For a long time, we’d looked forward to finding the ideal means and time to make this trip. Why? Because we yearned to soak up the beauty of the Smokovo artificial lake, the very lake that changed the landscape of the wider region on that side of Agrafa, in the regional unit of Karditsa. The relaxation we’d be offered when visiting the natural spa of the Smokovo Baths was another top advantage of a visit there. But before we could enjoy any of the above, we needed to find the right car. At avis.gr we found it quickly and easily; a car spacious enough to accommodate four people with their luggage, and sturdy enough for a trip on the motorway as well as along the country network. Meanwhile, it was very economical in terms of fuel consumption, something that’s an extremely important element in times when fuel comes at such a high cost.
So, after picking up the car on a scheduled date and time, a process that turned out far easier than we’d imagined – we were on the road to the slopes of Agrafa. Essentially, our car helped make our trip easy and fun. At this point, it’s worth noting that one of the reasons why we recommend visiting this relatively unknown place in central Greece is because of how easy it is to reach, regardless of the season or weather conditions. It’s an ideal destination for you if you’re seeking an alternative spring getaway, which may not have as much infrastructure as you’d find in Arachova or mountainous Arcadia, but is also not as crowded and busy. Not to mention that the new E65 road allows easy and comfortable access to the area even if the weather is, for example, rainy.
In less than three hours from Athens, we found ourselves admiring the beautiful Smokovo artificial lake, a lake that stands out for its Γ-shape and is particularly new, having been on the map of Greece for only around 20 years. Located at an altitude of 400 metres, it was filled with water in a controlled operation in 2002-2003, when the construction of the 104-metre-high, and 450-metre long dam was finished.
The main reason for creating the lake was to irrigate about half a million hectares of arable land, while two hydroelectric power plants started operating in 2005. The benefits it offers agriculture and the energy sufficiency that came from it combined with the creation of a magnificent ecosystem in which fish, birds and amphibious reptiles live. The best place to admire the landscape of the lake is on its northeastern side, which is exactly where we stopped. At this time of year, the wildflowers are already in bloom, adding colour to the blue of the lake and the green of the vegetation on its shores.
We left the lake and followed a serpentine but well-constructed road that leads – via Kedros – to the Smokovo Baths. The curative character of the springs here has been recognised since the 17th century, while the hydrotherapy centre itself, obscured by lush hills, has become one of the biggest and best in Greece. Inside a well-maintained, elongated building you’ll find individual large whirlpool baths, a steam room, and spaces like a fully equipped gym, massage area and other facilities. Among these, the towering and brightly lit swimming pool space stands out. A visit to the hydrotherapy centre is a must for anyone who loves wellness or even for newbies who have never tried anything like this before but simply wish to relax deeply. Waters gush at 42 degrees Celsius and are therapeutic for various respiratory, digestive, dermatological and other disorders. Besides, it’s probably not by coincidence that Ali Pasha of Ioannina favoured these springs as his go-to place to recuperate from the pressure of his demanding schedule.
After the hot springs experience and a coffee in the village, we left Loutra and followed an uphill road to Loutropigi (formerly Smokovo), a village built at an altitude of 750 metres. Here, we admired a stone-built fountain that locals told us was built just before the Greek Revolution of 1821. Above all, however, we admired the spectacular view of the lake and the Thessalian plain, which is a given because of the village’s geographical position.
The following day included car rides and hiking in a lush environment on the lake’s shores, where we got to get an in-depth look at just how gracious the creation of the lake has been to nature.
Upon returning to Athens we chose to drive, for a little while, in WRC conditions. After a short stop in Rentina and before returning on the E65, we chose to cross the (paved) part of the legendary ‘Tarzan’ special route so beloved to Acropolis Rally fans. Once again it was confirmed to us that our choice of car from Avis was indeed an excellent one, and before even reaching Athens we vowed to not wait long before planning our next road trip through central Greece or elsewhere.