The following paradox happens with Taygetos: Despite the fact that it is one of the nicest mountains in Greece, with its impressive mass reaching 2,404 m, and without other summits around it, it still remains the secret meeting place for hikers and mountaineers who spend overnight in Spartan (literally and metaphorically) shelters, away from any kind of exploitation. During the last decade, there have begun to spring up on the slopes of the mountain small, private hostels, which fully respect the natural environment around them, far away from the sight of mass tourism. Fortunately.
The natural beauty of the Mountain Taygetos lies in the timeless villages, in the idyllic gorges that run through rivers of crystal clear waters, in the ponds, small pools that form their waters for cool dives in the summer, on the paths that you are expected to cross, in the natural monuments that include the largest plane trees and the oldest olive trees in Greece- if not of the whole world. Wouldn’t it be a shame all this beauty to be trampled out of the crowds?
The separation of the mountain Taygetos in the south and north area is primarily for the needs of browsing, not for geographical purposes. The huge length of the biggest mountain of Peloponnese, that even made Homer call it <<perimikeio>>, stretches to 115 km. It’s practically impossible to walk through it during a weekend taking into account the turns that are inevitable in every mountain road. As a result, the villages in the South of Sparta are considered as South Taygetos and those around the Path of Mystras, which were used for the connection of Mystras with the rest of Greece by the Byzantines, are considered as North Taygetos.
The biggest village of the area, Xirokambi, has about 1.000 residents and many beautiful, stone houses of the 19th century. The square is full of people and small tables from early in the morning. The stone building of the school is amazing but the most impressive of all is the arched Hellenistic Bridge built around 150 BC. -The only one of its time that has survived to this day. The bridge connects Ancient Sparta with Kardamili through the Roman road. The waters of the Rassina stream rush below the village, while the amphitheater next to it hosts summer theater performances and concerts. Right behind the amphitheater is the entrance of the Anakolos Gorge.
Before visiting the Gorge, you should explore some places out of the village such as Mousga, the largest olive tree you have ever seen, the sacred tree of Faris, such as the ancient name of the region and the name of the current municipality. The ancient trunk of the olive tree exceeds 12 meters in perimeter, which makes it a natural monument, even without calculating its age, measured in millennia - probably has been here since when the King of Sparta was Menelaus, and for those who are not good at mathematics it was about 3,600 years ago. In order to find it, follow the road that leaves from Xirokambi square in the opposite direction to Palaiopanagias and then you turn following the signs for Mousga. You will see the olive tree in your right hand approximately 2-3 kilometers below, - it is so large that you cannot overtake it.
It’s also called <Taygetos Gorge> despite the fact that there are a lot of amazing gorges around the Mountain Taygetos. Integrated into the Natura 2000 network, it hosts about twenty species of vegetation that are nowhere else to be found in the world, and quite endemic (in a word "there are nowhere else found in the world") small animals.
It’s one of the few gorges that you can cross it driving a car- for those who do not enjoy hiking- but its unique natural landscape definitely will tempt you to get off the car. Its huge rocks seem to rise up to the sky, creating strange formations, its waters are otherwise rushing like a torrent, else flowing like a small stream and when they fall like a water curtain from the rocks forming impressive waterfalls. All of these surrounded by thousand different shades of green (since the shade of green is different in plane trees, laurels and wild pomegranates) that create a magical picture to take pictures.
Once upon a time, there was a medieval village nestled on the edge of the Taygetos Gorge. There were 2,000 residents who lived in beautiful stone houses, walked through stone-built cobbled paths adorned with old plane trees and taps with gurgling water at their edges. When Mystras was conquered, as well as the Byzantine Empire, the village began to desert, until, shortly before the end of the Civil War, it was abandoned altogether.
Today there are only two residents, a couple of hikers who fell in love with the village and decided to stay permanently here. Moreover, there is a beautiful and a deluxe guesthouse that hosts travelers who want to escape away from everyone and everything. Even though, someone doesn’t live here, you should reach the end of the gorge since Koumousta is an amazing, stone village with a stunning view in the Gorge and paths that connect the village with the most beautiful places around Taygetos.
A really small village, with around a hundred residents, nestled in the plane trees, the apple trees, the chestnut trees and the walnut trees, Arna is an amazing village with stone-built cobbled paths, stone two-storey houses with smoky chimneys, and springs of sparkling crystal clear water. Here is also found the second natural monument of the area, the famous, over a thousand years old plane tree of Arna, whose height reaches 30 meters and its perimeter exceeds the13m. You can find it in the square of the village offering his shade generously during the summers when the cafes stretch their tables under its branches.
Near the village Gorani, The Golas Monastery definitely deserves a visit, not only for its idyllic location, offering spectacular views of the Taygetos ridge, but also for its wall paintings dated back to 1632 and depicting, beside the saints, ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, Plato and Thalis. There are only three wall paintings of philosophers around Greece- The other two are in Meteora and in the island of Ioannina.
Like the North part, the South part of Taygetos is surrounded by many idyllic and well-marked paths. If you do not know where to start, we recommend two routes, one easy and one most demanding:
Especially designed route for advanced hikers, who are not afraid of challenges, it has a total length of 8.5 kilometers and the duration of walking is about five hours because it is mainly uphill. The starter hikers can walk through the first part of the route, starting from the springs of Maganiari and finishing at the Taygetos shelter. It’s about walking for about 1 and a half hour climbing from 980 to 1,550 meters altitude. From the shelter, there is the all-encompassing European Path E4 that takes you up to the top of Taygetos - and the world - at 2,440 meters, after about two and a half hours.