Often when vacations in Greece are mentioned, we think of the dreamlike Greek islands and the Cyclades with the sugar-cube houses, the blue-domed churches, and the crystal clear, deep blue waters of the Aegean.
But there’s a lot more beauty and wonder that Greece has to offer.
For those given to vacations in the mountain, where the air is cool and the verdant sweeping views breathtaking, but also have access to the seaside, there’s no better place to visit than Ypati town.
If you love lush, pure nature and amazing paths to explore it by, if you are a fan of history, if you love adventure as well as leisure, if you are a science buff or seeking unusual experiences, then Ypati is for you.
Where is Ypati (Ipati)?
Right in the very center of Central Greece, where the North meets the South, sprawled on the north slopes of Mt. Oita, you will find Ypati town.
Ypati is 22 km west of Lamia and 232 km north of Athens.
You can get to Ypati by car, bus, or train.
If you go by car, the trip is about 2:30 hours, but you must factor in traffic near big towns or cities. There are many avenues to take if you drive from Athens, including Attiki Odos or the National Road of Athinon – Lamias. If you are driving from Thessaloniki, you can take Egnatia Odos or the National Road of Lamia-Thessaloniki. The trip from Thessaloniki is about 3:30 hours.
You can also take the KTEL bus for Lamia and then once there, change for the local Lamia KTEL bus to Ypati.
Lastly, you can take the train to Lamia and then get by taxi to Ypati.
Ypati’s staggering history
Ypati has had a 2,500-year history, and a lot of it has been forged through war and strife.
Its existence is officially commemorated by its coins at around 400 BC, though it’s certain it was around quite a bit before that date, as the capital city of the Greek tribe of Aenianes, with that same name, Ypati. Aristotle is the first one to mention Ypati in his writings.
During the Roman period, Ypati was notorious as a gathering hub for witches. Witches were supposed to be doing their magic in deep cracks in various rocks around the edges of the town, with the main one called “Anemotrypa” which means “wind hole”.
During the time of Byzantine emperor Justinian, the famous castle of Ypati was built, which served as a fortress throughout medieval times and during the various occupations by the Francs and the Ottomans. During this long period, Ypati was the site of many battles and sieges, such as the battle of Elvasan in 1217 where the Francs were ousted by the Byzantines, the one in 1319 that gave Ypati to the Catalans, the one in 1393 where the town was occupied by the Turks, the one in 1416 where the Greeks took it back from the Turks, only to lose it again in 1423. And that’s only naming a few that took place in this period!
During the Greek War of Independence, in 1821 and up to 1832, Ypati played a major role with three major battles in 1821 and 1822 where twice the Turks were repulsed from the town.
In modern times, Ypati did not escape war and its terrible impact. During the Occupation by the Nazis and the other Axis forces of the area in WWII, Ypati suffered greatly. A very high toll of blood was paid in the form of reprisals three times: in December 1942, 10 Ypati dwellers were executed as punishment for the Gorgopotamos bridge sabotage. On December 5 of the same year, another 5 Ypati dwellers were executed by the Italians.
But the final, and bloodiest blow was given on June 17, 1944, where the entire town of Ypati was sacked. 375 of its 400 houses were destroyed, churches were torn down or defiled, and 28 dwellers were brutally killed by SS troops while another 30 were injured. This punishment was delivered because Ypati’s people were considered supportive or actively involved in the Greek Resistance.
For these reprisals, Ypati has been declared a “martyred city” by the Greek state, and you can see the memorial commemorating the sacrifices as you enter the town. There you will also see the Tank of Ypati, an actual decommissioned tank commemorating the atrocities the town has suffered.
Though Ypati was almost completely destroyed (only 25 houses remained standing), after the war Ypati’s surviving dwellers stubbornly remained and rebuilt the town to what it is today.
Things To See and Do Around Ypati
The powerful significance of the Gorgopotamos Bridge sabotage of 1942
Together with the blood comes the glory, and it is near Ypati that one of the brightest and most astounding pages in WWII history were written. That is the destruction of the Gorgopotamos Bridge on November 25, 1942.
Gorgopotamos bridge is actually a viaduct which, during the German occupation of Greece, was used to send supplies swiftly to Rommel’s troops in North Africa. It is located at the foot of Mt. Oita, just a few km from Ypati.
The mission, coded Operation Harling by British SOE, involved the cooperation of the two big factions of Greek Resistance, ELAS and EDES, with British SOE agents. The goal was to destroy the viaduct so that supply flow to Rommel would be curbed.
150 Greek partisans with a special team from SOE managed to blow up the bridge, bringing down two of its six pillars.
The blowing up of the Gorgopotamos bridge was the first major sabotage in all of Axis-occupied Europe, and it made headlines internationally, inspiring more Resistance movements all over the occupied countries or bolstering existing ones.
The Gorgopotamos bridge still stands today, as it was repaired with material from its debris by the Germans who couldn’t fully restore it. It is one of the major monuments of Greece’s modern history.
If you happen to be around on the anniversary of the sabotage, you will witness a commemorative ceremony and celebration at the site!
Ypati is a very picturesque, typical mountain town of Central Greece. When you see it, it looks like it is rolling off the slopes of Mt. Oita, with houses with crimson and dark red roof tiles, beautiful stonework, and verdant squares and pathways.
Ypati is the place to relax and detox, breathing in the clear mountain air while enjoying the good food and hospitality of the locals. It is ideal for exploration even during the summer, as the village is heavily shaded and is near beautiful and lush nature for you to enjoy in relative coolness. Still, the Greek sun is relentless, so never forget your sunscreen!
There are several places to see and unexpected adventures to embark on once you have taken in the powerful history of the town, which is a monument in itself.
The Byzantine museum
At Ypati you will find the Byzantine museum, which is housed in a historical building. The building was built in 1836 for the needs of the Greek army and it is called “Kapodistrian Straton” which means “Barracks of Kapodistrias” (Kapodistrias was the first ruler of Greece).
In the museum, you will find interesting collections from the early Christian to late Byzantine eras. What sets this museum apart is that it is designed to be interactive. Visitors are encouraged to participate in activities, to learn experientially, and to take photographs of the various artifacts.
You will walk away from the Byzantine museum feeling like you got a taste of the way of life of the people of Ypati and Greece in general from the 4th to the 14th century AD.
The Monument of the Chieftains, or The Plane Trees of Kompotades
In one of the most impressive parts of Ypati town, you will find the monument of the Chieftains. Surrounded by very old plane trees that were there when the commemorated event happened, is a simple monument. As you look at it, you will know that you are standing exactly where some of the most famous chieftains of the Greek Revolution of 1821 were standing when they agreed to rise against the Ottoman forces trying to get to the Peloponnese and block their path.
The date was April 20, 1821, and the chieftains were Athanasios Diakos, Diovouniotis, Panourgias, and Bishop Isaiah of Salona.
Ypati’s Thermal Spring
5 km from Ypati town you will find the Thermal Spring. It is at the foot of Mt. Oita and very near the river Sperchios.
This thermal spring is ancient! It was well known for its therapeutic and soothing qualities since the 4th century BC. Currently, there is a modern hydrotherapy center there with extensive and continuously expanding facilities. Ypati’s thermal spring water is very similar to the one in Royat, France.
If you visit the thermal spring, you will get to luxuriate in one of the 82 baths or the outdoor pool of the hydrotherapy center. There is also a spa and beauty center, restaurants with good food to enjoy while you relax, and some hotels if you are feeling like staying close.
Ypati’s “Star School” or space observatory
One wouldn’t expect it, but in this town, at the slopes of Mt. Oita, there is the third-largest planetarium and space observatory in Greece, as certified by ESA (the European Space Agency).
Originally, the building housing the observatory was Ypati’s primary school schoolhouse which was abandoned.
Now, the Kakoyianneio Star School boasts an 80-seat capacity amphitheater and a 50-seat capacity planetarium with a 9-meter dome. Projections, lectures, and films about the stars and astronomy, physics, and astrophysics, are regularly held.
The new building that was added to the old schoolhouse is where the observatory is housed. It has a powerful solar telescope and the biggest catadioptric in the Balkans.
The Star School is part of the international ARIEL survey program for the study of exoplanets, while many other university programs take place at its premises.
If you are a fan of science or simply of stargazing, you can’t miss the opportunity of doing so in this modern, state-of-the-art observatory that is surrounded by the atmospheric quiet of Ypati’s lush, forested surroundings!
Dating since before the Byzantine emperor Justinian, the Castle of Ypati reigns over the town.
The castle has been preserved by archaeologists, and one of its turrets is intact for you to explore, as well as its fortifications and the elevated area it has occupied for centuries.
Walk up the path to the towering rock upon which it was built, and treat yourself to breathtaking beauty:
Take in the sweeping view of the valley and the mountain, with Ypati at your feet, walk along the paths of the remains of the castle town, and read up on the story of the castle as you see its various components.
Oita’s National Park
Ypati is lying on the slopes of Mt. Oita, the mountain that is intertwined with the legends of the mighty demigod Heracles (or Hercules, for the Romans).
The mountain is also called “the mountain of flowers” thanks to its unique flora and fauna.
Lush fir tree forests, unique plant species of unparallel beauty, gorgeous creeks, and stunningly beautiful gorges make up Oita’s amazing habitat. That’s why it was declared a National Park and is under state protection.
Oita is full of water, so you will be treated to beautiful creeks, charming waterfalls, and silvery rivers of crystal-clear freshwater. It also has made the mountain be full of astounding and stunning rock formations and caves, which wait for you to explore.
Depending on the season, you will have the chance to see many rare and beautiful flower species, as well as odd mushrooms, and rare plants.
There are also several man-made sights to see, such as the “Anemotrypa” (the ‘wind hole’) of Ypati’s medieval witches, the beautiful Byzantine churches of Aghia Sophia, and Aghios Nikolaos and Oita’s Natural Museum to name a few!
Mt. Oita’s hiking routes and footpaths
The Natural Park is vast! It would be easy to be overwhelmed but you can explore it all in a fun, organized way by signing up for one or more of the offered hiking routes and footpaths.
There are 18 official paths with detailed markings and maps, so it’s certain that you will always know where you are. Choose the one that suits you best, depending on the path’s difficulty level, the time you need to complete the route, whether you can drink fresh water directly from the springs you will encounter, and on the gorgeous sites, you will get to see.
There is something for everyone, from beautiful wetlands to the vastness of the Asopos river to historical or cultural heritage sites to church-and-village hopping! You can also choose to walk to one of Oita’s beautiful cols or peaks for unique views of the mountain slopes and the valleys below.
Many of these paths start or pass through Ypati town, so you can choose to start with one of those!
Mountain sports and adventure
If you are more action-oriented and like mountain sports, Oita has you covered. There are many group activities organized, from mountain climbing to hiking to mountain biking and trekking for all levels of skill and physical condition. You will be doing these sports in the beautiful surroundings of the Natural Park, and you will probably get to discover remote caves, lush canyons, and hidden ponds as your reward!
Oita also has 11 breathtakingly beautiful gorges, each one unique in its formation, the vegetation, and the ease with which one can descent down to their bottom. If you are a fan of adventure, Nature in Action organizes group activities in the mountain. You can email them here at email@example.com for more information.
Where to Stay in Ypati
During our visit, we stayed at Loutra Ipatis at the hotel Prigipikon. Centrally located near the thermal springs and restaurants the hotel offers rooms with balconies, air-condition, flat-screen tv, mini-fridge, and free wi-fi. There is also a cafe -bar on site serving local delicacies and breakfast.
The trip was organized by the prefecture of Central Greece but all opinions are my own.