Welcome to the very heart of the Peloponnese, where Greece’s fourth largest prefecture will impress you with its nature and heritage. Nature abounds here, as Arkadia – or Arcadia – is considered a haven for eco-tourists and hikers. The area has even left its mark on European art and literature, such as Nicolas Poussin’s paintings dubbed Et in Arcadia Ego. Arcadia’s capital Tripoli works well as a hub for discovering the eco treasures and attractions of this region.

Photo: Sailko

While Tripoli features many neoclassical houses and an Archaeological museum, the beauty of Arcadia lies in its raw countryside and little villages such as Karitena with its stone houses, narrow streets and Frankish Fort. Don’t miss the Frankish bridge over the river Loussios with its gorge, or the ancient site of Gortys.

The historical and heritage-filled village of Dimitsana is certainly worth a visit – not only for its fascinating stone-built architecture but also for its cuisine and traditions – and so are the villages of Stemnitsa (known for jewellery making) and Lagadia (known for its skilled stone artisans and beautiful nature). These and many other villages were in danger of crumbling away as the people of Arkadia left the hardships of recent decades to seek a better live in Athens or abroad, but there are efforts to preserve the way of life, traditions and declining population to hopefully offset this decline. Ecotourism will certainly help keep this prefecture sustainable and economically viable.

One of the pretty mountain villages is Vlacherna at 1100 meters with its historic monastery by the same name, as well as the site of the Beneniko fortress which is today occupied by the Monastery of Eleousa complete with six churches, underground chambers and storehouses.

Not far off is the stunning summer resort town of Vytina, its climate tempered by the dense forests of Mount Mainalo. Its history as centre for learning hidden from the eyes of the Ottomans and its local crafts today make it an interesting spot to visit. Explorers in the area might also come across the ruins of an old town called Kernitsa with its many churches, or the notable Byzantine monastery of Our Lady Theotokos.

Photo: Roman Klementschitz

Overall, churches and monasteries from Byzantine times abound, adding a special historical spirit to the area. Fans of mystery bible stories may be interested to know that the grail mentioned in the book Holy Blood Holy Grail supposedly ended up in Arcadia after leaving the Holy Land.

On a greener front, the nature in Arcadia is very varied, with deciduous tree forests such as plane trees, Chalepios pine (common in Greece) and the evergreen black pine. A cedar forest unique to Europe can be found near steep rocks some five kilometres outside the lovely village of Agios Petros. Cedar woods are found to the south of the Malevi monastery. The trees are concentrated in Parnonas, mainly around the villages of Kosmas, Parstos, Paleochori, Platanaki and Agios Vasileios. Also noteworthy are the wildflowers of Mount Parnonas and the orchids on its slopes.

Lake Taka some 8 kilometres south of Tripoli is considered a prime ecosystem rich in fauna and flora, with 13 important species of reptiles, mammals and amphibians, in addition to migratory birds. The lake may dry up temporarily in summer. Rivers include the Ladonas, Alfeios (biggest in the Peloponnese), Erymanthos and Lousios. All this nature of course means that any eco activity such as rafting, hiking, mountain climbing comes alive and reinvigorates the spirit.

Photo: www.naturagraeca.com

While the mountains of Arkadia offer great hiking and mountain-climbing opportunities in temperate months, in the winter they are snow covered and represent a whole other range of activities. The Ostrakina ski center in Ostrakina in Mainalon (or Menalon), Gortynia, at 1600 meters has earned awards for its natural beauty. There are 8 slopes and 4 ski lifts to choose from, as well as chalet and guesthouse.

Lastly, for the archaeologist in us all, not far from Tripoli lie the must-see archaeological sites of Manitineia and Tegaea (or Tegea). Discover remains of an agora and Hellenistic theatre, baths and more, either from Roman or Hellenistic times and visit the Archaeological Museum of Tegaea to see the artefacts that came out of this site, be they from the Arachaic, Geometrical or Hellenistic period. The ancient cities of Megalopolis and Lycosoura with a myriad of relics must also be visited by any enthusiast of ancient Greek history.

In the vicinity there is Petrovouni – known for traditional furniture making – you can visit the remains of Ancient Methydrion and a temple to Poseidon Hypios. Part of the area was ravaged by forest fires in 2007, but is on the road to recovery now, thanks to the rich vegetation and spring waters. Ancient Lousoi is also reported to be in the area.

Arcadia, it seems, has it all for the ecotourist. Show it respect, and it will give you its bounty in delight…

Share:

Location - Arkadia

Mainalo mountain

Across a large part of the Mainalo mountain range, there is the ski centre of Ostrakina, at an altitude of 1600 meters. It has eight slopes, some of which are considered challenging to negotiate. Three sliding one-seat lifts and one baby lift take skiers to the slopes. Onsite there is a snowboard park with a jump slope and a skiing/snowboarding school. There is also a store to rent ski equipment. This is the closest ski resort to Athens, with daily bus transfers from the capital in winter. Note that the European Path E4 passes from Ostrakina too. The resort is only 29 kilometres away from Tripoli and very close to the village of Kardaras.

Find Out More

Mount Parnon is a haven for birds, counting 217 species. Some just pass through, while others live here all year round. Of the 217, there are 53 species protected by law as they are in danger of extinction. Among the most rare are the mountain blackbird, shore lark, golden eagle, alpine chough, purple heron and ring ouzel.

Most birds on Mount Parnon belong to the group known as Passeriformes. This includes, sparrows, swallows, hooded crows, common blackbirds, song thrushes, nuthatches, coal tits and others. While they prefer the coniferous zones of the forest for its softer climate, the birds make their home all over the mountain and not only in certain regions.

Aquatic birds and water fowl are attracted to the Moustos wetland and other smaller wetlands in the area where food and good weather are abundant. Canals, riparian lakes, mudflats, reed brakes and salt marshes in the region offer a diverse, exciting habitat for these birds as well.

While Passeriformes are attracted to the forests, many bird species thrive in semi-mountainous woods lying between 600-800 meters in altitude. While the number dwindles below 600 meters, the area is still comparatively rich in local bird fauna when compared to the rest of the country.

The region's rapids and valleys such as the rivers Lousios (or Loussios) and Ladonas, well-appreciated for kayaking and rafting, are an exciting destination. The Lousios features amazing gorges while the Lousios rocks feature a number of churches and shrines, a reflection of the Orthodox monks who live around there. April and May are the best times for rafting in the Loussios and Alfeios rivers. You can also hire a kayak on the beach of Tyros (Paralia Tyrou).

Photo: Municipality of Megalopolis

Cave of Lovers

Near the beach of Tigani on the coast of Tyros-Sapounakeika, there’s the Cave of Lovers which can only be by a beautiful boat ride. It is also rich in colours with many stalagmites and stalactites.

Find Out More

Ah, the bounty of Arcadia, abundant with the gifts of nature such as juicy apples, sour cherries, robust potatoes, sublime olive oil, heavenly honey, sweet chestnuts, fresh walnuts, delicious garlic, wild greens (myronia) and much more. Traditionally processed products worth savouring are the spoon sweets, tsipouro spirit, cheeses and cooked meats.

Elati, in the heart of the Mainalo mountain range, is reputed to produce the best quality of fir honey, known as Vanilla Mainalou. Harvested in mid June, this honey actually has less sugar than other varieties due to the action of microorganisms found in the fir trees.

Photo: melihelmos.gr

Also, more adventurous types staying in furnished apartments or with friends might want to stop at the cheese factory on the Sparta-Tripoli road. You will be amazed by all the authentic Greek cheeses such as Feta and Manouri, in addition to sheep’s yogurt. On the same road the Ardamis restaurant has a good rabbit stifado, local wine and other delicacies, in addition to selling local products. There will also be many fruit sellers on the road, such as cherries in early summer and chestnuts in fall.

In Tripoli you might find a sweet brandy-type drink with a scent of almond and vanilla called Tipota meaning “Nothing”, produced by Nick Biris in 1949, originally devised for people “who reply ‘nothing’ when asked what they want to drink”.

Photo: www.kalimera-arkadia.gr

Villages around Arcadia also produce their own pasta known as Hylopites (in addition to a variety of lasagne). There is also Trahana, a dried grain-like food made with milk products, egg and flour which is reconstituted into a hearty soup. There are excellent cheeses in this prefecture, particularly Feta and Mezithra (a full-bodied white soft cheese that’s not salty). Plenty of fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil are used in this mountain cuisine, which also considers salted pork and potatoes of the finest grade. Last and not least are the chestnuts, walnuts and sour cherries of the region which must be sampled.

The central Peloponnese produces a particular type of grape for wine known as Moschofilero from Mantinea. The wine made from this grape has an original flavour, more acid than others. Two villages that produce the highest grade Moschofilero wine are Agios Ioannis and Kastri.

The large prefecture of Arkadia offers fantastic hiking opportunities for all levels, thanks to its verdant mountains, rivers, gorges and coasts.

Photo: Municipality of Leonidio

One such interesting three-hour hike is in the Lousios gorge with stops at the historical monasteries and the area’s archaeological sites (such as the Hidden school, Timiou Prodromou Monastery and Gortina). Another area worth hiking in is the mountainous region of North Kinouria. Mount Lykaion at Ano Karyes is 1,421 meters high, and takes about an hour to climb.

Photo: Municipality of Leonidio

Attractions include the Mostos Lagoon and biotope, located near Koutroufa, as well as the dam and artificial lake of Ladonas. Also check out the Lepidas waterfall in Platanos and the gorge of Zarbanitsa.

Mainalo mountain

Across a large part of the Mainalo mountain range, there is the ski centre of Ostrakina, at an altitude of 1600 meters. It has eight slopes, some of which are considered challenging to negotiate. Three sliding one-seat lifts and one baby lift take skiers to the slopes. Onsite there is a snowboard park with a jump slope and a skiing/snowboarding school. There is also a store to rent ski equipment. This is the closest ski resort to Athens, with daily bus transfers from the capital in winter. Note that the European Path E4 passes from Ostrakina too. The resort is only 29 kilometres away from Tripoli and very close to the village of Kardaras.

Find Out More

Loutra (baths) of Irea

The Loutra (baths) of the village of Irea near ancient Irea and the municipality by the same name has become an important healing centre. Hot springs with sulphurous waters here have been known to treat ailments like rheumatism, arthritis, liver problems, circulatory ailments, nervous-system disorders, gynaecological problems and many others. There is also a hydrotherapeutic centre at the village open from mid june to mid October, with luxury-level baths and cabins, including hydromassage facilities. To reach the area head there from Dimitsana and Ilia through the Pyrgos-Tripoli highway, via Ladonas bridge near Charitzinou. You will find the village 12 kilometers southwest of Paloumba.

Find Out More

The coast on the eastern side of Arcadia is spectacular, featuring truly clean shores. Leonideon, a town beside a gorge between two mountains, features a beautiful beach called Plakas. Beaches in neighbouring villages close to Leonidio include Tigani, Pulithra and Fokianos.

The road between Leonidio and Sampatiki also features lovely scenery, while Sampatiki beach is one of the most beautiful in the prefecture with a pristine natural environment and clear waters.

Photo: Municipality of Leonidio

Paralia Astros is another beach town not far from the village of Astros, complete with hotels, fish taverns and a campsite. More to the south Poulithra has some amazing beaches. The Kallisto beach in the municipality of Vorias Kynourias was awarded with the Blue Flag, being one of Europe's cleanest beaches.

Mainalo mountain

Across a large part of the Mainalo mountain range, there is the ski centre of Ostrakina, at an altitude of 1600 meters. It has eight slopes, some of which are considered challenging to negotiate. Three sliding one-seat lifts and one baby lift take skiers to the slopes. Onsite there is a snowboard park with a jump slope and a skiing/snowboarding school. There is also a store to rent ski equipment. This is the closest ski resort to Athens, with daily bus transfers from the capital in winter. Note that the European Path E4 passes from Ostrakina too. The resort is only 29 kilometres away from Tripoli and very close to the village of Kardaras.

Find Out More

There are great windsurfing opportunities at Paralio Astros and Leonidio. The beaches may be crowded in August, but during the other months they're perfect for windsurfing.

Photo: Municipality of Leonidio

Cave of Dionysos

Peloponnese / Arkadia
Find Out More

Kapsia Cave

Peloponnese / Arkadia
Find Out More

Impressive white oak forests near Karitena, black pines on Mount Parnon, and protected plane trees in village squares (e.g. Dimitsana), mountainous Arcadia (Orini Arkadia) is a treasure of flowing rivers, amazing gorges and nature. Indigenous plants and animals, different rock formations, unique wildlife and rare mountain herbs represent the best of the Mediterraean fauna and flora at different elevations. Check out our Birdwatching section in Arkadia to learn more about all the birds there.

Photo: Municipality of Megalopolis

There are several areas in Mount Parnon that are considered ecologically very important: the resort area of Paralia Astros, Mount Oriondas, Moustos Lake, the gorge of Leonidi, the Eloni Monastery, the Monastery of Malevi, and the summits of Mount Parnon.

Loussios gorge

Peloponnese / Arkadia
Find Out More

Mount Mainalo

Peloponnese / Arkadia
Find Out More

North Mount Parnon

Peloponnese / Arkadia
Find Out More

Riparian forest

Peloponnese / Arkadia
Find Out More

Explore More

More Subdestinations In Peloponnese
Achaia Peloponnese
Argolida Peloponnese
Elafonisos Peloponnese
Ilia Peloponnese
Korinthia Peloponnese
Laconia Peloponnese
Messinia Peloponnese