The Lousios Gorge with its steep cliffs and lush vegetation is part of the Menalon mountains in the central Peloponnese. On my visit I encountered numerous Madonna lilies, which are very rare in the wild, along the paths. For many centuries, orthodox monks have chosen the steepest part of the gorge as an appropriate environment to pray and work in peace. For this purpose three monasteries have been built, all three of which can only be reached on foot. The monasteries sit like swallows’ nests in the rocks and and offer spectacular views.
The old and the new Filosofou monasteries are perched on the west side of the Lousios Gorge. The ‘new’ monastery dates from the 17th century and its atmospheric, incense-laden church is magnificently frescoed from top to bottom. From the new monastery, it’s a short but steep 800m to the incredible old monastery, built along a ledge in the cliff face with an amazing view over the gorge. The old monastery, founded in the 10th century, is also said to have functioned as a subversive school in the 19th century under the Ottoman occupation. There are few structures left except the wall and a little church. Nowadays access is forbidden, because the remaining walls might collapse at any moment. I did, however, dare to step into the taped off area on one side, where it looks fairly safe, to take some pictures.
From there you can continue by foot to the Prodromos Monastery on the other side of the gorge. The monastery church is adorned with frescoes. The monks are welcoming. Their dining and working rooms can be visited. You can also get something to eat and buy natural remedies made by the monks, such as hypericum oil. Devotional objects are also available for sale.