Mainalon mountain and its lovely villages are just 2 hours drive from Athens, making it your first rural stop on your trip to the Peloponnese. It’s an easy trip, but most importantly it’s a beautiful destination with a lot to do. The villages of Arcadia are mountainous, picturesque, with cute cobblestone alleys full of life, cozy cafes, traditional taverns and cute shops with local artifacts and food. The kids can enjoy hikes to hidden monasteries, bathing in Lousios river in the summer, visit museums and farms and learn about the recent history of Greece.
Day trips and activities
1. Vytina: Perfect for an easy stroll (it’s buggy accessible), shopping local products and dining. Don’t miss the Love Road!
2. Horse Sanctuary: You’ll find it from Vytina on your way to Pyrgaki and Alonistaina.
3. Alonistaina: Small village with traditional mansions, cute little stream and some taverns.
4. Lagkadia: Right on its main road, you can find cute shops, taverns and cafes. If you take the stone steps down, you’ll walk through old houses and the school. The steps up will take you to a byzantine church, the old Gymnasium, picture perfect neighborhoods, all the way to a view point where you can stare to the Ionian sea.
5. Limbovitsi: A drive through cypress forests will lead you to the small village where one of Greece’s heroes was born.
6. Karytaina and the Duck Farm: Perched on a mountain side, Karytaina’s tower builidings stand proud over the river. There’s a byzantine bridge here and if you visit Friday-Sunday, you should go to the Duck Farm too. The village features a short cobblestone alley that is great for a little walk and some lunch.
7. Stemnitsa: Accessible with a sturdy stroller. On the village’s square, you’ll see the bell tower and the church, you can stay for lunch, play in the playground, walk from here to the Heroes Memorial or begin your hike to the Mainalon Trail. There’s a Village Museum here as well as a horse riding centre nearby.
8. Dimitsana and the Water Museum: Of course Dimitsana is a lovely village, with its cobblestone alleys and lovely taverns. Nearby, you’ll find the Water Museum, which is lovely and the kids enjoy it a lot.
9. Springs and the river: Between the Water Museum and Dimitsana, right after Palaiochori village upon a bridge, stop the car and walk down to the springs of Lousios river to swim. In July, the water was fairly warm. Between Prodromos Monastery and Karytaina, there’s another river spot with a small beach and a jumbing rope.
10. Monasteries: From the Monastery of Saint Philosopher, we hiked down to the Hidden School. Hidden Schools are where the Greeks kept our language and culture alive during the 400 years of Otoman occupation. The school is so hidden that you can barely spot it when it’s right in front of you – it’s a rock wall built next to the cliff, creating a narrow covered space. Between the Monastery and the Hidden School, you’ll find another trail leading down the canyon to Lousios river. From here, you can continue all the way up to the other side of the canyon and reach the Prodromos Monastery, which is built literally on and in the steep cliff. You can also drive to a church nearby and walk about 15-20 minutes to reach this monastery.
11. Vlaherna: An easy hike with kids leads all the way up to the Panagia Katafygiotissa chapel to enjoy the views. You can also take the trail that will lead you to Levidi village.
Where to eat
Don’t expect coloring books and kids menus, although some might have high chairs.
“Stou Oneirou mou to Steki”, Vlaherna: Slightly overpriced but amazing food. It’s traditional cuisine with a lot of cool twists and the setting is very rustic.
“Koumbouris”, Levidi: If you want to experience the real local meat tavern setting, this is it. The food is amazing, the service is great and it’s actually really cheap. It’s right on the central square.
“Klimataria”, Vytina: Traditional, but with a modern touch, plus the interior is lovely.
“Zerzova”, Dimitsana: Real farm to table experience. Opt for the dish of the day or any vegetable dishes, as they make do with what the farm brings and they get really creative with it.
“Tsiahtai”, Lagkadia: Right on the main road, with great mountain views and lovely decor, this tavern serves the area’s best.
“Maniatis”, Lagkadia: Greek pizza here! Also, amazing local “trahanas” soup, traditional egg starters, nice wine from nearby wineries and a great variety of main courses.
“Arktos”, Karytaina: This is a cafe or bistrot with basic but lovely local dishes. We loved the location, car free and with views.
Where to stay with kids
We’ve stayed at 4 different properties in Arcadia with kids and we think that the most ideal for all kinds of families is Gileri eco & design Residences. It’s inside Lagkadia village and it features a yard with a swing, as well as 3 fully equipped apartments of 38-58 sm. We stayed in “Sala”, a two floor house with mountain views through every single window, stove in the sitting area, a dining table and a fully equipped kitchen. The two separate bedrooms, boxes with toys, library with kids books, Netflix and kids cutlery helped a lot make our stay really comfortable. There’s of course a travel cot as well as wooden high chairs and a toilet seat for younger kids, while “Wintertime” also features a bathroom designed to help you bathe your baby safely.
Hopefully this article will make you put the mountains and the villages of Arcadia in your Greece itinerary!