One of the most beautiful and magical places to visit in the prefecture of Arcadia is the gorge of Lousios, the stunning blue and green river that has been famous since ancient times.
Even though it is not one of the largest rivers in the country, as it is a tributary of the Alpheus River, and has a length of only 23 kilometres, it is nevertheless impressive because of the fairytale-like landscape and the legends and stories that surround it.
According to the Greek mythology, the nymphs Neda, Agno and Thesoa bathed the newborn Zeus in its waters, and that is how the river took the name “Lousios” – from the Greek verb “louzo” (λούζω) which means to bathe.
In close proximity to the river, there are numerous ancient ruins, which manifest the rich history and the strategically important role that the area played in the ancient world.
Specifically, the village of Atsilochos, where the ruins are located, was one of the main stop-and-rest areas of the Spartan athletes that were going to compete in the Olympics, for the running games of the route Olympia – Megalopolis – Mycenae – Isthmus – Athens.
The springs of Lousios are located in the church of Agia Paraskevi, near the village of Kaloneri, while most of the riverbanks are ‘crowned’ by sharp rocks, which do not allow access to the river and its picturesque waterfalls.
The wild beauty of the gorge that encloses the river and the steep cliffs of the surrounding mountains are combined with rich vegetation, but also with a religious element, as two majestic monasteries, the Monastery of the Philosopher and the Monastery of Prodromos, are carved into the rocks on the mountainside.
The villages around the gorge became a centre of education and spiritual cultivation during the Turkish occupation, where the famous “Krifo Scholio” (Secret School) was located.
The wider area of the river Lousios is protected by the Greek Ministry of Culture as a special archaeological site, with unique flora and fauna coexisting harmoniously, while in 1955, the new Monastery of the Philosopher was declared a protected monument of Greek history and tradition.
All photos by Maria Kokolina and Ulrichstill for Wikimedia Commons