Greece: Arcadia – 4 nights
Walking the Menalon TrailBack to Routes
Hilltop Dimitsana (photo: Ollirg/Dreamstime)
A bird's eye view of Lousios Gorge
Mountains and meadows
A refreshing mountain stream
View towards Lagadia
Dancing in the streets
Lousios Gorge (spot the monastery!)
A stone bridge in the valley
Descending from Stemnitsa
Fresh mountain springs
I did feel that there was something special about being in the "real" Arcadia. As often in Greece, the line between myth and reality is blurred and adds an indefinable frisson to one's travels. At our hotel in Dimitsana I was having a conversation with the manager about the Arcadian region when he pointed through the window and down to a gorge with a river at the bottom and dropped, "The God Zeus was baptized down there you know".
John Leeman, Yorkshire, UK - September 2023
Each day had its highlights. The people were incredibly welcoming and nice where ever we were. The hike was beautiful and the trail was well marked.
Cindy and Andy Barnard, Colorado, USA - October 2023
We could not have improved this trip. The Menalon trail offers very scenic and varied terrain in a beautiful, unspoilt region. We found the local people to be very welcoming, the accommodation met our requirements in full, the food was excellent and the perfect weather just capped it.
Russell George, Staines, UK - October 2023
Our hosts were a delight, in some lovely properties which made us feel very much part of the community. the breakfasts offered were amazing and we were made to feel very welcome.
Anon - June 2023
We could not have expected higher from the On Foot office service. Every email was answered quickly and the attention to detail showed that everyone in the office had one goal in mind - namely to ensure that our holiday was as perfect as possible. The holiday felt tailor made to our needs and the level of organization from On Foot Holidays was superb. We would happily choose another walking holiday with you. Next time, I will be looking for hotel rooms with a bath - that would have been icing on the cake!
[It was] well worth the extra hike to the top of the village to stay with Vanna and Kostas. It was so peaceful there and Vanna couldn't have done more to make us feel welcome and comfortable. Her breakfast was incredible - best of the holiday - and set us up for the hike to Stemnitsa with a great packed lunch.
Shirley Hiscock, Gempen, Switzerland - June 2023
CANNOT recommend Vanna and Kostas enough. Their home is charming and their welcome is over and above anything we'd hoped for. As for the breakfast and lunch... just wish we could have eaten more but our stomachs couldn't do it justice. Their warmth and kindness has stayed with us long after the waterproofs have been packed away.
Fiona Jackson, Grayshott, UK - May 2023
This holiday was exceptionally well put together. We couldn't fault it.
Lynne Mathews, Salisbury, UK - May 2023
It was a great way to see a beautiful part of the world, and we really appreciated the peace and the fact that the trail was extremely quiet - some days we didn't come across a single other person. All the villages had their own personalities and we ate and drank very well. The walks were well described, and pitched about right - we felt that we had done some exercise by the end but weren't totally exhausted.
Elizabeth West, Cheltenham, UK - May 2023
We like exercise and love walking but this was our first walking holiday and we loved it. We learnt so much about Greece and its people. We focused on the next day and never counted the holiday days down. We learnt about ourselves and want to do another walking holiday now.
Terry Standing, Dorset, UK - May 2023
It was a demanding walking holiday in the mountains of the Peloponnese, Greece. We were well prepared with comprehensive maps, manuals, itineraries, etc. Overnight places were excellent and well chosen, our bags were moved on faultlessly, and extra ad hoc unexpected taxi arrangements were arranged very efficiently at short notice.
David - November 2022
At a glance
Greece - Arcadia 4 night option (3 days walking). The shortest version. Add extra nights in Stemnitsa and Dimitsana to relax and experience the culture of the region. See 'Prices' tab for what's included. Limited to 4 walkers (double and twin in Elati) - see 5-night option for larger groups.
How much walking?
Full days: 8½-16 kms per day, 3-5 hrs walking
Using shortening options: 8½-16 kms per day, 3-5 hrs walking
Remote mountain villages of the Peloponnese
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. 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.
Enjoy the villages for their tavernas, local industries (for example jewellery 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 walk could be used as the core of a longer holiday in the region – perhaps you could 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.
From Vitina to Dimitsana, this is the short version of the Trail, but still giving an excellent insight to the area’s appeal, and including the main villages of Stemnitsa and Dimitsana, and the Lousios Gorge with its two monasteries.
Walked by On Foot staff: Debbie, Andy, Simon and Harriet
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit Aito.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to Greece, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
- The working monasteries of Kernitsas, Prodromos and Filosofou
- Remote, pretty Elati in its forest clearing
- Stemnitsa, the jewellery makers’ village
- Vibrant Dimitsana
- Walking the remote hills of the Menalon massif
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Mountains, Pilgrimage, Remote, Villages and farms, Woods, Archaeology, Drive to route, History
Things you should know
- Getting to and from the walk can be lengthy. Take a look at the ‘Travel Information’ tab on this page, and consider taxi or car hire.
- There may be wandering herds of sheep and goats en-route with attendant dogs. These can be noisy and may appear aggressive, but we provide you with a dog dazer.
Extra nights in Vitina, Stemnitsa and Dimitsana. Hire a car at the airport to include this as part of a wider Peloponnese experience (Epidaurus, Mycenae - maybe a beach?).
Food and drink
Haute cuisine you will not find, but honest Greek mountain food (and quaffable and very cheap wine!). Vegans and the gluten-free will struggle. Make sure that you seek out the best spinach and cheese pastries (an excellent constituent of your picnic lunch). In Stemnitsa you can watch the patissiers making an array of local sweets and patisserie that you can take back home as a gift… yoghurt and honey will be on every breakfast table, together with local delicacies, and mountain tea is a must for the uninitiated.
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 8½-16 kms per day, 3-5 hrs walking
Paths are very well flashed, with Menalon Trail markers every 50m or so, though careful attention is needed to ensure you stay with them. Highest point on route: 1550m.
Medium: Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 610m (395-825m) per day.
Note that the final must-do day is quite tough, even if shortened.
Acrophobia/vertigo warnings: Only for a short stretch on the final day which can be avoided by using the road.
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: May, June, September, October
Other possible months: April, July, August, November
This is a route that can be enjoyed from April (avoiding Greek Orthodox Easter) to November, though the summer can be hot even here in the mountains. The best time is May or June for the flowers, though you could go in September or October and combine with a break by the warm Mediterranean.
Day 1 - Arrive in Vitina
Explore this bustling town and seek out your first Greek taverna for a good supper.
If you arrive early enough, you may be able to fit in the Nimfasia circuit (see below).
Day 2 - Vitina to Elati
A shorter day but with lots of interest. No need to rush to leave Vitina, as there is little to do in Elati, other than to relax in the afternoon sunshine (with luck!). Leaving the main square in Vitina the path quickly reaches the Barba stream, crossing it on a wooden bridge, before joining the main Mylaon river, with three consecutive abandoned water mills. This is a rich and verdant landscape, but the forest is to come! Passing the ancient acropolis-topped hill of Methidrion at Elinika, the path wends its way along the stream before climbing to the village of Elati. (Easy: 3 hrs walking (allow 4 hrs), 8½ km (5½ miles), CUSs 395m)
Alternative: None, except to taxi the whole way.
Day 3 - Elati to Stemnitsa
A longer day after the short. This is the day you cross the massif of the Western Mainalon. From Elati the path leads back down to the river for a gentle warmup, before climbing up, sometimes steeply, through the forest to the plateau of Vlachika. After a final steep climb to the col below Pliovouni (1643m – you can bag this peak if you have the energy), a gentle descent to the little town of Stemnitsa, complete with jewellers’ workshops, tavernas, the Menalon Trail HQ and the best patisserie for miles. (Medium-hard: 6 hrs (allow 8 hrs), 16 km (10 miles), CUSs 590m)
Alternatives: None – except to ride the whole way with the luggage.
Day 4 - Stemnitsa to Dimitsana
Your final day and in many ways the best. A majestic path from Stemnitsa leads down into the Lousios valley (the views to your left are big); on reaching the Church of Metamorfosi Sotros the path turns in to the wooded Lousios Gorge, and shortly reaches your first, astounding monastery – Prodromos – clinging impossibly to the cliff face. Enter, and be welcomed by the priests. Onward, over the river, and up to your second monastery, the New Filosofou (after a glance at the Old), quite an oasis after the gorge. The final path leads back down to the river and over, before climbing up towards your destination, hilltop Dimitsana. You may have energy to visit the open-air Water Power Museum just before arrival, or leave it until the morning if you are staying longer. (Medium-hard: 4¾ hrs walking (allow 6¼ hrs), 13 km (8 miles), CUSs 825m)
Alternatives: Ride with the luggage as far as Metamorfosi Sotros and start from there, still seeing both monasteries (Medium-hard: 4 hrs walking (allow 5¼ hrs), 10 km (6½ miles), CUSs 825m), or ride the whole way as far as the Water Power Museum and visit that (not Tuesdays) before the final approach to Dimitsana.
Depart for home
…or stay another night in Dimitsana. This could be a springboard for an extended tour of the Peloponnese?
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway station:
Only practicable from/back to Athens, and involves taxi transfer to/from route.
ARRIVING BY CAR
Public (non-monitored) parking in Lagadia or Vitina (start of route, depending on version chosen). Pre-bookable taxi back to car from final hotel.
ARRIVING BY AIR
The nearest “local” airport is Kalamata. Intercontinental flights use Athens.
Land by: no restrictions as taxi/hire car the whole way (2 hrs), but might miss supper.
Return flight earliest: no restrictions (taxi/hire car whole way).
NB: flights are not daily – please check carefully!
Land by: 13:00 for public transport connections to Corinth or Tripoli, followed by taxi – later arrivals possible with taxi/hire car the whole way (2½ hrs) OR stay a night in Athens if arriving late.
Return flight earliest: 16:00 (earlier departures possible with taxi/hire car whole way).
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “Getting to start” below for transfer information.
Getting to the start of the walk
The first hotel will either be in Lagadia or Vitina (dependent on route version chosen) and the last in Dimitsana. Transfer times and methods are suggested below.
Self-drive: The most cost-effective (and time-flexible) way to get to and from the route is to hire a car from the airport, particularly if you plan to include the walk as part of a longer holiday. Driving in Greece is not hard and signs are dual ‘language’. Otherwise…
Outward: Bus x2 to Tripoli (2½ hrs) then pre-booked taxi (1½ hrs). More reliable if staying a night in Athens at start to ensure that you get a bus seat (not pre-bookable) OR Train x2 to Corinth then pre-booked taxi (3½ hrs) OR pre-booked taxi the whole way (choice of car or minibus – 2½ hrs)
Return: Short pre-booked taxi to Tripoli then bus to Athens, change for bus to airport (3 hrs) OR pre-booked taxi to Corinth railway station then train to Athens centre, change for train to airport (3½ hrs) OR pre-booked taxi the whole way (choice of car or minibus – 2½ hrs)
Pre-booked taxi both ways.
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information. For pre-bookable taxis see “prices”.
Where You'll Stay
A lovely range of family-run pensions, with dinners taken in local tavernas (client choice). Upgrades are available in Vitina and Dimitsana, though we recommend staying in our standard hotels where available as these are more authentic and are perfectly comfortable.
Vitina – Aiora Suites (B&B)
Spacious villa on the edge of the village overlooking the countryside.Website
Vitina – Art Mainalon Hotel (B&B)
30-bedroom hotel on the main square, decorated with contemporary artworks. Pool in season.Website
Stemnitsa – Gartagani Guest House (B&B)
An old farmhouse, belonging to the family, now converted into a comfortable B&B on the way in to the village.Website
Stemnitsa – Archontiko Tis Zois (B&B)
Well appointed guest house with spacious rooms above the town.Website
Total 4 nights in double/twin room, all breakfasts, 2 picnics, luggage transfers between all hotels on walking route and in-walk shortening taxi transfers as required; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £130
Lone Traveler Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £120
Maximum party size: 4 (see 5 night option for larger groups)
Extra nights at any hotel: Contact on Foot Holidays
Taxis serving the route (indicative price based on 1-4 passengers):
Kalamata airport from £150 (per taxi, not per person)
Athens airport from £275 (car), £350 (minibus 4-7 pers)
Corinth railway station from £170
Athens centre from £250, (car), £350 (minibus 4-7 pers)
For taxis to/from other origins/destinations in Southern Greece, and for larger party sizes, contact On Foot Holidays.
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK: £20-£60 (per pack, location dependent)
Our local team
Ioannis Lagos – Menalon Social Enterprise
Ioannis Lagos has deep family roots in Stemnitsa, and a passion for hiking. He founded Menalon Social Enterprise along with other enthusiastic volunteers from the Arcadia region, and together they have created the Menalon Trail. They maintain the paths and signposts, and encourage visiting walkers to explore the cultural and natural heritage of the area.
This route was introduced to On Foot Holidays by Ariana Masselou.