greece Attractions
Homemade preserves and liqueurs.
We drove into Arachova, a mountain village of Central Greece.  These villages are precariously situated on the mountainside and aren’t easy to get to.  We stopped for coffee in Arachova at a kafenio (café) on the platia.  Our hostess had all of her homemade preserves and liquors on display.  We learned that these little villages were started by people who fled the towns of Greece and went to the mountains to escape the Ottomans.  Because these villages were in such remote areas, cut off from civilization, skills like making preserves became very important, and the tradition continues on today.

Megalo Chorio

Megalo Chorio Watermill Grinding Corn Central Greece Attractions
This gentelman invited us to see a watermill at work.
We took a walk through another mountain village of Evrytania, Megalo Chorio.  Megalo Chorio is a village of stone houses riddled with narrow winding streets.  We visited a beautiful shop selling herbs, tea, preserves, and liquors.  We also got to peek into a working watermill and see dried corn being ground. 

Proussos Monastery

Proussos Monastery Central Greece Attractions
Proussos Monastery, a monastery built into a cave.
During the Iconoclastic Period religious icons were banned and destroyed.  A young man decided to save the Panagia Prousiotissa icon, the icon of the Virgin Mary, from Proussa of Asia Minor in the 9th century so it wouldn’t be destroyed.  The story goes that he brought it to Greece.  One night he fell asleep and when he woke up the icon had disappeared.  Some shepherds saw a light shining from a cave and found the icon there.  The young man went to the cave, retrieved the icon, and left.  When he fell asleep and awoke again, the icon was gone again.  The icon returned to the cave.  When the young man returned to the cave to retrieve the icon again, the icon asked to be left there.  Since the icon of Panagia Prousiotissa had chosen the cave, the young man built a chapel in the cave to house the icon.  The chapel remains to this day and has murals that date back to the 13th century.  Now an entire monastery surrounds the small chapel in a cave.  Some believe the icon gives the miracle of health, and there are stories of the icons miraculous powers.  Every year in August many make a pilgrimage to visit Panagia Prousiotissa. 

Pindus Mountain Range

Snow in the Pindus Mountains Central Greece Attractions
There were still patches of snow on the Pindus mountains in May.
We had already seen so many different landscapes on our drive through Central Greece, and then we climbed high into the mountains of the Pindus mountain range.  We passed patches of remaining snow on the ground and could see Central Greece laid out like a carpet below us.


Roussanou Monastery Meteora Central Greece Attractions
Roussanou Monastery.
Meteora is a place that is on many people’s bucket lists.  Meteora is one of those sites that looks other-wordly and unlike anything around it.  The oddly-shaped rock columns shoot straight up from the ground into the heavens.  So of course someone looked at these sheer-faced pillars of rock and thought, “Let’s build monasteries on those!”

Great Meteoron Monastery Meteora Central Greece Attractions
Great Meteoron Monastery.
Monastic communities began inhabiting the rocks, using ropes and ladders to get to the caves.  The construction of monasteries on the top of the rocks started in the 1300s and soon there were 24 monasteries.  The monasteries declined during the Ottoman period and today only six remain.  Two house nuns and four house monks.

Great Meteoron Monastery Steps Central Greece Attractions
Steps leading up to Great Meteoron Monastery.
We visited the highest, largest, and oldest of the Meteora monasteries, the Great Meteoron Monastery built on top of Megalo Meteoro.  The monastery is still active, with only three monks.  The monastery is reached by steep stairs winding up the side of the rock, created as recently as 1925.  Before then the monastery could only be accessed by baskets hoisted by a pulley system.  Electricity was added just 30 years ago.

Great Meteoron Monastery Wine Cellar Central Greece Attractions
The wine cellar of Great Meteoron Monastery.
During our tour of Great Meteoron Monastery we walked through the wine cellar, peeked into the ossuary where the bones of deceased monks are stored, and then visited the central church, the Church of the Transfiguration.  The church is small and divided into three sections.  The first section is covered in frescoes from the 1500s which still have their original paint.  The second section is full of icons covered in glass which pilgrims touch, either with their hands or a sacred object, for a blessing.  

Great Meteoron Monastery Megalo Meteoro Ossuary Meteora Central Greece Attractions
Great Meteoron Monastery ossuary.
Unfortunately for tourists pictures can’t be taken inside the church, but they can be taken everywhere else around the monastery.  Also, women need to wear long skirts.  Wraparound skirts are provided at the entrance, but women might want to bring their own wrap.

Meteora Hike Central Greece Attractions
Hiking through Meteora.
Meteora and its monasteries can be viewed in another way, and that is from hiking one of the trails that lead from the top, between the rock formations, down into town. 

Monument of Leonidas

This is Sparta!
Who would have thought this small, unassuming monument at the side of the road in the town of Lamia would spark such excitement.  If you’ve seen the movie 300 then you know about the very important Battle of Thermopyles which took place in 480 BC.  Admittedly, I have not seen the movie 300, so my knowledge of this battle was not up to the level of everyone else’s.  At this location Spartan King Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers, along with 700 Thespians, fought an uneven battle against the Persian King Xerxes and his army of almost two million soldiers to keep the Persians from getting through the Thermopyles Pass.  When the Persians told them to give up their arms, Leonidas replied, “Come and get them!”  Leonidas and his men fell heroically in battle, with Leonidas being beheaded.  While this battle was lost, shortly thereafter the Greeks were victorious over the Persians.

Kamena Vourla

Northern Evoikos Gulf Central Greece Attractions
Our view of the Northern Evoikos Gulf during lunch.
Our off-road trip started with lunch by the sea, so it was fitting that it ended with lunch by the sea as well.  This time lunch was in Kamena Vourla located on the shores of the Northern Evoikos Gulf.  Other than the river trout we had in Agrafa, we didn’t have much seafood in Central Greece, so it was nice to have lunch by the sea and eat lots and lots of seafood, including sea bass, sea bream, red mullet, calamari, and octopus.

The wonderful thing about our tour of Central Greece with Tripology Adventures was that everyday there was something different.  One day we would be visiting ancient ruins, another day we would visit small mountain villages, and another day we would be relaxing by a stream.  All of these varied sites combined together to make one wonderful and memorable trip through Central Greece.

Thank you to Tripology Adventures for hosting our off-road trip through Greece and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Travel the World: From Delphi to Meteora, Central Greece offers travelers a mix of attractions.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.