The region of Macedonia is a different Greece to the one that tourists dream about. Authentic, friendly and distant. In the northwest part of the country, names as Kaimaktsalan, Aridaia and Pozar Lake, give the illusion of a mountainous and inaccessible place. The real picture is different…
The area of Almopia is low lying, with rivers, orchards and dense forests. It is ideal for agro-tourism and popular for winter holidays due to the nearby ski resort. But autumn is probably the best time because of the distinctive colours of the landscape.
The plains of Aridaia and Giannitsa are full of red cherry trees, as large stretches of land are covered with orchards. These trees give the famous cherries in the summer months and turn red in autumn as their leaves change colour before they fall.
On the last few kilometers of the route to the Pozar Baths, the yellow-gold of the tremendous plane trees adds to the palette of autumn colours
The Pozar Loutra (Baths) are 13 km away from Aridaia, the town closest to the area.
The last settlement before Loutra Pozar is Loutraki. A small spa town built on the shore of the thermal river with a significant tourist infrastructure (hostels, tavernas, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, organized facilities with changing rooms). The village is part of the European Network of Historic Lakes and is built at the foot of Mount Kaimaktsalan and is within walking distance of the Greek- former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia border.
Paved paths, terraces and alleys stretch alongside the springs that spout hot water with turbines and mix in with the cold water river. Here nature creates a fabulous warm water spa that is at a constant temperature of 37 degrees Celsius with a backdrop of spectacular scenery It’s water vapor adds to the whole experience and the photographs hardly do it justice.
Paths and oddly shaped wooden bridges lead along the river to the gorge of Loutra in a plantain forest. There is also an open-air swimming pool with a café, changing rooms and modern facilities.
Visitors arrive all year round from every corner of Greece and the Balkans for spa and hydro therapy, so it used 24-hours a day.
A natural pool with a cascade is open 24 hours for those who want to have a spa treatment even after midnight. The cost is 2 euros. You will need a bathing suit and bathrobe.
Dobro Pole: 4X4 route for a few
From Ano Loutraki, a forest road (15 km) leads to Dobro Pole and Kali Pediada. The route ascends with stunning views of the Almopia valley and crosses a virgin beech forest, so dense that the suns rays do not penetrate the foliage. It ends at an altitude of 1750 m near a natural basin with small lakes and canals, next to the border line that separates Greece from FYROM.
Dobro Pole is a 3,350-acre plateau with wet meadows and small bogs, built on a volcano crater. The small bogs are cavities of the soil with stagnant water and relatively small in depth that contain layers of moss and are covered by various rare aquatic plants.
This mountain peat has been included in the NATURA 2000 Network and has been designated as a Bird Protection area. To the east of Dobro Pole Peternik peak dominates, where important battles took place during the First World War.
Dobro Pole because of its isolation is a particularly important area for wolves. Indeed, in the thick, large forests of the region, especially to the east, it is likely that these beautiful animals still live there.
The route to Kali Pediada requires a four-wheeled vehicle. The dirt road that starts from Ano Loutraki is easy to begin with, but in the last few kilometers, after the clearings in Kalyvia Vassilakos, it becomes difficult with mud and waterfalls.
The forest of Orma
Within walking distance of the Pozar Baths, surrounded by a lush landscape with rivers and plane trees, are the beautiful lowlands of Orma, Megaplatanos, Polycarpi. From the forest of Orma, or Black Forest, it is said that Alexander the Great cut wood for the construction of the army’s arsenal. It is an enchanting landscape of towering trees.
To the north, the mountainous area of Voras or Kaimak-tsalan stands, as it is called the tallest and most impressive peak. It is the natural border between Greece and FYROM.
The name “Kaimak-Tsalan” was given by Turks and means literally thief of froth, because this mountain top is the first to have snow in the autumn and the lasts to have the snow melt in spring. At the summit there is the Ski Center (25 km) where the village Agios Athanasios with the dozens of stone guest houses and impressive chalets, which look beautiful when it is snowed.
Chestnut and tsipouro: The area is famous for its delicious chestnuts and tsipouro.
At the entrance of Pozar Loutra, in the square, there is a local outdoor market. Local producers sell traditional products from the area of Almopia (chestnuts, red peppers, vegetables, tsipouro).
In the autumn the wood stoves and fireplaces are lit up and tsipouro is served with pickled vegetables. Almost all housewives in Macedonia make home-made autumn pickles.