A lesser known tourist spot, Karditsa is full of surprises for the adventurer, the nature lover and the explorer of untouched traditions. Combining historic monuments and gastronomic pleasures with astonishing natural beauty all within easy reach for a one-day trip; it is a gateway to numerous activities that will turn into unforgettable experiences.
Things to do in Karditsa
A cyclist’s paradise
Just 10 kilometres away from the foot of the Pindos mountains, Karditsa marks the western end of the plain of Thessaly. With a good reputation for ecological awareness, sound urban planning and an extensive and impressive network of pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes, the city is also known as “the Amsterdam of Greece”. Bicycles are considered an integral part of Karditsa’s identity and you can easily rent yours, with an easybike card or a credit card, at one of the municipal bike rental stations in various parts of the town. Cycling is definitely the best way to explore the city and its nearby attractions, such as the Paparatza Forest or Grove of a Thousand Trees, which has served as a recreation spot since the Ottoman times.
History, architectural gems and a peacock kingdom
Karditsa is the newest city of Thessaly, but you can still capture the aura of its past strolling around Valvi Street, that leads to the impressive Municipal Market; a vestige of the architectural glories of the 19th century, currently home to various cultural events and a shopping center. Two neoclassical buildings that also deserve your attention are the old Pallas hotel, in Karditsa’s Central Square, and Arni hotel built in the typical 1920’s French style. Having explored the city center, take a rest at the Pafsilipos Park, among couples, families and peacocks that roam freely on the grass. Then head back to the city center to enjoy its multiple sightseeing options such as the Archaeological Museum, the adjacent Municipal Art Gallery and the Municipal Folklore Museum.
Greece’s most impressive artificial lake
About an hour’s drive to the west of Karditsa, at an altitude of 750 m lies Lake Plastira, one of the top mountain destinations in Greece. The 55 kilometre ride around the lake will fill your eyes with amazing landscapes and your camera with postcard-like pictures reminiscent of the Alps. Perfect for relaxation, Lake Plastira is also ideal for a variety of activities, such as water sports, climbing, horse-riding, archery or paragliding, or simply to enjoy stunning bird’s-eye views of the Agrafa. Proud custodians of the lake, 18 traditional villages will open their doors to you. They all have something special to offer up their sleeve; Neochori and Kalivia Pezoulas are usually thronging with visitors, while villages like Kastania and the fairy tale world of Neraida afford more tranquil, secluded moments and the forests around beautiful Belokomiti alone provide a first class lesson in ecology!
Picturesque nearby villages
Karditsa is surrounded by beautiful small villages, all of them representative of traditional local architecture. Visit Rentina, the “Queen of Agrafa”, certainly a religious experience to behold with a plethora of byzantine churches, a 15th century monastery and a Byzantine Art Museum. Pamper yourself in the modern hydrotherapy center of Smokovo, with the therapeutic natural springs soothing tired limbs since ancient times. Be one of the few who discover the original beauty of Oxya village, or pay a visit to mountainous Mouzaki, an important commercial and administrative center of the region, with the river Pamisos passing through it. Another highlight of the area is the well-preserved medieval castle of Fanari (Kastro), affording stunning views across the plain of Thessaly.
Tasting local delicacies
Sausages containing leek and seasoned with aromatic herbs, traditional Thessalian pies (“plastos”, “batzina”), delicious cheese (“feta”, “graviera”) and hand-made pasta (“trahanas”, “hilopites”) rank among the top gourmet experiences you can enjoy here. Like in most mountainous areas, Karditsa’s cooks lean heavily to the carnivorous side, with lamb, rabbit, rooster and wild boar on the menu, but there are also options for fish lovers based on salmon and trout. For desert, don’t miss the chance to try the typical local sweet “retseli” made from zucchini and grape must.