A two- for – one package
Diving into the clear water of Myrtoan Sea and relaxing in quaint fishing havens, exploring the dense fir forests and the cool villages of Mount Parnon: a mountain and sea vacation “package”, a dreamlike combination!
The nautical town of Leonidio rests on the southernmost end of Arcadia, a niche that is hard to be determined as a mountainous or a coastal one. The sea overwhelms the horizon, whereas at the same time, the surrounding rocky crests of Mount Parnon impose their presence on landscape’s profile. The blue lace of a magnificent coastline unfolds within a very short distance of Leonidio, revealing marvelous beaches and secluded bays.
History at a glance
The inscription Kaour Ekanate (meaning Welcome in modern Greek), written in Tsakonians’ language, welcomes visitors at the entrance of the capital of Tsakonia. References to the Tsakonians – an ancient Greek tribe – date back to the Byzantine period of Constantine Porphyrogennetos. Even the ancient historian Herodotus wrote about the Ionians and Dorians who fled to eastern Arcadia. According to scholars, the current local dialect, presents characteristics indicative of its Doric descent. During the Turkish domination, Tsakonians distinguished themselves as merchants and seamen. Upon return to their native town, they built churches, aqueducts and manor houses, the renowned “towers”.
Walks in town
A short walk on the paved alleys of modern Leonidio will remain unforgettable. The stone manor houses of seamen, the verdant yards and the whitewashed fence walls with the dark wooden gates, create unique colour contrasts that complete the canvass of the natural environment. The towers of Tsikaliotis and Chatziroudis and the mansions of Polytimos and Katsikogiannis are among the oldest buildings of Leonidio. In total, there are approximately 120 mansions with neoclassical influences, built in the 19th century by Moraitians and Italian craftsmen. A short pleasant drive (5 km) leads to the Monastery of Agios Nikoalos of Sintza (14th century), hidden in a vertical rock cavity.
Easter customs: As soon as the priest starts chanting the Christos Anesti! (Christ is Risen!), hundreds of paper balloons are released into the air from the five parishes of Leonidio. This spectacular custom has been kept alive since the late 19th century.
Egg-plant festival: Tsakonia’s melitzana, the purple egg plant grows exclusively in the area and is renown throughout the country and appreciated by chefs for its tasteful seedless flesh. The “Egg-plant Festival” is held on the last Sunday of August, in the nearby Plaka. The countrywomen serve traditional recipes with Tsakonian egg-plant as the main ingredient. An outdoor feast follows on.
Tsikaliotis Tower: Painting, ceramic art and photography exhibitions are periodically hosted in the impressive castle house of 1808.
Following the road along the coast from Leonidio towards Tyros, the bay of Sabatiki awaits you to take a swim and have a lunch break in its taverns along the beach.
Leaving behind the sun-soaked shore and starting off from Leonidio, the uphill road leads to the wooded slopes of Mt Parnonas. At the 14th km you will see the historic monastery of Elonas (19th century) that looks as if it were cliff-embedded. The route ends at the mountainous village Kosmas and its picturesque square (26 km far from Leonidio).
A narrow reeled road rises slightly from Poulithra towards the Tsakonia’s plateau where Peleta, Amyglalia, Kounoupia and Pigadi villages are located. Going on to you will drive descending to the perfect arc of Fokianos bay covered with all white pebbles.
Beaches and mooring places
The harbour of Plaka is the sea port of the town of Leonidio and despite all the structural changes, it remains an authentic fishing village.
Ruins of the Acropolis of the ancient city of Prassies have been tracked down a bit higher up the hill above the village.
From Plaka, the road follows the coastline. The village of Poulithra to the south lies on the indented seafront. There are many rooms for rent, some hotels, taverns and cafes lining the coast. The paved road follows the shoreline till the end of the bay, where there is a small mooring place for boats.
In front of Plaka’s settlement, in the embrace of the quay, there is a tiny sandy beach. A shingled one unfolds behind the mole, where the sailing boats moor and continues for 3-4km to the village of Lakkos. The beach of Poulithra, with big-sized pebbles, extends parallel to the road, along the village. There are many tamarisks and huge bushes, priceless for their shade. The area is suitably organized for family holidays.
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Copyright photo: Theo Athanasiadis / Views Of Greece
Copyright text: Germaine Alexakis/ Views Of Greece