Lower Chalaris Canyon – Nas to Raches

Nas Street
The streets of Nas, a tiny village of fifty permanent inhabitants, on the northwest coast of Ikaria.

Nas is as far west as we can come on the main road from Evdilos. If we continue down the west part of the island on the dirt road toward Karkinagri, we will no longer be covered under our rental car agreement.

Nas child
Outside the one taverna that is currently open, a child plays in the sunlight.
Nas Taverna
Inside, her mother makes us some delicious food – souvlaki, boiled greens, beets, and fava dip with lemon.
Nas Beach
The village of Nas overlooks a picturesque beach, as well as the ruins of a temple for Artemis.

Nas, beloved by Ikarians, is believed to be the very first settlement on the island, and was an important port for ships seeking harbor on the way to Asia Minor.

Temple from afar
Temple ruins from afar.

The word “Nas” is thought to be derived from the Greek work for temple, “Naos,” or a modification of the ancient name”Ma,” used for the goddess Artemis throughout Asia Minor.

Trail down to Nas Beach
The trail down to the beach in Nas, which is considered to be one of Ikaria’s most beautiful. It is also one of a handful of nude beaches on the island.

Nas Beach

Nas Beach steps
Looking back up toward the top, with most of the village of Nas visible on the hill above.
Chalaris Mouth
The mouth of the Chalaris River, which ends at the beach in Nas. The Chalaris River is the biggest river in Ikaria.
Nas Beach
From the ruins of a 15th century harbor quay looking out toward Nas Beach.

Nas Beach

Temple Ruins
In the 6th century, a temple was built in this spot for the mother goddess Artemis, protector of seafarers, hunters, and wild animals.
Temple Ruins
The temple was in fair condition until 1830, when most of the stone blocks were dismantled by villagers for the single purpose of constructing a church.

According to historical records, the temple’s statue of Artemis, which was originally housed in the temple, was hidden in the nearby river. The giant columns of the temple are visible underwater if snorkeling off the coast.

Nas Trailhead
A hike through the lower Chalaris Canyon starts at this point near the mouth of the Chalaris River.

In order to access the trailhead, which is difficult to find and obscured on the side of the road, we start from the main road through Nas and continue toward Karkinagri. Just past Nas, the road curves and there is a small overpass that crosses over the canyon. We park at this point, next to the small pool pictured above, and locate a red marker for the trail on the east side of the overpass, climbing along the side of the hill.

Chalaris Trail
The trail starts in a boulder field.
Chalaris Trail
This hike is listed as challenging, and lives up to its reputation.

The trail, which climbs along the steep slope of the Chalaris Canyon, promises to shred shoes and weaken knees, and is not recommended for those who are scared of heights.

Chalaris Trail
Pools are nestled in amongst the rocky landscape.

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris Hike

Chalaris Trail
From the pools near the mouth of the river, a steep ascent begins.

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris Tree

Chalaris Cliff

Chalaris hike
A dense network of black tubing has been painstakingly placed through the most remote areas of Ikaria, and brings water from high mountain springs to villages all over the island.
Chalaris Trail
The view looking back toward Nas

Chalaris Trail

Chalaris trees
Climbing toward the Raches region, pine tree forests appear. The needles cover uneven ground, which makes for an unpredictable hiking situation.

Chalaris Forest

Chalaris Forest

Chalaris View

Chalaris View

In 2005, a native Ikarian advocated for the development of hiking paths throughout this area, in an effort not only to bring awareness to the natural beauty of the gorge, but also to promote future protection of Chalaris Canyon in the face of environmental concerns such as overgrazing.

A network of trails was subsequently etched into the landscape here – a labor of love on the part of local volunteers from groups such as SCI Hellas volunteers and the Citizens’ Movement of Raches.

Chalaris Canyon
The view looking down Chalaris Canyon toward Ikaria’s interior.

Tragically, in the fall of 2010, torrential rainstorms caused a massive landslide on the overgrazed, fragile slopes of Lower Chalaris Canyon, which leveled the earth and destroyed most of the trees, waterfalls, caves and pools along the river. A huge amount of debris was strewn throughout the canyon – mostly broken plastic irrigation tubingĀ  – and required a massive clean-up during the following spring.

The Upper Chalaris Canyon is preserved in its previous state, and is considered to be an even more challenging hike that allows access to a waterfall and pool network within the Raches area. However, the only entrance to the trail that we could locate, near Profitas Elias just past Christos Raches, does not appear to be upkept, and is inaccessible from the road.

Raches Door
After several hours of hiking, the Lower Chalaris Trail leads up to the village of Christos Raches.
Round of Raches
Christos Raches is a base for a network of hiking trails called “The Round of Raches.”

The inner western section of Ikaria was historically very isolated. Up until several decades ago, the trails that were created by locals over hundreds of years served mainly Ikarians themselves. They were intended for pedestrians and animals who were transporting various goods from one village to another.

Since 1995, an eco-tourism effort has been underway, with the support of local organizations, to maintain and extend this network of trails so that all visitors may enjoy the rugged beauty of the island’s interior.

Round of Raches

The trail markers for the Round of Raches are clearly marked, with various colors and shapes denoting which trails to follow. This happens to be the trail that is marked with a yellow-bordered red dot, which means that at some point, this trail will split into a red-marked trail and a separate yellow-marked trail.

Round of Raches
The “Round of Raches” offers multiple options for hikes in the area.

Round of Raches

Round of Raches

Round of Raches
A view of Christos Raches, as we follow the “monopatia” or footpaths, away from the village.

Round of Raches

Round of Raches

The hike from Nas to Raches and back takes about five-six hours.

Armenistis
Traveling back along the north shore, our last stop for the day is in Armenistis.

In summer, Armenistis is the most popular village in Ikaria, due to its proximity to the more desirable sandy beaches as well as the hiking trails of Raches. In winter, it is a ghost town.

Armenistis

Armenistis

Leonidas and Ioanna
We find only one place open in the whole town – a sweet shop called “Grand Mam’s Recipes,” run by a husband and wife named Leonidas and Ioanna.
Armenistis Loukoumades
The sweet shop sells loukoumades and homemade goat milk ice cream. Also available are cookies, Ikarian herbal teas, various savory pies and jars of jam and spoon sweets.

Armenistis

2 Replies to “Lower Chalaris Canyon – Nas to Raches”

  1. Just thank you for this story, tomorrow we will probably try the hike with my family. I hope we don’t get lost!!!

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