Do you dream of getting away from your daily routine and enjoy a trip in the countryside? The villages of mountainous Arcadia are beautiful all year round, and it’s up to you to discover their magic. Green landscapes, incredible atmosphere in traditional villages and delicious food all lie within a relatively short distance from Athens. Just follow the Athens – Tripoli National Road and after approx. 2 hours of easy driving (195km) you will reach Mt Mainalo.
If what you seek is to feel relaxed and refreshed, just sit back in front of the fireplace in a traditional guest house or a luxury resort and gaze through the window at the lovely natural surroundings. If you prefer some action, then go skiing at the Mainalo ski centre, practice your favourite extreme sport in Lousios River or pick a hiking route and explore the countryside.
The entire area is rich with cultural and historical monuments and landmarks, and those of you who are culture-oriented will be thrilled to discover them! Visit Ancient Gortyna, right next to Lousios riverside (at a 4km distance from Atsicholo village) where there are hot springs and the sanctuary of god Asclepius; Ancient Lykosoura is the “oldest city in the world” according to Pausanias and the Sanctuary of Lykaios Zeus is located on the crest of Mt Lykaio (18km from Lykosoura).
Monuments of mostly –but not solely- religious interest are the Monasteries in the Lousios Ravine, built in the rocks. The best-known ones are Filosofou Monastery, Timiou Prodromou [St. John the Forerunner] Monastery and Kalamiou Monastery. There are also 25 hermitages dug into the rocks that are quite an impressive sight!
In Dimitsana village, there is a park with lush vegetation and flowing waters where you will learn everything about the power of water. One of the most impressive thematic museums in Greece is the Open-Air Water Power Museum where you will see the renovated traditional installations and old water-powered machinery on display.
Take a trip to Kapsia village where you can visit Kapsia Cave. This wonderful natural monument contains breath-taking stalactites and stalagmites, impressive lighting and paths that cross and wind for 330 metres. It is considered as one of the most remarkable caves in Greece!
Local products and dishes
In case physical activity has whetted your appetite, you will find a large selection of delicious dishes and local recipes to taste: rooster or rabbit protogiachni cooked with chylopites [a Greek type of pasta], lagoto (a famous dish consisting of hare meat with skordalia made from meat broth and walnuts), lamb cooked with artichokes in the oven, chortopita (mixed pot-herbs covered with an olive oil phyllo pastry) and savoury feta cheese, chickpea skordalia (puree made with crushed garlic and chickpeas), kid meat cooked in olive oil and oregano and fried wild boar.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, try the mouth-watering diples [fried honey thin pastry dessert] and pancakes, halva and delicious spoon sweets such as chestnut and walnut which are quite common in the area. The carrot spoon sweet is a well-known sweet made in Stemnitsa village. The area is also famous for its dishes with apples used in savoury and sweet recipes, such as the apple pie with walnuts made in Vytina and the traditional Christmas pork with apples and quince cooked in the pot.
Before leaving, make sure you have some space left in your luggage for a few packs of local products such as sweet and savoury trachanas, chylopites, lasagna [wide strips of pasta] and cured pork with spices.