The Taygetos Mountain Experience
Not many people know it but the Peloponesse is a year round destination. Look past the sandy beaches and picturesque fortresses, and even further past that enormous Greek salad in front of you. You’ll be rewarded with a slice of unsullied paradise. In between heaven and those orange and olive groves lies the Taygetos mountain range; the mythical place where Spartans dwelled and occasionally fought is a truly mesmerizing wonder.
Spanning the three counties of Laconia, Messinia and Arcadia, the Taygetos mountain range is certainly long as it is rugged. And like most other mountainous enclaves in the country, it is home to a distinct and equally rugged people. Its history only matched by its beauty. And let’s just say the locals are high royalty.
The area is peppered with small villages that serve as ideal stop overs for the forays into mountain territory. Kardamyli, is one village not to be missed, least of all due to the fact that Leigh Patrick Fermor spent his remaining days there.
Another 250 villages dot the area. They are as you’d expect; stone mansions with abundant greenery surrounding them. In Georgitsi, Kastori, Nikitara and Artemisia life is simple. Inhabitants usually number a few hundred, although during the summer months it balloons to a few thousand.
And all those visitors are looking for authenticity and a connection with nature. As well they should. The Taygetos mountain range is ideal for all types of mountain sports such as hiking, climbing and trekking. However, there are gorges, rivers and rapids, which means rafting, canoeing and kayaking are du jour.
At nearly 2500 metres the Pentadaktylos peak is the highest. Then there are Spanakaki, Sidirokastro, Neraidovouna, Profitis Ilias, Koufovouni and Goupata amongst others, all under the protection of Natura 2000. Which is just swell for the abundant flora and fauna.
There are approximately 1,000 species of plants spanning the 5 vegetation zones (Azonal vegetation, Alpine zone, sub-alpine zone, mountain zone and the Mediterranean thicket) including 160 endemic to Greece, of which 33 are only found in Taygetos.
The fauna is awesome, too. 85 bird species, 19 mammals and 33 reptilian types call the mountain range home.
Taygetos and its surrounding network of trails and habitats makes for a terrific nature excursion. The lack of discernible tourist trails makes for even better circumstances. Be one with nature.