ARCADIAN HIGHLANDS | MAINLAND GREECE | PELOPONNESE
Routes through forests and mountain slopes, beautiful and historic mountain villages, hikes in the entrancing landscape of the Loussios river with its gorge and monasteries.
The Arcadian highlands suit those who look for low-cost excursions among natural surroundings and traditional Greek villages, far from mass tourism. You will have the chance to stay in cozy traditional and boutique hotels. There are many choices for great local cuisine.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN ARCADIA
BOUTIQUE HOTEL VILLA VAGER
Boutique hotel Villa Vager with its stately decoration is built in an ideal location in Levidi, near Vytina. On the top of the hill, almost in the centre of the village, stands out offering the visitor an amazing panoramic view.
A mountain village on Mt Menalo, altitude about 1,033 m. It is thickly wooded and its excellent climate has long made it a favourite destination for Athenians.
It is the best organized of all the district’s villages, at the expense however of its local colour.
Vytina is also known for its wood-carvings.
WHAT TO SEE IN VYTINA
The church of Agion Apostolon and nearby, built on a rock, the monastery of Panagia tis Sfiridas. It also served as a clandestine school in the days of Ottoman domination.
A historic chief town built like an amphitheatre on Mt Menalos, above the Loussios river. At this spot there once existed the ancient city of Tefthis. There are scattered remains of cyclopean walls and the ruins of the acropolis at Kastro. Dimitsana flourished under the Franks and remained prosperous under the Turks. It played an important role in the years of the Greek War of Independence of 1821 because of its 90 gunpowder factories and was the birthplace of prominent figures in the struggle for liberation. Strong traditional features are preserved and the visitor can admire the cobblestone alleys and stone-built mansions, in harmony with the splendid surroundings.
WHAT TO SEE IN DIMITSANA
The houses of the Patriarch Gregorios V and of Paleon Patron Germanos, the fine library, the folk art collection, the historic churches of Agios Efthymios, of Agios Georgios and of Agios Ioannis, as well as Mustafa’s fountain.
HYDRAULIC POWER MUSEUM OF DIMITSANA
Summer 10 am-2 pm, winter 10 am-4 pm and 5-7 pm, closed on Tuesdays and holidays
The most striking of Dimitsana’s sights. Three types of mill are worked by the river whose spring is next to the chapel above the museum: gunpowder and flour-mills and a tannery. You’ll get an idea of how our ancestors coped with their requirements.
A chief village in a scenic spot on the slopes of Mt Menalos, among four ravines. It prospered greatly in Byzantine times and was renowned for the bells crafted by its artisans. Later, due to its metal works, it developed into one of the major commercial and artisans’ centre of the region. It was also a centre of gold and silver-smithery, for which it has today a technical school.
For about one month during the War of Independence Stemnitsa was the capital of Greece.
WHAT TO SEE IN STEMNITSA
Other than strolling about the picturesque alleys with stone mansions, in the square you can see an admirable stone belfry and the churches of Panagia Bafero (12th c.), Agios Nikolaos with 14th c. frescoes and the Tris Ierarches with 18th c. frescoes.
STEMNITSA MUSEUM OF FOLK ART
In the Hatzi mansion, you will see workshops for traditional handicrafts, very good Byzantine icons, and ceramics, wood-carvings, embroideries, traditional costumes, etc.
How to get there: The road from Elliniko is a passable dirt road. After the 3rd km, at the first crossroads, there are road signs pointing left for Ancient Gortyna (1 km) and right for Moni Prodromou (4 km), Stemnitsa (14 km) and Dimitsana (17 km). Go to Ancient Gortyna first and then to Moni Prodromou. Should you set out to hike from Dimitsana or Stemnitsa, it is advisable to ask the inhabitants for information about the paths, which are not signposted.
One of the most impressive gorges in Greece. For 5 km you will delight in sights unique for their stupendous landscape, combining the luxuriant vegetation of holm-oak, maple, cedar and plane trees, with gulches, crags, superb monasteries and the River Loussios with its secret waterfalls. The region satisfies all tastes and degrees of stamina: of both hikers and ordinary walkers.
Agios Andreas: A single-aisled domed 12th c. Byzantine chapel.
Kokkori Bridge: A splendid stone bridge over the Loussios river. It is worth stopping here to enjoy the surroundings. There is a good road as far as the bridge and you can leave your car here and walk on by the path. The river- banks under the bridge are an ideal picnic spot.
Ancient Gortyna: Near the chapel and bridge are the ruins of one of the principal ancient Arcadian cities. Unfortunately little is extant today. However, on the banks of the Loussios you will see the ruins of the walls, the dwellings, the baths and sanctuaries, the most important among them that of Asklepios.
Monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos:
It was founded in 1167 and built in the hollow of a rock overhanging the ravine. A few monks live there who will welcome you, guide you round the library and show you the noteworthy devotional paintings kept in the monastery.
Old Philosophou Monastery: A historic monastery built in 967 but abandoned nowadays. It was for a time a spiritual centre for the resistance against the Ottomans and a clandestine school.
New Philosophou Monastery: Take the little path from the Old Monastery and some 300 m further along at the lip of the ravine you will come across the New Philosophou Monastery (17th c.) The monastery operates, is occupied by monks and was recently restored. Guests are welcome.
Aimyalon Monastery: By car, take the Stemnitsa-Dimitsana road and after the crossroads to Zygovitsi bear left to reach the monastery. It was built at the beginning of the 17th c. above a wooded ravine. Nowadays it has two monks. See the excellent wall paintings dating back to 1608.
HIKING IN LOUSSIOS GORGE
Dimitsana-Moni Philosophou (clandestine school). Duration 1hr 30 min.
By car to Moni Philosophou and walk from there to Moni Prodromou. | Duration 1 hr.
Stemnitsa – Moni Prodromou – Ancient Gortyna – Atsiholou Bridge. | Duration about 3 hrs.
There is also rafting, kayaking, canoeing etc. in the region.
Information: Vytina Forestry Service, tel. 00302795022213.
Dramatic, enchanting scenery, in the saddle of a green hill with a castle at its top (450 m). When the Franks arrived in the Peloponnese (13th c.) Hugues de Bruyeres built the castle and the town became a barony and capital of the province of Gortynia. It gradually flourished but in 1459 fell to the Turks, then to the Venetians and to the Turks again in 1715 until its independence. Karytena today is more impressive from a distance, as there are about 150 inhabitants left and the dereliction is noticeable.
WHAT TO SEE IN KARYTENA
Wander through the narrow alleys with the deserted stone houses giving it an aspect of a ghost village. There are about 40 churches, the most significant being the Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos with 13th c. frescoes and famous 14th c. bell-tower, and the church of Zoodochos Pigi. Unfortunately besides the abandoned houses the historic castle too is crumbling.
ARCHED BRIDGE OF KARYTENA
In the ravine by the river Alpheios and just below the new bridge you will see the lovely arched stone bridge, a watermill and a chapel. It is worth getting out of the car to follow the path and enjoy the rare beauty of this sight.
A mountain village built on a slope, with traditional architecture, a large square and charming alleyways worth a stroll, the only way to admire the grandeur of the old houses. See the churches of Agios Therapontas, of Agios Nikolaos, Agios Athanasios, Agia Varvara and the Taxiarchon chapel. Also do not miss the library, formerly a primary school, in the villagecentre. It contains rare documents of historic importance and an archive of the struggle of 1821. There are also archaeological finds from excavations in the area.
ARCADIA TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO ARCADIA
A 2 hour drive from Athens. The itinerary is recommended only for those with a car.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT ARCADIA
At all times of year the countryside will delight you.
WHAT TO BUY
In Stemnitsa there are various interesting items of jewellery.
Country noodles, trahana (cracked wheat boiled with milk and dried), cheeses, honey and pastries. It is worth sampling the local grilled meats. In Dimitsana delicious bakery bread and myzithra cheese.
ARCADIA USEFUL TELEPHONES NUMBERS
Dimitsana Town Hall 00302795031237
Dimitsana Police 00302795031205
DimitsanaHealth Centre 00302795031401