Producers from the popular television show, The Amazing Race once filmed an episode in Arachova, Greece. Like the show’s contestants racing around the world, our tour group demonstrated all the nimbleness and stamina of seasoned road warriors exploring this small mountain town on the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth.
We began by climbing the iconic clock tower offering commanding views of the village’s terraced hillsides and red-tiled roofs. At the foot of Mount Parnassus, Arachova sits at an elevation of 2,700 feet and has a population of about 3,000. The area played an important role in the war for Greek independence from Ottoman rule when a decisive 1826 battle drove the Ottomans out. Toward the end of the 1800s, the town grew when archaeologists excavating the nearby site of ancient Delphi established their operations base here. Today it’s often a base for tourists who visit Delphi and athletes who ski Mount Parnassus in winter.
There was a chill in the late September air when we walked around the town and stopped at a family-run cheese production facility. The Christos family produces Formaella, a mild cheese designed for grilling, only in Arachova from sheep and goat milk. The size of the facility limits annual production to 50,000 units. Since there is no room for expansion in Arachova and the cheese makers can’t produce it elsewhere and still legally brand it Formaella, they sell the limited output only in Greece.
Our next stop gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of traditional Greek candies and other sweets. Melted chocolate swirled in vats as husband and wife owners Thomas and Effie Papasthathis operated the equipment and passed out samples of a tasty, chocolate-covered pistachio, walnut and almond mixture.
Our lunch at Taverna Kaplanis took the eat-local movement to the ultimate level. While the owner is a wine producer and raises the goats and sheep consumed in the restaurant, his wife creates the actual menu and cooks the traditional Greek dishes. We benefited from their teamwork by dining on spinach pie, fried zucchini blossoms, grilled Formaella cheese, stuffed cabbage, green salads, sausage with green peppers and tomato, lamb chops, rooster fetuccini and french fries.
As if this weren’t enough to satisfy our midday cravings, an intriguing Greek dessert topped the meal. Moustalevria is a flat, pancake-shaped concoction created by boiling the remnants of grapes, after pressing out their juice, with wood ash. The cook then filters out the solids and boils the liquid again with flour to a gelatin-like consistency and then adds ground pistachios.
Recent rain in the area afforded a perfect opportunity to work off the meal by going on a hike to hunt for mushrooms in the National Forest of Parnassus. There are 280 different kinds of mushrooms that grow in the forest and it is legal to pick up to one kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) per person.
We passed under towering Kefalonia fir trees, a species that grows only in this forest and on the island of Kefalonia. Along our route we came upon an intact stone wall that lined a 3500-year-old path to Delphi through the forest. Political leaders of the early Greek city-states sought the advice of the famed oracle of Delphi whose visions allegedly predicted the future. A massive building complex developed at Delphi where the city-states erected temples to the gods who had bestowed fortunes on them. In addition, each city-state maintained a treasury building which housed the spoils that it had looted in its wars.
That evening, we capped our perfect day by dining on fresh fish in the seaside village of Antikyra at the wharf-side Valaouras
Restaurant before heading back up the mountain to spend the night in Arachova at the Skamnos Boutique Hotel.
–David Lee Drotar
To book a room at the Skamnos Boutique Hotel, contact: