This elegant seaside village offers a plethora of emotions. The singular architecture of the mansions and the towers as well as the beautiful nature which is an amalgam of sea and mountain won’t disappoint the visitor.
The main part of the traditional settlement is in the root of red rock which exceeds 250 meters and seems to dominate the area. You will see here the beautiful houses with the whitewashed walls, the wooden doors and the windows painted with vivid colors.
In continuity with the main settlement you will find “Plaka”, the picturesque harbor of Leonidio. According to the excavation findings, the harbor is built in the location where the ancient city Prasies (or Vrasies) was. In Plaka you will find rooms to let, café bars and fish taverns.
The main economic activity of the area might not be tourism but this does not deter the travelers who increasingly visit the place every year. The place offers a variety of beaches to swim, places to visit and traditional feasts which excite both the locals and the travelers.
The wider area of Leonidio is called historically “Tsakonia” and the residents “Tsakones”. Tsakones are considered to be the direct descendants of the Dorians. These people isolated in their remote area managed to preserve their genuine traditions and customs. The singular language of this area is called “tsakoniki” and is a special dialect that derives from the Doric dialect in continuity of the Ancient Greek language. Even the Greeks who come from other places will find it difficult to understand this special language, which is believed to be today the oldest language in the world!
Tsakonia played a great part in the Greek Revolutionary War against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. In 1826, the Turkish army destroyed Prasto, the old capital of Kynouria, and the residents found shelter in Leonidio which became after that the new capital of Kynouria and developed its own unique culture ever since.
If you visit Leonidio during Easter you will be amazed by the local traditions and customs. In the morning of the Holy Saturday people go to the church in order to participate in the liturgy of the First Resurrection. In the night of the same day every church lights up the “afano”, the pile of dried branches with a red flag on the top which symbolizes the Judas. In the midnight after the priest says the first “Christos Anesti” (Christ has risen) the churches burn the effigies of Jugas and the local people release in the air their self made balloons and create a magical spectacle. Fireworks and firecrackers come along with the spectacular events of the night.
During Easter Sunday many visitors come to Leonidio to taste the lamb, wine, eggs and delicacies that area served in the yard of the Town Hall. Traditional instruments, songs and dances are of course an important part of the menu! Later in this day, in the churches people observe the liturgy of Love. Priests pronounce the Evangel initially in “Tsakoniki” dialect. The night ends with traditional sweets made by the local ladies.
The custom with the balloons is called “The night of the balloons” and begun in the end of the 19th century. The seamen from Leonidio had seen this custom during their journeys in Asia and brought it back to their country. Since then every house make its own balloon and is a pleasant activity for all the family. More than 100 balloons are released from every church in Leonidio in the night of the Holy Saturday.
If you like eggplants don’t miss the opportunity to taste the local eggplant “tsakoniki melitzana” which is a PDO product. The Greek geographer Pausanias named the plains of Leonidio “The Garden of Dionysus”. Here there are a lot of eggplant plantations some of them are biological. The ideal soil, the weather conditions and the rational use of farm chemicals are responsible for the sweet taste of this purple eggplant. The locals produce a vast variety of delicacies from their eggplant, like the sweet eggplant conserve or pickled eggplants.
Every August takes place in Plaka, the harbor of Leonidio, the famous “Eggplant festival”. In this festival you can enjoy the traditional dances of the area and of course the eggplant contest, in which famous chefs from Greece and abroad award the best the best plate with eggplant.
Near the Leonidio settlement you will find the harbor Plaka with its traditional houses mirror in the clear water. Near the harbor is the big pebble beach of Plaka where travelers will find all the necessary amenities, like accommodation, cafés - bars and of course fish taverns.
About 8Km southeast of Leonidio, there is Poulithra , a small fishing village with a tranquil beach. The olive trees and the pebbles complete the beautiful painting of the landscape.
For the adventure seekers there is about 33km southeast of Leonidio the Fokianos beach. This is also a quiet beach with big pebbles but with a difficult dirt road towards the end of the route.
The “Trikalioti tower” is the most known sightseeing in this area. It was built in 1808 and combines features from the west and the east Europe. The visitor will be astonished by the painted ceiling.
Leonidio has plenty of churches the visitor might want to visit. The oldest and the greatest is the church of St. Kiriaki. It was built in the beginning of the 18th century and has the picture of John the Baptist on the temple. The Annunciation of our Lady, which is also the cathedral of the area is also worth visiting. Here the visitor can admire the wood curved temple which the people from Prassos brought together in 1826 in order to save it from the Turkish army which set on fire their old settlement Prassos. The images of the temple are believed to be made between the 17th and 18th century. The monastery of Agios Nikolaos Sintzas is located at the west side of the plain of Leonidio in a hard to reach area. The monastery dates back in the 17th century and owns a library with manuscripts.
Around 10 km northwest of Leonidio you will find the Mycenaean cemetery of Baskina. This cemetery was revealed recently due to the heavy rain.
Places to visit
The gorgeous Poulithra (Ancient Polichni) is a settlement located 9km south of Leonidio with old stone houses. The beautiful pebble beach of the village attracts many travelers. In the hill Vigla you will find the preserved parts of the walls of the Ancient Polichni. In addition, on the road from Leonidio to Poulithra you will find the ruins of Ancient Prasies, the most significant ancient city in the area of South Kynouria.
The villages of Parnonas
You can grab the opportunity to visit the villages of the mountain Parnonas. The most popular village is “Kosmas” also known as “The balcony of Kynouria”. Starting from Leonidio, after about half an hour of a route full of chestnut trees and firs you will find one of the most beautiful villages of the mountain Parnonas. The altitude of 1150 meters, the traditional stone houses, the trees, the big square and the stone church of St. Anargiron are the main features of this village. While you are in the village you could visit the Folklore museum or hike in the chestnut tree forest that spreads under the village.
Before arriving in “Kosmas” village about 14km away from Leonidio you will find the “Elonas monastery”. Elonas monastery is a nunnery, which is built in a cavity of the red rock, on the steep slopes of mountain Parnonas. The wild beauty of the monastery will fascinate you! It was built in 17th century and is dedicated in the Assumption of Mary and has a feast every 15th of August. Inside the monastery there are religious relics and a wood carved templon.
Other villages you might like to visit on the plateau of Parnonas are Amygdalia (18km), Peleta (22km), Kounoupia (33km) and Mari (39km).
One of the most rewarding experiences in the area is following one of the hiking routes around the mountain Parnonas. There is a variety of hiking paths of different levels of difficulty.