Worth a Trip: Pyli & Around

About 18km southwest of Trikala is the village of Pyli (‘gate’ in Greek), opening to a spectacular gorge and one of Greece’s more inviting wilderness areas in the southern Pindos Range. It is home to the stunning little 13th-century Church of Porta Panagia. To reach it, cross the bridge from Pyli and follow the signs to the left. Five kilometres from Pyli is the Moni Agiou Vissarion, a 16th-century monastery that stands on a slope of Mt Koziakas. Only men are permitted to enter. To get here, cross the bridge over the river, take the first turn left (annoyingly the sign, in Greek, is 20m after the left turn so don't expect a clear indicator). From here, you must wind your way up the hill for another 4.2km.

From Pyli, you can do three driving routes. The first is a half-day circuit around each side of the gorge. The route goes via Elati, a mountaintop village and something of a hill station for Trikala. Elati was called Tierna before the Germans burned it to the ground for harbouring Greek resistance fighters in WWII. After Elati you then head around the gorge in an anticlockwise direction.

The second circuit heads from Pyli all the way to Kalambaka, a route that climbs steadily through breathtaking alpine scenery, passing Elati with an optional detour via the smaller alpine outposts of Neraidochori and Pertouli (also a ski centre). Back on the main road, continue to head north, passing several mountain villages, before coming out at Kalambaka. Allow a leisurely day.

A third route takes you south from Trikala via Pyli to beautiful Lake Plastira, home to a fascinating botanical garden at Neohori.