Few people know about these Greek villages. But those who love to travel adore them. They have been exploring the secrets of Mount Parnon for a long time. And now there is another reason to visit again. Vamvakou is the village that Stavros Niarchos revived, and consider to be the star attraction. It draws visitors all year round.
Mount Parnon Villages: Remarkable adventure in a pure and natural landscape
Mount Parnon is a hidden gem of natural beauty and authenticity. It offers a wonderful travel experience for those who seek adventure and tranquility. Parnon, also known as Malevos, is a majestic mountain that dominates the landscape. It rises to 1,934 m. above sea level and stretches for about 100 km. Spans a vast area of the Peloponnese, from Tegea in the north to Cape Maleas in the south, and connects two historical regions, Arcadia and Laconia, with its imposing presence.
The trademark of the mountain is the small beautiful villages with numerous monasteries and churches perched on the tree-lined slopes. As for the mountain, the tone is given by firs and black pines as well as chestnut trees, creating a green landscape, ideal for hiking and mountaineering routes. Largest of all the European Path E4 and the National Path O33.
The most accessible -and extremely charming- are, however, those that connect the surrounding villages with each other. The “essence” of Parnon is its alternative and unspoiled landscape, which makes the area an ideal destination for alternative activities in nature, hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking, etc. Note that the easiest way to reach Parnonas is from the national road Tripoli-Sparta. But if you have time at your disposal, the tour through the winding road that goes up the mountain from Leonidio to Kosmas reveals a wonderful landscape.
The Villages of Parnonas – A Dive into the chestnut forest
Agios Petros is the main village of Parnon. It has the most tourist facilities and services. Tzitzina is another popular village. It has some nice places to stay and eat. It also has many marked trails for hiking. The most beautiful villages in terms of architecture are Kastanitsa and Prastos. Kastanitsa is at 840 m. altitude. It is surrounded by chestnut trees and has lovely stone houses. They have wooden balconies and stone arched doors that are very charming. There are also some old three-story mansions that date back to 300 years ago. They have wooden balconies too, and some have loopholes.
Vamvakou is one of the villages that has gained a lot of attention lately. It is at 900 m. altitude and it is the birthplace of Stavros Niarchos, the famous shipowner. The village used to be very prosperous, but it became deserted over time. In 2018, a group of five young people from the village teamed up with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to revive Vamvakou through the Vamvakou Revival program. They did an amazing job and turned the village into a perfect base to explore Parnon. They have created a 12-month program that has events for everyone. Many of them are related to the walnut trees that grow in the area. They also have workshops on robotics and other topics.
Vamvakou has a rich history that goes back to the 15th century. It is a green and scenic village that nestles in the mountains. The heart of the village is the big square that offers a stunning view of the peaks of Parnon. The square has a huge plane tree and a magnificent church of Agios Charalambos that add to its beauty.
But there is more to see in Vamvakou. You can visit the chapels that are scattered along the wooded paths. For example, you can go to Agios Georgios above the village or to Agios Panteleimonas through the chestnut forest of Kastanitsa. You can also learn more about the natural heritage and ecological value of Parnon at the Environmental Information Center of Kastanitsa. It is located in the old primary school, in Agiannis Square. You can access it by request.
Tsintzina or Polydroso is another popular village in Parnon. It is at 1,000 m. altitude and it lies on two slopes. The most striking features here are the gorge that splits the lower neighborhood and the stone bridges that link the lower and the upper parts of the village. You can also find nine marked trails that start from this pristine landscape. They are challenging but rewarding. They take you to hidden churches and springs. You should also visit the villages of Kosmas and Kastri. They are among the most picturesque of Parnon.
If you are adventurous and fit, you can try the trail that goes through the gorge to Megali Tourla, the highest point of Parnon. You should also see the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in the monastery of Agioi Anargyroi. It has a special surprise for the visitor. It is painted by Fotis Kontoglou, a famous painter.