Escape in Elatia


Visitors of Drama have the chance to meet one of the greatest forest complexes of Greece - the magnificent Forest of Elatia - 60km far from the town. The remarkable flora and fauna on the mountains of the Central Rhodope is a kind of landmark, not only for our prefecture, but also for the north Greece, in general. Having supplied ourselves with fuel in Drama, we drive north-east, towards Sidironero, 45km away from Drama. We pass through the beautiful suburb of Panorama and then, the recreation forest of Kallifytos, in order to visit first, the convent of Analipsis Tou Sotiros (Assumption of Christ) - known as Sipsa - in Taxiarches, 10km far from Drama. The convent was built in 1970, at the same location of the oldest, little monastery and you can visit it each day of the week. Its celebration is on the day of Analipsis Tou Sotiros (Assumption of Christ) and gathers loads of pilgrims during the Easter.

After Taxiarches, the road gets narrower and we need to drive carefully, because there are big trucks, which convey wood to Drama - from April, till Fall. We steadily feel the change of the altitude. We approach the junction, in order to reach the little, picturesque village Dendrakia, 23km far from Drama, on the north-east edge of the Central Falakro. The region is offered for hiking in the dense, diverse forest of oaks, chestnut-trees, filbert-trees and beeches, till the neck of the mountain - known as «Kerasi» (Cherry), at 1,000m height – and the inaccessible place «Baras», at 1,300m altitude.

On the road back to Sidironero, vegetation is much denser on the slopes and into the gullies of the region. In Livadero, 22km away from Drama, we meet the E6 European pathway. Higher, at 25th km, we can drink the cool water of the spring there.

Then, we pass through the dense forest of oaks, which is covered by snow and ice too, in the winter. At the neck, named «Touloubari» (28km far from Drama), the changes of the climate and vegetation are more intense. There, we find a guardroom from the past, which reminds us the «Cold War Era».

Staying here, we can see on the other side the imposing tops of Rhodope for the first time. On the left, into a dense forest of the north side of Falakro, there is an earthen road of 37km, directed to Volakas. It is a real challenge for the drivers after spring. We continue our drive to Sidironero and we start to descend the modern bridge, named Papades, which is built over the beautiful lake. This was formed with the Nestos waters. After this bridge, 38km far from Drama, we stop for a while to the heroes’ monument of Papades battle in 1944 and the monument of the execution victims by the army possession of the same year. Just in front of us, we have the magnificent view of Falakro and the lake.

Getting into Sidironero, which is a village of a very few permanent residents, but really hospitable. We can follow the earthen road that leads us to the Nestos hydroelectric dams, 22km away –or we can go on, in order to reach the forest of Elatia.

If we choose the latter, we can visit the forest village, 26 km far from our place. After that, driving on a better road, we will meet Skaloti, which is the last village, where we can supply ourselves with things that we need, before we enter the forest complex – 9km far from Sidironero. We drive, over 900m altitude, into the slopes of mixed forests, where the pine trees are more and we enjoy the nice view of the north side of Falakro.

Close to the old forest worksite, we find a north direction road among three different ways, which passes through the area «Piknos Lofos» (Dense Hill). We continue our way and we reach the Elatia forest village, under the shade of huge trees, which is the center of logging – from the spring till the autumn. This place is desolated and snowy in the winter. We are at 1,600m height, in a region, where the mean annual temperature is 9 degrees of Calcium and the annual rainfall – over 1,200mm. East of the village, at a distance of 7km, is «Stravorema» (crooked stream). It is about a small valley into the dense forests of spruce and pine trees and the gully, which pass through it, forms intense meanderings – something special. There are unique spruce trees in the Greek area, which is the most south part of Europe, where boreal coniferous trees spread themselves.

In this region, there is a dense network of tractor roads (forest road of single use), which it is offered for hiking.

«Stravorema», is connected with the forest village, via the tractor road of 3km length. We can continue our drive on this road, which turns south and for about 4km is accessible. Then, for about 15km is not accessible. It passes through «Stravorema» and on the first km we find a waterfall with the same name. The road stops, when we pass «Megalo Rema» (Big Stream) and just before the end, we meet a north directed bypass, which passes through the two abandoned settlements (Ano and Kato - Up and Down «Alikioi») and links the central road of Frakto-Elatia.

At the end of the road of «Stravorema», there is an old path in good condition, parallel to «Megalo Rema». There, ruins, sheepfolds and small paths are dispersed and the two sides of the stream are connected with an old bridge of the Byzantine style.

Every year, close to the forest village, many people of the same race, called Sarakatsani, gather on 20th of July, the day of Profitis (Prophet) Ilias feast. Sarakatsani lived in this place with their herds – till the mid of the 1940 decade – in small communities, called «Tseligata». They gathered their herds in 30 «Tseligata», during the feast of St.Georgios and St.Demetrius. «Tseligata» - communities – such as «Koutras» (today - forest village), «Lepida», «Dalakoura», where Sarakatsani gathered their herds, gave their name to the mountain areas. Close to the forest village, a guestroom is going to be opened soon, into the dense forest. The village is not well prepared to host visitors – but after an agreement with the forest Service, we still can do it. During our course, we can find nice taverns in Livadero, Sidironero and Skaloti, before we reach Elatia. Because of the good weather, we can take with us trout from the fish farm – close to Sidironero – local meat, such as wild boar, from the cattery of Skaloti and finally, dairy products and honey from Sidironero.

The forest village of Elatia is connected with the road network of the Birch Forest and the Frakto Forest. The first route is 26km till the Panagia (Virgin Mary) worksite and passes through the forest of spruces and mainly forest pines. The other route is longer – 50km till the Frakto worksite – however we are going to adore the natural environment, which is full of spruces and black, forest pines. The road network is better after spring, because of the road maintenance projects, so that even conventional vehicles can pass from there.