Tour 14 - Holomondas - MTB

The route high up into the HOLOMONDAS Mountains starts from the plateia (main village square) in the mountain village of TAXIARCHIS. A short stretch on asphalt roads is followed by gravel tracks, leading past smoking charcoal burners' stacks and through dense oak and chestnut forests to two remote tavernas. Tip: this is the only place where unique wild boar steaks and delicious chestnut honey are available. Cycling further on, the numerous fir plantations reveal another source of income for the mountain farmers. This is where Holomondas fir trees are planted for sale throughout Greece as Christmas trees. As you make your way along the mountain slopes, there are plenty of spots affording unforgettable views of the endless HOLOMONDAS forests. Pure enjoyment follows in the form of the solidly constructed asphalt road from the mountain ridges straight down to the village of TAXIARCHIS. On the way down there is plenty of time to take in the magnificent panoramic view towards the village and its environs. In the village itself, there is a bakery about 200m to the left of the plateia (main village square) with a tree growing up from the inside through its roof. The village church is also well worth a visit.

Tips: Always wear a helmet and cycling glasses when riding. Take sufficient food and water for the trip with you. The good fish tavernas in PORTO KOUFO are well worth visiting in October, when fresh tuna fish is available.

Start point: The kiosk in the plateia (large square) in the centre of TAXIARCHIS.

Getting there: Take the NEA MOUDANIA – NIKITI coast road and then head via ORMILIA and VRASTAMA on to TAXIARCHIS. If you are already inland, this charcoal burners' village is on the POLIGIROS – ARNEA B-road which leads over the Holomondas Mountains. The turnoff for TAXIARCHIS is clearly signposted. Follow the signpost for the CENTRE from the village entrance until you reach the kiosk in the plateia. Next to it there is a striking statue dating from the Wars of Independence.

0.0 km Head past the bench next to the kiosk and STRAIGHT ON down from the square, following the road down a gentle slope. A few metres further on, turn LEFT into the first alleyway and head steeply uphill. At the next fork in the road bear HALF RIGHT and ride on uphill through the village. In a short while you will come to the sports field and the first charcoal stacks.

1.2 km Just behind the first stacks there is a large goat watering trough on your right. Here you should turn RIGHT onto a gravel trail which winds its way uphill, passing below a water sump and on through oak forest. Keep on the main trail, turning HALF LEFT uphill at the next fork in the road.

2.7 km At the next turnoff do not head straight on downhill; turn LEFT UPHILL onto the rougher trail.

4.0 km On reaching the B-road linking Poligiros to Arnea, turn LEFT and ride to two tavernas situated opposite the Chapel of Profitis Ilias. This is a great place to drop in for a typical local meal. After your break head a short way BACK in the direction you came, turning LEFT onto the first track after the second taverna. This gravel trail leads on downhill through the gigantic oak forests of the Holomondas range.

5.7 km Turn SHARP RIGHT at the next intersecting road, and at

7.0 km you will come to a turnoff by a rock marked with a red cross. Head STRAIGHT ON uphill, then bear HALF LEFT back downhill at the next fork in the road up on the hilltop. Turn RIGHT at the next intersecting road and you will come to a new, solidly constructed asphalt road.

8.2 km Turn LEFT onto the asphalt road and follow it. Though there are a few pleasant descents, this stretch actually leads gently uphill.

12.3 km Important crossroads!! The road to the left heads to Arnea; the one ahead leads straight back to Taxiarchis; the road on the right goes to Poligiros. Turn RIGHT towards Poligiros. This road leads uphill over one of the highest points in the mountains and then snakes its way back down. On one of the next sharp right-hand bends, at

15.1 km there is a junction with a wide new asphalt road. Turn LEFT onto this, then LEFT again at the next intersecting road a short distance beyond and follow the sign to TAXIARCHIS.

18.0 km Above the village of Taxiarchis you will come to an intersecting road with a stop sign. There is also a road sign pointing left uphill to ARNEA, but you should turn RIGHT DOWNHILL and follow the sign to TAXIARCHIS, heading back to the memorial in the plateia.

At a number of crucial points en route, the right direction is clearly indicated by specially posted bicycle signs.