I first read about the Lousios Gorge in John Humphreys’ book, Blue Skies and Black Olives, where he describes its beauty and how he got lost on his first visit there. I first visited the gorge with Leashia in 2013 and we returned in 2017 with Monique when we stayed overnight in the mountain village of Stemnitsa as it is a bit of a long drive from the Southern Peloponnese.
The monasteries Philosophou and Prodomou are on opposite sides of the gorge and are both unique. The villages of Stemnitsa and Dimitsana are also worth visiting. Driving along the gorge is an amazing experience and words don’t really do it justice, photos help, but seeing it first hand for yourself is a must.
Not far from Dimitsana are the two Philosophou Monasteries. The ‘new’ one is 17th Century and has a delightful little church as well as spectacular views across the gorge. You may be greeted by an enthusiastic and friendly priest who will most likely sit you down, offer you water and tell you stories about the monastery in broken English. He had a strong accent and a speech impediment that made him sound like he was speaking through a kazoo which made him very difficult to understand. He was there to greet us in 2013 and again when we revisited in 2017.
The abandoned Old Monastery which was founded in the 1st Century, is separate from the new one and is a 20 minute walk down a crumbling and, at some times, precipitous path. The Monastery itself is almost completely hidden from prying [enemy] eyes and you do not know you are there until you are upon it. Amazingly it is built on a narrow ledge and blends perfectly into the gorge. The views are superb and if you have binoculars or a good pair of eyes you may be able to spy the Prodromou Monastery on the other side of the gorge. There is a path through the gorge joining the two monasteries, I presume this is where Mr Humphreys got lost. We have not tried this out yet.
A slow meandering road takes you to the Prodomou Monastery situated on the opposite side of the Gorge to Philosophou. Like Philosophou its setting is spectacular, a row of mostly wooden buildings seemingly stuck to the edge of the gorge and resting on a series of fragile looking poles!
Look at the photos – bonkers!
The priests are friendly and offered us a strong Greek coffee which gave us a nice buzz. There is a small church built into the rock which is fascinating as well as unusual.
The mountain village of Dimitsana is a great place to stop for refreshments or lunch while gazing down at the gorge below. It is pleasant wandering around the narrow streets. There is accommodation here but the amazing setting does mean the prices are rather inflated.
We stayed here in 2017 at Gartagani Guest House on the edge of the town where were made to feel very welcome. We had problems finding it [even with Google maps – der!]. We must have looked pretty pathetic but a nice young man riding a motorbike showed us to the door. Breakfast was served in a wonderful vaulted cellar by candlelight due to a thunderstorm causing a brief powercut, we loved it.
There are some lovely craft shops here and a pleasant square edged by Tavernas. There is a medieval church just off the square.