Discover some of the natural and historical sites of South Evia that should not be missed…
The islands of Petalioi, the “Greek Maldives” of South Evoikos gulf, is a place of exceptional natural beauty in the bay of Marmari, opposite Likorema. They consist of 4 small islands and 6 rocky islands with sheltered beaches and turquoise blue waters.
The islands’ history started since the time when it was the summer holiday home of Omer Pasha’s harem.
In the 1960s, celebrities of the time began to visit Petalioi. A large stretch of land on the largest island of Petalioi once belonged to Picasso’s children, Claudius and Paloma, who after rebuilding the former royal stables, spent many of their summers along with some of their internationally renowned friends. Maria Callas, Greta Garbo, Rudolf Nureyev and Winston Churchill spent some of their summers there.
You can visit the islands and enjoy the exotic beaches and crystal turquoise waters on daily cruises by boat.
Not only nature lovers, but also individuals with more specific interests will find much to enjoy in Demosaris Gorge. Hikers are faced with an unceasing kaleidoscope of fresh images of dozens of springs, waterfalls, primeval riparian forests, and wildlife.
Demosaris Gorge constitutes the largest drainage basin of Ochi. The cool microclimate of the gorge produces a variety of forest and shrub vegetation.
The forests are either single-species or may also contain hornbeam, plane-trees, oak and heath. Remnants of stands of perennial chestnut trees are a characteristic feature of this upper section of the Demosaris Gorge. Littoral plane-trees forests begin at an altitude of 1,200 feet and end at the sea. Beneath Skala Lenosaioi, at the point where the greatest craftsmanship and expertise went into creating the trail, forests of tree-like kermes oak and flowering ashes, as well as holly oaks, plane-trees, and wild olive trees are developed.
The short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) makes its nest in the broader vicinity of the gorge, while there are frequent flights of buzzards (Buteo buteo), sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) and kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), as well as migratory birds. Lower down in the gorge one can encounter Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus).
Birdsong also alerts visitors to the presence of various birds, especially during spring. Many species nest and sing inside the forest: the common whitethroat (Sylvia communis), the subalpine warbler (Sylvia cantillans), the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), the common blackbird (Turdus merula), the nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the tit (Parus spp.), the cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus), as well as other common songbirds.
The Dragon Houses in Evia
In southern Karystos 26 such houses have been found, most in the region of Styra. The one that is near the summit of Ochi is the most significant. This ancient rectangular structure measuring 4.85 metres by 9.80 is made of huge stones with no mortar. The entrance is on the long side, in contrast to ancient temples whose entrance was on one of the shorter sides. The walls are so thick one naturally imagines supermen placing the stones in rows with enviable skill.
What is characteristic is the corbelled roof. In this manner of building, the stones penetrate the interior and create a structure that is reminiscent of an overturned tub. The oldest finding that archaeological excavations have unearthed is an archaic inscription that was buried in the earth outside the building. Many locally produced kyathoi (cupshaped vessels) were found during excavations by professor Nikos Moutsopoulos. They date to the late 4th and early 3rd century BC. There are also findings from the early 5th and 4th centuries BC (Attic-style vessels, glass beads, fragments of bronze vessels). Although the type of worship that took place there has not been determined, there was an altar where sacrifices were carried out as early as the archaic period.
A veil of mystery surrounds the Ochi drakospita. Judging from the findings, the view that it was a temple is sound, but the type of worship has not been determined, nor has the precise date of construction or who built it.
The last primordial chestnut forest of south Evia. Just east of the highest peak of Mt Ochi, at an elevation of 900– 1,100m is a very small, ancient wild chestnut forest that covers an area of approximately 60 hectares.
Kastanolongos is a natural museum, where every ancient tree constitutes a living piece of natural sculpture. It creates a green oasis under the untamed peaks of Mt Ochi, providing a panoramic view of the southernmost peninsula of Evia and from the Southern Evoikos Gulf to Attica and the north Cyclades. Because its aesthetic value is of national importance, Kastanolongos has been ranked as a Region of Particular Natural Beauty.
Because of the fact that hardly any chestnut forests with such ancient trees remain in Greece, Kastanolongos is an extremely valuable ecosystem indeed. It is the last genuine chestnut forest of southern Evia. Each ancient chestnut is a hub of life with hiding places in its cavities, its hollow branches and stumps, where insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals find refuge. In the broader vicinity of the forest, 59 bird species, at least 16 of which nest in the forest, have been recorded.
There are small springs, ephemeral streams and small meadows that are valuable, not only to undomesticated nature, but also to livestock breeding. It is from the Kastanolongos vicinity that one sets off to reach the peaks of Mt Ochi. A trail connecting it with the Demosaris Gorge also exists. A forest road, through the village of Metochi, in addition to the good traditional trail from the village of Myloi, leads to the chestnut forest.
Just a breath away from the beautiful forest is the Mt Ochi climbing refuge. It offers shelter to anyone that wants to explore the forest and the mountain peaks.
The Myloi Valley
The village of Myloi lies east of the castle, about five kilometres from Karystos. The Platanitses Stream runs through it, descending from Mt. Ochi to Karystos. The village owes its name to the many watermills the river once supported. The village’s stone fountains, old manors and arch bridges serve as witnesses to past glory.
In antiquity, southern Karystos was famous for its marble. The ancient quarries of Mount Ochi are to be found on the southern slopes, between the villages of Mekounida and Aetos. Strabo wrote of the renowned “Karystos columns” which were monoliths. The quarries were so busy that in Marmari, the main port for exporting Karystos marble, a temple for the cult of Marble Apollo was built. The most intense quarrying took place during the Roman era. During the eras of Julius Caesar (60-44 BC) and Augustus, Karystos marble was highly sought after in Rome, particularly for monolithic columns. It was also used to line walls and for flooring. Even today, in Monastiraki, in Athens, one can admire the monolithic columns of Hadrian’s Library. The most notable monument of ancient quarrying is situated at Kylindroi, in Myloi village. Gigantic 12-metre-long monolithic columns, the “cylinders” as the locals call them, can still be seen at the place where they were quarried. The most interesting thing is the possibility that the ancient quarries might be associated with the drakospita of southern Evia. There is a theory that the drakospita were temples dedicated to the patron of quarries, Hercules, who looked upon them from afar and would inspire the workers to continue their difficult work. A military emergency, perhaps the threat of the fall of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD, caused the departure of the Roman garrison and the closure of the quarries.
The Castle “Castello Rosso”
“Castello Rosso” of Karystos dominates the foothills of Mt Ochi. It is a scant four kilometres from Karystos, between the villages Grabias and Myloi.
The hanging hill where the present-day castle now stands was first fortified by the Byzantines in 1030. The medieval Castello Rosso, according to one version, was constructed on Byzantine foundations by the baron Ravanus Dalecarcheri between the years of 1209 – 1216. Captured by the Franks, it was later purchased by the Venetians, who held on to it for 104 years. Later, during the Ottoman period (1470 – 1830) the Turks fortified it even more impressively.
The southern foot of Mt Ochi Castello Rosso – Myloi – Aetopetres Kokkinokastro (Castello Rosso) dominates a historic landscape. During the period of the 1821 War of Independence, many attempts were made to take the castle. Odysseus Androutsos, Nikolaos Kriezotis, known as the “lion of Evia”, and the French Philhellene Fabvier, all laid fruitless siege to it. It was only after the liberation, in 1833, that the castle gates were opened to the Greeks. Today, its ruined walls preserving the memories and secrets of the past, it surveys Karystos bay from an imposing rocky perch.
Burtzi, the Venetian fortress
It is situated on the waterfront of Karystos and dates from 1350 AD. Its structure remains intact. It is a two-storey building in an hexagonal horseshoe shape with many loopholes and 24 hatches. For the construction the Venetians used limestone and marbles from the nearby Roman Mauseleum.
It is in good condition and in the summer it is used for various cultural events.
Archeological Museum of Karystos
The Archaeological Museum of Karystos is housed in the west wing of the Giokaleion Foundation building, legacy of the benefactor Nikolaos Giokalas. It was built on Maximilianou Square in 1959. The building also houses a library and a theatre hall.
The local archeological department organizes guided tours of the Archaeological Museum, while both the library and the theatre operate under the supervision of the municipality of Karystos.
The archaeological collections include:
- Sculptures from the wider area of Karystos (Classical-Hellenistic-Roman era)
- Archaeological finds from the site of the Dragon houses (Mt Ochi and Styra area)
- Inscriptions from the wider area of Karystos
- Clay figurines from different areas around Karystos.