Greece’s Best Kept Secret
Evia is as far removed as you can get from the bucket and spade, beach and booze, Brits-abroad style package holiday Greece has become synonymous with.
The second largest Greek island (after Crete) is only a short ferry-ride away from Athens, yet feels a million miles removed from the crowds and bustle of the capital.
Whilst the island has its share of long beaches, its real charms lie inland, among the mountains and remote villages as rich with history and beauty as anything you’ll find in the Acropolis.
A genuine walker’s paradise, each day’s route can differ wildly; going from an
ascent of barren moon-like mountainsides, or passing through hillside forests that open up to reveal deserted beaches and coves, to pushing through tall lush grass meadows akin to African plains. Whilst the wildlife you encounter may not match the Masai Mara, you can expect to cross paths with herds of goats, darting lizards and the odd seemingly stationary tortoise!
The island’s history isn’t stuffed away in museums either, it’s everywhere you walk. Remnants of Roman and Ottoman occupations dot the landscape; from marble columns still lying in the quarries they were carved from (as the Romans beat a hasty retreat back to Italy to defend their empire), to vast stone aqueducts and a few remaining mosques.
You also find yourself walking uphill, far from the closest village, only to stumble upon tiny churches hidden away from the Ottoman invaders who outlawed Christianity. More surprising still are the vast stone structures you find on your walk up Mt Kilosi – vast sun gates and structures whose building blocks weigh tonnes, making their construction thousands of years ago as much of a mystery as the Pyramids of Egypt. As our leader Thanos remarked, “why fly half way around to world when we have our own ancient ruins and mysteries here on our doorstep?”
The trip isn’t all living history and walking however – the food and drink is a lure all by itself. From fresh Greek yoghurt with honey eaten at breakfast in the family-run hotel, to the overwhelming variety of local dishes in the seafront tavernas every night, you literally get a taste of what you’ve been missing out on by not coming to Evia sooner.
Five dinners are included in the price of the tour but that doesn’t limit the sheer variety of dishes you can dig into - consider it carb-loading for the next day’s walking!
Unsurprisingly, given the squids draped out to dry like laundry in front of some of the tavernas, freshly caught seafood features heavily, with octopus stew and baby calamari among the highlights. If you tire of that, there’s moussaka, grilled meats, spinach pastries, stuffed aubergines, huge salads, grilled halloumi, slabs of feta cheese, or pastitsio (a Greek pasta dish) to try. All that can be washed down with local beers like Fix or Mythos, carafes of red wine, or water from one of the island’s many natural springs (genuine Evian water if you will).
I’m confident that once you get a taste of Evia, you will want to go back for seconds.
By Kai Aylward, Exodus Sales Executive who travelled on our Mountains and Villages of Evia trip.