Leonidio lies at the head of a small plain, now mostly given over to agriculture, especially the cultivation of the famed Tsakonian aubergine where over the centuries the river Dafonas has hurtled down the great gorge, west of the town, from one of the formidable summits of Mount Parnon, to finally reach the sea. In summer time the gorge, one of many seen from the pass as it snakes up to the highest point and the village of Kosmas, is dry and full of huge glistening silvery white boulders, with conifers and deciduous trees clinging to its steep sides and mountains towering above the deep cleft.
There are few finer drives in Europe than this route over the mountains as the road traverses inland for several kilometres with increasing beauty, including the cliff hugging monasteries until it begins to rise in a succession of dizzy acute bends to the highest coll.
Both Leonidio and Kosmas enjoy histories going back centuries. Old stone-built houses, especially in Leonidio dating back to the early nineteenth century are spectacularly attractive. Together with Plaka, the original port, now a dazzling little fishing village with its fish tavernas, Leonidio is remarkably sophisticated for such a remote area.
SHOPPING IN ARCADIA
In Leonidio: In general there are fine and fairly sophisticated shops, so you can buy lovely shoes, excellent clothes and even find a couple of jewellery shops; a bakery which has a wood fired oven over 200 years old, and haberdashers equally old (see below).
In Tiros: There is a charming little gift shop near the harbour in Paralia Tirou, as a well as a small jewellers, herb and gift-shop.
When eating in Leonidio and district we have tried the Delfini in Plaka, and the 1904 in Leonidion town, the Myrtoon and Zavarlis in Poulithra.
In the Tiros area:
The Akroyiali, and the Acapulco are in Paralia Tirou on the beach, the Apagio near the harbour, with the Konasti in Sapounakeaka above Tiros, and Tasos Taverna at Zaritsi as well as the well hidden beach taverna run by Christos on the beach at Zaritsi.
Apart from the many beautiful old stone-built villages situated among the folds of the mountains, old walls can be found scattered around the district; but the sites you should not miss include the beautiful monastery of Moni Elona, en route for Kosmas about 10kms from Leonidio, well endowed with silver and icons and magnificently sited teetering on a cliff like an eagle’s nest. In Leonidio itself it pays to wander around the narrow streets where you may find a bakery still with a woodfired oven, beautifully decorated and dating back to around 1820 or a linen shop, stocked to the gills with clothes, clogs, rolls of cloth and almost as old, indeed thought to be the oldest surviving shop in Greece. Ask the owner to show you his photographs of his own sitting room with its amazingly beautiful painted ceiling.
PLACES TO STAY; HOTEL GOLDEN BEACH AT TIGANI, north end of Tyros bay, beautiful simple hotel yards from the beach through a beautiful wooded garden. KAMBALIS HOTEL harbour end of Tyros. Rooms above TAVERNA ROMANZTA in Poulithra and sophisticated boutique hotels in Leonidion.