The protected area

The mount Chelmos
The mountain range of Chelmos is a botanic paradise in Northern Peloponnese. The mountain’s flora is characterised by a large number of endemic species. There have been listed up to 30 endemic species of in the Peloponnese and more than 100 Greek endemics until now. The names of many of the species derive from local place names, either because the species are endemics of Chelmos or because they were described here for the first time. Some of them are Bolanthus chelmicus, Seseli aroanicum, and Viola chelmea. There have been documented more than 1,000 species and subspecies of plants however the recording of the flora of the region is not yet complete. One of the reasons why this mountain range is so unique is due to the presence of 5 local endemics; species which exist exclusively in Chelmos and nowhere else in the world. These are: Alchemilla aroanica, Corydalis blanda subsp. oxelmannii, Lonicera alpigera subsp. hellenica, Polygala subuniflora and Valeriana crinii subsp crinii. The ecological value of the mountainous landscape is more strongly manifested by the presence of the plant Globularia stygia Orph, which is a priority species of the European Directive 92/43. There is also a large number of pharmaceutical plants in the region such as ironwort (Sideritis cladestina), sage (Salvia officinalis), horse mint (Mentha longifolia), etc. The region’s fauna is particularly significant. It includes 76 species of invertebrates (worms, spiders, insects etc.), 4 species of fish, 9 species of amphibians (frogs, tritons) and 18 species of mammals, with many rare and protected species among them, such as the 5 species of bats, the otter (Lutra lutra), the wildcat (Felis silvestris), etc. It is particularly important to mention the presence of 149 bird species which find permanent or temporary refuge in the National Park. Among these birds there are the emblematically big and small birds of prey, such as the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the shorttoed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the levant sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), the black kite (Milvus migrans) and the eagle-owl (Bubo bubo). In the Alpine plains, there is a large number of endemic butterflies (Lepidoptera). Some of these species form small populations in the region, while others such as the Anthochαris damone, the Thersamonia thetis, the Eriogaster catαx, the Pαpilio alexanor, the Parnasius mnemosyne, and the moth Calimorpha quantripunetaria, make one of their few appearances in Greece; a fact which reveals the uniqueness of these habitats and the necessity for their protection from human intervention.

The Styx Waterfall
The Styx waterfall is the source of the river Krathi at an altitude of 2,100 meters. It is located at the rocky and gracious peak of mount Chelmos called Neraidorachi. The Styx waterfall springs from lime stones which date 150 million years. While descending the path after the Styx one sees Dolomites with their characteristic smell and many other metamorphic rocks.

On this basis and in conjunction with the special microclimate of the valley of the Styx developed many rare plant species with highest ecological value. The main features of the landscape are well forested slopes of cephalonica fir and black pine forests, the steep limestone cliffs, the glacial lake Mavrolimni (the only alpine lake in the Peloponnese) and the spectacular cascade of Styx (Styx waters) which is situated at an altitude of 2,100 m.

The area is known since ancient times for its natural wealth, and today is rightly characterized as "biodiversity ark" mainly because of the wide variety of native plants and animals. The unique microclimate of the Styx Valley presents highest ecological value due to the presence of many rare species of flora. According to the mythology, the Styx was a mythical sea creature that had the palace to Tartarus, which was guarded day and night by sleepless Dragons. The waterfall of 200 meters is impressive and we can admire it, very closely, along the local path.

The Vouraikos Gorge
The importance of Vouraikos Gorge, in terms of flora species richness, is invaluable. A number of rare and protected endemic species with special scientific value have been listed. To name but just a few, there is Silene conglomeratica (a local endemic of the gorge), Peucantanum achaicum, Aurinia moreana, Campanula topaliana subsp. cordifolia etc. The diversity and the alternation of the habitats in the gorge, constitute a refuge for wild fauna in Northern Peloponnese. In the cold waters of the Aroanios River there are two endemic species of fish, the brown trout (Salmo magrostigma) and the fish Barbus peloponnesius. One of the most important mammals that have been recorded in the region is the otter (Lutra lutra). Also, some types of bats (Miniopterus sehreibasi, Myotis blythii, Myotis myotis, Rhinolopgus blasii, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) live in the caves and the rock slits which need special protection because their natural habitats are being destroyed.

The E4 path enters the Protected area at Diakopto village, passes through the Vouraikos gorge, following the rack railway tracks Diakopto-Kalavryta. The rack railway was founded by Charilaos Trikoupis. The contract for the construction of the line was signed in 1889 and the project was delivered seven years later. The line was designed by French technicians. It was a very challenging project due to the inaccessible terrain. On March 10th 1896 the train made its first trip. The route starts from “Diakopto” crosses the Vouraikos gorge, passes through the Zahlorou” village and the route at “Kalavryta”. The trip is about an hour long. Since 1931, the second Sunday of May, the Kalavryta Mountaineering club is organizing the “Annual Crossing of Vouraikos gorge” along with many parallel events. Vouraikos gorge is located in the northern Peloponnese, between the Mount Chelmos and the eastern extensions of mount Panachaiko. The flowing water of the river has formed the steep and spectacular gorge.

The Cave of the Lakes at Kastria
The particular Cave has a great geological, paleontological and archaeological interest. It is unique in the world because it has thirteen cascading lakes. From these lakes it derives its name. Various stalactite and stalagmite formations are reflected in the waters of the caves. In the cave there exist 5 types of bats and a number of organisms that survive solely in caves. The cave’s explored length is 1,980 meters, 500 meters of which are open to the public. The continuing deposition of materials from the stalactites in between the successive cascading lakes, have led to the development of original stone barriers with a height of up to 4 meters, which make the cave a unique monument of nature.
This has happened during the ice age (1,5 million years ago). South of the cave there is a region called the "black lake" where the Environmental Education Center Kleitorias-Akratas organizes a variety of environmental activities.

Tsivlou lake  
Tsivlou lake lies at an altitude of 700 m. and it’s one of the very few mountainous lakes in the Peloponnesos. It was formed by a landslide in 1912 which blocked Krathis river. Today the lake’s maximum depth is approximately 30 m. and it’s a spot of attraction for tourists and naturalists. Tsivlou lake hosts rich flora and fauna, and it is ideal for birdwatching.

Doxa lake
In Feneos plateau, hidden among Cephalonica fir, oaks and pines, there lies Lake Doxa. It is an artificial lake that was created to accommodate the irrigation needs of human activities in the valley Feneos. A strip of land in the lake comes to the church of Saint Fanourios, while on the hill near the lake is located the historic monastery of St. George. The lake, at an altitude of about 900 m., the riparian vegetation around, the torrents and the streams that feed lake Doxa, constitute a rich wetland ecosystem with a great biodiversity and splendid beauty.

The lake is surrounded by three of the highest mountains in Peloponnesos ie. Ziria, Chelmos and Ntourdouvana. The coexistence of wetlands and alpine landscape, make the region a unique place for wild flora and fauna and a touristic “hot spot” throughout the year. Οne can observe the otter, a rare and endangered aquatic mammal of Peloponnesos.

In Feneos plateau there are a series of sinkholes. The legend says that the sinks are a “work of Hercules”, when he decided to drain the swamp, in order to provide the villagers with the fertile soil. The large channels were very well constructed and they are still effectively working till nowadays.

The "Eye" of the river Ladon
The main source of the river Ladon is 500 m. of altitude, located near the settlement Chelonospilia next to Lykouria village, so called "the eye of Ladon. At “Chelonospilia” the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821 started. The headwaters are supplied by an underground river, the water comes from a single headboard and forms a small deep lake. The river Ladon, is ideal for downhill canoe - kayak and rafting. Ladon, according to mythology was a hundred-headed dragon, and was appointed by the goddess Hera as a guardian of the golden apples that were on the island of the gods, in the land of Atlas. Ladon is mentioned by Pausanias (about 174 AD): "there is no other river prettier either in Greece or elsewhere”.

From the "Eye" of Ladon passes the European path E4. The path begins at Diakopto village, and through the Vouraikos gorge reaches Kalavrita and continues to Kato Lussi - Planitero - Arbouna – Ag. Nikolao - Tourlada - Krinofyta. and then to Lykouria and Pagrati. It’s an amazing route into the natural environment that should not be missed. Along the river mainly in inaccessible places, with a little luck and increased observation you may see otters, a very rare aquatic mammal species. The Otter is a "flag“ species of the area.

The headwaters of Aroanios river
The headwaters of Aroanios river (Planitero) are located on the southwest side of Chelmos and powered with water from Feneos basin that arrives from sinkholes. The limpid water flowing from the limestone during the whole year, gives life to a spectacular plane forest, supplies one of the few mills left in Achaia, irrigates the fertile valley of the river and drives the engines of Hydroelectric producing valuable electricity.

Aroanios river joins with the river Ladon headwaters close to the memorial of “Chelonospilias” and creates an ideal route for Canoe – Kayak (near to the village Daphni). European path E4 crosses through this village, and after the “Ampimp-aga bridge” there is a bicycle path alongside the river, that leads to Klitoria. There you can visit the excellent Folk Museum and the Environmental Education Center (EEC). It has been the first EEC founded in Greece in 1993.

The plane forest, was recently infected by “Canker stain", caused by the fungus Ceratocystis platani, a severe parasite that can kill plane trees, of all ages and sizes. All efforts to maintain the plane forest today, are focus on reducing the anthropogenic transmission of the disease, from one tree to another.

Information material: Where legend meets reality