Visit to Monastery of Makellaria and Lapanagoi
The rock with the Holy Monastery of Makellaria standing on its peak has been called a small Meteora. Facing Lapanagoi, it is located above the right bank of the River Selinoudas. A historic monastery dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, it was built in 532 AD by General Belisarius (Velisarios in Greek) in penance for the massacre of the Nika Revolt.
We can reach the holy Makellaria Monastery in two ways. We can follow a well-made dirt road for about 8 kilometers, starting shortly after Neochori and crossing through the beautiful forest of Kaniska. Or we can take an even more beautiful but more difficult route that starts from Petsakoi, heading toward Lapanagoi. On this route, shortly after the ruins of the Monastery of the Annunciation, we can see a rough dirt road heading off to our left. This road leads to the Monastery of Makellaria. Some parts of the road are impressive, but care is needed. There is an impressive narrow passage that appears to be carved into the rock, but right after that be careful on the very steep ascent (with gullies on the left) which absolutely needs a 4X4 to go up. After all of that, you will certainly be rewarded when you see the Monastery of Makellaria standing out impressively on its huge rock.
Near the Monastery of Makellaria, do not forget to visit the shrine of the Transfiguration of Christ. A small path that starts to the left of the monastery entrance leads us (in approximately 500 meters) to the little church and shrine of the Transfiguration, which was built in a small cave in the rock. Above the rock, endless “holy water” flows all year.
Across from the rock of Makellaria is Lapanagoi, one of the most beautiful villages in the region. We highly recommend that you visit it. It is set in a beautiful natural environment between the imposing Gerakovouni to the west, the historic Kafkarias to the north, and the rock of Makellaria with the Monastery of the Virgin, as if suspended in the air, to the south. Today, Lapanagoi is almost deserted, with fewer than 20 permanent residents. Most of its stone houses are closed up, as are the former school and the churches. Even the grand church of the Dormition is slowly slipping toward the precipice and urgently needs help to avoid being lost for good.
The Manesaiiko stream (Selinoudas River) flows between Lapanagoi and the Monastery of Makellaria. A very beautiful exploration in this area is a visit to the legendary Giftopidima, whose name comes from Greek words meaning “Gypsy jump.” From Lapanagoi, descend toward the Manesaiiko stream (3 kilometers). Just before the concrete bridge, we can see a dirt road to our right that goes down parallel to the river bed. We continue a few meters, until the dirt road ends. Then we have to cross to the opposite bank. Luckily, in the summer the water is low, and the river can be crossed easily. We cross over to the opposite side and continue straight ahead to find ourselves at the base of Makellaria Rock. A dirt road goes up to the left (ending at the Monastery), but we continue straight ahead. After about 200 meters we arrive at the impressive Giftopidima, where a very narrow space between two rocks creates a small pond in the Selinoudas River. According to legend, this site got its name from a gypsy who was being chased by the Ottomans and who fell from up high into the river and was saved. Two bridges (closed to access in 2014) have been constructed over the rocks.