Trip to the artificial Ladon Lake - The eerie "fjord" of mountainous Arcadia

Ladon Lake Arcadia

Beyond their invaluable utility, artificial lakes create an unprecedented beauty, a new natural relief, a special microclimate and several reasons for a visit. The artificial lake of Ladon, in Arcadia, is no exception.

The arrival

Between Mount Lagadina and Mount Afrodisio, literally in the middle of the Peloponnese, in mountainous Arcadia, northwest of Vytina and surrounded by small, traditional and historical villages, fed mainly by the waters of the Ladonas river, the homonymous artificial lake adorns the bold natural relief of the area.

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The artificial lake Ladona and the dam

Having turned right, high above Tropaia, following the signs to the dam, for a moment, the sense of orientation is lost; the constant turns move the shadows from the sunlight to the left and right of the car, the horizon, with the peaks of the surrounding mountains, seems to move at every turn of the road.

Finally, after a few kilometres, as in most places in this small but unruly country, a certain point of the road puts an end to this harmless vertigo by displaying the majesty of the waters over the land.

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The greenish, from the reflection of the surrounding vegetation's colours, the lake's wrinkled surface is the only flat point in the jumble of Arcadian mountains.

Stopping carefully to the right on a gravel plateau capable of accommodating only one car at a time, one enjoys all the beauty of the dam.

Only a small part of the lake is visible from here, just before arriving at the dam, since its total length is 15 kilometres.

The lake

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The artificial lake of Ladon is located at an altitude of about 400 metres and, when it is full, it reaches 420 metres

Any lake created by the construction of a dam is called an artificial lake. Usually, artificial lakes are fed not only by the waters of a river but also by various streams that end up in the created basin.

Their usefulness is multi-faceted, from energy production, irrigation, water supply, and water level control to avoiding floods.

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The artificial lake Ladona with fog from above

More than twenty-five artificial lakes cover a large land area in Greece. The lake of Ladon is located at an altitude of about 400 metres, and when it is full, it reaches 420 metres.

Its banks are 75 to 1500 metres apart and, depending on the season, the weather conditions and the height of the water level, its appearance, its colours and its mystery change, creating an eerie scene, often bordering on the literary, from happy, carefree moments of picnics on the grass, to wintry, highlands in Scotland with mist obliterating the opposite bank and painting the imagination.

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The ramp near the dam

The complex of constructions at the dam, which is typical for all similar constructions of the period, with a thicket of pine trees adorning the entrance, is a metaphor for the time of its construction in the 1950s.

As with other dams, the Ladon dam project, at the "Pedima" location, ten kilometres from Tropaia, was built by an Italian company as part of the war reparations to Greece for World War II.

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The dam
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The dam


The clockwise course from the dam to the easternmost end of the lake is almost entirely along its northern shore. There is no reason to rush or drive fast, as the low speed, the open windows in the vehicle, and the frequent stops give all the feeling of travelling to this area.

In early winter, the period of my visit, the level is low; it can reach up to 400 metres, which is 20 metres below the maximum level after a rainy and snowy winter season. The dirt banks have a beige hue, and the soil is dry and firm from the previous hot summer.

Water seeps into whatever land inlet it finds, painting a tortuous coastline similar to the fjords of the northern Scandinavian countries, on a much smaller scale, of course.

After the village of Mouria, a sign directs the traveller to the right, towards the "Kiras Bridge" at the easternmost corner of the lake.

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Kiras Bridge

Visible when the water level is low, the Archontissa of Akova, Kiras, built the five-arched stone bridge in the 13th century. The bridge is submerged in the spring and summer, and the connection is made by a modern, higher and distinctly uglier bridge than that of Kiras.

By the time the lake is full, the road turns into a passable dirt road, with elevation variation, small settlements, a decommissioned watermill, and countless views of every corner of the lake.

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Kiras Bridge

The excursion finishes, classically, with the traditional visit to a local tavern, either in Mouries or in Tropaia, because where better to discuss the excursion you have just made than around a hearty, tasty table?

Nikos Kokkas is a columnist for Travel.

READ MORE: Kastoria Exploration: A Journey through History and Nature” 

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