North Kynouria: From the Slopes of Parnonas to the Myrtoan Sea
North Kynouria is one of the five municipalities in Arcadia. It is located in the eastern part of the prefecture, bordered on the north by Argolida and to the east by the waters of the Argolic Gulf, up to the Arkadiko Chorio (Arcadian Village). In the south, it borders Lakonia (with its southwest border with Lakonia running along Mount Parnonas), South Kynouria, and the Palaiochora Plateau. To the west, it includes Kastritochoria, and it is bordered by the Arcadian Municipal Sections Korythios, Tegeas, and Skyritida.
North Kynouria’s municipal offices are in the historic town of Astros. The Second National Assembly of the independent Greek state convened here in April 1823, in the Karytsiotis school building that now houses the city’s Archaeological Museum.
North and South Kynouria are the only coastal areas of Arcadia; only they are washed by the dark azure waters of the Argolic Gulf and the Myrtoan Sea. On the eastern side of the prefecture, their coastline begins at Xiropigado on the northeastern edge of Kynouria and descends to the south toward Paralio Astros, Meligou, the beach of Agios Andreas, and the Arkadiko Chorio (Arcadian Village). From this point, after Kryoneri, the coastline of South Kynouria begins; it extends to the southern tip of Arcadia, the beach at Fokiano.
Along the coast we find many beaches, with at least one to fit each preference: some are crowded and organized like the pebbly beach at Xiropigado or the long sandy beaches before and after Paralio Astros (spread over kilometers of sand below the castle of Zafiropoulos), from Kato Vervena to Meligou and Agios Andreas (with the windmill that is slowly disappearing into the sea). But there are also remote, tranquil, secluded spots such as the coves with sandy beaches below the road from Kiveri to Xiropigado and after Xiropigado, before Kato Vervena.
North Kynouria combines many features of Arcadia, in terms of both the topography and the elements of history and culture.
In the west we find the majestic Kastritochoria with its seven villages, Kastri, Elatos, Karatoula, Mesorrachi, Oria, Nea Chora and Perdikovrysi, all built close to each other on the slopes of Parthenios and Zavitsa; the most important of these is Kastri, which was previously known as Agios Nikolaos. The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist (Agios Ioannis Prodromos) is especially notable, built into the side of the cliff across from the rock of Kotrona in Perdikovrysi, above the bed of the Tanos River.
And before we arrive at Agios Nikolaos, we will get to know beautiful Ano Doliana, where townspeople led by Nikitara barricaded themselves inside the home of Christofili on May 18, 1821 and chased the Turks away.
Continuing south, we can visit the beautiful villages on the slopes of Mount Parnonas, such as Agios Petros, with the striking tower of Trikaliti, Agios Ioannis, with the neighboring castle of Oria, Kastanitsa, with the impressive chestnut forest, Sitaina, with the Loulougas Gorge, Platanos, with the waterfalls of Lepidas, or Prastos, the old historic capital of Tsakonia before the fury of devastation brought by Ibrahim, who also ravaged the town's Church of the Virgin Mary, and finally Oreino Korakovouni, with the Artikaina Castle, whose historical details are obscure.
And above these, the fascinating Mount Parnonas with the Agiolia Plateau and the Sitaina Forest, which has been designated a natural monument. With gorgeous forests of fir, walnut, pine, and cedar, and many species of medicinal and aromatic plants, Parnonas has been deemed, after Olympus, the Greek mountain richest in herbs.
In addition to the castle of Oria in Agios Ioannis and Artikaina in mountainous Korakovouni, two other Byzantine castles in the area are worth visiting for a pleasant adventure and a unique experience. The first of these is the "unknown" Oriontas Castle above the Palaiochora Plateau and the Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Karya. Stone tools from the neolithic era have been found here. We reach it after hiking for 75 to 90 minutes on a trail that heads southeast, through the grounds of the Karya Monastery.
The other castle we recommend is the Byzantine castle of Zangoli, which we find after descending toward the Koutoupou Stream (to the right 150 meters after the Loulougas Stream), heading toward the gorge of Zarmpanitsa; we can approach the little Byzantine castle after an arduous climb up the cliff above the left bank. Beside it, we will also see the small church of the Virgin Mary of Zangoli.
Across from the Loukous Monastery, we will find the largest archaeological site in the region, the archaeological site of ancient Eve, which was first excavated in 1978. In the 2nd century AD, the wealthy sophist Herodes Atticus built his mansion here. The mansion, which was first identified in 1809 by the British traveler William Martin Leake, was declared the most brilliant work of that time in Greece.
Less known but particularly interesting are the findings in the animal husbandry settlement of Elliniko 10 kilometers southwest of Astros, on a hilltop at Teichio. Here there are remnants of walls from the 5th, 4th and 3rd centuries BC, as well as an ancient settlement, which is probably the city of Thyrea.
Heading north from Agios Andreas toward Astros, before we reach Meligou, we find the Natura 2000 wetland of Moustos on our right. This is a rest stop for migratory birds which hosts a large variety of birds, fish, and reptiles, as well as Caretta caretta turtles. We can admire it from above on a pine-covered hill as we leave Meligou on the way to Koutroufa. On the hill, we also find Kastraki and the small church of the Holy Apostles (Agii Apostoli).
These are just some of the beautiful places that you will get to know while rambling around North Kynouria. Discover much more in the pages of Exploring Greece.