Thursday, May 4, 2017

Greek Road Trips: Finding the Menalon Magic

Our destination was Dimitsana, population 340.

Clinging to a hillside overlooking the Lousios Gorge in the Menalon Mountain range of the Peloponnese, the small hamlet lies northeast of Kalamata.

We’d chosen it to be our introduction to the area from among a dozen such small villages that are scattered across the region known as Central Arkadia (are-cod-EE-ah).

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Dimitsana, Peloponnese

Lonely Planet’s guidebook describes it as ‘a tangle of precipitous ravines and narrow roads that wind their way through the medieval-village-speckled valleys of the Menalon Mountains. . .where you’ll find some of the most breathtaking mountainous scenery in the Peloponnese.’ 

P1030659The guidebook described it perfectly. But it didn’t prepare us for the lush forested peaks that rise from those magnificent gorges nor for the charm of its villages. I've caught myself wanting to use the word 'charming' in every paragraph of this post.

The guidebook could also have described it as:

'a magical land straight out of a fairy tale’.



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Amanites Guesthouse, Dimitsana - Our room with a view
The first part of the trip is on the national highway, a slick divided four-lane route, that links Kalamata to Athens. Our adventure began after leaving that freeway as we set out on roads so narrow in places and without guardrails that we were relieved when the only on-coming traffic was a herd of goats.

As the road became rougher, and thinking this place really was remote, we realized we’d taken the wrong turn back at the village with the castle (I said it was a fairy tale setting so of course there would be a castle). Once we got on the right road (which was narrow but well maintained), it didn’t take long to reach our destination.

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Oncoming traffic in Greece's Arkadia region

Each of the roads had taken us through several picturesque towns each it seemed with an ancient castle, or bell towers or church or fortress.

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Villages in Central Arkadia - Peloponnese
We had afternoon cappucinos in a captivating village named Stemnitsa, population 200, home to a gold and jewelry college. Items created there are sold throughout Greece. The village is also known to outdoor enthusiasts from around the world because of. . .

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No better place to sip a cappuccino than Stemnitsa, Peloponnese

The Menalon Trail

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Menalon Trail Map
The area’s a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts who are hiking all, or parts, of the 72.5km Menalon Trail that stretches between the villages of Stemnitsa  and Lagkadia.

The well-signed trail, completed in May 2015, offers eight sub-section hikes. One of the most popular is the 12.5 km route from Stemnitsa to Dimitsana. That route takes hikers past two Monasteries – each worth a visit.

We didn’t bring day packs and hiking poles, hats and gear for tackling the route, but having seen the area, we plan to return and explore at least a part of it one day.



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Lousios Gorge, Central Arkadia

Destination Dimitsana

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Gunpowder Mill - Dimitsana
We did – thanks to the advice of friends -- visit the village’s Open Air Water Power Museum (now don’t quit reading or start snoring here!). 

We are glad we took their recommendations – it was a great trip back into the area’s pre-industrial past.

Paying the 3-euro per person admission we toured the restored grounds and mills of the long-ago bustling Agios Yiannis (St. George) mill. It is 1.6 km from the village, a nice taster-sized hike or you can drive and park at the site nestled into the side of the gorge. We watched the water-run flour mill operate as well as the nearby gunpowder mill. (Ammunition was produced here for the Greek War of Independence.)

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New upscale bars and bistrots line old cobble-stone streets in Dimitsana
Coffee shops, upscale bars and restaurants – so many from which to choose that we couldn’t try them all in a single two-night visit.  And the view of the the gorge from those overlooking it, drew us back each night to sip and savor the view.

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8 p.m. sun was just setting over the Lousios Gorge - we had a front row seat
There are guesthouses and hotels in several of the villages.  We chose Amanites Guesthouse, an 8-room boutique hotel recommended by Lonely Planet guidebook. We had a delightful room with a view (note photo above) and our 70-euro a night rate included  a buffet breakfast the featured homemade jams and spreads, a variety of bread and pastries, eggs, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.

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Breakfast buffet included at Amanites Guesthouse hotel - Dimitsana
While warm weather brings hikers to the area, winter snow draws the big city dwellers. If you are traveling between Athens and Ancient Olympia, this is a great scenic route to follow.

If we’ve teased your travel bug with this post, here are some sites you might find of interest:
Map picture
Menalon Trail, www.menalontrail.eu
Open Air Water Power Museum www.piop.gr
Amanites Guesthouse www.amanites.gr
Dimitsana is less than two hours drive from Kalamata.

That’s it for this week’s travels in Greece. We thank you for the time you spend with us and love hearing from you.  And thanks to those of you who’ve been recommending Travelnwrite to your friends! Hope you’ll be back next week and until then safe travels to you and yours.

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

31 comments:

  1. Beautiful! How have I still not been to Greece?

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    1. Hopefully, you'll read enough of my posts to make you want to pack your bags and head this direction!

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    2. That's the plan! :) Ever since moving to Italy all I hear about is Greece anyways. Seems like that's where all the Italians head in the summer.

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  2. What a lovely area Jackie. But of course I would know that. I've never been to Dimitsana but I go to Kalabryta a lot. It is pretty incredible in those mountains, makes you feel like you're on top of the world.

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    1. Oh if we lived her full-time Mary, I'd be back exploring those wonderful mountain villages as often as I could!

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  3. You visit the most picturesque spots in the world!

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    1. As do you! I just gushed over your post today and would love to visit that rose farm!

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  4. This looks like a place frozen in time. And, that is something I like. Wish I was able to visit places like these on a constant basis. #TPThursday

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    1. It does look frozen in time until you enter the bars and coffee shops and realize they are as upscale as those in big cities. My favorite combination of old and new! Thanks for stopping by Ruth!

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  5. Looks like a gorgeous setting to hike in, or just relax and enjoy the views.

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    1. We talked about hiking and then after working up a sweat just walking up and down the village streets decided the views needed to be enjoyed by someone and that would be us! Thanks for stopping by Gaelyn!

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  6. Another beautiful corner of Greece that I need to visit! Meanwhile I'll just keep relying on your posts. Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

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    1. Glad you are enjoying our road trips as well, Jim. Thanks for the nice comment. Love #wkendtravelinspiration

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  7. Well, our bags are all but packed and we'll soon be heading for Crete, so sorry we're not heading your way...Fairyland indeed. We'll raise a glass of Raki to absent friends ... Yamas!!

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    1. Oh Val do have a good time in Loutro. Give our love to those who still remember us. We'll toast your arrival even if we aren't close enough to do it together!

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  8. I would definitely be interested in seeing a museum about pre-Industrial era power generators. Demistana and Stemnista both look like lovely little villages that I'd want to slowly explore. I'm glad that your time in Greece isn't all bureaucracy and home fixit projects. #WkendTravelInspiration

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    1. No, I am happy to report that the rhythm of life has finally hit a balance of projects and outings! #wkendtravelinspiration

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  9. "Charming" sounds like the perfect word to me, Jackie. I could also add: picturesque, scenic and magical. So lovely and I have to echo Sabrina's question, "How have I still not been to Greece?" Soon!

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    1. And just when I think I've seen all the cute there is, more is just down the road. I do hope you head this way. . .and make sure we are around when you do. (We continue to be tourists, however, as our application remains under review so our time could be a bit limited for a while longer).

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  10. The tree lined gorges look like a good hiking challenge. I would be torn between hiking and checking out the coffee shops in Dimitsana.

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    1. One guidebook suggests coffee shops to visit AFTER the hike; we just skipped the first part and went straight to the second!

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  11. What a great informative article. Great images as well.

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    1. Thanks much! Glad you enjoyed both the writing and the photos!

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  12. Looks like a wonderful diversion! I could go for a rural Greek road trip with goats on the road. Sounds like fun!

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    1. They are rather amusing that's for sure. And no road rage yet displayed by any of them!

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  13. Well this post has everything. Goats on the road (love it), views and a good value hotel. One village down and loads more to come!

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    1. So many roads to travel and (sigh) so little time. . .we'll hit as many as possible - that's for sure!

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  14. Beautiful shots of the place in a hilly terrain.

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  15. A beautiful introduction to the picturesque and CHARMING village of Dimitsana and surrounding area! What views, what pretty architecture, cobblestone streets and elegant shops!

    I haven't seen much of this gorgeous country, but it just so happens that on your map, I've been to Nafplio, Kiparrisia, Kalamata and Vitina!

    Happy Thursday!
    xo
    Poppy

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  16. This is all so beautiful and I would LOVE to be able to see this in person. What a fun and blessed life you have chosen.

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  17. Peloponnese is so beautiful; you chose well in your search for a scenic village!

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