Picturing Greece probably brings to mind a seaside escape such as Mykonos, with its pristine beaches and party atmosphere. However, this is not all Greece has to offer - for those who fancy themselves mythology buffs, we know the perfect hike: Mount Chelmos.
This mountain, also known as Helmos or Aroania, is part of a range of mountains that can be found in Achaea, Greece. The summit of Mount Chelmos is 7,726 feet, but it's not the alpine mountaintop that keeps hikers coming back to its incredibly biodiverse trails. Rather, it's the Styx Valley and, within it, the mythical Styx Waterfall. Hiking the mountain leads to the River Krathi, which has long been part of Greece's mythical history for millions of years, and it's just as breathtaking to see in person as it is fascinating to learn about.
The Ancient Myth Of The River Styx, Thetis, And Achilles
Before heading out on this hike up Mount Chelmos, one should know the history behind the Valley of the Styx. According to Greek mythology, the Styx was the Titan Goddess of Oaths and Personification of Hatred. The river sharing the same name was once believed to be the waterway between Gaia (earth) and Hades (the underworld). It was believed that Charon, the ferryman, would bring the souls from earth to Hades via this waterway, thus giving it a reputation for being a gateway.
- Fact: The literal translation of 'Styx' means 'the hateful.'
As such, it was said that the waters of the River Styx would be poisonous or unfit for human consumption. The only way to safely consume the water was via the hooves of horses since it was believed by the gods that these animals were immune to its immense powers. It was also a known fact, according to Greek mythology, that the river had unique powers, thus the tale of Thetis and her son, Achilles. In an attempt to make her son immortal and absorb some of the powers of the River Styx, Thetis held Achilles in the water by his ankle. However, since this part of his body was exposed and not held underwater at the time, it became his only vulnerability. Thus, the term 'Achilles heel' came to be as an expression of someone's ultimate weakness.
Today, it's still believed by some that the water boasts magical properties and may bestow upon a person similar benefits. That is if one doesn't believe the myth of the River Styx being harmful to the average human.
What To Know: Hiking To The Styx Waterfall Via Mount Chelmos
The first thing hikers should know is that this hike is no cakewalk, and it's not for the inexperienced - not without a local guide, at least. AllTrails describes the hike as 'hard,' with 12.7 miles round-trip for those who trek the entire route to the waterfall and back. On average, it takes roughly seven hours to finish but could take longer depending on one's level of fitness. It is a highly trafficked trail so chances are that hikers will not be alone during their journey.
The most common way to reach this hike is to take a car from Kalavyrta to the top of Mount Chelmos. From there, the rough trail will begin leading to the Styx Waterfall. The trail at this point is fairly easy to follow, complete with blazes to encourage hikers on the right track. Before reaching the waterfall, hikers will stumble upon a lake that's very dark in color, appropriately named Mavroneri, which means 'black water.'
After proceeding, there will be a descent to the waterfall that continues over the span of roughly an hour and a half, again, depending on one's fitness level. Hikers will also pass a pine forest after which they'll have fantastic views of the surrounding mountain range and the Styx Valley. According to Alternative Tourism, there is also a cave just underneath the Styx Waterfall which is easily accessible for those who wish to take a peek inside. The 200-meter waterfall above is quite a sight to behold, and it's easy to see how this could have sparked such myth and legend regarding its origins.
- Note: As of the area's most recent landslide, there may no longer be cables attached to the mountain wall on the descent to the waterfall. It's highly advised that hikers go with a guide who can help them find the safest route to get them as close as possible to the Styx Waterfall.
Booking A Hiking Tour Of Mount Chelmos & The Styx Waterfall
Those interested in seeing the waterfall for themselves can book tours through Kalavrita Explore, which is located in the center of town. These tours also include buggy tours for those who aren't keen on hiking, as well as scenic tours of the surrounding Kalavrita mountains and valleys.