Kastanitsa, the most beautiful village of Tsakonia in Arkadia
If you like authentic destinations where tourism is still an unknown word, then you should put in your list Kastanitsa in Arkadia which is worth visiting for three reasons: the traditional tsakonian architecture, the pure local food and sweets and the beautiful landscape with forests of chestnuts, plane trees and firs.
Although a mountainous village the white colour gives it a strong tone from the Aegean that contrasts with the deep green of the forests. As it is built on a hill it seems as if it hangs over deep gorges and mountain peaks but the peak of Parnon dominates the most.
Stroll in the cobbled streets and discover the traditional stone-built houses with arched doors and windows, Parnon slate roofs and wooden balconies. There are also three-story tower houses some of which are 300 years old. It has been declared a preserved settlement since 1967 while its old name was Gastenitsa.
Vehicles cannot get around the village. There are also natural taps that run water, I counted three. Mana Nerou in Sotiriou Kourouni commando square, Kanoli and Marigoulas Delegka.
The best time to go is in autumn because it is the chestnut harvest season. You will see quite a few chestnuts fallen under the chestnut trees with the spiny casing open and the chestnut exposed, but be careful if you try to touch it because it stings. The trees have also taken on their autumn colours, yellow and orange, and are decorating the ground with fallen leaves. On the last weekend of every October the village celebrates with the chestnut festival.
The original settlement was around 1000 AD by Tsakones who remained from the invasion of the Slavs. It came from the unification of two settlements, Pentalon and Bezenikos. The settlements were moved before the Frankish occupation (1204) to the current location and Kastanitsa was officially mentioned for the first time in 1293. It is located in a strategically important passage that connected Argolis with Laconia, for this reason the Byzantines built a tower there, the tower of Kapsampelis as it was later called.
What to see
The Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior, patron of the village, with the very nice paved square. It was built in 1780 after a special permission of the Aga of Tripoli who was pleased by the hospitality and gifts of the residents. The wooden altarpiece was built in 1810 in Odessa in russian style at the expense of Ilias Manesis from Kastanitsa, an official of Catherine the Great and later a founding member of the Philiki Etairia.
The Transfiguration of the Savior
The ruins of the Kapsampelis tower with a panoramic view of the village, the forests and the peak of Mount Parnon. The tower was built in the 14th century by the Byzantines of the despotate of Mystras to control the passage that led from Argolis to Laconia but was unfortunately demolished during the civil war in 1948. Around 1810 it was maintained at the expense of the Kastanitsian chieftain Kapsampelis in whose honor got his name. There is a path to get there.
The chapel of Kontolina Monastery, the only remnant of the Monastery in a verdant grove 12 kilometers away from Kastanitsa. It was built in the beginning of the 15th century and operated until 1834 when it was dissolved by decree of Otto.
Where to eat
In the two traditional taverns Liakouris and Stolidi. Simple dishes but pure, rural and traditional. During the chestnut season chestnut dishes as well as chestnut sweets are included.
Four trails start from Kastanitsa:
- Mazia gorge: it begins from Kontolina Monastery. Part of the road that goes to Kastanitsa goes through the gorge so everyone can get an idea of the plane trees, the stream and the spectacular rocks of the gorge. Before Kastanitsa there is a sign for anyone who wants to go down to the gorge
Passing through Mazia gorge
- Kastanitsa - Prastos
- Kastanitsa - Megali Tourla (Parnon peak)
- Kastanitsa - Bistolena - Mana Nerou
Near Kastanitsa are the gorges of Loulougas and Zarbanitsa.
How to get to Kastanitsa
Through coastal Arcadia. Follow the National Highway of Athens - Korinthos and after Isthmus head to Tripoli. Take the exit for Nafplio. Head towards Argos and after the village Myloi turn onto the Kiveri - Leonidio road. Pass Astros and turn right at the village Agios Andreas. The road is narrow, with turns and you move at low speeds. It is 18 kilometers from Agios Andreas which is about 30 minutes.