Family and kids’ friendly activities and experiences in the center of the Peloponnese
In the center of the Peloponnese peninsula, Arcadia embraces Mount Menalon of myths and legends and one of the most magical Greek mountains. Home to the God Pan, of woods, fields, and flocks who was half human and half goat, and the dryads, nymphs and other spirits, Menalon is a hospitable fir mountain with the River Ladon flowing through it and spilling into a big artificial lake. The enchanting Alphios and Lousios Rivers, in the center, host the highest habitat diversity and human activities. The mountain is traversed by the Menalon Trail, a well-designed network of hiking paths, ideal to attempt even if it’s your first hike with babies, toddlers and kids.
Among fir trees, rivers and streams, watermills, stone bridges, small waterfalls and accessible gorges, the visitor has the opportunity not only to hike and picnic in nature, but also to come across traces of human ancestral beginnings and to get to know Greek history. The paths of Menalon pass through traditional stone-built villages and go by monasteries and ancient archeological sites, such as the big ancient city of Gortys or the castle of Karitena.
In the modern era, Arcadia and the Greek villages of Mount Menalon were the setting of the most important battles during the Greek war of Independence. Theodoros Kolokotronis, the emblematic leader of the Greek Revolution, was born in Libovisi and his house stills stands and is open as a museum. Other sites worthy of a visit include the house of Paleon Patron Germanos, the watermills in Dimitsana, as well as the monasteries in the Lousios gorge built during byzantine times – “The Philosopher” and “Agios Ioannis Prodromos” that played a crucial social and economic role during the years of the Ottoman rule and the Greek War of Independence.
We, the MAMAKITA team of family travel consultants, have walked with our kids in the international certified Menalon Trail, we have chosen the simplest and most family-welcome paths. These are hazard-free; cyclical, so you do not need to return to your starting point; away from cliffs and with no great variations in altitude. We introduce you to the family friendliest river and mountain activities led by the best professionals, so that you feel safe and relaxed to connect with nature, to strengthen your family bonds and to watch how people live in an authentic and unspoiled area of the Greek country life. If you were wondering what to do in Greece with kids, or are already vacationing in the Peloponnese with kids, this is definitely a beautiful region to experience together as a family.
Hike in the gorge of Lousios
If you are in Arcadia and want to do some hiking with kids, the most popular of all sections of the Menalon Trail is easy, family-friendly and certainly worth the hike. The easiest way to start the hike is from the monastery of Timios Prodromos – that you can also visit, but bear in mind that monasteries have visiting hours and usually close for lunch time. The descending path reaches the River Lousios, the old watermill of the monastery, the small church of Saint Andreas and continues to Ancient Gortys. The archeological site is small but interesting, because excavations have revealed a large part of the citadel and an important Asklipieio with baths. A few meters away stands the beautiful stone bridge of Kokkoris (Polygenis), depicted in the most popular photos of the Lousios gorge, where you can experience a refreshing -actually, freezing- footbath. If you are in Greece with kids during the hot summer months, this is definitely a cooling place to visit! Request availability for a guided hike and pick up here.
Hiking around Vitina
One of the easiest and more beautiful parts of the Menalon Trail that you can hike with kids is the section connecting Elati with Vitina, crossing the Milaon Gorge. You take the descending path from Elati to the Pirgaki springs following the track to Vitina. You will come across three abandoned watermills, a wooden bridge and some fountains amidst the forest. Request availability for a guided hike tailored to your family needs and according to your kids’s age here.
If you end up in Vitina, the main village of the region -and an ideal starting point for your trips by the way- you will have the chance to enjoy the rest of your day in the main square, which is full of restaurants, coffee shops, pastries and stores with local products. You will also have the opportunity to visit many attractions, such as the stone-built parish church of Agios Tryphon located on the main square, the Municipal Library, the historic “Greek School”, the church of Aghii Anargyri (1831), the stone bridges and water mills on the river Mylaon, the Triantafyllidis Foundation and the “path of love”. Request availability for a guided city tour here.
Another option is to get acquainted with the art of silversmithing, one of the most popular arts in the area, due to the School based in the village of Stemnitsa. How much time does an experienced silversmith take to transform a silver bar into a jewel based on your kids’ design? Find out by requesting here.
In Vitina, you will also find a small woodland park, where experienced pedagogues and mountain guides organize games for kids and adults, creating a way for families to come closer to the Greek forest, learning how to love and protect it. Request availability here.
Hiking around Valtesiniko
Valtesiniko is another village that can serve as a perfect base for hiking with children. You can enjoy short walks in the forest or hike longer distances.
You can, for instance, walk or drive to the small churches of Agia Triada and Agios Panteleimonas or Agios Therapis, which overlooks the village and from where you can admire the landscape and the breathtaking views of the mountain and walk around to explore with your kids the flora and fauna of the forest. If you want you can continue crossing the fir forest and in about an hour you will reach the spring at the location “Grias to Lithari”.
Another three-hour family hike starts from the old Mana Sanatorium and the church of St. Pantes right across. The route leads down to the valley along Ela stream, where you will find very interesting herbs and mushrooms and continues parallel to the riverbed by footpaths and small roads until Valtesiniko. Request availability for a guided hike and mushroom hunting here.
Another interesting hiking route is to Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos) in the gorge of Rentezela, about 3 km from Valtesiniko. Inside the monastery is the place where women and children hid in 1826 during the Greek War of Independence and were burned there by Ibrahim Pasa in revenge for the loss of his nephew. Around Agios Nikolaos in the Plain of Valtesiniko, you may find traces of the old village, a stone bridge, the chapel of Agia Marina, and the ruins of an ancient temple near Agia Paraskevi (near the village of Mygdalia).
More activities and things to do with kids in Arcadia
- A botanical hiking tour along the most family-friendly paths of the Menalon Trail according to the season. Learn how to distinguish among herbs and learn how to produce your own balsam oil! Request availability here
- Rafting in Lousios. Request availability here
- Truffle hunting and cooking in the forest. Request availability here
- Are you fond of survival tactics? Try our recommended “forest sleep over” under the expert guidance of certified and experienced instructors and pedagogues.
- Exploring the water cycle together with experienced geologists and guides starting from the Kapsia cave, one of Greece’s most beautiful caves and going to the Ladona Springs. Then, have a picnic at Doxa Lake in neighboring Corinthia. Kids and adults will discover on this tour how water connects all these different landscapes with their divine beauty and the legends and myths of the region.
- Wine lovers can visit the Kalogris winery and taste their exquisite wines in a beautiful traditional Greek home setting. See more here.
Check out all ΜΑΜΑΚΙΤΑ family friendly guided tours in Arcadia and the Menalon Trail here and download the MAMAKITA tried and tested family friendly itineraries in Arcadia and the Menalon with kids here.
Your family vacation in Greece will be adorned with magical myths and legends if you journey to the center of the Peloponnese, where you can make meaningful connections with locals and understand their love and pride for their land and history. They talk about Greek ancient myths and they retell folk tales and legends regarding Arcadia and the God Pan, the Greek Revolution and its heroes, as if they are still somewhere hidden in the Menalon forest. They praise the trees and rivers, as if the forest nymphs, the dryads of wood and the Nereids of the waters are somewhere around ready to be revealed. In this fairyland, it is difficult not to come back…