The "Switzerland" of Greece: Lake Doxa's turquoise waters and the stone taverns of Feneos Valley

Lake Doxa Greece

The mountainous part of Corinth is full of great beauty that has been left unexploited despite decades of tourist development in Greece.

Of course, the proximity to Attica also makes it a secret getaway as the inhabitants of the capital often go there for their excursions.

Nevertheless, some parts of mountainous Corinth have been widely advertised - Trikala, for example - while others show less visitor traffic.

Among the latter is the beautiful mountain village of Ancient Feneos, perhaps because a confusion is created: since the same name has been given to the plateau where it is located, between Helmos and Ziria.

Many believe that this is the name of the wider area, so they do not focus on the settlement itself, considering it an archeological site.

However, among the 10 villages of the Feneos plateau there is a self-existing Feneos (formerly Syvista), but also Ancient Feneos, built at an altitude of 340 metres on the southern slopes of Mount Stogylovouni.

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The valley of Feneos / Photo: Nikos Kokkas.

Its very name, of course, testifies to the great history it carries.

But it is also a settlement that stars in a landscape of unparalleled natural beauty at a distance of 92 km from Corinth, easily accessible from Athens: starting from the centre, one can reach it in about 2 hours by car.

According to the 2011 census, Ancient Feneos has 280 permanent residents along with the settlements of Vilia (altitude: 780 metres) and Louzi (altitude: 840 metres) in its immediate vicinity, which are part of it.

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Ancient Feneos is one of the 10 settlements on the homonymous plateau and should not be confused with the village of Feneos. Photo: Shutterstock

The village seems to have been formed at the beginning of the 20th century, as a sparsely populated part of the then Municipality of Feneos in Argolida, with the nickname Kalivia.

Previously there was another village in the area, which was probably called Doxia, judging by the reports of the Venetians around 1700 - we do not know the reasons for its abandonment.

In 1912 Kalivia was recognised as an autonomous community, while in 1949 it was separated from Argolida and joined Corinth.

They were renamed Ancient Feneos in 1977, when archaeological research confirmed that they were on the site of the ancient Greek city.

The combination of mountain, forests and the picturesque lake Doxa which is located very close, in the immediate territory of Ancient Feneos, has led some visitors to call the area "Little Switzerland".

This is a rumor that spreads rapidly, making it a popular destination for all seasons.

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The traditional hostel "O Mitos tis Ariadni" is a first class accommodation option in Ancient Feneo. Photo: The Myth of Ariadne.
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The guest house "Alexiou" in the neighboring settlement of Panorama has a tree house, unique in all of mountainous Corinth. Photo: Loukas Hapsis / Alexiou Guesthouse

Where to stay

Although many visitors pass by Ancient Feneo just for a day trip either from Athens or from the surrounding locations, in the village there is the traditional guesthouse "O Mitos tis Ariadni" for those who would like to stay a few days there (information: 27470 -41254).

The rooms have a living room with fireplace and is completely independent, while there is a patio with great views of the plain, where you can enjoy your coffee.

In the neighbouring settlement of Panorama (at an altitude of 1,000 metres) you will also find the stone-built guesthouse "Alexiou" - with a fireplace in winter and a view of the verdant (with oak) slopes of Durduvana.

The accommodation has an amazing tree house for those who would like an experience of absolute privacy in nature, unique in all of mountainous Corinth.

There are only 4 rooms in total, so you need to contact us in time to check availability (phone: 27470-41020).

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The cafe-bar "O Brooklis" in the neighboring village of Goura has typical stone sofas. Photo: Facebook (COFFEE BAR O Brooklis)

Where to go for coffee and drink

You will find a cafe-bar in the village, about 100 metres from the hostel "O Mitos tis Ariadni".

Many, however, travel to neighbouring Goura (about 5 km away) for a visit to the cafe-bar "O Brooklis", which is considered one of the most beautiful mountain cafes in the entire Peloponnese.

Some nights it has live music or organises parties with DJs, while in any case you will enjoy its characteristic stone sofas.

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The tavern "Kapris" is a destination for a rooster with spaghetti and a pig on a spit. Photo: Facebook (Taverna Kapris)

Where will you sit for food

You will not have to move from Ancient Feneo to find good food.

In the tavern "Kapris" you will enjoy dishes made with the famous legumes of the area, but also a rooster with spaghetti and a pig on a spit - depending on the season, you may also find wild boar hunting.

The "Famous Koutouki of Lake Doxa" offers a great view of the lake, but also giants of Feneos with sausage, as well as a holiday pouch in oil paste.

In "Michalis" the goat is considered a specialty , but also the burger with potatoes is considered excellent.

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Photo: Shutterstock

3 things worth doing if you are in Ancient Feneos

Ancient Feneos is surrounded by the mountainous nature that characterises the whole plateau of Feneos, which is also extremely fertile: here are produced legumes famous throughout Greece (giants, beans, lentils, fava beans).

These can be obtained directly from the source, while the surrounding slopes are overgrown with firs, pines and oaks.

So even if it is Lake Doxa that will monopolise your interest, it is worth taking a general walk around the village, standing of course in its important ancient past.

Feneos has existed since the early historical years of Mycenae, even Homer mentions it in the "Iliad", as a separate state of the Achaeans that took part in the Trojan War with 60 men under the leadership of King Agapinor.

According to ancient mythology, Ifiklis - the brother of Hercules - was also buried there, as well as Myrtilos, from whom the Myrtos Sea took its name.

In its sinks, moreover, it was believed that there was an entrance to Hades, which had been used by the goddess Demeter herself.

In historical times, Feneos was a city-state of the Arcadians, and even took part in the Persian Wars.

The city was gradually deserted after the occupation of Greece by the Romans.

Today only ruins of foundations survive, in a place that is accessible for visit, but is not guarded, nor is it organised.

All the objects found in the excavations are today in the Archaeological Museum of the village, in the central square - which reopened in 2021, after years in which it was closed.

Its main exhibits are sculptures, vases and mosaics.

The (huge, for a statue) marble legs with sandals 80cm long that are attributed to the god Asclepius, but also the marble head of the goddess Health stand out.

Both date to 150 BC.

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In the monastery of Agios Georgios you will taste a spoonful of rose, produced by the monks. Photo: Shutterstock.

Visit the monastery of Agios Georgios (and eat a sweet rose)

Agios Georgios was founded in the 14th century, as a male monastery, in the area where today is the artificial lake Doxa.

During the 17th century it was severely damaged by a flood, which pushed the monks to move it 1km inside, to the three-storey building where it is housed today.

It is even said that the old iconostasis can still be seen at the bottom of the modern lake, at a depth of about 8 metres.

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The backyard of the monastery of Agios Georgios Feneos. Photo: Shutterstock

During the Turkish occupation there is a legend that the monastery hosted a secret school, but the only historical certainty is that it functioned as a secret headquarters during the Revolution of 1821,

There were meetings of chiefs from Corinth and Arcadia, usually headed by Theodoros Kodoros.

The balcony has a wonderful view to the whole plain of Feneos, while inside there are beautiful frescoes, as well as an all-gold icon of Agios Georgios.

But something you should not miss when leaving is to try a sweet rose: it is produced by the monks themselves, from flowers grown in the inner garden of the monastery.

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The artificial lake Doxa has created an idyllic environment in the territory of Ancient Feneos. Photo: Shutterstock

Take a walk on the beautiful Lake Doxa

Not to be confused with Lake Feneos, as is sometimes done wrong.

Lake Doxa is artificial, has a perimetre of 4.5 km and was created only in 1996, when a dam was built that accumulated the waters of the river of the same name, to strengthen the crops of the time.

Its maximum depth is estimated at 38 metres.

The lake is located in a beautiful part of the territory of Ancient Feneos, at an altitude of 900 metres, at the foot of Durduvana.

It is surrounded by the Aroania mountains and the peaks of Kyllini.

The idyllic mountain landscape and the turquoise, calm waters, where the fir trees and the oaks of the surrounding slopes are reflected, have made many liken the area to "Little Switzerland."

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Around Lake Doxa there is a forest with firs and oaks / Photo: Shutterstock.

Since 2019, it is possible to cross the waters by water bike, while you can also ride horses on the slopes of Durduvana.

Still others prefer diving, which gives the opportunity to admire the sunken forest, but also the rare blue crayfish that usually live on the right bank.

You will need a good lens and patience to see them.

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The church of Agios Fanourios is accessible through a narrow strip of land, but will be transformed into an island in time. Photo: Shutterstock.

A special feature of Lake Doxa is the so-called "Old Monastery", which dates back to the 14th century.

This is the only part of the monastery of Agios Georgios that remained untouched by the floods of the 17th century.

Thus, when the monastery moved to its current location, it was transformed into a small church (single-aisled basilica with a dome and a gabled roof), dedicated to Agios Fanourios.

You can go to Agios Fanourios via a narrow strip of land, but experts predict that its space will gradually be transformed into an island, so in the future it will be accessible only by boat.

Hari Simvoulidi is a correspondent for Travel.

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Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor