Near the summit of Mount Chelmos along the Peloponnese lies a mythical secret to immortality.
Chelmos mountain is situated a few miles from the neighboring city of Kalavryta, known for its ski resort, the oldest monastery in Greece, and the impressive Cave of the Lakes. Also perched atop this mountain is the Aristarchos Telescope, named after Aristarchus of Samos, the first astronomer to propose a heliocentric model of the solar system.
Below the telescope on the peak of Neraidorachi is the origin of the Krathis river, known as Ydata Stygos or the Styx Waterfall.
In Greek mythology, Styx is known as the river that connects Earth to Hades. The water was feared for its deadliness — drinking it was fatal to humans. Only horses’ hooves could withstand the water’s potency, which the gods used as a vessel to drink the water.
It was in these waters that the goddess Thetis submerged her son Achilles to make him invincible to harm. However, because Thetis held Achilles by his ankle during the process, this one body part remained exposed. His vulnerability became known as the metaphorical “Achilles’ heel” in modern times.
Mythologically speaking, touching these waters (or drinking it, for the braver souls), is said to bestow the same benefit upon mortals.
Know Before You Go
From Kalavryta, a private vehicle must be taken along the road leading to the top of Chelmos, near the observatory. The hike begins from the side of the road with a descent along a rocky, rugged path that is far from beaten-in but is pristine. About midway through the hike, you will encounter a small alpine lake with dark water (which may be dry during the summer months). The area, including the Styx Waterfall, is known as Mavroneri ("black water").
The steep descent to the waterfall takes about 1.5 hours, which flows more or less abundantly depending on the time of year (in the summer, the waters slow to a trickle).
The small cave beside the waterfall offers an opportunity to touch the water and sign your name on the cave walls, if you feel inclined. The way back is simply the reverse of the way in — entirely uphill. But the views from the cave and throughout the entire hike are well worth the effort.
The hiking route is indicated on rocks found along the way, but the starting point is not obvious. Adjacent to the start is a very small house, presumably the residence of the owner of the sheep that graze the area.
Moreover, the terrain is rough and is likely to be challenging for beginners. For these reasons, the hike should ideally be done with a local guide from Kalavryta, which can be informally arranged by going to the adventure tour company Kalavrita Explore in the town center. Ask the owner (or an employee) to speak with Vasilis, a nearby shop owner experienced in hiking the route. He can be hired privately as a guide.