North Taygetos

Villages on the Path of Mystras

“The Path of Mystras” was called by the Byzantine the route that connected the stone city with the rest of Greece. This route crossed the side of probably the most beautiful mountain of the Peloponnese, passing by enchanted gorges, imposing castles and rivers whose names derived from ancient Greek myths, through villages unchanged by time, and over mountain picks with a view in the fertile valley of Evrotas. Today it still follows the same route.

The villages of North Taygetos
Kastori 
Kastori, one of the biggest and most lively village of Taygetos, is truly eye catching, with its red- tiled stone mansions adorned with colorful window panes and arched  garden gates. The image of the village is completed with stone springs, byzantine churches and cool squares that in sunny days are crowded. The impressive gorge of Kastoras that the lovers of hiking will adore, starts right outside Kastori. In the sights are included the crystal clear springs of Saint Mamas, where the famous trouts are bred, the old watermills- trade mark of the village, and Marmarogefyro, the arched bridge over the waters of Kastoras.
Georgitsi
Its position’s magnificent view, in the 970 meters high, gave it the nickname Balcony of Taygetos. Georgitsi is today one of the most rapidly developing villages of the region, with plenty options in food and accommodation, and a fairytale- like chest-nut forest that starts right where the stone houses end. Walking around its streets, especially during November when the chest nuts trees are full of round, prickly chest nuts, is one of the most beautiful activities in the village. But this is not just it: The stone- built houses with their red tiles, the cool square with the century old plane tree, the beautiful building of the school that was built in 1933, and the ornate churches- that every neighbor has one- make every strolling in the village interesting.
Loganikos

One of the quietest villages of North Taygetos, the picturesque Loganikos, nestles in an altitude of 750 meters, where Taygetos reaches Parnonas under the shadow of the byzantine castle, from which not much is saved today. The lovers of hiking though, will be thrilled by the path (which is kind of rough) that climbs up here, passing by the byzantine churches of Saint Dimitrios and Gennisis of Theotokou. These are two out of the seven byzantine churches that are saved in the village. If you have time to visit just one, the stone- built church of Saint George that dates back to 1374, is considered as one of the oldest preserved churches of Taygetos. In the sights of the village is included a byzantine tower house of the 14th century, while 9 kilometers away from Loganikos, the Ampelakiou Monastery is also worth a visit, whose pride is an icon of Panagia Makelaritissa that was made by the Evangelist Luca.

Leontari
Did you know that the biggest prefecture of the Peloponnese, Arcadia, reaches Mt. Taygetos? Well, now you know. In the north side of North Taygetos, the Arcadian Leontari is a beautiful village with plenty options in accommodation and food. The sights include the beautiful, but abandoned now, railway station that was built in 1899 in the heart of a shadowy forest, the byzantine church of Agioi Apostoloi at the central square of the village and the springs of Evrotas, 14 kilometers away from Leontari near the village Skortsinos, an ideal place for under the shadow of plane trees picnic. On the hill over Leontari are saved some debris of the byzantine castle that once was (in the 14th century specifically) one of the most important castle cities in the Peloponnese, with hundreds of houses inside and outside of its walls.

And it’s not just these: Agoriani, a village nestled on a green side of the mountain with its twelve churches is at the end of the chest nut forest, which starts from Georgitsi. Alevrou that has red- tiled roofs and running waters. Vordonia, which are divided in seven parts, with its impressive mansions. And plenty more tiny villages that combine a region suitable for endless exploring.

The special case of Pellana

Seven kilometers outside Kastori there is a tiny little village with few residents, which you probably wouldn’t be able to find in the tourist guides, unless something extraordinary didn’t happen that is probably the first big archaeological discovery of the 21st century.

The archaeologist, Theodoros Spyropoulos, believes that he has discovered the palace of Menelaus and of Helen of Troy despite the fact that his colleagues are opposed to this( as always: to Andronicus they told that what he discovered wasn’t the tomb of Phillip, to Blegen said that the palace of Nestor wasn’t Nestor’s until they were all proved wrong). The mere size of the vaulted tombs, the cyclopean walls and of the citadel prove that this was indeed a gigantic Mycenaean palace. So, if it doesn’t belong to Menelaus, who ruled in the region, we don’t know who it belonged to. One thing is for sure, ancient Pellana with its vaulted tombs and the cyclopean walls definitely worth a visit.

 Two (out of many) wonderful gorges to walk
The gorge of Kastoras

The brother of Helen of Troy, one of the twins of the Gemini constellation (the other was Pollux) and hero of the Argonaut Campaign, has given his name to the river, which , in turn, named the village next to it. One of the most beautiful, and easy, hiking routes of North Taygetos is the one that follows the river path, passing under century- old plane trees that almost hide the sky, above wooden bridges and by old watermills debris.

The route is almost flat, that’s why it’s easy, and full of signs- even if you have never passed through a path before, it is difficult to lose your way. It always moves in accordance to Kastoras River, whose sound musically follows the route. After forty minutes of hiking, approximately, the path ends up to Marmarogefyro, the old, arched bridge of Kastoras, which is very close to the village.
The gorge of Mili

You might also hear people call it Kardaris gorge or Vrisiotikou gorge. However the name doesn’t play any role, since you will find yourself lost inside this magical landscape that starts from Georgitsi and ends up in Kastori (or vice versa as the professional hikers, who love the uphill, do it), which passes by tufted plane, fir and chest nut trees, and among huge reddish rocks that create narrow passages.

The route is 6.6 kilometers long and is filled with signs (in many places it has wooden steps and handrails for easier access) and you can walk it down – from Georgitsi to Kastori- within two hours approximately. The ideal seasons to visit are the end of spring and the beginning of autumn – from November till April the path can be dangerous due to the corrosion that the rushing torrent waters cause at some points.

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