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Acheron – Beautiful river of the Underworld and Natura 2000

Acheron is a river located in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece. It flows into the Ionian Sea in Ammoudia, near Parga.

map of preveza ionian sea greece
Click to enlarge mapCoordinates: 39°14′10″N 20°28′34″E (Mouth of the river Acheron)

Where is Acheron river?

The river called Acheron with the nearby ruins of the Necromanteion is found near Parga on the mainland opposite Corfu. It springs from the mountains in the Prefecture of Ioannina. It flows into the Ionian Sea after a course of 64 km, helping to create a wide range of ecosystems which are home to and sustain many species of plants and animals.

The river cuts across the valley formed by the mountain ranges in Western Epirus and near the Municipal District of Trikastro, and passes through a narrow and magnificent gorge created by the mountains of Paramythia and Souli. This area, known as the Straits of Acheron, is exceptionally beautiful and of great environmental interest.

The Straits of Acheron

The steep terrain of the Straits of Acheron, the cragginess of the surrounding mountains, the lush vegetation and the clean rushing waters of the river, create an exceptionally beautiful landscape. In some places the river flows only gently, creating ponds and small lakes which are ideal for many amphibians and fish. In other places, the river flows quickly through rapids and from high rocks (sometimes the height is greater than 100 metres, and the width of the river at these points reaches two metres). In other places, the water flows less quickly, particularly during the summer months.

Ancient mythology about Acheron and Hades

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The Gates of Hades in Acheron river

In ancient Greek mythology, Acheron was known as the river of pain, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. In the Homeric poems the Acheron was described as a river of Hades, into which Cocytus and Phlegethon both flowed.
The Roman poet Virgil called it the principal river of Tartarus, from which the Styx and Cocytus both sprang. The newly-dead would be ferried across the Acheron by Charon in order to enter the Underworld. The Suda describes the river as “a place of healing, not a place of punishment, cleansing and purging the sins of humans.” According to later traditions, Acheron had been a son of Helios and either Gaia or Demeter, who had been turned into the Underworld river bearing his name after he refreshed the Titans with drink during their contest with Zeus. By this myth, Acheron is also the father of Ascalaphus by either Orphne or Gorgyra.

Acheron – protected as Natura 2000

The region of Acheron is one of exceptional beauty and is also a source of important information and knowledge on environmental education. Both the route and the mouth of Acheron and so as the region belong to the European network of protected areas Natura 2000 (code GR2140001).
Specifically, in the region are 699 plant species of which 449 are found in the Delta and 250 in the route of it while in the Delta of the river there are 19 types of habitats. There are also particularly important wetland areas such as the swamp of Ammoudia and of Valanidorachi, in which there is a great number of rare species of flora and fauna of the region. Notable in the category of fish is the existence of the minnow, which occurs only in the Acheron.

Important habitats around Acheron river

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Springs of Acheron river at Gliki village

– Large shallow gulfs and bays: found near the region of Ammoudia and the Gulf of Odysseus especially in shallow parts of marine ecosystems.
– Saltwater swamps: found also in the area of Ammoudia and Valanidorrachi.
– Vegetation of aloe and species of mud and sand zones are seen mainly in areas with saline water in the Delta. Rocky areas are found in estuaries and the coastal area around the mouth.
– Pine forests: such as the forest in the region of Loutsa
– Oak forests that cover about the 2% of the land of the Delta
– Bushes juniper in the beaches: a priority habitat and occupies very small area in the Gulf of Valanidorrachi and Ammoudia.
– Riparian forests on the banks of the river Acheron, Kokytos and Vouvopotamos
– Frygana and Makki: located on the hills of the Delta

How to get to Acheron river from Parga?

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Acheron river springs -horses crossing the river close to famous, historical Souli

If you want to go on adventure on Acheron river you have various choices. You can go on an organized trip starting from the pier in Parga. The trip costs only a dozen of Euros per person with stops at the village of Ammoudia and at Lychnos beach on the way back. You can also choose to rent a scooter in Parga and go on your own, swimming in the river. You will find opportunities for horseback riding up the river, canoeing or rafting. It is totally up to you.