Karpenisi: Your Guide to the Switzerland of Greece

Karpenisi Greece
Karpenisi and Evritania are characterised by quaint stone villages and traditional living

There are plenty of things to do in Karpenisi, Greece to justify spending as much as an entire week in this region – especially if you are someone who loves immersing themselves in nature and the great outdoors. 

Karpenisi is characterised by its dramatic mountain ranges, its winding roads that hug the sides of cliffs, its quaint stone villages, and its dense forests. This region is often referred to as being the “Switzerland of Greece” on account of its natural beauty. That name certainly wasn’t accidental.

Even the most well-travelled visitors will find that Karpenisi takes their breath away. This may well be one of Greece’s best-kept secrets! 

About Karpenisi

A beautiful church in the mountains: Palio Mikro Chorio
A beautiful church in the mountains: Palio Mikro Chorio

Karpenisi sits on the mountain of Timfristos in Evritania, Central Greece. It has escaped the eyes and attention of international tourists, however, the small town is a popular winter getaway destination for Greek couples. 

In the winter months, many locals flock here to ski at the nearby winter sports centre of Velouchi. Although it is skiing which put Karpenisi on the map, the region has so much more to offer. Envisage snuggling up beside the fireplace in your hotel room as you sip warm honey wine (oinomelo), and gaze out of your window across to the snow-capped mountain peaks. 

Imagine days spent trekking through pine forests along routes that reveal hidden waterfalls and secret caves transformed into Orthodox chapels. Picture yourself driving along quiet country roads, uncovering tiny stone villages where locals play backgammon and serve smoked country sausages in homely tavernas. All of this provides a glimpse into what you can expect in Karpenisi. 

Things to do in Karpenisi 

Proussos Monastery is 25km away from Karpenisi
Proussos Monastery is 25km away from Karpenisi

Karpenisi town itself is a stunning place. The town is the capital of the Evritania region of Greece and is larger than you may imagine. With ample coffee shops, tavernas, bars, and stores, Karpenisi has everything you need for a short stay. This is the perfect base for a wider exploration of Evritania. 

The highlight of Karpenisi for me was not the town itself, but the tiny traditional Greek villages nearby – Palio Mikro Chorio with its beautiful churches and stone houses, Proussous with its monastery perched on the edge of a cliff, and Gavros with its quaint shops and tavernas.

Visit Neo Mikro Chorio

Palio Mikro Chorio and Neo Mikro Chorio are two villages that sit on opposite sides of the road, approximately 20km outside of Karpenisi. Once upon a time, there was only one village here. Sadly, a landslide that affected the region in the 1960s destroyed many of the houses in Palio Mikro Chorio. The locals had to rebuild their homes on the opposite side of the valley, thus creating Neo Mikro Chorio.

Neo Mikro Chorio is a cute place to drive through. There are plenty of hotels and tavernas here if you are looking for an alternative place to stay or a place to grab a spot of dinner. However, it is Palio Mikro Chorio that steals the show.

Fall in Love with Palio Mikro Chorio 

The adorable village of Palio Mikro Chorio
The adorable village of Palio Mikro Chorio

Palio Mikro Chorio translates to “old little village” – a description that perfectly fits the quaint, picturesque nature of the settlement. Travelling here feels like a journey back in time. The village is characterised by bustling cobbled squares filled with maple trees, and old water fountains where locals sit and admire the views of the leafy green valley below. 

Navigate your way through the labyrinth-like network of narrow passageways and cobbled streets to uncover traditional architecture, idyllic Orthodox churches laden with vibrant frescoes and colourful roofs, and charming stores selling local products. 

Palio Mikro Chorio is a great place to sample galaktoboureko – a local dessert comprised of semolina custard wrapped in sweet filo pastry that is native to this part of Greece. To Rakomelo cafe is known for making the best galaktoboureko in town.

Heading into one of the artisanal shops owned by the elderly locals is also a great spot for shopping for edible souvenirs such as chestnut marmalade, candied fruits, homemade fruit liqueur, and jam.  

Embark on a Pilgrimage to the Monastery of Proussos 

Proussos Monastery, central Greece
Can you spot me? My coat kind of blends into the mountain!

Visiting the Monastery of Proussos is one of the best things to do in Karpenisi. It’s a bit of a trek (45-minute drive by car), but it will certainly be a highlight of your trip to Evritania.

The Monastery of Proussos dates back to 829AD and is one of the most important monasteries in central Greece. Once upon a time, dozens of ancient monasteries occupied the mountains of Evritania but today, the old monastery at Proussos is one of the only few that remain. 

Enjoy Coffee with a View in Proussos Village 

Complimentary Greek coffee (Ellinikos Kaffes) served at Proussos Monastery
Complimentary Greek coffee (Ellinikos Kaffes) served at Proussos Monastery

Just a few kilometers away from Proussos Monastery is the namesake village of Proussos. Perched on the edge of the cliff face, the village is inhabited by just 15 elderly residents. There is little to see here, but it’s worth a brief stop.

At the centre of the village sits a beautiful plane tree. The coffee shop besides this offers wonderful views across the valley and out to the Monastery at Prossous.

If you are feeling hungry while passing through Prossous, stop by Mr. Stremmenos’ beloved butcher shop. Upon request, he will prepare you a charcuterie board comprised of various local cheeses and cold cuts.
Alternatively, the nearby “Ellinon Geusis” taverna serves up all of the traditional Greek classics.

Stop For Dinner in Gavros 

Gavros is a small village in Evritania that sits halfway along the road between Neo Mikro Chorio and Prossous. It’s sometimes referred to as “the one with all the tavernas” as the main road of this small place is jam-packed full of traditional restaurants that serve up smoked country sausages and other regional delicacies. 

Enjoy Driving Along Scenic Mountain Roads 

Dramatic Scenery in the mountains of Evritania
Dramatic Scenery in the mountains of Evritania

The experience of simply driving along the country roads that twist and turn through the mountains of Evritania is as much of an experience as setting out and exploring the villages on foot. The road that connects Karpenisi town with Proussos is particularly scenic.

Expect to pass by roaring river rapids, through dense pine forests, and pass beneath makeshift tunnels carved out of the cliffs. There are several places where you can stop to take photos of the incredible nature. Best of all, you will often find that yours is the only car on the road – giving a perfect sense of peace and seclusion.

Hike to Religious Shrines and Hidden Waterfalls 

Beautiful Karpenisi

Karpenisi is a hiker’s paradise. Pick up a local map at your hotel and you will see dozens of walking trails interweaved through the area. The trails are well-marked with way-point signs, however, some of the routes are very steep or they lead through wet, sludgy woodland so be sure to dress appropriately and wear your walking boots.

For hidden waterfalls and spectacular natural scenery, head to the valley of Pantavrechi (translation: “always rains”). The name was awarded to the area on account of the numerous gentile waterfalls whose water flow is similar to falling rain.

Ride the River Rapids at Dipotamo

Dipotamo in Greek translates to meaning “two rivers”. Indeed, this location in Karpenisi marks the point at which two rivers meet (the Krikellopotamos river and the Karpenisiotis river merge to create the Trikerioti river).

This spot is a popular place for river rafting – especially in the period between Autumn and Spring. This is a nice alternative activity for adrenaline junkies. You will find several small travel companies in Karpenisi town that will help you arrange a spot of white water rafting if that interests you.

Try Your Hand at Skiing

The Karpenisi Ski Centre at Mount Velouchi is one of the main reasons that people travel to Karpenisi. Whether you are a self-proclaimed snow bunny or a complete beginner, it’s possible to try your hand at the slopes here.

Equipment rental and ski lessons are available for complete newbies. Velouchi boasts 15 different slopes, 3 of which are off-piste. There’s also an upscale “ice bar” for those who consider themselves more of an apres-ski sort of person. Velouchi is just 12km away from the centre of Karpenisi.

Where to Eat in Karpenisi 

Shopping for homemade Greek deli products in Karpenisi
Shopping for homemade Greek deli products in Karpenisi

Classic Greek dishes are available all over the country, and Karpenisi is no exception to that rule. There are also several regional delicacies that are particular to Evritania and are well worth sampling while in the area. 

You will find that a lot of the restaurants and tavernas that sit along country roads here hunt their own animals, or grow and gather their own ingredients. This allows for unique dishes such as wild boar, or rabbit casserole. “Country Sausages” and “Katiki” (soft cheese made with sheep’s milk) are two popular local delicacies.

A Selection of notable restaurants and tavernas in Karpenisi are detailed below.

Taverna Mesostrati (Μεσοστράτι) – Our favourite place in Karpenisi. This is a traditional taverna that sits on the country road between Karpenisi and Megalo Chorio. It’s popular among locals and serves food typical to Evritania.

Kafeneio tis Kyra Paraskevis Megalo Chorio – A popular spot known for its Ottoman-influenced desserts: sweet ekmek ice cream, and galaktoboureko.

To Rakomelo – A cafe bar in Palio Mikro Chorio rumored to sell the “best galaktoboureko” in Evritania.

Mylos Cafe Meze – A trendy mezedopoleío spot, popular among young people in Karpenisi, and specialising in serving small plates (mezes).

Helidona Guesthouse Restaurant – Homely taverna in Neo Mikro Chorio that serves sumptuous marinated meat dishes (stewed beef, goat, etc) and traditional pasta.

Where to Stay in Karpenisi 

Views from our balcony

The town cascades down the side of the mountain. If you can, opt for one of the hotels that sit near the top of the hill so that you can enjoy incredible views from your hotel balcony. We stayed at the Semeli Guesthouse. It was simple, but cute and homely and owned by a lovely older lady who prepared us lots of homemade pastries, cakes, and jams for breakfast.

A few notable suggestions on places to stay in Karpenisi are detailed below. 

Semeli Guesthouse

My friend and I stayed at the Semeli Guesthouse in Karpenisi town. Rooms start at €65 per night, and we had this magnificent view from our balcony.

It was a cosy, homely place set in a traditional stone house. You can browse the latest room rates and availability at Semeli here.

Chalet Likouresi Village

It doesn’t get more “winter wonderland” than renting an entire wooden chalet within the woodlands. Chalets at Likouresi village are spacious and have their own fireplaces.

The properties are located just outside the entrance to Karpenisi town. A continental breakfast is included in the price and served up inside the dinner cabin. Cabins start from €90 per night. You can browse the latest rates and availability here.

Selestina Boutique Hotel

Selestina Boutique hotel is a luxurious property in the centre of Karpenisi. Sweeping views of Mount Velouchi can be enjoyed from the balconies and terraces, while the interiors are decorated with elegant, plush furnishings. All rooms have orthopedic mattresses and indulgent spa baths.

Rates start at €120 per night including a hearty breakfast. The latest rates and availability can be explored here.

Getting to Karpenisi 

The main street in Karpenisi, Evritania
The main street in Karpenisi, Evritania

Karpenisi is 286 km and four hour’s drive away from Athens. The route is relatively straightforward, but you really need to have your own car or hire a car in order to get there and to be able to explore the Evritania region once you arrive. You can travel to Karpenisi by KTEL bus, but that will restrict you when you arrive, as there is little to no transport between Karpenisi and the various villages.

Karpenisi by Car

The easiest route is to drive from Athens to Lamia, and then follow the signs for Karpenisi. From Lamia, it is approximately one hour to Karpenisi. 

There are a lot of toll stations between Athens and Karpenisi. Unfortunately, the journey gets quite pricey. Expect to spend €45 each way on gas and tolls. Be sure to always have plenty of change for the various toll booths.

Karpenisi by Public Transport

KTEL Evrytanias runs between Athens and Karpenisi via Lamia. The journey takes 4 hours and 45 minutes. Tickets cost approximately € 21 per person, per way. Greek buses are subject to seasonal and schedule changes, so check the specific timetable on the KTEL website.

Parting Words 

Traditional vilages in Central Greece offer a journey back in time
Traditional vilages in Central Greece offer a journey back in time

Have any more questions about travelling to Karpenisi Greece and things to do in the area? My friend and I spent a long weekend there this December, and I’ve been living in Greece for the last two and a half years. I’m happy to help out with any questions you may have. Safe travels. Geia sou! Melissa xo 

Disclaimer: Like most travels on High Heels and a Backpack, this adventure to Karpenisi was self-funded and not sponsored. This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase through some links here, I will obtain a small amount of commission charged at no extra cost to you. 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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