Showing posts with label Menalon Mountains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Menalon Mountains. Show all posts

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).

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’.

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.

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.

PicMonkey Collage
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. . .

No better place to sip a cappuccino than Stemnitsa, Peloponnese

The Menalon Trail

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.

Lousios Gorge, Central Arkadia

Destination Dimitsana

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.)

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.

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.

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,
Open Air Water Power Museum
Amanites Guesthouse
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


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