Arcadia: Origins of the Myth
There’s no shortage of beauty in Greece. Blue and white sugar cube houses in the Cyclades, Venetian cobble stone streets with medieval castles in the Ionian, and pretty temples and churches on the most improbable of places; that’s Greece, and then some. Apart from the architecture, which we assure you is pretty damn spectacular, Greece is all about the intangibles. The stuff that makes you happy to see without actually being able to pinpoint it; that is where Greece kicks it up a notch.
As the temperatures drop, locals in the know (and now you, yei!) head down to the Peloponnese and to the mountainous Arcadia for a spot of R&R. This mythical region has been famous throughout for its historical significance as one of the main contributors to Greek culture and power. Nowadays, Arcadia sports a far less imperious style.
WHAT TO SEE
However, the remnants of its glorious past are there for you to see and admire. And there are many. And let’s just say that if you haven’t visited the Monasteries of the Lousios Ravine, you haven’t seen anything. Built on the cliff face of the mountain as it slopes down, several monasteries sit peacefully embedded into the rock. Filosofou, Timiou Prodromos and Kalamiou monasteries are the best kept and most accessible out of the 25 remaining ones. A visit to one of these and you may just find Jesus again.
If you want to take a step further back into time, then a visit to ancient Gortyna is definitely in order. Archaeologists have yet to discover the exact origins of this ancient settlement, however some estimates have it starting sometime in the 4th century BC. The history of the Gortynians is a mysterious one, and ought to keep you interested for quite some time.
Another archaeological site that is well worth the time is Ancient Mantineia. This used to be a city state that competed with Sparta back in the good ol times. The scattered temples, boulevtirion and gymnasium are still semi visible among the rubble.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the ancient city of Tegea beckons the enthusiastic archaeology buff (just make sure it’s a kids free holiday-they will never forgive you for that).
Similarly, the Temple of Apollo Epicourios is stunning and very well preserved. Built in the 5th century BC on the site of an older temple, the importance of this site is huge, as it is believed that it was built by non other than Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon.
WHAT TO DO
Arcadia has a lot to offer by way of activities, too. With quaint traditional villages such as Stemnitsa, Dimitsana and Karytena, it is almost impossible not to be seduced by the magical serenity of the place; luscious green slopes teeming with fauna as far as the eye can see, and hardly any person for miles, apart from birds (Birdwatching heads up).
The river Lousios offers superb rafting opportunities, and as always hiking and trekking up the pristine Mt. Mainalos is an experience that needs to be lived.
The best stuff in Greece is usually a little trickier to find as it isn’t as advertised. But make no mistake, these are the best spots in Greece, and you get them to yourself.