Words: Tez Plavenieks
Pics: Fi and Tez Plavenieks
Originally I was going to call this article: Gluttons for punishment – travelling with SUP kit part 2. But having returned from an uneventful trip – in terms of airport/airline chaos (see last issue’s article – https://standuppaddlemag.co.uk/2016/06/22/sup-the-hassle-factor-travelling-with-sup-kit/) – I thought it more positive to focus on the actual act of paddling and the sheer beauty that is Greece’s Northern Ionian. In particular the Acheron Delta, Ammoudia, and the area south of Parga.
Prior to jetting off the missus and I discussed at length where we fancied heading. For both of us to be content any type of holiday should feature both paddling and windsurfing options. That does cut down options in summer somewhat (for us) – especially as we want consistency with conditions. We did, however, fancy something different but whatever our choice it also had to accommodate our toddler and her needs…
In the end I have to take my hat off to Fi as she worked tirelessly during the course of a few nights to find a new location we’d never been to before. It looked like a fantastic area on paper; a safe, sandy beach for Molly, open water and river SUP options for mum and dad and relatively close to our chosen windsurfing spot for later in the holiday.
Unlike our last jaunt abroad we travelled with an inflatable 12.6ft and three piece paddle. JP Australia’s CruisAir LE (see review here) was just the ticket. Compact, lightweight and packing down to a modest sized carry all it was a smooth and efficient process checking our bags and boarding the flight – this time with Monarch. Touching down in Preveza we located our hire car for the duration, loaded everything neatly inside (again, effortless with an iSUP), hung a left out of the carpark and headed north along the main drag.
It takes roughly an hour to arrive at Ammoudia and the Acheron Delta but the route is super easy. Even though this was July the road was quiet and the drive gave us time to admire the many bougainvillea flanking the tarmac. Every now and again a small resort would spring up and views down to the sea would appear through the undergrowth. By and large, however, this part of the Greek mainland is bypassed by tourists with many heading straight to the yachty town of Parga itself or sticking to the southern islands – Lefkas and Cephalonia.
Ammoudia, Acheron Delta
Ammoudia nestles at the bottom of the large Acheron Delta and makes up part of the Epirus region of the Northern Ionian. Its unique location features a large wetland that’s been organised as multiple tributaries running off the River Acheron. It’s a spot that holds much mythological, historical and environmental value. The river itself spills out into the Ionian and provides the focal point for the town – something we missed upon initial arrival. It’s easy to drive straight to the beach and wonder where local life can be found.
Having located our accommodation we wandered down to the idyllic beach that boasts a mini sand bar a few yards offshore. You can wade out across a narrow shallow channel before hitting ankle deep water. This was perfect for our wee one as she could splash and dash about without finding herself out of depth. From a SUP point of view the sand bar chucks up a few mini waves to mess about on although beware of grounding out quickly.
As I said along the river is where you’ll find the hub of village activity. A number of tavernas and bars line the water front and fisherman use the quay as safe anchor. During one evening, while quaffing a post SUP bevvy, we spotted a dark tan local using a dugout canoe as his tender. He wasn’t sitting, however, he was standing tall and paddling with a single plank of wood – SUP Greek fisherman style. Just goes to show there’s nowt new under the sun. He’s probably done this for years.
The River Acheron runs all the way to Acheron Springs – an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s possible to paddle all the way, and there’s a kayak outfit running trips in the area. Worth bearing in mind, however, is the amount of flow that pushes back towards the sea. Even next to Ammoudia village you can feel this. And there’s a degree of white water near the springs, which requires the correct kit and paddling experience. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the springs but have vowed to return and tick this off.
There’s still plenty to explore, however, around the lower half of the river. Wildlife is abundant. Turtles, sea snakes and shoals of fish are plentiful as are limes, lemons and oranges that grow on the embankment. Tall reeds sprout skyward and there’s a constant whiff of citrus in the air.
Every so often a tourist boat taking punters on trips to the springs would pass and most passengers would stare in wonder at my funny craft. Some of the Ammoudia locals were also intrigued. Many are no doubt used to seeing sit on top kayaks but SUPs are still quite rare – although we did see one atop a camper van in the beach car park.
Paddling opportunities aren’t just confined to the river though. Greece’s summer mornings are usually glassy calm affairs and paddling out of the bay reveals a coastline of tall sea cliffs, craggy outcrops, caves and small apostle like sea stacks that are perfect for circumnavigating.
The feeling of isolation is all encompassing once away from Ammoudia’s safe bay. It’s a deep blue sea out there and there aren’t many landing points along this sheer coastline. If you find yourself in this area and fancy indulging in some SUP touring then make sure you’re adequately prepared. In theory it should be possible to make passage north to Parga but you’d need to have someone with you and make sure your skills/experience are up to the task.
Back on the road
After a few days of exploring Ammoudia and the surrounds we’d reached the point where it was time to move on. During the car journey back south we got chance to take in a few more of the views. There’s certainly plenty other potential for stand up paddling in this area and during a conversation the following week someone told us of a handful of reefs that pick up swell during big storms and in winter. Apparently these are surfable and perfect for stand up. Only a handful of locals ride these set ups and chances are you’d be the only one out if you stumbled across such a location. Search and yea shall find…
If you’re looking for a relaxed family holiday in an area that offers rustic charm and plentiful SUP touring opportunities then you’d do a lot worse than heading to this part of Greece. We barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer – there’s so much more to investigate in the area. Ammoudia is unique in its river setting with wide open safe bay next door and those with little ones will find it especially applicable. Sometimes it’s nice to chase swell, while at other times it’s simply enough to take in your surroundings from the water. Stunning views, interesting coastline, unique routes to explore and some quality grub and drink – you’ll find it all here…Perhaps travelling with SUP kit isn’t that bad after all…
Massive thanks to JP Australia SUP (UK), Hutch SUP Wear, Rockerline Clothing and Riders on the Storm who helped out with this story.