Arkadia, home of the ancient god Pan (whose name gives us the word ‘panic’), is the center of the Peloponnese both geographically and spiritually. Although fewer visitors make it to this part of the Peloponnese, those who do are rewarded with beautiful mountain villages which keep their local color, many small but interesting archaeological sites, and great options for adventure, like rafting and hiking.
Arkadia must be my favorite place in Greece. No matter where I go, I am always drawn back to this isolated world of leafy glades giving cold shade in the heat of the summer, gurgling, splashing water rushing and twisting through riverbeds, meadows carpeted in flowers, delicate marble ruins hidden away in the mountains, and the constant feeling of discovery that one senses here. It should come as no surprise that Arkadia was the preferred setting for idylls by everyone from Roman poets to the Romantics. The largest city of Arkadia is the capital Tripoli, which feels incongruous and out-of-place. Entering Tripoli after a day in the villages and mountains of Arkadia feels like being shaken awake from a dream. The city offers services to all the surrounding areas, so there are grocery stores, hotels, gas stations, the main bus station, and shops. It has a bit of the feeling of a frontier town.
You collect your necessary items, take a deep breath, and flee the urban landscape for a journey back in time.
The prefecture of Arcadia covers an area of 4,419 sq km and its landscapes varies from mountainous to lush fields and forests. It was in this region, Pan cavorted with the nymphs while playing his pipes. The region is picturesque with its small villages and ancient castles. Along the coast of the Argolic Gulf are small villages where one can relax and enjoy the scenery.
Tripoli : the capital of the Arcadia is the centre for all transport in the region. The Turks destroyed the town in 1828 during the battle for independence. The Archaeological Museum in the town has artefacts from excavations at Gortys, Megapolis and others. Tripoli and Arcadia are popular with Greeks seeking to escape the summer heat in Athens .
Megalopoli: once the site of the ancient city of Megalopoli (great city) little remains of the city today, and a massive power station dominates the area.
Karitena: this medieval village with the Frankish fortress overlooking it from high is very charming, and makes a good base for those seeking outdoor activities, white water rafting, canoeing and mountain biking. Along with other villages in the area, Karitena was a stronghold for partisans during the War of Independence.
Stemnitsa: is a charming village, with traditional stone-built houses. Situated at an altitude of 1000 meters, it makes an ideal place to explore the area.
Dimitsana: built on a steep hill near the Lousios Gorge, the village played an important part in the War of Independence. The powder mills of Dimitsana supplied gunpowder to the partisans; students of the Greek school established here in 1764 included Bishop Germanos and Patriach Gregory 5 th, executed by the Turks in retaliation for a massacre that occurred in Tripoli .
Lousios George: this gorge is one of the most impressive in Greece , though only 5km long, it is 300m deep at the smallest point. From the village of Dimitsana a side trail leads you to the monastery of Moni Aimyalon; built in 1605 the church at the monastery has some excellent frescoes from that age. The trail along the gorge leads you to the monastery of Moni Nea Filosofou, this 17 th century monastery, has been renovated and frescoes depict biblical themes. Further along are the ruins of the old monastery of Filosofou. Across the trail leads you to the spectacular monastery of Moni Agiou Ioannou Prodromou, this 11 th century monastery clinging to the rock face has only room for twelve monks in the small church. Across the river again is the chapel of Agios Andreas built in the 11 th century, nearby is the ruins of Ancient Gortys, which was the site of a temple dedicated to Asklepios the god of healing.
Leonidio: is a charming village, where some of the older the residents remain faithful to their traditions, customs, songs and dances. The small hamlets of Plaka and Poulithra, nearby have good beaches. South from Leonidio, the road over the Mountains of Parnonas leads you through some magnificent scenery and picturesque villages.