In these mountains, where gods were born, that Zeus dived in their waters and the fir forests that Diana used to haunt, are nestled some of the most beautiful villages of the Peloponnese.
Right in the center of the Peloponnese, Mainalo rises at the 1.981 meters height. Its highest pick is Ostrakina and its two rivers are Lousios and Helisson, which pass through creeks and valleys to end up in Alfios River.
This path spreads in 75 kilometers, passing through eight villages, over fir coated mountain tops and by waterfalls and rivers. It is one of the best recorded paths in Greece, split in eight parts so you can divide and organize your days by spending the night at the in-between villages.
It is, rightfully, the first village that comes to mind when we talk about Mainalo. It is also one of the most beautiful villages there, as it has stone tower houses on two side by side hills that are covered by red- tiled roofs and there are also atmospheric stone- built paths. Dimitsana can easily fill your weekend schedule as you will do nothing else but endless strolling around its roads, with some intervals for coffee and board games by the fireplace at the local cafeterias.
If you also want sights, it has some of these too: To begin with, the unique in Greece Museum of Water Power will teach you all you wanted to know about watermills and traditional professions that are going extinct. In an all green area there is a watermill and its water jetting, a tannery with the house of the tanner and a gun mill with its equipment that are renovated and the traditional professions of the pre- industrial society, as well as the works that were based on the use of water, that come alive before your eyes. The kids will love this Museum.
The Ecclesiastical Museum of Dimitsana is also worth a visit. It is housed in the restored house of Gregory the fifth- the well-known Patriarch of Istanbul, who was hanged in 1821, and was born in Dimitsana in 1746.
From Dimitsana also start (or if you start from Karitena, they end up) the paths that cross Lousios Gorge, passing by the historical monasteries of Philosophou and Prodromou. Click here for Karitena
Nestled in an altitude of 1.033 meters, among fir and chestnut trees, Vitina is the most lively and touristic place of all the villages in Mainalo. The red- tiled houses, many of which are made with the famous black marble of the area, decorate the narrow alleys that are filled with taverns, café, bars and shops with local products and wooden carved souvenirs. Vitina is also the closest village to the Ski center of Mainalo, which makes it the ideal base for those winter weekends’ cravings for some snow.
Perhaps the most well- known – and most beautiful- spot of it is the covered in trees road that starts from near the central square and ends up on the National road of Tripoli-Vitina, which is perfect for romantic walks, especially in spring and autumn. It is called “The path of love”, not only because today it is full of couples holding hands, but also due to historical reasons: In the past century, here was the place where traditionally all the courting happened, as well as the first meetings and first walks together that included mostly starring and hand- written calligraphic letters.
We now move higher: At the 1.083 meters above the sea is the ultimately stone- built Stemnitsa, half hidden among the plane trees, walnuts and cherry trees. Its stone alleys are going up passing through atmospheric arches that bring to mind the Byzantines, while its also stone fountains spout crystal clear water in the shadow of century- old plane trees.
There is a famous Silversmith school there that continues a decade tradition: The people of Stemnitsa were always famous silversmiths who it is said built here the bells of famous churches of central Europe. That explains the plenty workshops along the alleys of the village that make and sell handmade jewelry. The Folklore museum that is also worth a visit, hosts important metalwork, as well as an entire replica of a traditional workshop and a replica of the interior of a traditional house of Stemnitsa.
Two kilometers away from Stemnitsa there is the Monastery of Zoodochou Pigis that dates back to the 15th century and it is built upon a rocky hill with a fantastic view of the entire region.
Another great walk a little bit further outside the village is Aeraki, a region with a great sunset view that lets your eyes wander and see up until the Ionian Sea when the atmosphere is clean. Here is the Aeraki cave that was first explored in 2018, but it is not open for visit yet.
Just seven kilometers away from Vitina there is one of the best kept secrets of Mainalo. The small Alonistaina is nestled in an altitude of 1.200 meters, right where the fir tree forest that climbs the mountain, ends (or begins?). The stone mansions with their arches have given Alonistaina the characterization of the preserved settlement, while the local cuisine of its taverns will make you wonder how it is not more popular with the crowds as other villages in Arcadia.
Alonistaina is split in two by a small river, Elisson, the name of which also was the name of the ancient settlement that was possibly located where the village is today. In the village’s square, by the church of Agia Paraskevi that dates back in 1742, there is the monument of Zabia Kotsaki, mother of our national hero Theodoros Kolokotronis, who was born here in 1750 and remains buried.
On the way from Alonistaina to Vitina there is Diaselo, one of the most beautiful spots in Mainalo, while a bit further up the view of the creek from the fountain of Kokinovrisi is breathtaking.
Do you know what the word <<panic>> means? I’m sure you do. Do you know why it is called like that? Because that was the feeling that god Pana was spreading among the enemies of those who fought righteously and made them flee. Pana, the goat shaped god of Arcadia and son of Hermes that wonders around the mountains with his enchanted flute and hangs around with nymphs, animals and birds, was born here as the myth says, in a cave over Piana, on Pianovouni Mountain. The village and the mountain took their names from him.
In this sweet, little village you will find the tranquility that is missing from other villages of the area, a handful of houses among which cobbled streets pass, a beautiful square covered by two century- old plane trees and right outside the village, in the plain of Piana, there is the Elisson River, whose side trails are ideal for summer and autumn hiking. Seven kilometers west of Piana, at the abandoned today village called Libovisi, there is the house of Kolokotronis family (that our national hero, Theodoros Kolokotronis, was born and spent the first years of his life there) which has been renovated and works as a museum.
It is kind of funny that a village built at 1.100 meters high and looks like it hangs from the edge of the mountain is called Lagadia, which in Greek means “plain”. It is also strange that one of the biggest and most beautiful villages of Mainalo is not one of its most popular to visit. As you walk among the stone and tiled- roof mansions of the famous craftsmen of Lagadia (who came from Epirus in the 13th century and made their craft and their stone famous throughout the Peloponnese) you have the constant feeling that this beautiful village is yours too.
The side of Mountain Mainalo, on which Lagadia are, is so steep that the entire village looks like an endless balcony. On the one hand, that makes the view of the fir coated mountain sides fantastic. And on the other hand, it makes the uphill exhausting. But they still worth the trouble: Every step reveals another amazing picture, another imposing mansion and another corner from which the view is stunning.
In the sights of the village is included the house of Diligianni family, which belonged to the well- known family of fighters of 1821 and later on prime ministers of Greece that today holds heirlooms and historical relics of its former owners. The church of Agioi Apostoloi of the 1854 with its strange architecture, the church of Taxiarches that is the metropolis of the village and dates back at the beginning of the 19th century, along with the impressive (stone- built of course) bell tower and the legendary clock- trade mark of the village that as built in 1910, are also included.
Nestled among the fir tree forests of Mainalo, in an altitude of almost 1.200 meters, Valtetsiniko was another hidden Arcadian secret that with all this beauty could not have remained a secret for long. The red-tiled roofs of the mansions add red color in an all- green canvas, transforming the village into a beautiful piece of art.
Valtetsiniko was already from the 19th century known for its wood- carving tradition. Famous are the ornate temples of its churches, carved strictly on walnut tree wood that are saved till today at the two biggest churches of the village, St. George and Agioi Theodoroi.
In an altitude of 1.364 meters, over Valtetsiniko there is Palaiokastro, where once were a Frankish castle that from up there it had as a view the entire Peloponnese. The route from the village to here, especially during spring and autumn, is a unique experience.In the sights of Valtetsiniko are included the folklore museum, medieval towers, historical monasteries, watermills, springs and romantic paths. On the way to the neighboring village, Magouliana, there is the abandoned sanatorium of Mana that was built during the 1920s and it is still surprising with its special architecture.