The Oak Woodland of Xeromero
In the western part of the prefecture of Aetoloakarnania in Xeromero province, just 30 km from Agrinio, the largest city of the county, is the only Oak Woodland in Greece and one of the largest in Europe.
Based in Agrinio, a city that would ensure plenty of accommodation and leisure options, we started searching the Oak Woodland (Velanidodasos). The shortest path to reach it was from the Ochthia village towards the monastery of Ligovitsi (Monastery of Virgin Mary).
There is no option for organized visits to Oak Woodland neither frequent routes via public transportation. However, in Agrinio one can find cheap car rental services. The journey takes about 25′-30 to the Woodland entrance and about 40 minutes to the Monastery of Virgin Mary where you can admire the magnificent view over the Lake Ozeros.
The best time to visit Velanidodasos and see all its sights and beauty, is spring. Nature is at its best and the place is filled with colors of the countless wildflowers springing up everywhere in the green paths between the oaks. Countless anemones, rare wild orchids and the rare Paeonia mascula russoi are among other 256 species of plants that exist there. Velanidodasos is also an important refuge for several species of animals such as 127 species of birds, small mammals, reptiles and various species of insects. Including the largest moth in Europe, the Saturnia pyri.
Besides its natural beauty the area is of great cultural interest as within the forest there are several archaeological sites and Christian monuments of Byzantine and post-Byzantine era. Especially the monastery of Panagia in Ligovitsi hill, from where the view to Ozeros Lake is magnificent.
In the area, there are dozens of trails that you can follow and enjoy hiking in the woods. Spring is considered to be the ideal time for an excursion as the weather is mild and nature is on the rise, creating beautiful images and colors. The paths are fairly easy as the place has not particularly steep slopes or inaccessible areas due to vegetation. However it is recommended to be properly equipped for the sun and heat, and very cautious to avoid encounters with snakes or insects that can be dangerous if disturbed.
If, like me, you are a photography enthusiast, or a birdwatching fan or bird photographer, this particular place would be a paradise for you since the subjects are really endless. So do not forget to carry the appropriate equipment that will help you practice your favorite hobby.