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Beautiful trails, majestic mountains and great food... The Menalon Trail

KE adventurer, Adrian from Leeds, has recently returned from a fantastic week on our Self-Guided Menalon Trail adventure. Read on to discover Adrian's... Read more
Beautiful trails, majestic mountains and great food... The Menalon Trail

KE adventurer, Adrian from Leeds, has recently returned from a fantastic week on our Self-Guided Menalon Trail adventure. Read on to discover Adrian's top tips and highlights of the trip and why he's thinking of doing it all again next year.... 

This was such a great self-guided trip. Just excellent!

Firstly, the trip has a fundamental (for me, at least) feature: it’s point to point to point. That is, you walk from your accommodation each morning to your next evening’s accommodation, with no transfers at the end or beginning of each day’s walk. In my experience, this makes the trip far, far more enjoyable and satisfying, as you feel like you are walking a trail for the entire trip, rather than it feeling like a 
series of day walks that you are ferried to / from each day. Having done both kinds of self-guided walking trips, this makes a huge difference to the enjoyability of the trip.


The landscape of the Peloponnese region that the Menalon Trail runs through is simply stunning. The scale of the landscape, the mountains, the valleys, the forests and the “big sky” are amazing. If your idea of Greece is the Greek Islands, well it is nothing like that - the Peloponnese has a beauty all of its own.


And it is so quiet! Maybe we were lucky; maybe it was the time of the year we did the trip (5th May to 12th May), but the Menalon Trail was amazingly quiet. On the first day, from Stemnitsa to Demitsana, we did see a few people around the two monasteries visited en-route, as they are a bit of a tourist attraction, and perhaps most relevantly, it was Orthodox Easter Bank Holiday Monday. On the remaining five days of walking we saw nobody else on the trail … all day … not a soul!


The trail itself is incredibly well maintained. There was the odd little section that was very slightly overgrown, but to be honest, that’s being picky, and the vast, vast majority (“99.5%”) was just perfect. And well way-marked too. In fact, on the odd occasion where the GPS guidance went a bit “sketchy”, we could always rely upon the way-marking.

Talking of GPS, I thought the local agent-provided navigation app (ActiveNav) was not great, to be honest. Instead, we used the GPX files KE provided, and just loaded them into OutdoorActive, and that worked just great. I can’t comment on the quality of the route notes, as we never used / needed them: the combination of OutdoorActive with KE-provided GPX files and the trail way-marking worked perfectly well.


The KE website mentions encountering dogs on some parts of the trail, and the fact that an (electronic) dog deterrent device is provided for the trip by the Menalon Trail administrators. Please, please do not let this put you off the trip. We had no problems with dogs whatsoever - absolutely none (and in fact we’ve had more in the way of problems with dogs in Spain and Turkey on self-guided walking trips). I suspect it’s just the Menalon Trail administrators who are so keen to ensure the quality of the trail and a great experience completing it, that they’re perhaps exhibiting an over-abundance of caution.

At the time of the year we did the trip (5th May to 12th May), the wild flowers were simply stunning, and almost a constant companion on the trail. The variety of landscape passed through was fabulous - rugged mountains, deep gorges, beautiful (and huge) forests, alpine-like meadows. Just fantastic, and all without seeing a single (human) soul all day!


The accommodation on the trip was fabulous. Every night’s accommodation was fantastic - and the breakfasts were just incredible (you could very easily come away from this walking holiday having put on weight!). A couple of tips here:

- The trip notes say that there is only one place to eat in Elati. This isn’t actually correct (and the suggested tavern looked pretty awful and gets very “meh” reviews on TripAdvisor). There is in fact an absolutely superb little cafe-cum-restaurant-cum-bistro right slap-bang in the middle of Elati, right on the bend opposite the church - you can’t miss it. They do lovely freshly made pizza margarita, and waffles with chocolate and ice cream, the setting is lovely, the owner is super-friendly (and they have the most beautiful dog!). They only stay open until about 7pm, but you will be there well, well before that. Also, not mentioned in the trip notes, but that night’s accommodation in Elati (the fantastic Elati Chalet) has what they call a “coffee bar” (which is lovely) and they’ll make you a fresh pizza if you ask them, as late as 10pm!

- At Nymfasia, there is only one tavern, and it’s about 1.5 miles away from the accommodation (the excellent Agropolis Xenonas) … and the tavern in question looks pretty ropey and doesn’t get the best of reviews. Agropolis Xenonas will give you a lift to / from the tavern if you need one, but the better option (not mentioned in the trip notes) is to phone ahead first thing in the morning and ask Agropolis Xenonas if they will cook you an evening meal! We did this, and had the most lovely, hearty home-cooked meal, including a Greek salad that was the best I’ve ever had! (You will need cash though - and you will need to phone them that morning to give them some notice).


In terms of food, we had some simply stunning meals on this trip. And, although I’m not vegetarian, I think you could easily eat vegetarian all trip and still eat fantastically (we in fact ate vegetarian a number of nights). Not important to many people, but important to us: I have to admit, the coffee en-route was pretty awful. It wasn’t until we got to Valtesiniko at the end of the penultimate day of walking that we found good coffee, at the fabulous and cute Valtesiniko Cafe (which does flat whites and also does fantastic chocolate soufflé puddings with ice cream - I ate two of them!). Coffee on the trip was universally expensive (surprisingly, even though food and meals were cheap) - expect to pay circa €4 a cup (which is painful when it’s also pretty awful).


Weather-wise, be prepared for anything. We had wall-to-wall sunshine some days, a couple of cloudier days, and even a finish of one day’s walk in the rain. Early May, it was quite cool at night, particularly in the higher villages, and it got down to low single digits Celsius - which meant the warm, cosy accommodation (a number of them with wood-burning stoves or open fireplaces in the rooms, with lots of wood and kindling) was so enjoyable.


By the way, luggage transfers every day worked like clockwork. For peace of mind, perhaps just confirm with the accommodation when you arrive that your luggage will be picked up the next day and where it’s going to - but just about every time, the accommodation beat me to that question upon checking-in.

It’s a simply brilliant trip. I’ve done a number of self-guided walking trips, and they’ve been great, but this one is the first one where I felt like I could come back and do the exact same trip again - in fact, maybe I will!


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