Around mount Dirfys & mount Olympos
This section covers a large rural area, stretching between, and to either side of, the two peaks of Central Euboea— Mount Dirfys (1,743m) the island’s highest mountain, and the gentler Mount Olympos (1,171m) to its south. The area is one of the loveliest landscapes in the Aegean Islands. It is dotted with castles, mediaeval churches, springs, gorges and simple villages, forested with many varieties of trees, and generously watered. This is also an area rich in flora and fauna. The geography suggests no obvious itinerary: so the points of interest have simply been grouped and listed instead. For convenience, we propose making a base at Steni as a pleasant centre from which to explore the area.
Steni (26km from Chalcis) is an attractive village of balconied houses and stone dwellings—old mixed unselfconsciously with new—in a valley of plane-trees at the mouth of the pass across the east shoulder of Mount Dirfys. At c. 600m a.s.l. it remains pleasantly cool in the summer months. There is a delightful square shaded with planes, and the sound of running spring water is every where.
Above the village, the road climbs rapidly and unrelentingly to the watershed through forests of chestnut, pine, spruce, wild cherry and plane. At the top (8.5km, c. 1,000m a.s.l.)—still heavily forested and scented with pine—the views are magnificent into Boeotia and to wards Mount Parnassus, and over the east coast towards Skyros. The bald, conical peak of Mount Dirfys (1,743m) rises clear to the northwest. The mountain’s presiding deity was Hera, who assumed the epithet ‘Dirphya’. A track climbs from the ridge to the northwest above the tree line to the Fountain of Liri Refuge (36 beds. Information from: E.O.S. Halkidas, 22 Angeli Goviou, 34 100 Halkida, T. 22210 25230). From the refuge a path which is marked all the way leads to the long ridge of the summit in under two hours.
The top of Dirfys is largely convex in relief, i.e. it does not have the convoluted form with protected rifts and gorges which characterises the summits of Mount Parnassus and Mount Olympus (the Great) and which create rare microclimates rendering their flora so diverse. Notwithstanding there are several endemic species, such as the rare Minuartia dirphya, a kind of sandwort—which grows on the northern slopes of the mountain around the 900–1,000m altitude, in small mat-like cushions—recognisable by its starburst of long, woody stems tipped with the modest, white flower. Also at the higher altitudes and on the escarpments there are fritillaries, aubretia (Aubretia deltoides) and Viola delphinantha.
The road descends tortuously on the northern side to Stropones (16.5km), with many traditional stone houses, continuing beyond through magnificent scenery to the isolated shore at Chiliadou(29km).
The lower slopes
To the southwest of Mount Dirfys extends a wide, sloping apron of watered valleys which settle into a folded landscape, with something of the appearance of the rural areas inland of San Francisco in Northern California. In mediaeval times this fertile landscape was parcelled out amongst local feudal lords—hence the many Frankish and Venetian towers which punctuate the area, as for ex ample at Pisonas (a particularly well-preserved example) in the west, and at Amithea and Pyrgos, further east.
Euboea Island, Greece