Driving west of Athens, we will enter the Mythical Peloponnese region from the Corinth canal and explore our way to our destinations in an elliptical way starting from sea level, up to the beautiful mountains, and back to the coastline. Since we will always be on a different route our trip will be engaging and full of different scenery. Sea views, vineyards, olive groves, mountain villages, underground lakes, rivers, gorges, and back to sea level.
First, a quick stop at the Corinth Canal. It connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the mainland, arguably making the peninsula an island. The builders dug the canal through the Isthmus at sea level; no locks are employed. It is 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) in length and only 21.4 meters (70 ft) wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships. It now has little economic importance. The next stop, just 10 minutes away, is ancient Corinth.
The archaeological site of Corinth lies on the northern foothills of the Acrocorinth hill (Acropolis of Corinth), around the Archaic Temple of Apollo. Extended excavations have brought to light the Roman Forum, temples, fountains, porticoes, baths, latrines, and various other monuments. The investigations extended also to the fortress on Acrocorinth, to the south of the organized Archaeological Site, as well as to the north, where prehistoric settlements such as that on the Korakou hill, at St Gerasimos, Gonia, and Gyriza were brought to light. To the south of the organized Archaeological Site excavations revealed the Theatre, the Roman Odeon, the temple of Asclepius and Hygieia (Asclepieion), cemeteries, the Potter’s Quarter (Kerameikos), Roman Baths, the walls of the city, and many more other buildings, such as the Frankish Area and a substantial number of Venetian and Ottoman monuments.
Cave of Lakes
In the rhythm of the music of water small and larger lakes follow one another. The Cave of Lakes, at an altitude of 827 meters, combines in an admirable way, ageless natural beauty, with the remains of habitation and myth. The myth says that Lysippe, Ifinoe, and Ifianassa, the daughters of the king of Tiryns, found refuge in the cave when they were obsessed with madness. The Cave of the Lakes is a rare creation of nature with mysterious galleries and stalactite formations.
In the caves, there are archaeological findings like fossilized human and animal bones, including a hippopotamus. The site is a stone forest full of surprises. It has something exclusively unique that does not exist in other well-known caves.
After a short drive, we arrive at the town of Kalavrita where your driver/guide will treat you to some authentic Greek culinary delights in a non-touristy location observing the locals in their everyday life.
Mega Spilaio Monastery (optional)
Built on the wild and steep side of a 120-meter high rocky hill there is a unique view from the monastery’s balcony. The monastery’s cells have been built around the entrance of a cave. The monastery was founded at this location in 362 A.D. by two brothers, Symeon and Theodore because an icon of the Virgin Mary was found deep inside the cave where there’s also a stream. The icon was created by Apostle Luke from mastic and wax. In 840 A.C. the Mega Spileo was burnt down by the Iconomachs and in 1285, Andronikos Paleologos rebuilt it. From then on, this monastery became one of the richest in the country. The monastery went through another two fires, in 1400 and in 1600. In 1934, the monastery went through yet another fire during which invaluable relics were destroyed.
In 1936, the monastery was rebuilt but suffered severe destruction in December 1943 at the hands of German troops. All 22 monks and all other staff members were executed and their bodies were thrown over a cliff. Today, one can admire a number of important and unique relics that are kept in a special hall.
Odontotos Rack Railway
About 120 years ago Odontotos rack railway started from the seaside town of Diakopto parallel to the river and climbed to Kalavrita through bridges and tunnels. Since then, the Vouraikos river and Odontotos go together.
The Vouraikos Gorge forms a deep and incredibly beautiful gorge. It starts between Helmos and Panachaikos mountains and it reaches the Diakopto seaside town. Vouraikos river springs from the mountains in Kalavrita and exits at the Corinthian Gulf next to the beach of Diakopto. The gorge is rich in flora and fauna and it is part of the network Natura 2000.
The little train incorporated so well into the natural environment that it seems that it had always been there. The way it was constructed did not put a strain on the ecosystem of the gorge. Using stone and wood from the area the technicians’ work is so perfect that someone may think that nature worked on its own.
Odontotos is not just a train. Vouraikos gorge and Odontotos rack railway from Diakopto to Kalavrita is a unique attraction in Greece. In an area full of towns, villages, hospitable inhabitants, a unique environment, and the scent of Greek life. In order to write the history of this place, we need volumes of books but a trip on the train will give you a real taste. Odontotos is waiting for you.
You will board the train in Kalavrita or Zachlorou village and enjoy a great 55 minutes experience going down the mountain following an amazing route. At the same time, your driver/guide will be climbing/driving the route to Kalavrita to pick you up. A beautiful drive, in case you prefer it to the train ride!
We start our drive back along the north Peloponnese coastline towards the Corinth canal and then head to Athens to be dropped off at your base.
PS. The itinerary can also work the other way: Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth and then Cave of Lakes, Kalavrita mountain town, Odontotos Cog railway!