The walking is on a mixture of dirt tracks, well-constructed stone mulepaths (sometimes overgrown) and one riverbed. There is also one stretch of narrow trail in the gorge above Parori, which vertigo sufferers might find uncomfortable but not dangerous. Although there is relatively little up- and downhill (maximum climb 800m on day 6, maximum drop 800m on day 2), the terrain is stony and you may find a stick useful to take pressure off the knees.
Day 1- Arrival in Athens.
Meet at the airport with your English speaking trekking Hellas guide. There is one major transfer from the newly built airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” to the hotel, which is conveniently located in the heart of Athens. Settle to the hotel. In the evening meet with your guide for a short walking tour of Athens and enjoy dinner in a traditional Greek tavern in the old part of Athens, in Plaka.
Day 2 From Athens travel to Kardamyli.
After breakfast, half day sightseeing tour of Athens, the hostess of the next Olympic Games in 2004. Visit Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Archaeological Museum and Panathinaikon Stadium, the stadium where the first Olympic games were held in 1896. Lunch in a tavern. Early in the afternoon, transfer to Kardamyli (5 hours). Lunch by a seaside tavern. Arrive in Kardamyli, settle to our guesthouse. Dinner Spend the night in Kardamyli.
Optional: If we arrive early in the afternoon, we may walk up to Petrovouni village, St. Sofia 11th-century church and back (mule path, 2 hours).
Day 3 Viros gorge and villages (5 hours)
Transfer to Exohori village (30 minutes). We then walk down into the dry Viros gorge, with views up to the Taygetus peaks, and up a winding mule path to Tseria village for a coffee break and afterwards another stop for a light picnic lunch. Afterwards we walk via Pedino village to Kalives hamlet before descending back into Viros gorge and along it to Kardamyli (on partly overgrown paths and stony riverbed between high cliffs). Dinner and O/N in Kardamyli guesthouse.
Day 4 “Castles and churches” walk (6 hours)
Transfer to Sotirianika village (45 minutes). We walk past the deserted monastery of St. George, across a stone bridge over the Koskarakas gorge, and past the nunnery of Evangelistria to reach Kambos village (3 hrs, dirt road and paths). Here we visit a Mycenaean grave tomb, a 19th-century mansion and (½ hr walk) the 15th-century Zarnatas castle and private chapel of Zoodohou Pigis with its unusual and well-preserved frescoes; picnic lunch here. We continue via Malta village, the Koumoundourakis castle and follow the coastal mule path back to Kardamyli (3 hours). O/N Kardamyli.
Day 5 Travel to Mystras and short walk (1-2 hours)
Drive to Mystras for about 3 hours in beautiful scenery of Southern Peloponese wildness and finish the day with a short introductory walk around the area. Lunch in a tavern. Spend the night in a hotel.
Day 6 Loop walk around Mystras (5 hours)
Transfer to the chapel of St. George, our departure point for today’s trek. We take the old kalderimi (mule path) up to the village of Anavrity. We continue on dirt road and path and after a picnic halt in the beautiful tranquil village of Soha, we then descend to the plain on a spectacular mule path giving excellent panoramic view. The trek ends at Kalivia Sohas for a transfer back by car or taxi at Mystras.
Day 7 Mystras (6 hours)
Walk up through ruined Byzantine town visiting numerous churches, with their excellent restored frescoes, and the 13th-century castle (1½ hrs walking time, 300m climb). At the one functioning convent remember to dress properly (long trousers for men, long skirts for ladies). You can either go with the leader (who is not qualified by Greek law to guide you round the site but does have a good working knowledge of the history and buildings) or make your own way to the castle gate and meet there. We return to modern Mystras village along a valley path (1 hour, 300 meters drop). In the afternoon, optional visit to Sparta.
Day 8 Return to Athens
After breakfast transfer back to Athens. End of the trip.
Leadership and group size
Your tour leader will be with you throughout the week to guide you along the route, help organise and interpret in the villages and assist the group in any other way possible.
Our leaders are fluent in English and Greek as well as often-another language, and have walked in the area before. They will try and give you a real insight into the local way of life and, for those interested, will happily give some basic Greek lessons while walking or over evening drinks. Although not specialists, they are interested in the area's flora and fauna and usually carry field guides. They always have maps and a compass. We expect to run this trip with a group of 4-16 participants.
Accommodation and food
We spend one night in Athens, three nights in a clean, well-kept pension (A category) in the fishing village of Kardamyli (twin rooms with private facilities. We spend three nights in the Hotel Vyzantion (twins and triples with private facilities; B category. Vegetarians can be catered for, if we are advised beforehand. Lunches are light tavern meals (salads, dips, bread, cheese, maybe greens or chips) or simple picnics taken at a scenic spot en route according to the walking programme.
Dates: April 12-19
May 31- June 7
June 28- July 5
September 27- October 4
Price: $1160 (participation 4-5 persons)
$975 (participation 6-8 persons)
$940 (participation 9-11 persons)
$880 (participation 12-16 persons)
Single supplement: $140
Triple reduction: $80
7 FILELINON STR.
ATHENS 105.57 GREECE
The southern Peloponnese is just beginning to enter the tourist scene, thanks to a new motorway and direct flights to Kalamata, after years being considered as too remote and inhospitable. We visit the central part of the southern Peloponnese, keeping to less developing parts where there are few tourists in midsummer and virtually none at all when we visit.
Kardamili lies approximately at the centre of Outer or Messinian Mani, which has the same stone-fortified houses and rugged, barren scenery that put the Deep Mani on the map. The architecture is striking, with tall, narrow houses, sturdy structures with thick walls and few windows (cool in summer) built of local, pastel-coloured stone and tiles or grey slate. The landscape matches the buildings for grandeur: forever dominating the eastern skyline is the massive, rocky ridge of Taygetus (2407m), snow-capped until late April. Its higher foothills, deprived of their water by underground channels and caves in the porous limestone, are dry and forbiddingly lunar. But towards the coast, the rivers re-emerge (do not be deceived by the fact that some are now piped parallel to their natural course to supply the coastal resorts) to feed fields of crops and olive groves.
In spring their verdant offsets the brown and white of the higher ground to dramatic effect. Olives and olive oil, packed in Kalamata (the county capital), are the biggest and proudest export of the region, with local honey and figs boosting the economy. Some unusual cheeses, such as the creamy "sfela", are the fruit of the huge goat population, while further south women gather salt from the sun-dried rocks as their husbands polish up their backgammon skills. Tourism is also beginning to make an impact. You can find out more in Patrick Leigh-Fermor's exuberant book, "The Mani" (Penguin).
Though very little of ancient remains, Mystras gets its fair share of tourism; it lies on a sharp, conical hill at the limit between mountain and plain - a line so distinct that one could almost measure the angle of slope with a protractor. Separated into three parts - the Kastro (fortress), upper town and lower town - this historic settlement used to be the Byzantine capital of the Peloponnese, and indeed the last Byzantine civilisation.