Arcadia is a mountainous land
of rivers, running streams, deep gorges,
medieval castles, Byzantine churches and monasteries,
traditional villages and ancient cities and for skiing in the wintertime and hiking all year long due to its mild winters. It is also a land of beautiful beaches and clean seas. And for those who are fans of the book Holy Blood-Holy Grail this is where the grail came when it left the Holy Land. Arcadia is an
area visited by only a few determined tourists who
are rewarded by one of the finest coastlines in
Greece. The capital, Tripoli is an agricultural
and commercial center of neo-classic houses and an
archeological museum. But the real beauty of
Arkadia is found in the surrounding villages like
Karitena, called the Toledo of Greece (no, not
Ohio: Spain) with itís narrow streets, stone
houses and Frankish castle. Nearby is the old
Frankish bridge over the river Loussios, its gorge
and the ancient site of Gortys which can bereached on foot or by jeep. The village of Clitoria (I am not making this up) has what is perhaps the world's oldest and largest grapevine. Some of the best wine and the finest cooks come from Arkadia.
Visit the tiny village of Kosmas with its cool
summer weather and beautiful platia around the large church and lion fountain. The area is famous for its chesnuts in the fall and for the excellent meat restaurants which people travel great distances to eat at, especially in the winter when they have the fireplace lit and the whole village smells like a psistaria (grill-house). Try the small traditional restaurant called O Elatos where two women and their
husbands crank out dishes of grilled paidakia(lamb chops), hirino
brizoles(pork chops), mouschari(steak), sikotaria (liver) and
other meat dishes. The specialties of the village are yida, a goat soup that is eaten in the winter, gkougkes,
which is a local thick pasta with cheese, and pitaroudia, the local horta
or spinach pie which is fried, grilled or sauteed instead of baked. They have an
excellent local rose, more tan than pink and almost like sherry which we wanted
to get a bottle of to bring home but they were in short supply. (They did have
some at the Selinouta traditional products shop).
See my Kosmas page
The town of Leonidion is at the end of a long gorge, where it finally meets the sea and has one of the nicest beaches in the Peloponessos. Leonidion is known for its unique eggplants which are grown in farms on the plain between the town and the sea. They are the light purple ones with white stripes that they call tsakones and every year in August, after the 15th they have their eggplant festival which attracts people from all over Greece and from other countries as well. Part of the festival is a competition among chefs for the best eggplant dish. The EU has even designated Leonidio as the Tsakonika Eggplant Capital of Europe for having the best tasting and sweetest eggplants. If you want to stay on the sea then this is the area you want to be in Arkadia. Leonideon's beach is called Plaka. There and to the south towards the village of Poulithra there are a few hotels on the sea, such as the Byzantinon Hotel, in a traditional mansion, the Porto Sabatiki with pool and a beach or the economical Stathopoulos Apartments, also on the beach. See My Leonidio Pages.
The trip to Leonideion from Kosmas is one of the most spectacular drives in Greece and you pass the Monastery of Panagia Elona, built in an enormous cave on the rock face of the Dafnon River Gorge, which rivals the monasteries of Meteora. The origin of the monastery date back to the 14th century when shepherds saw a strange light emanating from a nearly inaccessible area on the rock cliff. When the local people climbed up they discovered a candle illuminating an icon of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. A small church was built on the spot. The monastery was burned and looted and the monks massacred after the failed revolution of 1770. The current church was built in 1809 and the monastery is now somewhat of a convent. Be sure to visit with the ladies from Leonideon who have set up shop in the parking lot where they sell traditional goods, including the best honey you will have ever tasted.
If you continue up the coast on the east side of the nearly 2000 meter high Mount Parnon you will pass beautiful beaches in sandy coves, some with fish tavernas known only by the locals. (Take the turn off to Livadia and follow the frighteningly narrow road to the bottom and you will be rewarded by one of the best family run psarotaverna you will ever eat in). You can continue on up the coast past small villages and to the town of Tyros with its long beach and numerous restaurants and hotels that are usually full of Athenians in August and summer weekends but have plenty of availability the rest of the time. Try to stop at the natural spring in Lake Mostou, part of the Mostou Natural Wetlands a protected area which contains a large number of birds and other wildlife. Or continue on to the beach town of Paralia Astros with its medieval castle and Archaeological museum and a coast road and harbor dotted with fish tavernas and fast food joints a popular holiday destination for Peloponesians and Athenians.
Helpful Arkadia Tips
On the highway between Sparta and Tripolis there are two important places to stop. The first is the cheese factory a few kilometers on the right before you reach Tripolis coming from Sparta. (I am writing this for people returning to Athens from the Peloponessos since not many people take cheese on a vacation with them.) You can buy sheep yogurt and feta and manouri, maybe the best you will find anywhere. The second stop is the Ardamis restaurant
which looks like a truckstop from the USA but is actually one of the best Greek restaurants in the Peloponessos, certainly the best you will find on a highway. We had rabbit stifado, and volvous which are marinated tassel hyacinth bulbs. They taste awful but you have to try them and they are supposed to be good for you but I am not sure in what way. Best of all is the local wine and traditional products they sell there. Especially good is the dark red Kariatiko Regional Dry Red Wine of Lakonias which is sold in plastic 1.5 liter bottles for 4.60 euros each. It is the best
wine in a plastic bottle you will ever drink. Keep your eyes open for people selling fruits and vegetables on the road to Sparta, especially in early summer when it is cherry season.
town of Langada is an interesting place to visit for a couple
reasons. It is a mountain village nestled within a pine forest at
a pretty high altitude and has some amazing views. There are some
cafes and tavernas and what is called the Katastima Trofimon
right next to an excellent coffee shop that makes great espresso.
The Katastima Trofimon is run by a lovely woman by the name of Kanella
Mouroutsou (her brother owns the coffeeshop next door). The store
features natural and traditional products including their home-made
pastas, honey, olive-oil, herbs from the mountains, soaps, cheeses,
vinegear, fruit preserves, grains, dried fruits, sun-dried tomatoes
and lots of other products. Langada is on the road from Olympia
to Tripolis so if you are passing through it is a nice place to
stop and take a break. Also on the road out of town is a small shop
owned by a little old man by the name of Athanasios Grigoropoulos
who makes hand carved walking sticks and canes of a wide and interesting
variety including some made of goat horns. Athanasios is an engaging
and interesting guy who has mountains of letters and cards he gets
from well-wishers who have stopped in to his shop. The shop itself
is in a precarious location near a bend in the road so be careful
while crossing and shopping. I am not sure exactly where it is because the only reason we were there was because we were totally lost.
What does one bring home from a trip to Tripolis?
Nothing. Tipota. See
If you are looking for a hotel in Tripolis try the Mainalon Resort
Also try the Vytina Mountain View on the road between Vytina and Ostrakina snow centres, on one of the most
beautiful mountain sites. Nearby in Vytina is the Kentrikon Hotel and the Lagada Resort, all near the Lousios river and Ladonas lake and the unique stone bridges and buildings of the area.
Hiking in Arkadia with Greece on Foot
Greece on Foot is run by a small group of walkers who love Arcadia with a passion. This is a living community of farmers working as they have for centuries; picking olives and carobs, tending their animals and walking the mountains with their donkeys and mules. Their programs combine planning with flexibility and include days in the mountains and time by the sea. You will walk with small groups (no more than 8) of like minded people. Their experienced walk leader, Wendy Copage, has been a walker all her life starting with the Lake District and Scotland, then Greece to which she moved in 1989. Wendy has a detailed knowledge of the local fauna and flora and knows where to find the endemic plants, and where to pick the best herbs in season: oregano, thyme, rosemary, mountain tea and greens. She has had the best teachers... the local women who learnt from their grandmothers! Wendy's fluent Greek allows her to learn all the local history and special secrets to share with our walkers. For more information see Greece On Foot.
More Helpful Info
You can find hotels in Arkadia by location, price, whether or not it has a swimming pool, and see photos and reviews by using this link to Booking.com. Excellent prices
and many hotels you can book and then cancel
with no cancellation fee. For those who want to book without using a travel agency this is the best way to do it.
Helpful Sites: Swift Car Rentals, George's Taxi Tours, Hotels, Athens
Guide, Travel Agents, Mainland Guides