You don’t have to travel far in Greece to come across a link back to the country’s rich mythology. There are archaeological ruins of ancient temples, natural landmarks said to be inhabited by deities, and of course many islands, mountains and cities whose names recognise the greats of Ancient Greece. Perhaps one of the more fascinating of these historical connections can be found in the northern region of Epirus, where the Acheron River is known not least because of its ancient legacy, which is a million miles from its appeal to modern-day visitors.
The Acheron River was considered to be one of the five rivers of Hell, which separated the living world from Hades, the underworld. Souls would make their way to the banks of the Acheron where they would have to pay Charon, the ferryman, a silver coin as the one-way fare for their boat trip (return fares were generally unavailable). Failure to pay meant an eternity of wandering as a lost soul on the riverbank, which is why the dead in Ancient Greece were always buried with a silver coin under their tongue. It is likely that the Acheron River was granted this ominous status thanks to its position at the western end of the then-known world.
While the River Acheron may no longer represent the division of life and death, the surrounding region of Epirus draws discerning visitors to experience its many natural attractions. From its highest point in the mountain village of Glyki to the fishing village of Ammoudia where it enters the Ionian Sea, the Acheron winds its way through gorges, ponds and waterfalls, and offers a variety of outdoor adventure.
The region is popular for hiking, with quiet mountain paths and pretty stone bridges offering dramatic views of the river. For those who are happy to get their feet wet, some of the trails involve crossing the river bed and occasionally following its limestone bed through its narrowest points; there’s no shortage of locations in which to stop for a secluded picnic along the way. Local adventure outfitters also offer canyoning, kayaking and white-water rafting excursions, although it’s quite likely that the fare will be more than a solitary silver coin.
If you prefer your adventures on the dry side, mountain biking and horse riding trails run along the side of the river in many places. Considering the natural beauty of the region and the range of activities available, it’s perhaps surprising just how quiet it is, even in the height of summer; those who visit will doubtless agree that the feeling of escapism is one of the region’s attractions.
GIC The Villa Collection offer a range of accommodation in Lefkas.