Σπηλαιο Αγγιτη

Spilaio Aggitis - Cave of Aggitis - Springs of the River Aggitis

Σπηλαιο Μααρας

Spilaio Maará - The Subterranean River Maará


Useful Information

Image: the spring of the river Aggitis.
Location: 20km northwest of Dráma.
From the main road Thessaloniki-Kavala, turn north at Nea Kerdilia, national road 54km to Dráma. In Dráma turn left towards Kato Nevrokopi. After 18km turn left to Kokinógia (3km), at Kokinógia turn right to Aggitis. At the road right before the village Aggitis.
Well signposted.
Open: Summer daily 10:30-19.
Winter daily 10:30-17.
[2014]
Fee: Adults EUR 5, Children EUR 4, Disabled, Students, Seniors (65+) EUR 4.
Groups (25+): Adults EUR 2.50, School Children EUR 2.
[2002]
Classification:  Karst cave,  river cave.
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=14,000m, T=11.5°C (water), T=12.5°C (air), H=90-95%, A=129m asl.
Guided tours: L=500m.
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography: Esprit-Marie Cousinéry (1831): Voyage dans la Macédoine I-II, p. 47, Imprimerie Royale, Paris 1831.
Dr. Katerina Trantalidou (2000): The History of a Cave at the Angitis Springs,
Address: Cave of Aggitis, Aggitis 662 00, Tel: +30-25220-60460, Fax: +30-25220-60460, E-mail:
Office ΔΗ.Κ.Ε.Π. Tel: +30-25220-23620, Fax: +30-25220-21065.
City of Prossotani, community of Kokkinogeia, Tel: +30-522-60092 or +30-522-60075
DETASPA (Communal Organisation for the Development of the Springs of the River Aggitis), Tel: +30-521-30843 or +30-521-31938.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Image: the cave passage, decorated with huge stalagmites.

History

17?? visited by Esprit-Marie Cousinéry.
190? water wheel built.
1930 water wheel restored.
1960 water wheel abandoned.
1952 exploration of the first 70m to the first siphon by Anna Petrocheilou and Ioannis Petrocheilos.
1978 first dive through the siphon by French and Greek speleologists, lead by Avagianós.
1980 entrance tunnel built.
1999 cave developed as a show cave.
2000 opened to the public.

Description

Image: the water wheel in the entrance hall was driven by the cave river and transported some water of the river up into a water pipe. This was the water supply of the village Aggitis.

The river Aggitis has its spring at the small village Aggitis, northwest of Dráma, at the foot of a marble mountain, belonging to the Rodopen mountain range. The marble is quarried in numerous small quarries in the area. The river runs south from its springs, through a wide valley and enters a gorge near Alistrati. Then it runs again through a wide valley where it meets the river Strimonas, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea at Amfipoli.

The springs of the river Aggitis are called Maara Springs. They are the resurgence of a huge cave river, which sinks on the Kato Nevrokopi plateau into the sinkholes of Ochyro. Then it flows underground to the south for about 11km, as the crow flies. The underground riverbed has mostly huge passages, some wide chambers, and some sumps. This cave is either called Cave of Aggitis after the river, or Cave of Maara after the springs. Sometimes it is called Piges Angitis (springs of Angitis).

The first part of the river cave, with a length of some 500m, is developed by a path built on stakes. It ends at the first sink. This is the show cave part of the cave. The next 2.5km of cave passage require some easy dives through sinks, but may be visited by physically fit visitors. Guided tours including rent equipment are offered after appointment. The rest of the cave is accessible only to specialized cave divers. At the moment about 8km are explored, some 4km to the Ochyro sinkholes are still unknown.

There was an early human habitation at the cave dating back to 3000 B.C. Remains were found inside the cave, close to the entrance. Later, during Roman times, the cave was mentioned by Herodotus. In the early Middle Ages, during the 6th century A.D., fortifications were biuilt at the cave entrance.

The first recorded visit of the cave was made by the French consul at Thessaloniki, Esprit-Marie Cousinéry, who travelled around Macedonia for 40 years. After his retirement, he wrote a book named Voyage in Macedonia about the area, in which he also describes his cave visit (see bibliography above). His visit happened at the end of the 18th century, and he visited only the first hall. He named this hall Nymphaion, as he thought this was a place of worship for water gods.

The sources of the river were used by the locals for water supply and as a source of power. They built water mills right at and below the spring. Soon they discovered the first big hall, which has a big opening to the surface, a doline where the roof caved in. It is also accessible from the cave entrance, but the ceiling is very low.

Image: the path is built into the bed of the cave river.

The huge first hall was used in the 19th century to install a water wheel, which pumped water up into a water pipe. At this time the first short tunnel was built to access the first hall. The cave was the drinking water supply for the town and irrigation water for the nearby tobacco fields. There was a six kilometre long channel, which was also built at this time.

Then in 1952 the new Hellenic Speleologic Society made the first exploration, but a siphon stopped any research after only 70m.

In 1978, with much better equipment, a group of French and Greek speleologists made a new attempt to explore the cave behind the siphon. They discovered a passage of 500m which again ended at a siphon. This part of the cave is today's show cave. Soon a second short tunnel was built to allow people to pass the first siphon.

Anna Petrocheilou, who was president of the Hellenistic Speleological Society at this time, suggested the cave to be developed as a show cave. But it seems the cave fell into a sort of sleep, as it took until the year 2000, when the cave was finally opened to the public.

Today, a new entrance tunnel allows comfortable access to the main passage and enters the cave at the so called Beach Chamber. The path, built on a bridge above the river, shows the section to the next siphon, and the visitors have to walk back the same path to the Beach Chamber. Here a bridge crosses the river and a short tunnel leads to a narrow section of the cave, and another tunnel leads to the entrance hall. The water wheel, the huge doline and a small chapel are the highlights at the end of the tour.

The river passage is very interesting, huge stalagmites hanging from the ceiling, sometimes almost to the surface of the water. The path is quite new, built on stainless steel with concrete plates to walk on. The cave is lit with yellow lamps lighting the path and white lights for the formations, which are turned on and off by motion detectors. The cave has no steps, despite the exit from the water wheel, so it is suitable for disabled visitors.

At the new tunnel, todays entrance tunnel, an archaeological excavation is located. This excavation revealed numerous Stone Age remains. But this was not the place were the hunters lived, the human remains were transported by the water of the river and the accumulated in a small depression.