- The peaks of Mt Ochi
- The picks of Ochi - fauna varieties
- Vegetation and flora
- The Mountains of Cavo d’ Oro
- Cape Kafireas
Although Mt Ochi is a relatively small mountain, its strong configuration (large altitude differentials, precipices, hard-toreach gorges) creates extended areas of untamed nature, endowing the mountain with immense aesthetic value.
The peaks of Mt Ochi present a unique combination of myth and untamed nature. The belligerent love of Zeus and Hera hovers over the “drakospito” of Mt Ochi. A later legend mentions that a huge dragon dwelt on the mountain peak and left traces of its prints on the rocks.
In the past, the peaks were always devoted to Hera, while, nowadays, they are devoted to the Prophet Elijah. Contemporary nature lovers also worship here, climbing up the mountain not only to explore the biodiversity, but also to marvel at the indescribable view. The peaks of Mt Ochi are a balcony looking over the Aegean. On a clear day one can see as far as the mountains of Chios, Samos and the Peloponnese.
Prophetis Ilias (1,399m) and Giouda (1,389m) are the highest peaks of Mt Ochi. Like giant stone castles, their sharp crags tower over the gorges and the Aegean Sea. The cluster of peaks called Neraida (fairy), a stony desert consisting of dozens of bare rocky rises, soar south of Prophetis Ilias. Upright stone formations appear to sway loosely in the searing summer sun.
In winter, they appear through the mist like living fairies. The rock of the peaks has the characteristic dark colour of amphibolite, a rather uncommon schist rock. Serpentine, a black-green rock that resembles lava, is also present. The peaks of Mt Ochi are amongst the few in southern Greece to have such rocks, constituting a unique geological monument.
On the peaks the fauna varieties
are few, but choice
The rock thrush (Monticola saxatilis), a fairly rare varicoloured mountain bird, nests in the vicinity of the mountain peaks.
The peaks are also adorned by the song of Cretzschmar’s bunting (Emberiza caesia), tawny pipit (Anthus campestris) and the woodlark (Lullula arborea). These species abound on Mt Ochi, although they are not widely disseminated in the European Union where their populations are small. Therefore, they are stringently protected according to the Community Directive on the conservation of wild birds.
Mt Ochi is the southernmost rampart of Evia and central Greece. This makes it the first stopover for migrating birds of prey after the difficult Aegean crossing. Some migrating birds fly over the territory in small flocks, a rare yet unforgettable sight.
The best period for observing birds of prey is either spring, when they are travelling north towards their nesting grounds, or fall when they are flying south to their winter refuges in Africa.
Birds of prey fly over from the beginning of March until the beginning of May, and from mid-August to October. Then, raptors such as the black kite, the marsh harrier, the Montagu’s harrier, the Eleonora’s falcon, the booted eagle, the short-toed snake eagle, the European honey buzzard and other rarer species overfly. There are more raptors in fall than in spring. In late fall, carrion-eating buzzards may also be observed. These harmless large creatures have a wingspan of over 2.5 meters!
Vegetation and flora
There is something special about the vegetation and the flora in the vicinity of the mountain peaks. In the midst of a stone desert, one encounters rare forest trees growing in the fissures of the rocks.
The desert is man-made. The remaining trees survive on cliffs, where neither fire nor goat was capable of reaching. Giouda’s aweinspiring cliff is adorned with various varieties of forest trees: rowan, holly, chestnuts, oak, ash, and maple. There are also dozens of yews. The yew is one of the rarest forest trees in Greece. It resembles the fir tree, leading foresters to call it “black fir”. The yew and holly trees dotting the peaks of Giouda and Prophetis Ilias are the last remnants of a rare “priority habitat”, all that remains of a primordial forest.
In addition to these few trees-monuments, some of the rarest wildflowers of Evia grow on the mountain peaks of Mt Ochi. Rare and endemic varieties like Cholhicum euboeum, Cerastium renumarki, Silene pentelica, Asperula spp., Scabiosa sp., Allium sp., and others grow in the rocky soil.
These varieties have survived, completely isolated for millennia. They are fully acclimated to the specific and harsh conditions of the mountain.
Just east of the highest peak of Mt Ochi, at an elevation of 900– 1,100m is a very small, ancient wild chestnut forest that covers an area of approximately 60 hectares. Kastanolongos is a natural museum, where every ancient tree constitutes a living piece of natural sculpture. It creates a green oasis under the untamed peaks of Mt Ochi, providing a panoramic view of the southernmost peninsula of Evia and from the Southern Evoikos Gulf to Attica and the north Cyclades. Because its aesthetic value is of national importance, Kastanolongos has been ranked as a Region of Particular Natural Beauty.
In autumn, walking on a soft carpet of fallen leaves, one can watch the foliage of the trees dancing in the blowing wind, its colours shifting between gold and shades of bronze. Because of the fact that hardly any chestnut forests with such ancient trees remain in Greece.
Kastanolongos is an extremely valuable ecosystem indeed, it is the last genuine chestnut forest of southern Evia. Each ancient chestnut is a hub of life with hiding places in its cavities, its hollow branches and stumps, where insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals find refuge. In the broader vicinity of the forest, 59 bird species, at least 16 of which nest in the forest, have been recorded.
There are small springs, ephemeral streams and small meadows that are valuable, not only to undomesticated nature, but also to livestock breeding. It is from the Kastanolongos vicinity that one sets off to reach the peaks of Mt Ochi. A trail connecting it with the Demosaris Gorge also exists. A forest road, through the village of Metochi, in addition to the good traditional trail from the village of Myloi, leads to the chestnut forest.
Just a breath away from the beautiful forest is the Mt Ochi climbing refuge. It offers shelter to anyone that wants to explore the forest and the mountain peaks.
The mountains of Cavo d’Oro are the northeast terminus of Mt Ochi.
The mountains of Cavo d’Oro are the northeast terminus of Mt Ochi. They form a long series of successive peaks that rise above the cape of Kafireas. Mt Palamidi (or Proka) with the unique ridge of Anemopyli, a wind-tossed rocky pass between the peaks of Proka (965m) and Prophetis Ilias of Cavo d’Oro (930m). The stone passage between the two peaks marks the boundary of Cavo d’Oro. Likarios, a Frankish knight of Karystos, is thought to have used it as his base of operations.
At the top of Prophetis Ilias, where nowadays there is a small church, the preserved ruins of an old and unidentified building may also be found. In contrast to the craggy outline of Proka, the neighbouring peaks are unbroken mountain masses of schist rock. The dominant peak here is Kerassia (1.227m), its grey amphibolite rock almost identical to the rock of the peaks of Mt Ochi. At the foot of Kerassia lies the valley of Komitis, with a stream that flows year-round to the sea. In the surrounding area, the schists form large smooth mountains like Milia and Aidoni. Because of the fact that these mountains have abundant water, they sustain small planetree forests, occasional chestnut trees, extensive erica heath lands and bracken that turn the dry landscape of the summer green.
Strawberry tree forests and the cool north wind
On the north slopes of Mt Palamidi, in the large rocky Vathyrema Gorge, the landscape features a vegetal mosaic composed of evergreen oaks, Kermes oaks, bracken and low groves of planetrees. The region’s only strawberry tree forests are located here.
Although strawberry trees are for the most part shrubs, this site also features small trees. When hiking on the mountains of Cavo d’Oro, one always feels the freshness of wind and sea. The north winds of the Aegean encounter the mountains and rise abruptly. In this way, they are chilled and transformed into a fog that distributes moisture on the north mountain slopes, even during the summer months. One finds oneself inside a forest of evergreen oaks and tree-like erica that is as damp as if it had rained. A thick carpet of moss and lichen covers the tree trunks and countless small insects feed upon the rotten leaves.
The mountains of Cavo d’Oro offer the hiker a unique experience. The alternation of successive steep and easy inclines and the cool north wind make the hike pleasant. The locals, an integral part of the landscape, are warm, hospitable people. You will be offered refreshment, whatever’s available. They will also give you a heartfelt smile and extend the hospitality of their tidy homes.
The famous cape, the terror of sailors
The cape of Kafireas or Cavo d’ Oro, is at the easternmost point of Evia. On the promontory, the small church of Aghios Gregorios stands in solitude, as if gazing over the sea to grant faith and hope to storm-tossed sailors in their hours of need.
Opposite lies the island of Arapis. Cavo d’ Oro is one of the most legendary place names in Greece, associated with a great many shipwrecks from antiquity to the present. The cape is said to have acquired its name, “Cape of Gold”, from the gold coins and other flotsam the sea cast up from shipwrecks. The Greek fleet, returning from the sack of Troy, was wrecked on Kafireas, a victim of the trickery of Nauplius who was the king of South Karystia. Seeking revenge for the murder of his son, Palamedes, he lit fires on the rocks in order to trick the Greeks into thinking that they were approaching safe harbour.
Sea Currents are a source of life
The seas around Cape Kafireas are some of the most productive marine environments in the Aegean.
The powerful sea currents bring to the surface nutrients that sustain a vast number of fish and a rich marine life. Subsequently, this marine life attracts thousands of seabirds. In spring and summer one can observe hundreds of Levantine Shearwaters (Puffinus yelkouan), a species of small albatross that reproduces only in the southern Mediterranean.
Dozens of herring gulls and, sometimes, Mediterranean shags nest regularly on Arapis. The Mediterranean shearwater, a relative of the Levantine shearwater, is also common. The rarest gull of the Aegean, Audouin’s gull, may also be found amongst the flocks of seabirds. The area is a sanctuary for the Mediterranean seal, which lives on remote desolate beaches. Its breeding grounds are located in the sea caves that exist in the broader Cavo d’Oro area.
In spring, the cape becomes a varicoloured sampler of thorny bushes that include rare and extraordinary plant varieties. A characteristic species is Centaurea spinosa, which forms thickets. Certain extremely rare endemic species, such as Armesia johnsenii, grow and flower mostly from the end of April to the beginning of June. That is the best time to visit the cape.