Covering 75km through the region of Arcadia – a mountainous beauty spot that became synonymous with utopia among painters during the Renaissance – the Menalon Trail is a spectacular hiking route that takes trekkers from the top of towering mountains to the bottom of deep gorges, passing ancient monasteries, traditional villages and glistening rivers along the way. Split into eight sections, the trail can either be completed in full or broken down. If you plan on embarking on the Menalon Trail, read on to learn everything you need to know.
- What is the Menalon Trail
- Where is the Menalon Trail
- How long does it take to do the Menalon Trail
- What are the best sections of the Menalon Trail
- Practical tips for the Menalon Trail
- Where to stay when doing the Menalon Trail
What is the Menalon Trail
The Menalon Trail is a well-maintained hiking route created by a group of volunteers from Eastern Gortynia in Arcadia who hope to shine a spotlight on the area by creating new paths that illustrate its beauty and historical importance. Passing significant sights such as the Prodromos Monastery, which miraculously clings to a rocky cliffside and remains active to this day, and the dramatic Lousios Gorge, the spectacular trail was the first in Greece to be certified by the European Ramblers’ Association (ERA) and has also been placed among the Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe. It is undoubtedly one of the best hiking trails in Greece and with frequent signposts directing you along the way, it can easily be completed without a guide.
Where is the Menalon Trail
The Menalon Trail is located in Arcadia in the centre of the Peloponnese, a vast region of mainland Greece that sits to the southwest of Athens. The trail begins in the village of Stemnitsa and journeys through eight more villages, concluding in Lagkadia. The journey from Athens to Stemnitsa takes just under three hours when travelling by car.
How long does it take to do the Menalon Trail
Three of the eight sections are between 12km and 15km and take around five hours to complete while the other five sections vary from 4.2km to 8.9km. As a result, it’s likely that you will only be able to do between one and two sections a day. Therefore, if you opt to do the entire trail, you will need to allow between five and eight days to complete the full route, staying in guesthouses and hotels in the villages located along the way. Most people, however, opt to do just one or two of the sections with Section 1 (Stemnitsa to Dimitsana) being the most popular. If this is the case, you can expect it to take between 5 and 6 hours, either starting in the morning and finishing around lunchtime or starting around midday for an early evening conclusion.
What are the best sections of the Menalon Trail
Section one of the Menalon Trail, Stemnitsa to Dimitsana, is arguably the best and most popular stretch of the trail. This section takes hikers through the majestic Lousios Gorge passing several monasteries such as the cliffside Prodromos Monastery and the ancient Old Philosphou Monastery, a crumbling but impressive structure that dates back to 963, along the way. The route then concludes in the remote village of Dimitsana where there are a number of bars and cafes to enjoy well-earned refreshments while taking in panoramic mountain views. Do bear in mind, however, that this section is 12.5km and it zig-zags up and down the sides of the gorge, meaning you need a certain level of fitness to complete it.
A shorter, easier alternative, Section 4 – Elati to Vytina – is regarded as one of the most beautiful sections of the Menalon Trail, passing through fairy tale emerald green forests and along pretty riverbeds. Partially paved, this section is only 8.5km and can be completed between 2.5 and 3 hours.
Practical tips for the Menalon Trail
The Menalon Trail is linear rather than circular, beginning in Stemnitsa and concluding in Lagkadia – or one of the other villages along the way if you only do one or two of the sections. Therefore, if you drive to Stemnitsa, you will need to consider your return journey back from the end of the trail to your car. A couple of taxi companies operate in the area and if you are concluding in one of the larger villages such as Dimitsana then you will be able to ask a local cafe or restaurant to arrange a taxi back to Stemnitsa when you arrive. If, however, you plan on finishing in one of the quieter villages such as Zygovisti or Elati, you should arrange your return taxi before leaving Stemnitsa. As a guide price, you can expect to pay around €15 for the taxi journey from Dimitsana to Stemnitsa.
If you want to see famous sights such as the Prodromos Monastery but do not wish to complete the full Stemnitsa to Dimitsana section, another option is to drive to the church of the Transfiguration of Christ where there is a small car park and begin the trail here instead of Stemnitsa. Doing this will cut about an hour off the beginning of the trail and you will not miss very much due to the first couple of kilometres featuring mainly overgrown farmland. You can then get a taxi back from Dimitsana to the church of the Transfiguration of Christ rather than Stemnitsa when have you completed the rest of the trail.
Where to stay when doing the Menalon Trail
Several villages along the route of the Menalon Trail have accommodation options with the likes of Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Vytina and Lagadia offering the largest number of guesthouse and hotel options. Smaller villages such as Zygovisti, Elati and Nymfasia have limited or no options, so it’s best to plan your route accordingly to ensure that you arrive in a village with suitable accommodation each evening. The official Menalon Trail website has a number of suggested guesthouses and hotels, which can be found here.
Further reading if you’re visiting the Peloponnese:
Pritanio Guesthouse, Polydroso: A retreat in the Peloponnese mountains
Discover the best of Greece in the Peloponnese
The Menalon Trail: A breathtaking hike through the region of Arcadia