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Walking in Greece: In the Shadow of Mount Menalon

walking-in-greece:-in-the-shadow-of-mount-menalon

The route between the villages of Elati and Vitina takes hikers along riverbanks, to natural springs and through deep fir tree forest.


The route

From the small mountain village of Elati, which sits at an elevation of 1200 meters, you’ll walk to Vitina (at an elevation of 1033m). The route is part of the Menalon Trail, the award-winning, 75-kilometer trail that links many villages in Gortynia (including Dimitsana, Stemnitsa and Lagadia). This particular section, from Elati to Vitina, is one of the most accessible and enjoyable.

The route begins in the village of Elati, descends to the Mylaontas River and continues along the riverbank. The verdant fir trees lining the slopes of Mount Menalon rise out of thick vegetation near the banks. A succession of wooden bridges and plane trees will lead you to the Pyrgaki Springs, where water collection facilities mark the water source for Vitina. After you pass the stonework drinking fountain of Makrinou, you’ll see a dirt road that runs for about a kilometer to Ellinika. Above you is the hill of the acropolis of ancient Methydrium. Cross the asphalt road and the wooden bridge to reach the river, continuing along its lush banks. This is the old mule path that connected the villages – in fact, you’ll also see the ruins of three water mills. Once you cross the Barba Bam and the wooden bridge, you’ll see another stonework fountain before reaching the cherry orchards and the first houses of Vitina.

The ruins of old watermills alongside the Mylaontas River.


© Alexandra Mandrakou

The ruins of old watermills alongside the Mylaontas River.


© Alexandra Mandrakou

Leaving the village of Elati behind, you’ll have the dense forest to keep you company along the first part of the trail.


© Perikles Merakos

Leaving the village of Elati behind, you’ll have the dense forest to keep you company along the first part of the trail.


© Perikles Merakos

View of the Lousios riverbed.


© Perikles Merakos

View of the Lousios riverbed.


© Perikles Merakos

Taking a break

The best spots for resting along the way are at the stonework fountains you’ll encounter, since you can replenish your water supplies, too. You may also want to stop for a while under the shade of the plane trees on the banks of the Mylaontas River. 

Myths and legends

The cult of Pan, the goat-footed god connected to nature, was born on Mount Menalon. The fans of Arcadianism, the art movement that claimed Arcadia to be an ideal location, were inspired by these mountains and characteristic pastoral life.

The ancient Arcadian town of Methydrion was a member of the Achaean League. The ruins of several buildings and an ancient temple have been found on its acropolis.

Section 1 of the Menalon Trail starts in Stemnitsa and ends in Dimitsana.


© Perikles Merakos

Section 1 of the Menalon Trail starts in Stemnitsa and ends in Dimitsana.


© Perikles Merakos

Part of the Natura 2000 network, the slopes of Mt Menalon are mostly covered in fir trees, especially the northern side.


© Perikles Merakos

Part of the Natura 2000 network, the slopes of Mt Menalon are mostly covered in fir trees, especially the northern side.


© Perikles Merakos

Target audience

It’s an ideal route for beginners, and for children over the age of seven or eight. The trail is accessible and easy, without any particular technical difficulties, as a large portion of it cuts through fir tree forests. However, since the last section does not offer much shade, during the warmer days of the year it’s best to start from Vitina in the morning, so as to reach the dense and shady forest of Elati by midday.

Tips

The Menalon Trail is a very clearly signposted and well-organized route that spans 75 kilometers. The journey from Elati to Vitina is just one of its eight sections. Depending on your experience, you can attempt one or more of the others. The shortest, just 4.2 kilometers in length, connects Dimitsana to Zigovisti, running from the Lousios River valley to a fir forest. The 12.5-kilometer section between Stemnitsa and Dimitsana passes near historic monasteries, while the Valtesiniko-Lagadia section traverses 13.9 kilometers of fir forests and prairies. The best time to hike in this area is from May to September.

Length and duration

The length of the route is 8.5 kilometers and it takes almost three hours.

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