We’d read that the Lousios Gorge hike in the Arkadia Region was not to be missed. This fabulous hike took us through the spectacular scenery of the Lousios Gorge passing the Prodromou and both the old and new Philosophou monasteries.
We parked in the small carpark (co-ordinates N37.539579, E22.046523), near the start of the Ancient Gortys part of the hike, and the Lousios River’s edge was only about 30 metres away. The scenery was enchanting. Turquoise blue water flowed under the old, traditional stone bridge and autumn colours dripped off the surrounding trees; it was picture postcard perfect. According to Greek Mythology, Zeus himself used to bathe here.
Across the bridge, you come to the Asklepion Ruins – a type of ancient healing grounds. We looked on, with the jingle jangle sound of nearby goats and their bells.
A short distance along the path you come to Saint Andreas Church. Even in its state of disrepair, the remnants of frescoes on the walls are still visible.
The route along the Lousios Gorge gradually became steeper as we followed the signs for the Prodromou Monastery. The pathway led into a wooded area and we soon arrived at the ancient Prodromou Monastery ‘Fulling-Tub’. At first, we thought that ‘Tub’ meant it was the monk’s bath area (clue word being ‘tub’) but found out it was a water-mill where ‘fulling’ (a process of thickening the material in woollen cloth) took place.
Our research also led us to find out where the saying, ‘on tenterhooks’, came from; in the fulling process cloth is strung tightly on hooks called tenterhooks. Interestingly, in pre-medieval times, urine was used for fulling instead of water – how lovely!
After the Fulling-Tub, we crossed the ancient Prodromou Bridge ruins and continued along the Lousios Gorge to the first Monastery on this route, Prodromou. It’s absolutely amazing how it hangs off the cliff face so high up; it would have been a great feat of engineering in its day.
We reached the half-way point and were already feeling it in the legs (well I was – Lars seems to stride up the mountains as if we are still on flat ground, with me breathing heavily behind!). To my relief, the path led downwards for a while in the shade of the trees (which always means ‘up’ on the hike back …but light relief for now – positive thinking!)
After walking through the forested path we arrived at the ancient Philosophou Monastery. From here, the view looking out across the Lousios Gorge was pretty spectacular.
The ruins are accessible by climbing up the steep steps on the side and are fascinating to clamber through. Needless to say, we spent a while investigating the little nooks and crannies and taking it all in. The spaces that the monks lived in were so tiny – like a modern-day version of compact homes! It’s difficult to imagine what their life would be like living on the side of the mountain in these tiny quarters.
A few more paved steps further on upwards and you arrive at the more modern Philosophou Monastery. As we approached the entrance, a friendly monk invited us into the reception area and offered us water and Turkish Delight. He then gave us a book with an English page marked up to read about the history of the monastery. Neither of us had our reading glasses with us and he watched us as we read. Lars seemed to be studying it very carefully; in situations like that, I don’t know why, but I kind of pretend to read! I did manage to squint and notice one date though, the ancient monastery was founded in 963 AD.
After a quick look in the little chapel, we were ready to set off back to the campervan. A couple of cute cats laying in the sun outside of the chapel distracted me; they were both so friendly and just wanted a cuddle. Lars, who is much more of a dog person, made the mistake of sitting down beside them and that was it! They were all over him and were extremely reluctant to climb off. In fact, once he had managed to prise them off, they followed us for over 200 metres back down the path. We did break into a bit of a jog where possible to discourage them from coming any further!
Our descent only took us an hour. It was a much easier walk on the way back, as the path was mostly downhill and we spent less time stopping to take photos.
The scenery was spectacular, the ruins of the old monastery extremely interesting and the Lousios Gorge Hike certainly made sure we had our quota of exercise for the day.
Time to put our feet up in the van and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea and some choccie.
Our journey takes us towards Sparta next.
Have you done any of this hike? We’d love to hear your impressions of the place and the monasteries on the mountainsides.
Like this article, why not pin it?
After finishing my Law Degree I decided to become a teacher. I am passionate about teaching, learning and most of all, about inspiring others. Now, as a writer and blogger, I love sharing our travels and our musings on life’s journey. I hope, through these, we can play a part in inspiring you to do whatever ‘satisfies your soul’.