Oiti National Park

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Oiti National Park

Oiti National Park (highest peak Pyrgos, 2.152 m), the core of which comprises a pristine environment of natural habitats and diverse landscapes, such as the area of Katavothra on the Livadies plateau, with an abundance of subalpine vegetation featuring species of festuca, astragalus, genista, ononis and other plants endemic to the mountains of Greece.

The alpine tarn near the refuge of the Greek Mountaineering Club in the location known as Trapeza is one of the most delightful spots on the plateau. A little higher up, the peak of Greveno (2.117 m) offers a breathtaking view of the Vardousia and Giona mountains. The plateau is also the site of the Katavothra cave (1.775 m), a sinkhole into which purling water vanishes before reappearing kilometers away at the falls in the steep gorge carved by the Gorgopotamos.

The high plateaus of Oiti are the source of three rivers, the Gorgopotamos (formerly Dyras), the Asopos and the ancient Inachos (Vistritsa), each of which flows into the Sperchios river, whilst a number of streams and brooks feed the Mornos river. There are a number of traditional fountains, including those of Amaliovrysi (named after Queen Amalia, who during the reign of her spouse, King Otto, visited Oiti on many occasions), Perdikovrysi and Vrysi Kalogerou, along with natural springs, many of which become seasonal ponds (Roufias, Velouchia, Asprovrysi and Kydonia to mention but a few). The rich vegetation, the result not only of the soil composition but also of the climate, particularly enhances the character of Mt. Oiti, one of Greece’s best loved mountains among nature lovers, walkers, climbers and cyclists. 

Oiti is home to flora of inestimable value, with numerous strikingly beautiful species such as the aptly named Narcissus poeticus or poet’s daffodil, lilies, crocuses, orchids, violas, campanulas, centaurea, primulas, irises, etc., which explains why it is known as the ‘mountain of flowers’. One particular species of veronica (Veronica oetaea) is endemic to Oiti, that is, it is found nowhere else in the world.

So far, 1.149 plant species and sub-species have been recorded in the region (which represents almost one-fifth of the country’s flora), including the Greek fir (Abies cephalonica), deciduous oak, kermes oak, strawberry tree, cedar, willow, alder plus a wide variety of broadleaf trees and thick bushes such as the Eurasian smoketree, Judas tree, holm oak, ash, hornbeam, maple, terebinth, hawthorn, European yew, the extremely rare mountain cypress, and many more.

The National Park also contains a wildlife sanctuary that is part of the European Union’s network of specially protected areas. The fauna includes the wild mountain goat (Balkan chamois), which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized as a Near Threatened species in Greece, wild boar, roe deer, wildcats, otters, hares, wolves, squirrels, badgers, martens as well as bears, which have made a comeback in recent years.

Among the avifauna are raptorial birds such as the Griffon vulture, Eurasian hobby, goshawk, nightjar, Egyptian vulture, short-toed eagle, golden eagle, peregrine, but also six species of woodpecker, including the grey-headed woodpecker, which is more common in central Europe and extremely rare in Greece, as well as the rock partridge and hoopoe. It is also interesting to note that black storks have been reported nesting in the park, a species that is considered an infrequent visitor to Greece. Many species of reptiles have also been recorded, and five species of ichthyofauna, including the brown trout and the Macedonian chub. Small amphibians, including the rare alpine newt (triturus alpestris) reproduce in the tarns on the Livadies plateau, but also in the seasonal ponds formed in the park’s upper zone that has rich subalpine vegetation. 

Oiti is part of Natura 2000, a European network of protected areas that host natural habitats, plant and animal species which are of particular importance on a European level. In fact there are three Natura areas in the national park: one Special Protection Zone (‘Oiti National Park – Asopos Valley’) and two Special Conservation Zones for the protection of natural habitats and wildlife (‘Oiti National Park’ and ‘Gorgopotamos Gorge’).

In the wider region of Oiti there are a further two wildlife sanctuaries, that is, areas of particular importance for wild flora or as habitats for the reproduction, feeding and wintering of wild fauna, namely ‘Skasmeni Frantzi – Dyo Vouna’ and ‘Oiti – Pavliani’.