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Mountainous Arcadia
Stone mansions and cobblestone streets crowned from the grandeur of Arcadian nature

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On the mythical land of God Pan, the god of pastoral life who enjoyed carefree the company of the Nymphs in mountainous Arcadia, and distinguishes for its natural beauty and its austere hospitality, the peninsula of Peloponnese invites you to explore picturesque villages that have been surrendered in the arms of Menalon since the dawn of time. If you are looking for a beautiful destination where you can enjoy the tranquillity of nature, mountainous Arcadia has it for you! From the cobblestone alleys of Dimitsana, the stone mansions of Stemnitsa and the impregnable castle of Karytaina to the sounds of Lousios River, the verdant forest sceneries of Menalon Mountain and the impressive stalactites of Kapsia Cave, it is definite that mountainous Arcadia will charm you instantly. Stone mansions, Byzantine churches and cobblestone streets adorn some of the most beautiful and well-preserved mountain villages of Arcadia, with their unique architecture, their impressive monasteries and their atmospheric guesthouses and create a scenic character of utmost beauty. Dimitsana and Stemnitsa will travel you to another bygone era, where, no one knows how, they have managed to retain their authenticity and genuineness. Among the green forests on the mountain slopes of Menalon, travellers will find a one-of-kind opportunity to explore the true beauty of mountainous Peloponnese. Situated two hours away from Athens, mountainous Arcadia challenges you to enjoy a variety of alternative activities including caving, hiking, rafting, river trekking, rappelling and skiing. Above all, mountainous Arcadia is one of the favourite holiday destinations of Greece ideal for weekend escapes, romantic getaways, skiing vacations and nature excursions. This lovely location of Peloponnese offers a genuine getaway with a true spirit of authenticity away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. History, architecture and nature blend in a very mysterious way on this corner of Greece creating one of the most beautiful sceneries of Greece you cannot afford to miss this winter.
Menalon Ecstatic Trail: A Mountain Adventure

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Menalon Trail, the first certified trail in Greece by European Rambler’s Association (ERA) in the category of Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe, is a must for nature lovers.

 

The trail itself passes through the villages of Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Zygovisti, Elati, Vytina, Nymfasia, Magouliana, Valtessiniko, and Lagadi. Its general infrastructure follows the standards set by the European Ramblers Association (ERA), an organization focusing on the promotion of walking by creating trails and exchanging the know-how over the borders and securing the rights of free access to nature for the walkers.

 

75 kilometers of nature and beauty await the avid travellers to collect unforgettable moments in one of the most pristine regions of Greece.

 

Be part of Menalon’ trail adventure!

From Philosophos’ Monastery to Prodromos’ Monastery

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The Monastery of Philosophos’ is the oldest and most historic monastery of Arcadia built on the western side of Lousios gorge. According to historical testaments, the monastery was founded in 963, where a “secret school” allegedly existed in the years of the Ottoman domination, and it is considered a unique sample of Byzantine architecture. The new monastery of Philosophos’ was founded during the 17th century, which functioned as a hieratic school, the School of Dimitsana, Gregory E’ and Paleon Patron Germanos were some of its most famous graduates.

 

An exceptional forest path, one of the most beautiful in Arcadia, leads to Prodromos’ Monastery on the other side of Lousios gorge.

 

Perched on a vertical rock above the crystalline water of Lousios River, Prodromos’ Monastery was built in the 16th century, although the region had a great monastic tradition since the 12th century. During the Greek Revolution of 1921, the Prodromos’ Monastery played a key role in the health care and the supply of goods of the Greek fighters, while the signs of the bullets from the Turks in the great gate witness the heroic battles that took place in the surrounding area. What’s more, the monastery’s courtyard served as a shelter for the local community from the persecution by the Turks.

 

Access to this lovely path requires walking in Lousios ravine, so get ready for an incredible experience! It is a beautiful route (45 minutes) that passes through the evergreen tress of the ravine, descends to the riverbed, and leads to the other side of the gorge through a wooden bridge.

The Colourful Promenade of Love

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Perched on an altitude of 1.033 meters, Vytina is considered one of the most beautiful villages of Menalon Mountain.

 

Situated in this picturesque village, the Promenade of Love is one of the most romantic things you can do in Arcadia, a lovely road blessed with fragrant maple, plane trees and the chirping of the birds. Since the old times, young men used to promenade on this lovely road in order to meet their future wives, by exchanging erotic glances and messages, according to the strict morals of that time.

 

Afterwards, you can continue your promenade on the west side of the village, the so-called Old Village, where you can admire the historic church of Holy Apostles with the excellent wooden temple, and the Folklore Museum, a true specimen of what life felt in Vytina in ancient times.

 

It is worth mentioning that the festival of honey, which takes place every summer, is another important aspect of the local culture of Vytina’s inhabitants, since the village’s honey is known for its fine quality and taste all over Greece.

Stemnitsa’s Fine Goldsmiths

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Hanging on the craggy slopes of Menalon Mountain, Stemnitsa will blow your mind with its picturesque character, a preserved traditional village that has been characterized as one of the most beautiful settlements in the Peloponnese peninsula.

 

History has it that the entire settlement was built on the ruins of a Byzantine settlement according to Pausanias’ historical texts. It is no coincidence, therefore, that 18 churches still operate in Stemnitsa. Stemnitsa’s fine goldsmiths, who were famous for their craftsmanship in bell towers, were among the most famous in Greece. Since the beginning of the post-Byzantine centuries, Stemnitsa developed into an important industrial center with thriving metalwork and silversmithing. It is interesting that these fine artisants used their own sign language, known as “metsitsiotika”, in order to protect their business secrets! Housed in an imposing stone building, the Silversmith School of Stemnitsa, that continues the traditional art of the local community, is a must!

 

Furthermore, you can visit the Folklore Museum of the village ( open daily except Tuesdays), one of the most remarkable of its kind, (to admire the rich folklore tradition of Stemnitsa, stop by the scenic square of the village to appreciate the beautiful bell tower of Saint George with the impressive frescoes of Fotis Kontoglou and enjoy simple moments in the traditional cafeterias of this striking Arcadian region.

 

Most of all, travellers should not miss the spring assembly of Stemnitsa’s Silversmiths, organized from May to June on an annual basis, as well as the half-marathon of Menalon Mountain, which passes through the impressive path of the mountain, kicking off from Stemnitsa and ends, after a 5-day course in the most beautiful spots in the area, in the village of Lagadia. At last but not least, make sure you visit the “Aeraki” spot where you can admire a spectacular sunset to the Ionian Sea and the mountains of Zakynthos, weather permitting!

Open-Air Water Power Museum

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Situated in the lovely village of Dimitsana, the Open Air Water Power Museum is a must visit.

 

This impressive museum highlights the importance of waterpower in traditional society by focusing on the main pre-industrial techniques that take advantage of water to produce a variety of goods, and links them to the history and daily life of the local society over the ages.

 

The Open Air Water-Power Museum has restored traditional installations and water-powered mechanisms. The workshops are surrounded by thick vegetation and abundant running water, where you can go for a walk. Their permanent equipment has been repaired so that it is now in working order.  The first building houses a fulling mill and a flourmill with a horizontal paddle wheel. The adjoining small room with a fireplace was the miller’s home, where he lived with his – usually large – family.  Outside the mill, you will see the still, which was set up out of doors after the grape harvest for the production of tsipouro (a kind of schnapps or eau-de-vie) made from the skins of the pressed grapes.

 

The stone-paved path leads to a flat area, where a natural reservoir is formed, and ends at the gunpowder mill. Gunpowder, a vibrant element of the region’s cultural identity, remains alive in the memory and tales of Dimitsana’s inhabitants. During the 1821 Greek War of Independence against Ottoman rule, their forefathers supplied the insurgents with this necessary ammunition material. In his memoirs, Kolokotronis, chief of the irregular troops in the Peloponnese, wrote: «Gunpowder we had, Dimitsana made it». Here, you can see the moving mechanism of a gunpowder mill with pestles (or pounders), extinct in Europe since the 18th century, while in Dimitsana it was used during the 1821 Revolution and up to the early 20th century. (Source: Piop.gr)

River Rafting at Lousios Spectacular Canyon

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Who said that Greece is not an ideal destination for rafting enthusiasts? The unimaginable beauty of Arcadia will definitely thrill rafting enthusiasts!

 

Breathtaking landscapes and water routes promise one of the most unforgettable rafting experiences in the most impressive river of Peloponnese. The sound of the impetuous waters of Lousios River combined with the smell of the wet soil invite the adventurers to test their strength in river rafting. A unique path to one of the most pristine water trails of Greek nature will take you to the unexplored landscapes of Arcadia. Passing through a wooded gorge with a mysterious tunnel, arched bridges and impressive passages, it is certain that all of you will spend a memorable travel experience exacerbation of adventure and adrenaline will reach its maximum!

 

Undeniably, Lousios River is one of our country’s most impressive rivers ideal for rafters with experience in the sport.

 

Spring and autumn are the most appropriate seasons for rafting. Wear your rafting waistcoat and helmet and embark on your rafting boat to explore the mysterious beauty of the Arcadian nature.

Arkoudorema’s Mystery

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It is a must to visit Arkoudorema, a magnificent location of Arcadia, situated in the heart of the pine forests of Menalon at an altitude of 1.200 meters. During the Ottoman rule, Arkoudorema used to host a lively village that served as hideout, shelter, base and refueling point and care for the rebels of the 1821 Greek Revolution.

 

Today, the sole surviving building of the region is the old church of the Assumption. Access to Arkoudorema is easy through the comfortable asphalt road from Chrysovitsi. The region is also ideal for hiking enthusiasts.

History in Limbovitsi

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Nestled in the dense pine forest of Menalon Mountain, at an altitude of 1.200 meters, travellers will have the opportunity to visit the inaccessible village of Limbovitsi, the glorious village of Theodore Kolokotronis that played a leading role in the revolution of 1821.

 

A village, with such a glorious history, where the chieftain of the 1821 Greek Revolution grew up, is one of the hidden secrets of mountainous Arcadia. The site of the once mightly Arcadian village, today occupies a small plateau along with the restored stone-building home of Kolokotronis, which serves as an open-air museum hosting contemporary illustrations of the life and activity of Theodore Kolokotronis, along with a statue of the historical persona emitting feelings of courage and strength to the travellers.

 

In the great square of the village, with its gurgling waters of traditional stone fountain, stands the reconstructed aisled basilica church of Saint John, which celebrates on August 29 with a festival that gathers people from all the parts of Arcadia.

 

Limbovitsi’s plateau offers magnificent views the mountain of Mainalo! As a mysterious tip, we would suggest to our beloved readers to visit Arkoudorema, a magnificent location of Arcadia, situated in the heart of the pine forests of Menalon at an altitude of 1.200 meters. During the Ottoman rule, Arkoudorema used to host a lively village that served as hideout, shelter, base and refueling point and care for the rebels of the 1821 Greek Revolution. Today, the sole surviving building of the region is the old church of the Assumption. Access to Arkoudorema is easy through the comfortable asphalt road from Chrysovitsi. The region is also ideal for hiking enthusiasts.

From Alonistena and Pyrgaki to Elati and Chrysovitsi

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If you are a driving enthusiast of natural explorations, we suggest to follow the route beginning from Alonistena village towards Pyrgaki, Elati and Chrysovitsi. It is one of the most beautiful routes in mountainous Arcadia, blessed from the greenest colors of Mother Nature.

 

Don’t forget your digital camera to capture some of the finest pictures of your travel experience!

Wonders’ Chamber in the Kapsia Cave

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Kapsia Cave is one of the ten most impressive caves in Greece, and ranks among the top 100 caves that have been deemed suitable for exploitation from a total of 7.500 caves on a national level. Situated beneath the imperious slopes of Menalon Mountain, Kapsia Cave belongs to a complicated system of sinkholes in the Mantinea plateau. The first person who discovered this beautiful cave was the French archaeologist Gustave Fougere in 1887, while he was carrying out excavations at Ancient Mantinea. The first survey of the cave was conducted on August 20, 1982, from a French and Greek team headed from Nikolaos Sideridis, a state engineer from Arcadia along with two French engineers. His study on the cave and the region’s sinkholes was published in the French professional journal “Spelunga” in 1911, which brought the world’s attention to the impressive Kapsia Cave.

 

Regarded as the most important speleological discovery of its time, the study drew international interest in the study of Greece caves. In 1974, another French-Greek team led by I. Ioannou carried out further explorations at the site, and discovered a new section of the cave, that the first group of explorers were not aware of. They came across traces of an old flood, along with multiple human bones and skulls concealed under a 50 centimetres thick layer of mud that covered the floor of the cave. Pieces of pottery probably dating back to the 4th and 5th century were also found. Some of the most rare and most spectacular formations of colourful stalagmites in Greece’s entire speleological kingdom explored up to date, are to be found in the so-called “Chamber of Wonders”. Fiery red, yellow ochre and aquamarine mingle with the snowy white configuration of stalactites, offering a unique exhibition of nature’s art. (Source: Kapsiacave.gr )

Here is our list on the things you should experience in Arcadia:

Must Visit Villages

Vytina is one of the most well known villages of Arcadia with cobblestoned alleys and stone mansions, an ideal destination for natural explorations. From there, the road leads to Alonistena, one of the most mountainous villages of the Peloponnese, with few inhabitants and traditional atmosphere; Alonistena is ideal for promenades in nature! As Alonistena, so is Valtesiniko village, which is drowned in a dense fir forest at an altitude of 1.200 meters; always with guarantying fresh air! Characterized as the hanging village, Langadia is a village that has been characterized as a preserved traditional settlement from the Ministry of Culture distinguishing for its picturesque character. Further down, Dimitsana, the true star of mountainous Arcadia, is one of the largest villages of Arcadia built above Lousios River. The village itself is ideal for exploring the old stone mansions. Nine kilometres away, travellers will find Stemnitsa, which has also been characterized as a traditional settlement, and is famous for its defensive architecture. Elliniko village, again, is the favorite gateway for adventure aficionados of extreme sports in the river as well as for a grill-meat Sunday afternoon lunch at the traditional taverns. At last, but not least, travellers will discover historic Karytaina, one of our favorite villages, that has also been characterized as a traditional settlement since 1978 with its medieval castle, its byzantine churches and its charming stone houses. Whichever village of Mainalon you choose to visit, even Paloumba and Zigovisti, it is definite that you will find sceneries of unique natural beauty and hospitable openhearted people.

Monuments & Natural Beauties

First of all, you should visit the historical Library of Dimitsana with 35 thousand volumes of rare manuscripts and documents. However, one of the most important monuments of Arcadia is none other than the Monastery of Philosofou, a unique example of Byzantine architecture, located on the west side of Lousios Canyon. The monastery is alleged to have operated a secret school in the years of Ottoman domination. If you follow the hiking trail to the other side of Lousios, you can visit Prodromos Monastery that is famous for its support during the Revolution of 1821. It is a must to visit the Open Air Water Power Museum in Dimitsana that represents the traditional pre-industrial life through watermills, gunpowder mills, tanneries, and distilleries as well as the ruined old bridge of Karytaina. Whether you are a lover of caving or not, it is a must to visit the Kapsia Cave, one of the most significant caves in Greece with impressive stalactites and stalagmites and a hall with rocks and stones of spellbound colours. Lovers of skiing should ascend to Mainalon Ski Resort that operates on the plateau of Ostrakina at an altitude of 1,981 meters in order to slide their skis like a pro in the seven ski pistes. Nature enthusiasts should visit Arkoudorema, one of the most famous locations of Mainalo, where there used to be a lively old village while adventurers should definitely experience rafting at Lousios River that passes through exciting passages and tunnels with plants and trees. Village explorers should also visit Zatouna village, the homeland of Mikis Theodorakis, one of the most important songwriters and composers of Greece, with its cobblestone alleys, its traditional cafeterias and its impressive views to the mountains. At last, make sure to visit the Castle of Karytaina in order to admire the spectacular views to Lousios Canyon!