Five reasons to visit this great winter destination, including winter sports, quaint villages and natural thermal springs
If you’re looking for an excursion that offers something for everyone, you can’t go wrong with Mt Kaimaktsalan, or Voras as it is officially known. The mountain’s slopes are home to the Kaimaktsalan ski center, a great place for athletic types to hit the powder, relax with some hot chocolate or just take in the nature. Here are five reasons you should visit:
1. The Ski Center
If you’re into winter sports, this is the place to go. Kaimaktsalan ski center opened its doors in 1994, paving the way for the area’s touristic development. At an altitude of 2,470 meters, this is the highest ski resort in Greece. Its popularity stems from the good quality of snow on its slopes. There are nine runs to choose from, ranging from easy to advanced, plus six lifts, including two for children, and snow machines to compensate when Mother Nature falls short. Beyond skiing, the area also offers horse riding and canoeing, and in the village of Zervi, there is a branch of Edessa Air Club, where you can experience a bird’s-eye view of the area.
2. The Hot Springs
In the vicinity, you’ll find the village of Loutraki, famous for the Pozar hot springs, which emerge from the mountain at a temperature of 37°C and are said to be therapeutic for a range of conditions. The trek from spring to spring is worth the effort, and you have the choice of indoor or outdoor pools, the latter attracting visitors from all over Greece and the Balkans. Once sufficiently warmed by the hot springs, take a plunge into the adjacent Thermopotamos river to invigorate both body and soul.
3. The Wealth Of Nature
If you’re a nature lover, this region will be paradise as you pass thick forests of fir, black pine and beech. Apple and cherry orchards are dotted across the landscape and dust their flowery confetti on the ground every spring. In the winter, the pure white peaks and valleys make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world. Head to Lake Vegoritida, where the route around the lake is a beautiful 50km drive that offers a snapshot of the area’s stunning natural landscapes.
Alternatively, drive the 30km to Edessa for a walk around the waterfalls and the town’s old quarter. Agra, the artificial lake that powers the local electricity plant and serves as a significant wetland, sheltering more than 150 species of bird, lies along the route.
4. The Surrounding Villages
There are several villages in the area. The main village, Aghios Athanasios, is divided into the “old” village, which is home to the ski center, and the “new” village, where the residents have their shops and businesses. This is the place to start exploring the surrounding villages. Lykoi takes its name from the Greek word for wolves, in reference to the real creatures which call the nearby woods home. Aghios Athanasios offers several cozy guesthouse options, while in Kerasies, the village walls are covered with the names and service numbers of the soldiers who completed their military duty in the area. In Panagitsa, however, artist Manolis Polymeris has decorated the walls. All of the villages offer authentic Macedonian charm and delectable local dishes.
5. The “Old” Villadve and its Square
In the “old” village of Aghios Athanasios, many of the stone houses were rebuilt, true to the traditional architecture of the area. Charming cobbled streets featuring a gutter for rainwater and melting snow soon fill with visitors enjoying a stroll and admiring the local attractions.
The bars on the main square play music to entice customers, and warm fires blaze inside the taverns. Bean stews, soups, casseroles and pies are the local specialties worth trying. Local products like pickles, herbs, frumenty, spoon sweets, spices and pasta – all made by the ladies at the Arnissa Women’s Cooperative – are sold at the kiosks in the square.