Peace and adrenaline
An all-year destination just half an hour’s drive from Karditsa, this area offers visitors a plethora of activities,from a quiet day on the lake to white-knuckle dirt-bike rides.
By Olga Charami,
Canoe-kayak | Fun explorations
Young Dimitris and his dad saw a great opportunity for a race; Mom preferred to take it slow. This is one of the great things about the canoe and kayak rides on Plastira Lake: you can set your own pace and pick your own route, so you can explore the shore and watch the birds, or race off to the fjords. Choose your method of transportation depending on what you’re after: a competition-style craft with two paddles designed to cut through the water adroitly, or the single-paddle Canadianstyle pirogue that takes up to three people and is particularly popular with families because it is very steady and unlikely to tip over. You can either rent your watercraft for an hour and go where you wish, or join the organized three-hour tour that includes a stop at the islet near Neochori or on the beach of Lamberos. When the lake is at its deepest in the late winter and spring, the best route is to the mouth of the Megdova, where you can paddle among beautiful willows, dip under the canopy of huge poplars and even venture briefly into the river.
Hydrocycle | stress relief
Serenity is the only word that describes the feeling you get while gliding across this man-made lake. Every season has its highlights: in winter, it’s that special silence that only a blanket of snow can bring, while in the summer it’s the golden hues of the bright August moon. The Tavropos Activity Center can help you to experience the lake in all its glory; among their other services, they rent out hydrocycles, available for periods as short as 30 minutes. These water bikes are suitable for all ages, and you don’t need any special skills or particular strength to operate them. What’s more, Plastira is a placid lake without obstacles or hazards, so it’s almost impossible to fall from the bike into the lake. All of the hydrocycles are equipped with a waterproof pocket where you can stow your cameras or other personal belongings, and there are even a few with baby seats so the entire family can enjoy the ride. Guided hydrocycle tours are on offer, and start from Kalyvia in Pezoula. The short version lasts three hours and includes a snack break at the islet off Neochori,while the day tour takes you all the way to the lacework of fjords on the opposite shore, nearly as far as the dam.
Archery | Take aim at
“Close your eye; focus on the bull’s eye and gently let the arrow go,” advises our guide as we stand staring at the targets set out in the woods. A steady hand is all you need for this rather cerebral activity, which relies more on the power of concentration than on physical strength, making it ideal for the entire family. You get 10 shots in every session, and the adult bows provided by the company are top of the line, similar to those used by Olympic athletes, while older kids get to try their hand with special bows designed for ages 8 and above. There isn’t much adrenaline involved here, unless, of course, the archer beside you is doing a much better job. The odd side-bet isn’t out of the question, either, although wagers usually don’t run to more than a round of coffee or the fee for the next activity.
Horse riding | A healing pleasure
For horse rides through nature, stop in at Saloon-Farma Zambetas on the Karditsa-Kerasia Highway. Youla, Aris, Emilios, Fatme and Naomi are just four of the 11 extremely well-trained horses waiting for you there, and their calm temperaments make them perfect companions for children and novices – in any case, guides are always on hand to show you the ropes. The individual or group tours last for 15-30 minutes and take you across beautiful meadows, a meandering stream and clumps of woodland for the full cross-country experience. The team also does therapeutic riding for children with physical and mental disabilities, while proprietor Antonis Zambetas stresses that there is no age limit for enjoying this wonderful way of exploring nature: “I’ve had children as young as two and a grandfather of 83 ride my horses.”
Mountain bike | Hitting the dirt
This is an alternative way of exploring Plastira while immersing yourself in the natural surroundings. The main off-road bike route runs along the shore; it starts at a base camp at Kalyvia in Pezoula and ends at the botanical garden near Neochori. The route there and back is 8 kilometers but you can opt to continue further if it hasn’t snowed. The best time to do the full circle of the lake is during the summer or autumn, when the water level is at its lowest. To explore the entire lakeshore, take the all-day guided tour – the route covers a distance of 75 kilometers along terrain that can get tricky at points, and a guide can provide a lot of valuable information. In the summer, the experts will also point out all the good swimming spots along the way. If you’ve brought your own bikes, the Tavropos team will be happy to point out the best routes and which parts are difficult or of particular interest. The route from Kalyvia Pezoulas to Neraida and from there to Neochori, for instance, is of particular interest and has challenging variations in altitude. You can also explore the lakeshore on a regular street bike or on foot by following the paved road; however, don’t forget that this is a 60-kilometer route that also includes significant changes in altitude. For the experts, however, nothing beats a mountain bicycle for an adrenalinepumping experience, although they do not recommend bringing along children below the age of 12.
Hiking | Becoming one with nature
Take a hike through a dense forest of firs and oaks that offers fleeting views out across the lake; cross ravines and explore waterfalls and caves, all thanks to a large network of well-signposted trails around Plastira. Experienced hikers recommend three routes in particular. The most popular one starts at Anthochori at the flour mill (where, on your way back, you can buy some for home-baking) and leads through a poplar-covered ravine to two waterfalls. It takes about an hour to make it all way to the second, higher waterfall (some 12 meters in height), about 1.5km from the starting point. The second trail, starting on the main road between Belokomiti and the dam, takes two hours roundtrip and offers constant views of the lake as it winds through the fir forest, ending at the observatory where you can enjoy a rest with an amazing vista. The trail to Gaki’s Cave, starting just past the fish farm, is also very interesting. The cave itself is not much to look at, as it hasn’t been developed for tourism and you can only spot a few stalactites from the entrance, but the trail up to it leads through the gorgeous Kerendan Gorge (it starts just before the village of Karvasaras). The route there and back takes about three hours and is best attempted with the help of a guide, as it is not signposted. All of the trails (except for the one to Gaki’s Cave) have been marked with GPS coordinates so you can chart your progress on your cell phone.
Motorsports | Adrenaline rush
Whether you’re into motocross, hare scramble or enduro racing, Plastira Lake is the place to go, as it attracts motorsport fans and other adrenaline junkies from all over the region. There’s a proper motocross racing track at Mitropoli, which has hosted national competitions, as well as two more training and scramble tracks at Fanari and Mavrommati. There are also two clubs, one in Karditsa and the other in the Municipality of Mavrommati-Mouzaki, which work closely together. The club in Karditsa has mapped over 100 kilometers of breathtaking trails across the countryside, while the group in Mavrommati-Mouzaki is currently in the process of developing a new network as
well. Agrafa is the most popular destination for motorsport enthusiasts, as it has trails that cross difficult terrains, plunge into virgin forests and zip past streams, testing even the most seasoned riders.
- Karditsa Motorcyclists’ Club, Tel. (+30) 6946-164106 (Giannis Thimiopoulos)
- Municipality of Mavrommati-Mouzaki Motorcyclists’ Club, Tel.(+30) 6981.208.830 (Nestoras Doumanas)