Location & Geography
Xylokastro, a city of 10.000 inhabitants, lies on the North coast of the Peloponnese, on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth. The administrative municipality of Xylokastro also encompasses the mountain villages of the northern slopes of mount Ziria, better known as Trikala villages. It thus offers its inhabitants and visitors a unique combination of pebbly beaches and rocky summits, with the additional bonus of a unique protected pine forest, aptly named "Pefkias" ("pefko" in Greek means pine).
Between Xylokastro and its mountainous hinterland stand intriguing limestone formations, best viewed from the monastery of the Madonna of the Summit ("Panagia Korfiotissa"). A number of caves can be found on mount Ziria. The best known amongst them is the "Cave of Hermes", where, according to the local legend, the God Hermes hid the immortal cows that he had stolen from his brother Apollo.
Holiday-making in Xylokastro
Xylokastro and its surrounding villages are a traditional holiday destination for Athenians. Due to the relatively short distance from Athens, husbands used to bring their families to this area to spend the whole of the summer season, while they commuted to and from their job in the capital. This makes for an area untouched by mass foreign tourism, where those seeking authentic holiday experiences can witness the customs and mores of contemporary Greek society. On the plus side, the absence of mass tourism also means receiving the hospitality normally reserved for locals, for example original and high quality Greek meals. On the minus side, this can occasionally also mean that the menu is only in Greek!
Due to its varied landscape, the Xylokastro area can cater to the needs of a variety of different tastes: there is the sea and the beach for relaxing and swimming; the pine forest for walking, jogging, Nordic walking or resting in the shade; the mountain for hiking, horse-riding, cycling and skiing (yes, there is even a small ski centre on mount Ziria!); picturesque villages in beautiful natural surroundings for touring; and archeological sites and monasteries for sight-seeing.
But even if you do not wish to move around a lot, staying in Xylokastro will prove a great holiday. There are numerous sea-front tavernas, nice coffee houses, beach bars and discos, two open-air cinemas for the summer, a luxury spa and a good local market for foodstuffs, souvenirs and clothes. You can therefore enjoy a restful holiday, lying on the beach during the day and strolling next to the sea in the evening.
Like most of Greece, Xylokastro boasts a history that goes back to the dawn of historic times.
During Antiquity it was the harbour of the commonwealth of Pellini, now a sleepy mountain village on the way towards Trikala, and it was called "Aristonaftes". Ruins of the ancient harbour can still be seen outside the modern city of Xylokastro. The harbour took its name from the Argonauts, who stopped here on their way to Colchis, during their quest to find the Golden Fleece.
During the 18th century, Xylokastro, called at the time Oxokambos and sparcely populated, housed the warehouses of the rich merchants of Trikala, on the slopes of mount Ziria. Most of the city was covered in pines, of which just a small part remains today, the "Pefkias" forest. During this time and in the 19th century Xylokastro produced black currants of the famous Corinth variety, which were sent by boat to Patras on the Ionian coast and then on to Western Europe.
In the early 20th century the beautiful beach and pine forest of Xylokastro attracted the attention of foreign visitors, who chose the sleepy little town for their summer holidays. During this same time renowned poet Angelos Sikelianos and his American wife Eva Palmer built their gorgeous mansion inside the pine forest and invited famous writers, musicians and dancers to spend time with them.
In 1919 Xylokastro was proclaimed the government's official summer retreat for its foreign gusts, thus creating the first tourist hot spot in Greece. Prime ministers and heads of state, famous artistists and rich families all flocked to Xylokastro to spend their summer holidays.
In the 1960s the creation by the Typaldos brothers of a camping inside the pine forest attracted still more foreign tourists and Xylokastro was transformed every summer into a cosmopolitan resort, one of the very first of its kind.
A new era dawned for Xylokastro in the 1990s with the building of a new marina, an outdoor and an indoor theatre and the hosting of summer football and beach volley games. Today, with the pedestrianisation of its beach-front promenade and the completion of a number of new hotels, Xylokastro is ready to face the hospitality challenges of the 21st century!