Vouraikos Gorge (Achaϊa, Greece)
Vouraikos Gorge is twenty kilometres long and extends between Diakopto and Kalavryta. The narrowest section, known as “Portes” is located a few kilometres from Zachlorou.
The *cog railway traverses the gorge from Kalavryta to Diakopto and affords visitors a spectacle of natural beauty: tunnels, waterfalls, caves and dense bushland. The slopes of the gorge provide an abundance of local flora and fauna.
The gorge owes its name to the ancient town of Vouras; reference to the gorge is found in the journals of Pausanias, the most famous of Greek travellers (2nd century AD) who wrote a short history of ancient Vouras.
Vouras was completely destroyed by the big earthquake of 373 BC and was entirely rebuilt.
Mythology has it that because Hercules loved Voura, the daughter of Nefelegerete and Elike, he created the chasm so that he could access the seaside and meet up with her. Vouraikos River was named after her.
The *cog railway is what makes the gorge unique.
A train, with a unique whistle, traverses the gorge daily. In three places, in order to negotiate the steep slopes, it switches to a different track.
The train is more than a hundred years old and transports thousands of visitors to Vouraikos Gorge, Mega Spelaio and Zachlorou before reaching Kalavryta, its final destination.
The cog railway
The cog railway was commissioned in 1889 by Charilaos Trikoupes, Prime Minister of Greece (1832-1896).
A French team estimated the cost at one million gold drachmas; however, the actual cost escalated to 3.9 million gold drachmas and thus the railway line did not extend as far as Tripoli, as initially planned.
The building of the railway line between Diakopto and Kalavryta was undertaken by the French contractor Aton; 20 kilometres were completed in five years.
The inaugural journey took place on 7 July 1895 and the official opening took place on 10 March 1896.
From then until the present, the train has continued its journey uninterrupted. The combination of gorge and train present an exciting challenge.