Dimitsana, Gortynia, Greece
Dimitsana, Gortynia (Credit: G Da, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Gortynia: Full of natural beauties, traditions and activities

The delightful villages of Dimitsana, Iraia, Kleitor, Kontovazaina, Langadia, Trikolonoi, Tropaia, Vytina

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OVERVIEW

The municipality of Gortynia in the Arcadia regional unit of Peloponnese, is home to stunning mountainous villages. Each village has its own long history, natural beauty and array of attractions. Picturesque cobbled streets, beautiful stone-built mansions, historic monasteries, Byzantine churches, cultural treasures, mesmerized landscapes, evergreen forests, delicious traditional products and incredibly welcoming people. Below you will find some of the many highlights of this unspoilt area which is a real masterpiece of nature and birthplace of legends, heroes and fighters. The climate and privileged location, make it an ideal place for relaxation, but also for activities and excursions.

AT A GLANCE

Municipality’s seat: Dimitsana Municipality’s area: 1,050.9 km2 Municipality’s population: 10,109

ADMINISTRATION

The municipality of Gortynia is comprised of 8 municipal units: Dimitsana, Iraia, Kleitor, Kontovazaina, Langadia, Trikolonoi, Tropaia and Vytina.



HISTORY

Dimitsana (945m), registered as a traditional settlement, is built on the ruins of the ancient Arcadian town Teuthis that had participated in the Trojan War, but also in the colonization of Megalopolis. The name of the settlement is first recorded in 967 in a Patriarchate’s document related to Philosophou Monastery. Dimitsana is known for being the heart of the Greek independence movement in the early 1800s. Iraia is named after the ancient Arcadian city of Heraia, known in recent times for the construction workers. Pausanias, the Greek traveler and geographer of the second century AD, describes the ancient cities of Heraia and Melaineai and their buildings.

Langadia, Arcadia, Greece (Credit: Cornelia Gramenscu on Pinterest)

Kontovazaina and Langadia are also considered traditional settlements. The latter, is situated on a mountain slope, at about 1000 m elevation. Kanellos Deligiannis and his brother Dimitrakis Deligiannis, two of the many heroes of the Greek War of Independence against the Turks in 1821, were born here. Trikolonoi includes the villages of Syrna, Pavlia, Palamari, Psari, Ano Kalyvia, Elliniko and Stemnitsa (1083m), another traditional settlement.

Stemnitsa, Arcadia, Greece (Credit: G Da, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stemnitsa is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Arcadia, due to its picturesque location and its historical churches and mansions. Tropaia is a village is located near the Ladona Lake. Last but not least is Vytina (traditional settlement too), located at the foot of the mountain range Mainalo at 1,033m standing out for its traditional architecture.

GASTRONOMY

Are you ready to embark on a gastronomic adventure? Meat lovers will love dishes with lamb and goat, rooster, rabbit and wild boar. Cured pork specialties are also not to be missed. Abundance of pies of hand-rolled phyllo dough, delicious cheeses produced locally, handmade hilopites (traditional Greek pasta). And, of course, delicious spoon sweets, toutoumia (small square pastries), and last but not least “Meli Menalou” or Menalon vanilla fir honey which is also a PDO (protected product of destination origin).

WINES & DRINKS

Oinophiles will enjoy top quality wines of the PDO Mantineia region. Fruity and aromatic, fine and complex, wines made from the Moschofilero variety will also delight you, as well as the fruity floral Asproudi.

POINTS OF INTEREST

Dimitsana’s Library: Founded in 1764 and until 1821 enriched with 5,000 books, a huge number for the time. Today it contains today about 35,000 books, manuscripts and documents and is constantly enriched.

Statue of Patriarch Grigorios V: It dominates in the central square of Dimitsana. Here are alsothe family houses of both him and Paleon Patron Germanos – the Metropolitan Bishop of Patras, who first raised the Revolutionary flag. 

Statue of Patriarch Grigorios V, Dimitsana (Credit: Napoleon Vier, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dimitsana Clock: A donation of the Dimitsanian community of New York. The mechanism and the bell were sent over around 1900-1910. In 1934 marble sculptors from Tinos island joined local workers in completing this monument.

Stemnitsa’s Silver and Goldsmith School: Housed in a uniquely beautiful two-storey traditional building, it features all the necessary infrastructure for theoretical and practical courses.

Stemnitsa, Arcadia, Greece (Credit: PLAKLE, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Castle of Stemnitsa: Here you will admire the stunning view of the village. The Bournazos mansion and churches of the 12th and 15th centuries should also be on your to-do list.

Vytina’s “Path of Love”: This iconic street is very atmospheric so make sure you take a stroll around it, under the dense trees.

River Lousios: In mythology is reputed to be the place where Zeus – the ruler of Gods- had his first bath. This gorge is protected by the Ministry of Culture as a place of cultural and archaeological significance and rare beauty.

FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Vytina (Credit: C messier, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Honey festival: Every year Vytina organizes the Honey Festival with exhibitions of agricultural products and sweets, as well as musical performances and events and activities for children.

February 1: Vytina organizes the festival of Agios Tryfonas (St. Tryfonas).

RELIGIOUS SITES

Monastery of Philosophos (Dimitsana): Located on the western side of the Loussios river gorge, the monastery dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary consists of two sections: the Old Monastery (963 AD) and the New Monastery (17th century.)

The Old Monastery was founded by Ioannis Lampardopoulos, nicknamed philosophos (philosopher), a resident of Dimitsana and first secretary of Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas. The old monastery is also known as “Secret School” (Krypho Scholio) because according to the tradition the Greek children were taught there during the years of Turkish occupation (1580-1823). 

Filosophos Monastery, Dimitsana (Credit: Ferengi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Agia Kyriaki church (Dimitsana): This Greek orthodox church which dates back to 1834 is a single-aisled basilica with a dome covered with copper leaves. Agia Kyriaki is the patron saint of Dimitsana and its Cathedral.

Church of Agios Georgios (Stemnitsa): Built in 1810, it dominates the village’s central square. Admire the frescoes and murals by Fotis Kontoglou, the greatest icon painter of modern Greece. The medieval arched church of Virgin Mary (Panagia Mpafero), Panagia Karea and Katagiorgis are other important churches in the village.

Church of Agios Tryfonas (Vytina): Built in 1846 with grey marble, the church is overlooking the central square of Vytina and is a true landmark of the village. Impressive murals and a grand crystal chandelier.

Monastery of Kernitsa (Nymfasia near Vytina): The historic monastery of Kernitsa was founded in 1116 and is one of the oldest monasteries of Gortynia. It was a refuge for Greek rebels of 1821 and houses a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.

KEY MUSEUMS

Folklore Museum (Dimitsana): Housed in Public Historical Library of Dimitsana, one can find collections of objects depicting everyday life in the area during the nineteenth century. There are also priceless historical manuscripts and documents.

Open-air Water Power Museum (Dimitsana): Functioning under the responsibility of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural, this thematic museum was created by restoration of abandoned pre-industrial facilities, based on the Water Power. It includes a flourmill, a traditional cauldron, a tannery, a tanner’s house and a gunpowder mill (the last having provided ammunition during the Greek War of Independence). 

Ecclesiastical  museum (Dimitsana): Housed in the historic house of  the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Grigorios V, who served as Archbishop of Constantinople at the beginning of the Revolution, the museum’s exhibits include rare icons, old books, gold-embroidered vestments, sacred vessels and crosses from churches and monasteries of the area. Most of the items are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Folklore Museum (Stemnitsa): Housed in a 18th century three story ‘tower’ house, the Folklore Museum was founded in 1985. Here you’ll find representations of traditional workshops( silversmith, goldsmith, candle maker, bell founder, tinsmith, shoemaker) and  the interior of a traditional Stemnitsa house (post-Byzantine icons, metalwork, ceramics, wood carvings, embroidery, costumes.)

Folklore Museum (Vytina): Displays historical objects that were used as part of the people’s everyday lives: Agricultural and farming tools, traditional costumes, looms, household utensils, historical documents and photographs.

ACTIVITIES

Mainalon Trail (Credit: Mainalontrail.eu)

This lush and mountainous region is ideal for outdoor experiences and activities. You will find many long and short hiking trails, for every level of stamina. The famous Menalon Trail extends to a length of 75 km and passes through the villages of Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Zygovitsi, Elati, Vytina, Nymfasia, Magouliana, Valtesiniko and Lagkadia. Through the path the hiker has the opportunity run across sites of exceptional natural beauty: the magnificent gorge of Lousios River, the western relief of Mainalo mountain, the valley of Mylaontas River, scenic slopes and the Gortynian Mountains. Lousios river is a paradise for rafting enthusiasts while ski lovers will find on Mount Mainalo a very well preserved ski resort. Horseback riding, herb and mushroom collecting are also on offer.

ACCOMMODATION

In this area you will find a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly guesthouses to stylish hotels for a pleasant, comfortable and unforgettable stay meeting your requirements in full.

TRANSPORT

At only two and a half hours’ drive from Athens, the area has become a popular weekend destination for Athenians. However the area is fantastic for longer holidays as well. From the Greek capital you can reach Dimitsana in 2,5 hours (202,8 km). You can also take the public buses (KTEL) leaving daily from the KTEL station.


TO DO & TO GO