map sterea ellada central greeceCentral Greece

Mesolongi - MIssolonghi Wetlands

The Messolonghi Wetlands are bottom left in the map above and part of central Greece or Sterea Ellada, a huge area, stretching from the Ionian Sea in the west, all the way to the Aegean off the east coast of the long island of Evia (Euboea) to the east of Attiki (Attica).

The entire area is very accessible by road from Athens, Patras, and all points between.

Lord Byron, a philhellene, while encouraging revolutionary fervor, caught ill in Messolonghi in 1824 and died of mosquito borne malarial fever. There is a statue devoted to him and small museum.

MIssolonghi and area played large in the annals of the Greek War of Independence. The water is too shalow for most boats and uses a long cauuseway to deep water at Turlida. You'll see reed huts built on piles by the fishing community.

Ouzo and seafood mezes here are interesting as well.

Messolonghi Wetlands

messolonghi wetlandsThis vast wetland habitat covers some 123,500 acres (50,000 hectares) of which about half are delta-but really two deltas from two rivers, the Akheloos and the Evrinos. Part of the area is a designated Ramsar site (internationally significant wetland) and Special Protection Area.

The area, like most wetlands in Greece, has suffered much from human activities, which its protected status is hoped to reverse, or at the very least, keep from getting worse.

Habitats, all with their own adapted flora, include saltpans, shallow lagoons, mudflats, reedbeds, salt marshes, sandbars and dunes.

There is also some riparian forest, of which 148 acres (60 hectares) are protected, and including narrow-leaved ash, white willows, elm, Oriental plane, and poplar, and hills and mountains near the wetland comprise part of the larger ecosystem as well.

The area is most noted for its birds, which include many breeding birds, and there are a large number of birds of prey in the surrounding hills (eagle owl, griffon vultures (below right), peregrines, three kinds of eagles among them). Though not as high in numbers as in the Amvrakikos Gulf (see below), there are large numbers of birds counted in winter, in griffon vulturemost years exceeding 20,000, and more birds of prey visit at this time, including Imperial eagles, the merlin (quite rare in Greece), and short-eared owls. As would be expected, amphibians and reptiles are also abundant, as well as terrapins and tortoises. Access is easy from the town of Messolonghi, with the road south to Tourlidha a good one for seeing the better eastern lagoons; the western lagoons are more intact, though harder to get to. There are dirt roads to good areas from Neohori, heading west or southwest.

Klissoura Gorge

Just north of the Messolonghi wetlands, this dramatic, steep-sided limestone gorge is linked ecologically with them, with birds of prey that breed in the gorge feeding over the marshes and lagoons. Griffon vultures (above) are the main breeding birds, along with two kinds of eagles. Quite a few other birds come through, including kestrel and peregrine. A main road goes through the site (E55 /N 5), and there are dirt roads and paths up the sides. An interesting area is the Arakinthos Hills.