Photo: © Roman Klementschitz, Wien 2006
Vale of Tempe
The Vale of Tempe is a narrow valley between the southern Olympus and northern Ossa massifs of northeastern Thessaly. The valley is 10 km (6 miles) long, in places only 25 m wide and is lined by cliffs that rise to 500 m (1,650 ft). Through the valley, flows the Peneus River before emptying into the Aegean Sea. The Tempe Pass is a strategic pass since it provides access from the Thessalian plain to the coast of Macedonian Greece. Though it can be bypassed by alternative routes, it costs in time.
One of the best-known places in the valley is the church of Agia Paraskevi. The church is connected to the highway by a metal hanging footbridge. Near the chapel, there is a small opening in the rock, which is the entrance of the cave where there is a spring of holy water, which can be reached by passing through a narrow tunnel. Each year this holy place receives thousands of visitors and pilgrims and for many travelers a stop there is a must. The polymorphous nature of the place along with its exceptional natural beauty, make the gorge a paradise for outdoor activities like canoeing, inflatable kayaking, hiking, rafting and rock climbing.
The cliffs are splendid and vegetation lovely, so it comes as no surprise that the rugged landscape has always been praised by poets. The valley is celebrated by the Greek ancient poets as a favorite haunt of Apollo and the Muses. On the right bank of the Peneus River sat a temple to Apollo, near which the laurels used to crown the victorious in the Pythian Games were gathered. There are many legends and myths related to the Vale of Tempe. A myth states that it was formed by the Trident of God Poseidon while according to a second myth, God Apollo was in love with Daphne, the daughter of Peneus. Her father, in order his daughter not to be kidnapped by the god transformed her into a laurel which is abundant in the valley. Apollo then transferred laurels to his oracle at Delphi. Do not miss to visit the springs of Daphne and Aphrodite in the Valley of Tempe if you find yourselves in the area. The geologists however attribute the valley’s formation to an earthquake and to local stream action during the draining of the huge Thessalian Lake throughout the millenniums. Whatever the truth is, the Vale of Tempe is a place of unique natural beauty worth visiting.