Stemnitsa - Dimitsana (Menalon Trail)
This is part of the Menalon Trail which is the first trail in Greece, certified by the European Ramblers Association. The Stemnitsa – Dimitsana stage is the most popular part of the entire Menalon Trail. A fantastic route that takes almost 5 hours to complete. The path is clearly marked with signposts along its entirety so it is pretty hard to get lost. Red, yellow, and green trail markers show you the way. There is such a wonderful variety of terrain, views, wildlife, villages and history that this trail is one of the most memorable of all in the area. The section is 12.5km and a combined ascent of almost 700m. Basically the walk takes you through the gorge starting at 1084m and dropping to 416m and then back to 1000m. The walk is about 5-6 hours including stops at the monasteries and a dip in the river. We recommend this to anyone when they ask about hiking in Greece, but it should be recommended as a must for hikers anywhere.
The trail starts at the entry of Stemnitsa and descends steeply to the ravine of Lousios. Follow the cobbled path that heads out of the village towards Prodromos Monastery. On the plateau where the chapel of Metamorfosi (Transfiguration of Christ) is located, the route changes direction to the northwest, and runs along the Lousios Gorge to the first Monastery on this route, Moni Agiou Ioannou Prodromou or otherwise know just as Prodromou or St. John the Baptist Monastery. The monastery is one of the three highlights of the route. It is absolutely amazing how it is built into the hollow of an overhanging cliff on the left side of the ravine, about 200 m above the river bed of the Lousios River. Shortly before the historic monastery, the path passes to the opposite bank of the gorge over the concrete Philosophou Bridge.
After walking through the forested path, the route starts to ascend and takes you the Ancient Philosophou Monastery (963 AD). After a few more steps further on the Lousios Gorge hiking path, you arrive at the more modern Philosophou Monastery (1661 AD). Most probably the monks will invite you into the reception area and offer you Greek coffee and sweets. The view of the gorge and the slopes on Mt. Menalon is stunning. After a short break, take the old mule track from the parking space of the New Monastery, heading to Dimotsana. The footpath passes over the impressive one-arched Monopori stone bridge and brings you to the Open-Air Water Museum. Even though the sign posts drive you around the museum, it is worth making a stop to admire the pre-industrial installations and water-powered mechanisms. From this point there are quite a few trails climbing to Dimitsana. The climb is tough especially in summer heat.
- It is good to start the hike early if walking mid-summer and have plenty of water with you, as it’s not always available. There is a fountain at the courtyard of the Prodromos Monastery to fill up your bottle as well as one at the Monastery of the Philoshopher. Along the way you will find two small water springs but most likely without water by the end of summer.
- You must be fit to hike the trail as there are lots of ups and downs and some climbs are pretty demanding.
- Wearing proper hiking boots is a must.
- To visit the monasteries, make sure that if you are a woman you wear a long skirt and men wear long trousers. The monks do have some clothes that you can use to cover up if you’re inappropriately dressed.
- Best hiking period: from end of April to mid-October