Walking in Arcadia – hike the Menalon Trail
Arcadia, the fabled home of the god Pan, was revered in the Renaissance as symbolic of unspoiled, harmonious wilderness; referenced by Virgil as “locus amoenus” – pleasant place, where shepherds sing of their loves and losses. It lies in the centre of the Peloponnese (the land south of the Corinth Canal).
Using many of the old paths and mule tracks that linked the villages with the fields, pastures and forests of this remote part of Greece, the Menalon Trail winds through scenic hills and some pretty (and still thriving) ancient stone villages. On Foot has worked with the creators of the Menalon Trail to craft our own version of this hike.
The relatively little-known trail winds through an area of Greece that was a hotbed of resistance to Ottoman rule, and remains proud of its role in the Greek War of Independence. On the final day you’ll walk the dramatic Lousios Gorge, where ancient monasteries cling to the cliffs, and watermills assisted the production of various products including gunpowder.
The scenic walking through wooded valleys and hills with panoramic views will bring you to some very pretty and thriving old stone villages, where you will stay in traditional family-run guesthouses. Enjoy the villages too for their tavernas, local industries (for example jewellery making in Stemnitsa), little shops, churches and old houses, but above all a sense of life and liveliness that few can match. If you are lucky, the local dancers will be performing, and the wine will flow freely.
This is an area visited by Greeks in the winter, while the spring and autumn are the preserve of the hill walkers. Even the summer is possible (though July in particular can be very hot) as much of the walking is in native pine and fir forest, with dappled sunlight enlivening the shade.
You may like to use this holiday as the core of a longer visit to the region – perhaps take in the sites of Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia and many others, or spend some days on the beach in relatively unspoiled resorts; you could leave a hire car at Dimitsana while you walk the route. Shorter versions of the holiday are also available.
See more details of walking in Arcadia here, or call to speak to Simon or Debbie who have both walked the route.
The long days of January have at last come to an end and the world looks towards the coming months of the year with renewed hope. Although it’s difficult for those of us experiencing dreary weather and short days, it is so important that we all keep walking so that we’re ready when the time comes to explore further than our back gardens! However, if you need a little inspiration to get outside, we have just the thing…
On Foot’s Local Contacts are very much an extension of the On Foot family and we have been in regular conversation with them over the past few weeks. Normally, they are responsible for looking after our walkers and maintaining the routes but now they would like to share with you what they have been up to as well as offer you a different view of the countries we know so well, but rarely see out of season. Enjoy!
Photographs are listed by country, then by route and Local Contact. Click on the pictures to make them larger.
Guy Hunter-Watts, Andalucia
“A sprinkling of snow a few days ago in Andalucia. This is Molly who was adopted from a refuge and likes walking almost as much as I do!”
Aznar Fernandez de Pinedo, The Lighthouse Way, Basque Pyrenees, Basque Country, Camino de Santiago
“We had a lot of snow in the city of Madrid. But the interesting thing is that in the high sierra (over 2300m) there was way less snow than in the flatlands. The storm came from the south, and in the famous Toledo there was even more snow than in Madrid! The middle picture below is of the village Cercedilla, in the sierra of Madrid. The picture on the right is the start of Gredos mountains, with lovely chestnut forests.”
Jesca Verdon-Smith, Mallorca
“Greetings to you all from Mallorca! The mountains are alive with happy new year [local] hikers. The island residents are keeping fit discovering the hiking trails in the absence of gyms and sport centres being open due to covid restrictions. No tourists to guide through the Serra de Tramontana sadly for almost a year now but I have been busy planning weekend hikes for the family and our other groups of friends with kids this winter. It is wonderful to see the kids enjoying the big outdoors, free of face masks which they have to endure all day at school and all chatting to each other as they go. No phones insight! And all of us marvelling at the wonders of nature. Here I am posting photos of a memorable hike two weeks ago from the town of Soller and a circuit into the stunning Barranc de Biniaraix. This is one of the On Foot hike routes. An ancient pilgrim path to the monastery of Lluc, part of the Gr221 and famous for its thousands of cobbled steps and water cascades after heavy rain. This was the weekend after the snow storm fall on the Tramuntana mountains. Yes it does snow in Mallorca! Bitterly cold day but the views of Soller’s snow capped peaks and sound of rushing water down the Barranc was totally magical. Hot potatoes with bolognese picnic lunch washed down with flasks of hot wine kindly carried up the mountain by the men certainly recharged us at our lunch stop! More hikes planned. Also, the Almond blossom is starting to bloom! Spring on its way! Saludos! Jesca.”
Petr Hoska, Bohemian Paradise
“Hi everyone, I hope you are all well in these times. Also in the Czech Republic during January, an above-average amount of snow fell. Because the ski resorts are closed, many people have pulled out cross-country skis or bobsleighs. Snow statue of Krakonoš (Lord of the Mountains) – this is a tradition in Jilemnice (a town in the Giant Mountains). Today I made a cross country trip around 2nd highest hill in Bohemian Paradise – Tábor. On Friday it was snowing and this morning was -14°C and sunny all day. Perfect conditions. More circular views to Bohemian Paradise [below]. Trosky castle and Kozákov hill. On the other side Jizerské hory and Krkonoše (Giant Mountains). The cats [on the skis!] are my own in front of our house – their names are Mica (the most typical name for cats) and the cat boy’s name is Mourek (Tabby). They are very curious! Petr”
Ariana Masselou, Andros
“Good morning everybody from Greece. In the Aegean in Andros, it seems that winter has not come yet … it feels like spring! These pictures are from a walk I did on Andros yesterday! “Trekky” (my dog) greets you!”
Daniele Cavazzoni, Tuscany
“We had a lot of snow a couple of weeks ago..which has covered most of our mountains. Last Thursday I did a snowshoes hike on Monte Amiata! That’s the extinct volcano which overlook most of our Tuscany route. Not that high (1700 m) but so imposing compared to the gentle hills of Val d’Orcia around it…”
Beatrice Bariletta, Lake Maggiore
“Hi from Italy, Ossola Valley, Alps of Piedmont! Here spring is still very far…just a dream… but we have wonderful snow despite we are not so free to move to enjoy it! Nice snowshoes hikes, but temperatures very cold, – 9 C !”
Isabelle Johnson, Dolomites
“There’s been lots of snow for snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the Dolomites too!”
Greta Coperchini, Ligurian Hills
“Hello everyone! Watch this fantastic video of Monte Chiappo, on the path of the Ligurian hills, third stage. Here we are in Varzi near Milan in northern Italy!”
Paul Burton, Northern Portugal
“Hi everyone! Here in N. Portugal we have had heavy snow during early January but now it has gone really warm and humid. The picture shows the Serra Amarela and, almost invisible, the village of Germil, on the walking route. Stay safe everyone! Best wishes, Paul.”
Caroline Evans, Devon.
“No snow here in Devon, warm and a bit damp, but the early Spring flowers are just beginning to show their faces. I’m off for a walk along the coast not far from here this afternoon – the waves were huge after an Atlantic storm came through yesterday. However this is a view of a quieter moment last week. The picture on the right is of my family walking in Dartmoor.”
We hope you have enjoyed looking through the photos and reading about what the Local Contacts have been doing. All the photos here have been taken by our Local Contacts and the messages are their own words. Do send us your own updates of where you have been wandering as we love hearing from all of our walkers!
All the very best,
The On Foot Team.
‘Efcharisto’ – ‘thank you’ in Greek. There is a particular art to forming the word without getting stuck in the middle. ‘Ef-chari-sto’. When I was last in Greece, I diligently attempted to charm every Greek I met but my pronunciation must have been somewhat lacking as I received more expressions of confusion than of comprehension. Safer then, to let our friends from Greece share their news in their own words…
Our first message is from Sissy Mantzwros who lives on the Aegean island of Andros:
“Staying at home and not working during the lockdown was a really weird experience for me because I have been working for as long as I can remember. However, it turned out I spent some amazing time with my family. Both of my children came back home and my sister in law with her own family were all together in Andros. Guess who was the happiest? Noah of course, my little dog. This summer is quite different. The weather is nice but there is no tourism. Although I enjoy the nice weather and I’m going to the beach every day for the first time in my life (try not to be jealous!), I miss my job. I miss taxi-ing and talking with people from different parts of the world, learning different cultures and telling them about my beautiful island.”
Sissy and her husband Stelios are the taxi drivers for On Foot Holiday’s centre-based walking route on the island of Andros, in the Cyclades, Greece. She has been with On Foot for many years and has always been a joy to work with.
“I hope we can go back to our normal lives as soon as possible, make memories and share moments this summer, next year, or thereafter.”
RECIPE! Sissy has very kindly shared a recipe for you to try at home. She says: “You can’t have summer without ice cream, but you can have homemade healthy and tasty ice cream.”
Greek Mixed Berry Ice Cream
320g frozen fruits of your choice
75g Greek yogurt 2%
1 teaspoon honey
1.) If you don’t have ready frozen fruits you can freeze any fruit, clean it, cut it and put it in the freezer for at least 3 hours
2.) Add everything in a mixer
3.) After 30 minutes in the freezer is ready.
Heading further north into mainland Greece, we venture up into the Vikos Gorge. Elli Papageorgiou is our Local Contact who oversees walkers as they traverse the mountain villages. She has sent us some photos of what she has been up to during lockdown…
“We have been keeping busy: picking roses to make preserves in syrup (dry the petals and distill), picking elderflowers for cordials and cooking, making small ornaments out of champagne corks, and we also made a cake out of mirabelles (plums) and peaches!”
Whilst we’re in Vikos, it is with much sadness that we said farewell to one of our guesthouses, Hotel Arktouros. The lovely Kalypso has decided to close the doors for the last time and move on to other things. Many of you will have been charmed by Kalypso, so if you have any messages for her, we would be delighted to pass them on.
This does mean however, that we have formed ties with another guesthouse, Hotel Vikos, recommended by Local Contact, Elli. It’s always exciting to welcome new hosts into the fold and we look forward to working with Konstantina and her team.
These turbulent times will bring about great changes not only in the travel industry, but the On Foot team are here and ready to answer any questions you may have; whether you have booked a holiday with us, are thinking of booking or if you simply want to have a chat about the launch of an On Foot Recipe Book (you never know!) – we’re here to help!