Chelmos-Vouraikos National Park - Rack Railway - Kato Zachlorou
The Chelmos-Vouraikos National Park covers a large land area that includes the Vouraikos Gorge and a substantial part of the Chelmos mountain range and slopes of Chelmos, up to the source of the Aroanios at Planitero. The national park was founded in 2009 by ministerial decree with the aim to protect, conserve and manage nature and the landscape as a natural heritage and a precious national resource.
A unique experience and a great way to get to know part of the park is by passing through the Vouraikos Gorge, both with the classic narrow gauge rack railway called Odontotos and (for hiking fans) by hiking along the train lines. The total length of the railway is 22,350 meters, but the most beautiful part of the route is between Kato Zachlorou and Diakopto (13 kilometers, 3.3 hours). To walk all the way through the gorge, allow 5 to 6 hours (descending from Kalavryta to Diakopto).
Kalavryta's history is closely connected with the rack (or cog) railway. Since 1896, the little train has used its teeth, or cogs, to climb the steep sections of the track in the very beautiful Vouraikos Gorge, starting from Diakopto and ending in Kalavryta, at the traditional station. From 2003 to 2009, there was a large-scale renovation of the whole network and of the toothed equipment, with a widening of the tracks and installation of larger trains.
The very beautiful railway station of Megalo Spilaio (or Mega Spilaio) in Kato Zachlorou is the fourth in line on the rack railway, starting from Diakopto (Diakopto - Niamata - Triklia - Mega Spilaio – Stasi Kerpini – Kalavryta). It is 13 kilometers from Diakopto and 9.35 kilometers from Kalavryta.
Kato Zachlorou is a very lovely village inside the Vouraikos Gorge, above the river. The village has good tourist infrastructure in terms of both accommodation and restaurants and tavernas. It is highly regarded as a tourist attraction for its natural surroundings as well as for the rack railway that goes up the gorge from Diakopto to Kalavryta, with a stop here.
For a lovely short walk, go down (or up) the old path that connects Mega Spilaio Monastery with Kato Zachlorou. It starts on the right side of the road, across from Mega Spilaio. This footpath was often used until the road to the Monastery was built. It is reasonably passable and will require about half an hour of walking. It is worth stopping on the way down to admire the view of Megalo Spilaio (behind us), literally hanging above us on the rocks. The view of Kato Zachlorou is also very beautiful as we approach the village and start to hear the noisy flow of the Vouraikos River.