One of the best known and most discussed mountains in Greece is mount Grammos. It is known both for its ecological value and the role it played during the Greek civil war. It belongs to the “Natura 2000” network. To the west it borders to Albania, while to the East it reaches the Arena mountain range. It stands out for its rich flora and fauna.
In Autumn, the deciduous trees transform the landscape into a colorful canvas. Among the species that have been recorded on the mountain are the beech, the oak and the mountain pines (pinus nigra and pinus leucodermis). Environmental organization “Arktouros” characterizes the area as one of the most important habitats of the brown bear (Ursus arctos), which is an endangered species in Greece and in Europe. Also one might encounter the wolf, the chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) , the European otter (Lutra lutra) and many kinds of birds like the eagle, the hawk etc.
Two great rivers Aliakmonas and Sarantaporos begin their flow in the area. The mountain’s summit is called Tsouka Petsik and mesures 2.520m in height. Without snow, it is rather easy to approach. Two of the best known villages in the area are Aetomilitsa and Grammousta. From the latter it is possible to reach one of the largest alpine lakes in Greece, Gkistova. Another lake, known as Moutsalia, is located east of the “Epano Arena” peak.
Tsouka Petsik 2521m
563km from Athens
256km from Thessaloniki
There are no refuges in the mountain but hostels can be found at villages Aetomilitsa and Grammousta.
Aetomilitsa – Gkesos monument – Skirtsi Peak (Perifano)
We arrive at the village, pass the small wooden bridge and at the next intersection we turn right, following the cobbled path. There is a sign pointing towards the directon we must follow. Soon, the path becomes a dirt road leading outside the village. A few minutes later, we cross a creek called “Aspro Potami” and turn right towards a forest of deciduous trees. The trail is visible in the beginning but then it becomes hard to find. Τhere are no mountaineering signs on the trees and in case there is a snow it can be hard to follow the path. Nevertheless the direction for Gkesos monument is clear as it can be seen from the entrance of the village.
We climb though the forest crossing two glades and meeting the forest road four times. At the last part before the apline zone the slope of the path increases and leads us out of the forest. Here we will see a metallic pole; a bit higher we will see two more that lead us to the monument. From this point we can see the peaks Tsuka Petsik, Skirtsi, Arenes and Kiafa. We follow the broad path to the ridge that will bring uσ to Skirtsi. The course is rather easy and only in the end does it become steeper and dangerous. Many Albanian and Greek mountains are visible from the top. To the southeast, we can see Smolikas andTymphi and the border. The route takes 6 hours with return, but it can take significantly longer after heavy snowfall.
Alpine lakes Gkistova and Moutsalia are worth seing. The first is located at an altitude of 2.350m and is one of the greatest alpine lakes in Greece. The area is suitable for camping and not far from Tsouka Petsik peak. The second lake is situated eastern of Arenes peaks and can also be reached by car. Two of the best known villages in the area are Aetomilitsa and Grammousta. Tthe first was the seat of the communist party government during the greek civil war.
The last scenes of the greek civil war took place on Grammos and nearby mountain Vitsi. The “Democratic Army”, founded by the communist party, had the support of Albania and other Balkan countries, but it was outnumbered by the “National Army”, which was supported by western nations. During the battle, 87 planes and napalm bombs were used against the communist army.
There are no ski centers on Grammos. The mountain is recommended for ski mountaineering.
author – photographer: Panos Bampaloukas