The Lousios River sparkles in the gorge. Ancient temples and old monasteries sanctify the landscape. Historic villages with traditional architecture and tasteful stone guest houses. This is Mountainous Arcadia; a ‘mythical’ destination in the Peloponnese. Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Karytaina, Ancient Gortyna, the monasteries of Prodromos and Philosophos all await. Add to them rafting, hiking, local products, delicious traditional fare and the open-air Water Power Museum, the title of Nicolas Poussin’s 17th-century painting, ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ springs readily to mind.
What to do in Mountainous Arcadia
The quaint villages of Mountainous Arcadia
Spread out along the wooded slopes with their stone, tile-roofed homes and churches with elegant bell towers are Stemnitsa, Dimitsana and Karytaina. Each village has its own long history, natural beauty and array of attractions. In Dimitsana you’ll visit the Library and the open-air Water-Power Museum. In Stemnitsa, you’ll admire the clock tower of St George’s Orthodox Church, the Bournazos mansion and churches of the 12th and 15th centuries. In Karytaina you’ll be impressed by the castle known as the Greek Toledo. Built in the 13th century, it was one of the most well-fortified castles in the Peloponnese.
Monks in the gorge: Prodromos and Philosophos monasteries
The monks will treat you to sweet loukoumia (Turkish delight) and, then, as you’ll walk out onto the wooden balconies of the Prodromos monastery, hanging from the cliffs of the Lousios Gorge since the 16th century, you’ll savour a view that is equally divine.
The beauty of the Peloponnese lies at your feet. From there, a path leads down to the Lousios River and then ascends to the other side of the gorge, bringing you to the Philosophos monastery, built in 1691. You’ll visit the 10th-century Catholic church and then enter the New monastery (Nea Moni Philosophou) to admire the murals that have embellished it since 1693. This is one of the most impressive attractions in the area.
The ancient valley of Gortyna
The most important ancient site in the Lousios Valley, this landscape exudes a palpable timeless energy. The remains of the city that flourished during the Classical and Hellenistic periods lie at the edge of the gorge. Excavations uncovered two acropolises, two Asklepeia (health centres), bath-houses, temples and thermal springs.
The open-air Water-Power Museum
The only one of its kind in Greece, it displays the technology of the pre-industrial period that exploited the driving force of water. By touring the facilities – the restored gunpowder mill, the tanneries, the fulling mill, the distillery, the watermill- you’ll learn all about these modes of production.
The epicentre of Arcadia is the capital, Tripoli, built 650m above sea level. It was founded at the beginning of the 14th century and called Tripolitsa (little Tripoli) until the 19th century. Many of its conquerors, such as the Venetians and the Turks, left their mark here. In Tripoli, there are still listed neoclassical buildings and impressive churches, large squares and parks. It is worth visiting the War Museum, the Cultural Centre, the Matzouneio Public Library, and the extremely well-organised Archaeological Museum, housed in a building designed by Ernst Ziller, an architect so enamoured by Greece that he ended up adopting its nationality.
Hidden gems of Mountainous Arcadia
Rafting and trekking in the Lousios river
The river is perfect for whitewater rafting, and you’ll also love hiking and trekking in the gorge with its, well, ‘gorgeous’ scenery. Here in this Peloponnese landscape, lovers of outdoor sports will recharge their batteries.
Traditional local products
The small square pastries that you’ll see in all the shops selling traditional products are called toutoumia. Now’s your chance to stock up on local herbs, sweets and handmade pasta too.
Folklore Museum of Stemnitsa
What does the interior of a traditional home in mountainous Arcadia look like? You’ll find out at the Folklore Museum of Stemnitsa, where reproductions of traditional workshops are also on view.
- The quaint villages of Mountainous Arcadia
- Prodromos and Philosophos monasteries
- The ancient valley of Gortyna
- The open-air Water-Power Museum
- Legendary Tripoli
- Folklore Museum of Stemnitsa