The Menalon Trail…

Feeling slighty overweight from delicious Greek, carb-filled food, we made the decision to follow the Menalon Trail on a weeks trek through the Arcadian region of the Peloponnese mountains to shift the food babies. We left our big backpacks in Tripoli and only packed basic essentials to take with us.

Our starting point was Dimitsana, a beautiful village which was enveloped in a mountainous hug. A really charming place to start the walk. We arrived in the evening by bus which ascended up a steep winding road to Dimitsana, the Main Street through the village lit up brilliantly by the evening light and roadside restaurants along the Main Street through the village. Walking through the village we saw many old buildings including a beautiful old abandoned church.

With a dark and early start the next morning, we left Dimitsana for Zygovisti, 4.2kms away; a gentle ascent took us to see some pretty views of the mountains and valleys surrounding us, and an amazing view of Dimitsana at sunrise.

It was so good to walk in the cool mountain air with just our lightweight rucksacks. Our walking shoes took a little while to bed in, but with not a soul apart from ourselves walking the trail (as we were walking after the season had ended), it was lovely to walk with just each other for company taking in the forest landscapes. The various dirt roads and narrow stone footpaths through mountain fields were well signposted with the Menalon Trail symbol and it didn’t take us long to reach Zygovisti.

A small rest and we began the next section of the trail to Elati, a 14.9km hike from Zygovisti where we currently were. We continued to ascend passing small churches and various springs towards the Bilali Pass. With steep slopes we managed to glimpse some breathtaking views whenever we reached a clearing from the sheltered woods. From the crooked path, it was clear where rivers would run, and where large amounts of rainfall would run down the mountain sides. Ascending and descending through forestry was tiring on the legs and feet but the views were definitely worth it. Even the sunshine glinting through the fir trees was a joy to take the time and appreciate.

Painful feet and the need sit down and relax we descended down the plateau towards Elati, through small woodland paths. The last ten minutes took twenty as my pace slowed right down (somehow the heat together with my tired feet made it harder to walk and I literally couldn’t go any faster than snails pace!) but we got there in the end and we sat down outside the village church to rest. We took off our shoes letting our feet breath (which felt amazing!) as we had a bite to eat and some time to get lost in our own books for an hour.

Our last section to complete by the end of the day was Elati to Vytina, another 8.5km!! I gave my feet a good talking and we carried on. Our pathway followed the River Miloan (due to the lack of rainfall in summer though there was no river but a pathway of riverbed rocks instead). This last section continued for a while fairly flat going neither up or down, which was good for both my feet and morale to continue. Α last ascent uphill took us to the main road of Vytina (it is amazing how much my walking pace seemed to quicken when I saw the end in sight!) Reaching the main square in Vytina we stopped for a ‘frappé’, Greek style, a very strong cold coffee with lots of foam, milk, and very sweet! Absolutely delicious and we took a moment to relax and appreciate our surroundings. We walked to our accommodation, freshened up and then went back to the main square for dinner and a well earned drink! (After a 10 hour day walk including stops with over 49,000 steps, we had definitely earnt our food!)

The next day we allowed ourselves a little lie in before moving onto Nymfasia. A shorter section of 5.6km, we took our time walking through the tree covered hills, passing a bridge over an empty canyon, and traversing along the mountains. Nymfasia was a small little town with the centre square having only two restaurants. Our room for the night was still a walk away and whilst sitting in the town square we were lucky to come across the owner who gave us lift to our home for the night. It was an amazing setting with trees surrounding us on all sides, and valleys in the distance, there was no noise in this tranquil place and it was lovely to relax and enjoy the rest of the day in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

The following day we completed two sections of the trail, Nymfasia to Magouliana (8.9km) and then Magouliana to Valtesinikou (6.6km). Leaving Nymfasia, we followed small roads that took us through beautiful oak woods giving us breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains surrounding us. We followed the ascending trail to Kernitsa Monastery, which was an amazing site where the monastery itself was nested in the mountain side boulder. Continuing up the steep forest path until we reached Magouliana, the village of loggers, we stopped for a bite to eat and to take in the views.

A wander through the village continued us on our trail, this time descending through the forest, and down toward the valley river bed which our path ran parallel to. A fairly easy path to follow and at a leisurely pace, we stopped halfway to paddle our feet in the cool stream in the shade.

After a big descent downwards in the morning, once again we found ourselves hiking up the hillside to the village of Valtesinikou, known for their wood carvings. Set on the side of the mountain, our accommodation for the night had some stunning views of the surrounding mountains and village itself. After dinner and watching the sun disappear behind the hills for sunset, we meandered our way back to bed to rest for the night.

Our final day of the trek and the last section to be completed was Valtesinikou to Lagkadia, 13.9km. Moving away from Valtesinikou, we viewed the plains of where we had been previously and where we were heading towards. We traversed an extensive fir forest, through a wooded ridge which then opened up into a wonderful meadow with walnut trees and eucalyptus trees. It felt like we were back in the countryside of England!!! With a detour that took us to the mountains edge to overlook the village of Lagkadia, we descended the mountains and traversed downwards to the road which led into the village. We found a lovely little cafe with balcony views and rewarded ourselves with ice creams for finishing the Menalon Trail. Knackered Dave went for a snooze whilst I caught up on some writing.

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