Parnonas also known as “Malevos” is the mountain range which divides two large counties of Peloponnese, Arcadia and Laconia. The highest peak of Parnonas is called “Megali Tourla” also known as “Kronio” and has 1936 meters altitude. The mountain ends in Laconia at the Cape Maleas, south of Peloponnese.
The natural beauty of the mountain and the traditional villages attract many travelers throughout the year. The best time to visit the area is during the spring season when the snow melts and forms small waterfalls. There are many signposted hiking routes which allow the visitor to admire the gorges, the caves, the waterfalls, the springs and the rivers of this amazing mountain. Climbers will love the challenge of reaching the top of the mountain. “Megali Tourla” (1936m altitude) can be reached through a large path which crosses an amazing gorge. In the beautiful villages of Parnonas you will find places where you can rent mountain bikes or four-wheel drives to explore the amazing locations of this mountain.
Parnonas has five gorges (Loulougas, Mazias, Zarbanitsas, Spilakion, Lepidas) where rare species of flowers blossom. Mazias gorge is the easiest for hiking whereas the Lepidas gorge is very demanding and you will need special equipment and knowledge to cross it.
The name Parnonas existed already since the ancient period and the name meant “the ridge which shines”. During the ancient times the mountain was also called “Kronion” because it was considered to be the sacred mountain of Cronus, who was the leader of the Titans.
There are signs of inhabitation already since the Paleolithic Period which continued throughout the antiquity until the byzantine years. The monastic life is quite strong here and the visitor can still visit some beautiful monasteries, like the known monasteries of Malevi, Loukous and the monastery of Elonas.
Parnonas is also a very important ecological zone in Peloponnese as it is covered with forests of firs, black pine trees, plane trees etc. Around the monastery of Malevi there is the “Juniperus drupacea” (Δενδρόκεδρος) tree forest which is the only one in Europe and has been classified as protected area of the “Natura 2000”. At this mountain there are also many rare species of flora, some of them are known for their healing powers.
The “Wetland of Moustou” is a small lake with two artificial waterways and is located about 2km northeast of Astros. The wetland is also a protected area of the “Natura 2000” as the flora and the fauna here is extremely interesting. During the winter the wetland gathers millions of migratory birds which create a beautiful image. The artificial waterways flow to the shores of the nearby beach where the rare species of “Careta- Careta turtle” can be seen.
The villages of Parnonas – Hiking routes
Ano Doliana is a beautiful village about 26km southeast of Tripoli. The village is known already since the antiquity for its fine marble production which was used in many important buildings and temples, like the temple of Alea Athina. Only few people stay here during the winter but during the summer the population rises significantly. Outside the village there is a chestnut forest with the church of Agios Ioannis (St. John). Every November the locals organize the “Chestnut feast”. The women in the village prepare every possible delicacy with chestnut to treat people in the village along with some “tsipouro”, a local spirit drink.
Agios Petros village is located 37km southeast of Tripoli at 900 meters altitude. It is the largest village around this area and is known for its contribution during the Greek War of Independence against the Ottomans in 1821. In 24th of March in 1821, the captain Anagnostis Kontakis raised the flag of the revolution and in 1826 he torched the fleet of Ibrahim. A notable monument here is the tower house of Trikalioti. About 5km away from Agios Petros there is the imposing Monastery of Malevi. Many pilgrims visit this monastery in order to prostrate themselves before the image which is one of the 70 images which were created by Evangelist Luke. Only 2km away from the monastery there is the rare “Juniperus drupacea” (Δενδρόκεδρος) tree forest.
One interesting hiking route around this area is the route Mountain Shelter of Parnonas (EOS Sparta) – Megali Tourla (top) – Monastery of Malevi Drive to Agios Petros village and follow the signs towards the mountain shelter. Follow the signs towards the top of the mountain. After you reach the top of the mountain you start heading towards the chapel of Prophet Elias until the monastery of Malevi.
About 8km away from the Monastery of Malevi you could visit Agios Ioannis village. The locals here are occupied with agriculture and stock raising. Don’t miss the famed dairy products here and enjoy roasts and wine at the local taverns.
Sitaina is a lovely village with chestnut trees and a few stone houses. There are many signposted paths which start from here and the village is ideal for those who love climbing and hiking. The village is a starting point for the waterfall of Loulouga, the gorge of Liouta, the cave Karatza, the castle of Ziagkoli and the forest of Sitaina.
Close to Sitaina you will find Kastanitsa village, which is one of the most beautiful villages of Parnonas. Here you will see around 250 whitewashed stone houses as a result of the rich lime production of the village during the past years. Kastanitsa (kastana = chestnuts) was named after the large chestnut forest which surrounds the village and every year at the end of October a beautiful “Chestnut feast” takes place here. Follow the uphill path from the central square which leads up to the remains of the byzantine tower house of Kapsabeli. People found shelter here in 1826 in order to protect themselves from the invasions of Ibrahim while today is an amazing spot to enjoy the magnificent view of the Argolic Gulf and the island of Spetses.
Prastos is a historical village about 14km away from Kastanitsa. During winter the village is completely abandoned. Before the Greek War of Independence in 1821 the village numbered around 9000 residents until 1826 when Ibrahim devastated completely the settlement. You can see the stone tower houses with the arched front doors and the bust of Manolis Ntounias who was a brave Greek fighter during the war against the Ottomans.
Tzitzina also known as Polidroso is a beautiful village ideal for those who love mountain activities. From here start seven signposted hiking routes of different levels of difficulty which end up to springs or churches. One of the most beautiful routes is the one which ends up to the “Koniakitiki” fountain and returns to the village through a circular course of the forest. The total distance is 7km and you will need about 2,5 hours to cross it. Another hiking route is the one which ends up to the monastery of Agion Anargiron. This path is also beautiful and lasts 1 ½ hour. The place is ideal also for those who love climbing. There are four climbing routes in order to reach the rock of Agia Marina which is 50 meters tall. If you are in mood for a road trip the village offers four-wheel drives and organized road trips in the forest. Last but not least mountain biking is also a great way to explore the beauty of the mountain. Beside the activities in the village you will find guest houses, taverns and notable sights, like the monastery of Agion Anargiron and the church of Ai-Vlasis.
Kosmas village is located at 1150 meters altitude and is often called as “the balcony of Kynouria” due to its astonishing view. From here you will see the surrounding fir tree forests and even the islands of Spetses and Hydra. The central square of the village is dominated by the huge plane trees. At the village you could visit the art gallery and the folklore museum. Visit the chestnut tree forest which expands below the village either by a jeep or on foot. On the road Leonidio – Kosmas village there is the imposing monastery of Elonas. The monastery was built around 1800 inside the impressive red rock. Inside the monastery you will find the image of the Mother of God, which according to tradition was created by Evangelist Luke.
Geraki village is about 17km away from Kosmas village and is a place with rich history. During the Frankish occupancy an imposing castle was built here. You can visit the remains of the castle about 2km outside the village. Inside the castle you will also see some well preserved byzantine churches. Try some local products here like the olive oil, the wine, figs and honey. The women of this village are known for their weaving skills and the rugs they produce have been awarded for their fine quality.
Karies village is about 35km away from Sparta. The village is built at 950 meters altitude at the location of the ancient city of Karies. Visit the Caryatids, which is an exact copy of famous monument of Acropolis. Don’t miss to try some of the many traditional products of this village, like chestnuts, walnuts, olive oil, wine, honey, homemade sweets and pasta.
Except the beautiful mountainous villages you could also try to visit some amazing beach destinations around Parnonas like Leonidio, Tiros and Paralio Astros.