Lousios Gorge (Λούσιος)

Lousios Gorge



Location: Peloponnese, Arcadia   Map

Length: 15 km


Lousios Gorge is a picturesque canyon in Arcadia region of Greece carved by erosion of the Lousios River. Lousios Gorge empties into Alfeios River 2.5 km North- West of town of Karytaina. Despite the fact that it is a fairly small in size (15 km in length and 2 km in widest part) it houses several historic Eastern Orthodox Monasteries that date to the Medieval Byzantine Period that gave Lousios Gorge its nickname "Mount Athos of the Peloponnese". It also contains ruins of ancient town of Gortys.


Travel Destinations in Lousios Gorge

Gortys or Gortyna (Lousios Gorge)

Gortys or Gortyna is an ancient Greek settlement in the Lousios Gorge along a road between Elliniko and Atsicholos. The name of the city comes from a mythical hero Gortys, son of Stymphalus and a legendary king of Arcadia.


Regardless whether it is true or not, but the first humans settled in the are of Lousios Gorge during the Bronze Age. The city went into decline after Megalopolis was found near by in the 4th century BC. The residents began to migrate to a new location, but by the 2nd century the city still existed. Gortys was probably conquered by the barbarians during the Dark Ages and subsequently completely destroyed. The ruins of the city contain ruins of the military fortifications, baths and several temples. The most prominent religious building in Gortys was the Temple of Asclepius, Ancient Greek god Medicine and Healing, constructed in the 4th century BC. Baths were built around the same time period.


Near Gortys you can also find a medieval bridge Kokkoras that served the main road between Ileia and Arcadia as well as Byzantine Greek Orthodox church of Agios Andeas (Saint Andrew) that dates back to the 11th century AD.


Monastery Prodromou (Μονή Τιμίου Προδρόμου) (Lousios Gorge)


Prodromou Monastery ("Monastery of the Holy Forerunner" in Greek) is a medieval Greek Orthodox monastery that was constructed on the east bank of a Lousios Gorge in 1167 during rule of Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus. It was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist the Forerunner.

Many monks settled these empty lands to escape large settlements to pray and work here in solitude. They settled in natural crevices along the Lousios cliffs that they later increased in size. Over time the monastery grew and expended. It especially increased in size during Ottoman Turkish invasion it the 15th century. Many peasants, monks and priests fled their farms to hide from the marauder soldiers. Monks took many in and helped them to hide in the dense forests that still grow in Lousios Gorge today.

Religious complex of Prodromou Monastery contains two churches that is perched on a side of a cliff face. The oldest church is very small and measure by 2.25 meters by 4.90 meters. Nevertheless the monks managed to cramp an altar and a colorful iconostasis date to the late 16th and early 17th century centuries in the available narrow space. Living quarters were later added on balconies that hang high above the Lousios Gorge. A second church was added in 1911 at some distance from the monastery. It is dedicated to Saint Athanasios of Christianoupolis who lived here at the turn of the 18th century and who also buried here in the Lousios Gorge.

Today Prodromou Monastery is opened to the public. Keep in mind that it is an active male monastery (currently with about 15 monks) so you need to dress appropriately. In case you forget this tip you can take old grandma's clothes that hang outside of the entrance of the monastery. It is customarily to offer guests coffee, tea and lokum, traditional Turkish candy powdered with sugar. It is tasty, but it sticks to your teeth. However it is also customarily not to refuse kindness of hosts.

Emialon Monastery or Moni Emialon (Lousios Gorge)

Emialon Monastery was built in 1605 in Lousios Gorge at the foot of Klinitsa mountain. Emialon Monastery is named after the monks that came from a Greek region of Emialon Messinia. It was dedicated to the birth of Virgin Mary. You can enter the abbey through a tunnel carved into the rock cliff. Emialon Monastery has a "T" shape in the cavity of the cliff rock. Katholikon is covered with a barrel vault with frescoes that date back to 1608.

Monastery Paleo Philosophou (Lousios Gorge)


Philosophou Monastery (Μονή Φιλοσόφου) is probably some of the oldest Greek Orthodox monasteries in the Lousios Gorge. Byzantine religious complex was constructed on the western cliff in 963 AD just opposite of Prodromou Monastery just across the valley. Its name (Philosophou or Filosofu) can be translated as a "Monastery of the Philosopher". It is dedicated to memory of founder of the monastery monk John Lambardopoulos (lived in the late 10th century) who got a nicknamed "Philosopher".

Today much of the original Philosophu monastery lies in ruins. It has been badly damaged by earthquakes and natural erosion. Since there is no one here left to renovate its walls and buildings it keep on crumbling. It is nevertheless has its own untouched and mysterious charm. It lies about 500 meters from the Lousios Gorge and can be reached by a footpath.

As you walk toward the monastery you can notice that external walls of the abbey you can notice that they indistinguishable from the rest of the cliff side. It is constructed from the local rock and during Ottoman period it was well hidden from the Turkish forces. During Ottoman occupation of Greece Paleo Philosophy Monastery became one of the few educational centers where the Greek traditions and the Orthodox religion was preserved hidden from the power of sultans.

Monastery of Nea Philosophu or Filosofu (Lousios Gorge)

Monastery of Nea Philosophu (New Philosophou) or Monastery of a New Philosopher is a 17th century monastery on the western slope of the Lousios Gorge.  It is a fairly new abbey by the standards of Ancient Greece as it was built by the monks who left Philosophou Monastery in 1605. Philosophou Monastery is also known as Palea Philosophu (Old Philosophou) and hence new monastery became known as Nea Philosophu (New Philosophou) or simply Philosophy Monastery. Its well preserved wall frescoes date back to 1663 AD.

Monastery of Nea Philosophu is covered by beautiful colorful frescoes that were painted ("written" in Greek Orthodox tradition) by artists from the Cretan Artistic School. Some of the icons were signed by a certain Victor Cretan.



Hiking in the Lousios Gorge

Hiking in the Lousios Gorge can be either really hard or really simple depending on the skill lever and difficulty that you want. On one hand most many landmarks in valley can be accessed from Epar Od Kato Davias- Dimitsanas road, by taking a hike up a slope. On the other hand you can take a hiking trail between villages of Demitsana and Trikolonoi along the Lousios Gorge that is about 35 km in full length. It is hard and fairly steep in places, but it is probably the best way to see the gorge. In addition to large landmarks like monasteries or villages here you can see hidden shacks, buildings and other small stractures that usually don't make to the tourist travel guides.