It was a trip we had longed to take for some time, to explore the slopes of Ziria (or Kyllini), the mountain in Corinthia beloved to Athenians and especially favoured in autumn and winter. Its proximity (just two hours) to Athens and a brilliant landscape reminiscent of the Alps contribute to its allure, making it easy to forget you are so near to the capital.
We needed a suitable car rental to take this trip, and we found it on Avis.gr after a quick search. An SUV offers the perfect balance of luxury, performance, and versatility, the car was robust yet agile enough to navigate the demanding roads of mountainous Corinthia. It was spacious enough for the four of us and at the same time cost-efficient in terms of fuel consumption – an important consideration in times when fuel prices are steep.
The car we ended up renting was just one of many options at Avis, which has a fleet that is constantly updated, as are its offers. After picking up the car at the scheduled time from the Avis station, the courteous team briefed us on everything we needed to know, and off we went.
The Corinth-Patras motorway is remarkably comfortable for driving. With little traffic, we crossed Xylokastro in just over an hour and began our ascent to Ziria, following signs for Trikala. Initially, the road was narrow and the asphalt was in poor condition. However, the BMW’s excellent handling made driving a breeze. The journey became more interesting as winding turns revealed the beauty and diversity of Greek nature. At lower altitudes, greenery from pine and eucalyptus trees dominates. Just before Trikala, vineyards unfolded before us, loaded with the region’s famous product, the Corinthian raisin.
Our lodging was in Ano (upper) Trikala, one of three settlements (the others being Kato (lower) and Mesaia (middle)). These settlements feature stone mansions and squares, stone fountains, plane trees, tasteful guesthouses and restaurants – everything one hopes to see in a romantic mountain destination. More on this can be read here. In this feature, we’ll focus more on the four-wheel experience.
Off-Roading in an Alpine Landscape
The small Ziria Ski Centre is 10 kilometres from Ano Trikala. With November temperatures so high, we didn’t expect to see snow. Our reason for heading there was to enjoy the drive itself. Through the panoramic windows of our SUV, we were treated to breathtaking views of landscapes, the road winding through imposing rocks and dense forests of fir and black pine trees. We parked outside the chalet to enjoy and photograph the Alpine scenery. A dirt road from the chalet leads to the village of Goura and Lake Dasios. Even though it’s an off-road track, the well-compacted soil and our car’s flawless handling made it easy and enjoyable. Note that this route can be taken by any SUV, even without four-wheel drive.
After about 15 minutes, we reached Lake Dasios. It’s a seasonal lake, with water present from winter to early summer. We found it empty, so we saw its dry bed. At an altitude of 1,600 metres, the clear atmosphere allowed us to see as far as the slopes of Mount Helmos. We got back in the car and headed towards Goura. Descending from 1,600 to under 1,000 metres, the downhill road had its challenges. Fortunately, our car’s brakes responded impeccably, as did the suspension, while any noise from the dirt road was drowned out by the BMW’s sound system.
We’re now in Goura, the largest village in the area and one of the most popular in mountainous Corinthia. It is built amphitheatrically with traditional stone houses, picturesque alleys, and a splendid square ideal for a coffee break. From Goura, we continued to Feneos with the old watermill at its entrance. Halfway, the route passes through the lush plateau of Ziria, where encounters with wild horses and herds of cows are almost certain. From there, a good and easy dirt road leads us in less than 5 km to Lake Doxa, passing by golden-red carpets of autumn leaves.
Many don’t realize that Lake Doxa, despite its natural appearance, is not a creation of nature but a product of human intervention, related to the construction of a dam in the area, designed to improve the irrigation of the plateau.
The dam, completed in the late 1990s, caused local river waters to form the current lake, covering 0.5 square kilometres, with a maximum depth of 30-40 metres. The name ‘Doxa’ was chosen as it was how locals referred to the area, likely preserving the memory of two 17th-century villages, believed to be named Doxa and Doxia. But the most striking thing here is the idyllic landscape that has been created. The lake’s crystalline waters, reflecting the emerald green of the dense pine forest and the blue of the sky, look like an artwork.
In order to make the most of the driving experience we had been so excited to enjoy, we took a different route back to Athens. Following the asphalt ring road around Ziria, we passed through Ancient Feneos, Kastania, and the mythical Lake Stymphalia. It was night by the time we reached the motorway at Kiato, but fortunately, our car’s large LED headlights allowed for a safe and comfortable journey before we reached the motorway.
On our way back, we discussed the magnificent landscapes we’d seen and how much more enjoyable and relaxing our journey was thanks to our rental car from Avis. A choice we’ll repeat on our next trip and beyond.