Mount Paiko is located in Central Macedonia at the borders of the prefectures of Pella and Kilkis . The highest peak is Gola Tsouka with 1.650 m altitude.
Its forests are consisting of beeches, pines, walnuts and chestnut trees. Forest roads are passing through glades with grass and small ponds, through deep valleys with oaks and old civil war guerilla facilities, many forest trails with water springs and wooden bridges. Griva, Karpi, Kastaneri, Pentalofos, Omalos, Livadia and other villages, combine the beautiful landscape with organized forest recreation spots.
The place is famous for its good wine and its good tsipouro, from the mountainous vineyards of the region. But it is also known for its chestnuts (Kastano is the greek word for chestnut so the name of Kastaneri village has a purpose) since the area is full of these beautiful trees, either in their wild form, or in organized agriculture farms.
From Thessaloniki, we are heading to Goumenissa and from there we will drive up to a mountain place called Paliochori (5km of Kastaneri) from where we will start our journey to the top.
|Distance from Thessaloniki: 93 km|
|European Number of Emergency: 112|
|Fire Brigade Dept: 199|
|Medical Emergency: 166|
|Goumenissa Forestry office: phone 2343042002|
Forestry cabin ( Paliochori place) 1134m Alt – Summit Gola Tsouka 1647 m Alt.
We have been on this mountain in 2013 and we have the best memories and impressions, especially for the work of the Forestry Dept. More or less we know what we are going to find out. Of course, our previous visit was in early September, but now is the end of November and the mountain’s terrain is completely different. So, we had a pleasant surprise, when driving up the mountain from Kastaneri to Paliohori, we see the Environmental Information Center of Paiko, completely restored. In 2013 there was only the stone chimney of the building, and now there is a cozy wooden building. Bravo, to the Forestry Dept for the good work.
The weather is heavy. Humidity, fog and drizzle, everywhere. We park in the Environmental Center’s courtyard and we go straight at the balcony to prevent ourselves from the rain and rethink our approach to the summit. We are determined, in spite of the weather, to try to climb the highest peak of Paiko called Gola Tsouka at 1650m altitude. Backpacks are ready and off we go.
Diagonally opposite to the building, to the west direction is an earth road which is the beginning of our route. We are passing the forestry cabin on our left, continuing our smooth course. To our right and left, we can see only plain fields and chestnut tree farms. Slowly, the earth road is turning to a forest road and climbs up smoothly to the mountain, having now southwest direction and leading us to the edge of the forest. An amazing forest of beech chestnuts and birch trees, which looks a little out of this world, in the fog that surrounds us.
We walk by making small detours between the road and the forest in order to climb faster to a higher altitude. We rejoin the forest road and we meet the remains of the ancient Roman path, which shows that the passage was known from the ancient time and we continue following it. Despite the fog, the orientation is quite easy, since the forestry Dept has taken care of marking the path with red marks. The scenery continues to be magical, with the trees hugging us with their bare branches, full of small water drops, due to the rain, which fortunately has been stopped. The soil, filled with a thick layer of leaves. And when we say thick, we mean so thick that sometimes it is good helping to avoid the mud and sometimes is not, because someone can slide on it. As the first rays of the sun make their appearance by piercing the clouds and the fog is as much as not to make our trek difficult, the scenery is indescribable. We have gained altitude without even understanding it, because the inclination is very smooth. The forest road leads us to a large plateau where we meet the first snow on our route. The summit is visible in the background straight ahead and as we will see later, it turns out to be closer than it looks.
We continue following the red marks that leave the forest road and lead us deep into the forest. Marking is so good that in some places, every second tree, yes you are reading correctly, every second tree has the red marks, another job well done by the Forestry Dept. In this effortless way, we continue trekking through the beech trees, with the sunlight playing hide and seek with the trees and the clouds. The uphill is now more intense and the snowy terrain gives us a hard time, not because of the snow, but because of the thick layer of leaves that makes the ground quite slippery.
And suddenly, coming out of the forest at the first clearing, the cone of the summit rises in front of us. As we said above, the summit seemed to be further away .By walking inside the forest we have no visual contact with the peak and we expect to find it later, but it appears in front of us steep and tremendous in such size and height that does not fit into the smooth morphology of the mountain.
It is like you are walking in the alleys of a small village and suddenly on a turn you see a small skyscraper in front of you, out of nowhere. We stop for a while to admire the wild beauty of the landscape and decide from which side we will continue the route. The north northwest side, which is facing us, has no vegetation and it is quite steep with several vertical cliffs. Meanwhile the weather seems to change and so we decide to climb from the east northeast side, which although it is steep at the start, it is not that difficult to climb. Once again the marking is excellent, with red marks that lead us in 15 minutes at the top of Gola Tsuka summit (1650m).
If the weather was good, we could see all the mountains of the region, Tzena, Pinovo, Kaimakcalan and Vermio, as well as all the plain of Giannitsa. Unfortunately, the weather had a different opinion and we had no visibility at all. We were inside a cloud that had embraced us, leaving no room for sightseeing.
Under this weather conditions, we quickly took our photos and videos, at the climber’s statue on the top and started our descent from the same path. Meanwhile the first drops of rain began to fall. We were walking quite quickly by paying attention to the ground or rather the mixed snow and leaves mass, that was sliding beneath our feet. Fortunately the weather decided to stay on summit cone making our trek easier. Now that we are down, taking a look back, the peak has vanished in the fog. The fog which, as we continue our descent, is following us, up to our starting point, where we arrive after about 2.5 hours.
Looking back once again, the mountain had been lost in the clouds and the rain. Our walk at Paiko, on the verge of winter, was over. We are going back home with all that images, not only inside our cameras, but deep in our mind and our soul.