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A lesser-known tourist spot, Karditsa is full of surprises. For the adventurer, nature lover and explorer of untouched traditions, it is the gateway to the astonishing natural beauty of the Greek mainland and combines historic monuments and culinary pleasures.
Just 10km from the foot of the Pindos mountains, Karditsa marks the western end of the plain of Thessaly. With a good reputation for ecological awareness, sound urban planning and an extensive and impressive network of pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes, the city has been called “the Amsterdam of Greece”. Bicycles are considered an integral part of its identity and you can easily rent yours, with an easybike card or a credit card, at one of the municipal bike rental stations around town. Cycling is definitely the best way to explore the city and nearby attractions, such as the Paparatza Forest or Grove of a Thousand Trees, which has served as a recreation spot since Ottoman times.
Karditsa is the newest city of Thessaly, but you can still capture the aura of its past strolling around Valvi Street, that leads to the impressive Municipal Market. A vestige of the architectural glories of the 19th century, it is currently home to various cultural events and a shopping centre. Two neoclassical buildings that also deserve your attention are the old Pallas hotel, in the Central Square, and Arni hotel built in the typical 1920s French style. Having explored the city centre, take a rest at the Pafsilipos Park, among couples, families and peacocks that roam freely on the grass. Then head back to the city centre to enjoy its multiple sightseeing options, such as the Archaeological Museum, the adjacent Municipal Art Gallery and the Municipal Folklore Museum.
About an hour’s drive to the west of Karditsa, at an altitude of 750m lies Lake Plastira, one of the top alpine destinations in Greece. The 55km drive around the lake will fill your eyes (and Instagram feed) with amazing landscapes reminiscent of the Alps. Perfect for relaxation, Lake Plastira is also ideal for activities such as water sports, climbing, horse-riding, archery or paragliding, or simply admiring the bird’s-eye views of the Agrafa Mountains.
Karditsa is surrounded by beautiful small villages, all of them representative of traditional local architecture. Proud custodians of the lake, they will open their doors to you. Neochori and Kalivia Pezoulas are usually alive with visitors, while villages like Kastania and the fairy tale world of Neraida afford more tranquil, secluded moments. The forests around beautiful Belokomiti provide a first-class lesson in ecology! Visit Rentina, the ‘Queen of Agrafa’ for a plethora of Byzantine churches, a 15th-century monastery and a Byzantine Art Museum. Pamper yourself in the modern hydrotherapy centre of Smokovo, with the therapeutic natural springs soothing tired limbs since ancient times. Be one of the few who discovers the original beauty of Oxya, or pay a visit to mountainous Mouzaki, an important commercial and administrative centre of the region, with the Pamisos River passing through it. Another highlight of the area is the well-preserved medieval castle of Fanari (Kastro), affording sublime views across the plain of Thessaly.
Sausages containing leek and seasoned with aromatic herbs, traditional Thessalian pies (plastos and batzina), delicious cheese (feta and graviera) and handmade pasta (trahanas and hilopites) rank among the top gourmet experiences you can enjoy here. Like in most mountainous areas, Karditsa’s cooks lean heavily to the carnivorous side, with lamb, rabbit, rooster and wild boar on the menu, but there are also options for fish lovers based on salmon and trout. For dessert, don’t miss the chance to try the typical local sweet ‘retseli’ made from zucchini and grape must.
Set out for an extraordinary adventure with nature and tradition as inspiration.