Menalon Trail Greece: Hiking in the Peloponnese

By Sierd van der Bij

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Menalon Trail Greece: Hiking in the Peloponnese
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The Menalon Trail in Arcadia, in the Peloponnese. It doesn't get much more Greek. Sure, islands like Crete and Corfu are stunning for their perfect combination of mountain and sea, but the 'real' Greece can be found on foot deep in Greece's interior. Churches and monasteries, thousand-year-old donkey trails and watering holes, quiet villages and a small glass of ouzo to end the day. Forget the mileage and the athletic challenge: on the Menalon Trail, you take it easy in the Greek way.

Take it easy, that was always the idea behind the development of the Menalon Trail. Here you step in the footsteps of Ioannis Lagos and all the other Greeks who call the ancient paths of the Menalon Trail home. Ioannis had the excellent idea to give the trails, which were there anyway, a name in order to introduce people like you to the nature and, above all, the culture of his region. The result is 75 kilometres of 4- or 6-stage hiking pleasure: the Menalon Trail, one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe.

What and Where Is the Menalon Trail?

Ioannis we already mentioned. He was born at the starting point of the Menalon Trail, in the small village of Stemnitsa. Unlike many of his fellow villagers, he chose a life in Athens, to make a living in business there. Long days in the office from Monday to Friday and then, if possible, relaxing in the mountains on weekends. But why not go to the mountains for longer? It gave him an idea. The trails that Ioannis and all his ancestors, going back to ancient times in the Peloponnese, could bring tourists to the region. Eureka! Connect the mule tracks and you have a wonderfully authentic hiking trail. The Menalon Trail became an idea, and after Iaonnis and his friends had done their homework in Italy's Aosta Valley, known for the Tour du Mont Blanc, among other places, the 75-kilometre trail became a reality.

So you will find the Menalon Trail near Stemnitsa, a quiet village with almost as many churches as houses in the middle of Arcadia, in the Peloponnese, one of the birthplaces of ancient Greece. Stemnitsa is a three-hour drive from Athens. Menalon is the name of the mountain range through which the eponymous trail winds. The mule tracks that handed over their function to tarmac in recent years are now one of the best trails in Europe. Like the Mullerthal Trail, also a top pick at Bookatrekking.com, the Menalon Trail has earned the "Best of Europe - Leading Quality Trail" label.

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Menalon Trail: A Leading Quality Trail?

Becoming a Leading Quality Trail doesn't just happen. The European Rambler's Assocation, or ERA, is an umbrella hiking organisation for associations in 35 European countries. In 2015, the Menalon Trail was named a Leading Quality Trail by the ERA. This label guarantees the diversity of a hiking trail. Not only nature but, above all, culture is a distinguishing factor. So what makes the Menalon Trail so special?

In the Menalon you will find basically everything that a Leading Quality Trail should have to offer. Picturesque towns, almost exclusively nature trails, a multitude of cultural attractions, impressive views and landscapes, and to make it all complete, clear marking and signposting. The Menalon Trail has it all, and among all the splendour, you will constantly come across the distinctive M.

Menalon Trail: A Leading Quality Trail?

Did you know that we can book all overnight accommodation for the Menalon Trail for you? Check out all our options here.

Is the Menalon Trail for Me?

The Menalon Trail is a bit different from the Alta Via 1 or the Peter Habeler Runde. Whereas a hut-to-hut tour in the Alps or the Dolomites is mainly about nature, the Menalon Trail is also about local culture. In short, this means that somewhere along the way, you might also just hit the ouzo or raki for a few hours. Hospitality is an inherent part of Greek culture and in the quiet villages along the Menalon, everyone is a welcome friend.

So on the Menalon Trail, unlike on some of our other trails, it's not about athletic challenge at all. In the Menalon Mountains, you switch down a gear, take it all in, taste some goodies at the bakery and get talking to the wonderful characters you meet along the way. And all this while completing a relatively easy non-technical hiking trail. Is the Menalon Trail for you? If you're looking for a relaxing walking holiday, then definitely!

What Is the Best Season for the Menalon Trail?

In Greece, you can go for your beach holidays all year round but that does not mean you can also hike the mountains all year round. Olympus, for example, in line with hut-hiking in the Alps or the Pyrenees, has a very short season and is thus only good to do for a few months of the year.

The Menalon Trail can basically be done all year round but summer is the favourite season again. It makes sense too, because that's when all the hotels are open, it's between 20 and 30 degrees during the day. It is also much busier on the trails, which is why many hikers prefer to choose spring or late summer and early autumn. Milder temperatures, better chances of availability in accommodations and, depending on the season, fantastic colours in nature.

What Is the Best Season for the Menalon Trail?

Menalon Trail Map and Navigation

There are plenty of maps and guidebooks that can help you do the Menalon Trail. Below is a map with an overview of the route.

Menalon Trail Day-to-Day Itinerary

A combination of culture and nature, that is the Menalon Trail. Here, the emphasis is not so much on your sporting achievement, but rather on the trails that were once mule paths and thus the main connections between the small villages of the Menalon Mountains. The faces you meet along the way and in the villages are also part of any Menalon experience. And, of course, to the glass of ouzo you can enjoy after a long day. This is the other, authentic Greece.

Day
1

Stemnitsa - Dimitsana

Duration: 03:40 h
Distance: 13.6 km
Ascent: 610 m
Descent: 770 m
Today we cross the famous Lousios Gorge to reach Dimitsana. Do you love ancient monasteries and churches? Then you already knew that the Menalon Trail is perfect for you. Along the way, we traverse ancient farmlands, pass the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ and admire the view of the Lousios Gorge, before entering the paved path leading to Prodromos Monastery. Nestled against the walls of the gorge, this monastery has a very nice fountain to visit. We walk on to the Old Philosophou Monastery from 963 and then to the New Philosophou Monastery founded much later, in 1691. Finally, we reach the beautiful Dimitsana.

Pension En Dimitsa in Dimitsana

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Pension En Dimitsa in Dimitsana
Day
2

Dimitsana - Elati

Duration: 04:40 h
Distance: 19.2 km
Ascent: 690 m
Descent: 480 m
Footpaths and dirt roads take you past the small monastery of St Apostoli. If you thought this is the last monastery, you are wrong. Many more monasteries and churches will follow in the coming days. Just after passing the Immortality Monument, the guard of Theodore Kolokotronis, leader of the 1821 War of Independence, we enter the centre of cute Zigovisti. The War of Independence is a familiar story to every Greek. After Zigovisti, you trek across the western Menalon massif past a stunning ravine. This sets the tone for the rest of the stage. More natural beauty and a fantastic village to end it. Note: This is the longest stage, so do a bit of walking. There will be time for more breaks tomorrow.

Chalet Elati in Elati

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Chalet Elati in Elati
Day
3

Elati - Vytina

Duration: 02:00 h
Distance: 8.44 km
Ascent: 130 m
Descent: 270 m
A much shorter day is scheduled. From Elati, you hike back to the M route and find the old mule track to Vytina via several paths. Along the way, you pass the Pirgaki Springs, which supply Vytina with drinking water. You will also find the remains of the ancient Acropolis of the ancient city of Methydrion along the way. Vytina is the main town in the region, here you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.

Pension Guesthouse Teloni in Vytina

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Pension Guesthouse Teloni in Vytina
Day
4

Vytina - Nymfasia

Duration: 02:00 h
Distance: 7.9 km
Ascent: 180 m
Descent: 390 m
We leave Vytina and continue to Nymphasia via the Old Vytina footpath that leads to Mavra Litharia, a massive limestone boulder in the riverbed of the Milaon. We then start descending to Tzavarenas bridge, a solid stone bridge that provided the connection between Vytina and the western Gortynian villages. The trail gains altitude in a unique rocky landscape, reaching a height of 880 metres and curving horizontally to Nymphasia, a small but lively satellite village of Vytina.

Agropoli in Nymfasia

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Agropoli in Nymfasia
Day
5

Nymfasia - Valtesiniko

Duration: 04:10 h
Distance: 16.9 km
Ascent: 630 m
Descent: 440 m
Between Nymfasia and Valtsesinko, nature changes slowly. First we go downhill and cross the Kernitsa bridge. Not much further on, you will find another monastery, this time this one of Kernitsas. A huge complex nestled in a monolithic rock. After passing the Gavros Spring, we enter the small settlement of Magouliana. A fine village for a break, maybe even a good lunch. From Magouliana, it is not far to Valtesiniko. On the way, you will encounter the nationally renowned Mana Sanatorium. After quite a bit of climbing and descending, you eventually arrive at the village of the woodcutters.

Pension Valtessiniko Studios

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Pension Valtessiniko Studios
Day
6

Valtesiniko - Lagkadia

Duration: 03:30 h
Distance: 13.9 km
Ascent: 450 m
Descent: 620 m
From the village of woodcutters to the village of stone builders, that's what the final stage of the Menalon Trail is all about. A relatively short day, but like yesterday, still quite a bit of altitude stress. Along the way, you will encounter some special places, such as the fountain of Kria Vrisi and the Byzantine fortress of Valtesiniko. The final finish of the Menalon Trail is at the war memorial of Lagkadia. You will have earned a glass of ouzo or raki!
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Accommodations Along the Menalon Trail

The idea of Ioannis and 'his' Menalon Trail was to bring tourism to the Menalon Mountains. He has done a pretty good job of that. The Menalon Trail is becoming increasingly well known and for us hikers, this means that you can find a multitude of accommodation along the trail. A multitude but always in typical Greek style. What that looks like? Happily different from what you might encounter on the busy beaches of Chersonissos, for example. Along the Menalon Trail, you will stay in typical Greek guesthouses. In some cases, these are centuries-old buildings that are charmingly furnished and privately run. This gives you another chance to be invited for a bite to eat or a drink. Because why not? Life in the Menalon Mountains is not that complicated.

Accommodations Along the Menalon Trail

How Much Does Walking the Menalon Trail Cost?

On walking holidays in Greece? A unique way to discover a country known to some only for all-in beach holidays. Greece is much more than Chersonissos. And if you want to discover authentic Greece, it doesn't have to cost a lot either. Your flight to Athens can be booked relatively low-cost with Easyjet or Aegean and from there it is only three hours to Stemnitsa. Getting to Stemnitsa by public transport is complicated but a transfer from Athens to Stemnitsa can easily be organised. In fact, in the case of a Menalon Trail at Bookatrekking.com, a transfer from the airport to Stemnitsa is included. The same goes for luggage transport. Nice and easy.

Breakfast is ready for you every day and so you only have to put money aside for your lunch and dinner. A beer in Greece costs 3 to 4 euros and a meal you have for say 15 euros. And a trip at Bookatrekking.com? For less than 900 Euro per person, you can already be on the trail with a comprehensive offer from Bookatrekking.com.

Packing List for the Menalon Trail

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Menalon Trail with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Safety tips for the Menalon Trail

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The Menalon Trail is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact Bookatrekking.com experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the Menalon Trail. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of Menalon Trail and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Menalon Trail.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the Menalon Trail?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Menalon Trail and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Menalon Trail not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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