On the eastern coast of the Peloponnese at the end of Dafnon Gorge in South Kynouria, is Leonidio, the capital of the Tsakonia region.
This relatively off-the-beaten-track destination (especially for foreign visitors to Greece) offers a captivating blend of adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventures and a deep dive into the rich tapestry of Tsakonian culture.
Whilst the town and its surrounding area are renowned for its world-class rock climbing, diverse hiking trails, and water sports; it also beckons you to explore its unique cultural heritage.
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Reasons to Visit Leonidio
During the time I spent exploring this region, I discovered many exciting experiences and cultural treasures that make Leonidio a very special destination, that I can’t wait to share with you.
So, here are seven reasons to visit Leonidio in the Peloponnese, Greece.
1. It’s the Rock Climbing Capital of Greece
Leonidio is a climber’s paradise. The towering red limestone cliffs and hillsides are dotted with crags offering a wide range of routes that keep climbers of all levels happy.
The majestic backdrop of the Parnon Mountains and the deep blue of the Aegean Sea adds an extra layer to enhance your climbing experience even further.
I spent a fantastic morning climbing with Climb In Leonidio on a crag at Section Sabaton, just outside of Leonidio. I’ve had a couple of goes at climbing before but not for a long time, so it was great to try it again. Our guides were great and I even got to the top of the route, which was an achievement.
So, if you like climbing and are travelling in the Peloponnese, don’t forget your gear. And, if you’re a beginner, or need a refresher like me, then contact the guys at Climb in Leonidio or book a climbing tour with an instructor online in advance.
2. Diverse Hiking Trails
The rugged landscapes around Leonidio offer a plethora of diverse hiking trails that lead you through gorges, forests, and coastal paths.
Many hiking trails start from Leonidio and it’s also situated right on the 250km Parnon Trail. This is a circular route which connects Astros with Leonidio both from the sea and from the mountains.
Whether you’re a casual hiker or a seasoned trekker, you’ll find well-marked trails that match your experience and reward you with breathtaking views.
If you prefer a guided hike, contact Travel2Peloponnese who have several guided hiking tour options. The multi-day Parnon Ridge hike below also looks amazing if you have more time.
3. Exhilarating Watersports
From snorkelling and diving, to standup paddleboarding, to kayaking and more. The crystal-clear waters of Leonidio’s coast beckon you to try your hand at a variety of water sports.
Dive into the Aegean Sea for an adventure that combines exhilaration and natural beauty.
4. Varied Cycling Routes
For avid cyclists, Leonidio has a variety of cycling routes that navigate the region’s captivating landscapes. From leisurely rides along the coastline to challenging mountain ascents, the options cater to cyclists of all levels.
Conquer winding roads that cut through dense forests and revel in panoramic views at the summit.
If you don’t have your own bike in Greece you can rent one in town or online in advance. And, for those of you who are happier with a guide, Travel2Peloponnese offer both mountain bike and e-bike tours.
5. Beautiful Beaches
While Leonidio is best known for its rocky terrain and outdoor adventures, within a short distance of the town are the following beaches to enjoy some relaxation time sunbathing and swimming.
Plaka Beach: A beautiful 3 km long pebble-sand crescent shaped beach, divided by the picturesque Plaka harbour where several tavernas and cafes are located.
In the summer, the beach is partially organised with sunbeds and parasols available from beach cafes, and there are some watersports too.
The beach is protected from the wind and despite it being the most popular beach in Leonido, there’s plenty of space to find a quiet spot of your own
Poulithra Beach: This peaceful large pebbled beach blends seamlessly with the greenery at the foot of Mount Parnon.
Some areas on the beach have trees which offer shade, and there are also organised areas with a few amenities.
Agios Georgios: A small hidden gem of a beach, is tucked away behind Poulithra harbour. Hidden by the vegetation-covered slope which leads down to the beach, its trees offer a welcome respite from the sun. The beach is named after the small chapel of St George found at one end of the shore.
Fokianos Beach: Located in an idyllic protected bay, beneath the slopes of Mount Parnon, Fokianos is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Peloponnese.
This stunning suntrap of a beach has bright white pebbles and deep, clear, blue water, perfect for snorkelling and swimming.
Fokianis offers some services and amenities, but this hasn’t yet spoilt the natural, untouched feel of the beach. Wooden walkways lead down to the sunbeds, parasols, beach bar and shower.
6. Traditional Tsakonian Cuisine
The mouthwatering food in Leonidio centres on Tsakonian cuisine, a combination of fresh, locally sourced ingredients and recipes handed down through generations.
Tsakonia is well-known for its very own unique aubergines/ eggplants that are grown on farms on the fertile plains between the mountains and the sea. The sweet seedless aubergine “Tsakoniki Melitzana” is light purple with white stripes – you may have seen them in fruit and veg shops and supermarkets. The locals use this aubergine in many local dishes and traditional sweet spoons – you have to try the “melitzanaki” which is served in cafes in the town.
In August each year, Leonidio even host an Eggplant Festival to celebrate this vegetable, where a variety of delicious dishes are cooked by the locals. There is also a competition between chefs to create the best Tsakoniki Melitzana dish.
Of course, aubergine is not the only food you can find in Leonidio. Being not far from the Argolis citrus orchard, the area also produces satsumas, clementines and naval oranges. The town is also said to produce the best tomatoes in Greece, and, it goes without saying that the olives are excellent just as they are in the rest of the Peloponnese.
And, I mustn’t forget to mention the Tsakonian simpoukoukira cheese (made with milk cream and no butter) and the amazing seafood on the coast.
The best place to try traditional Tsakonian dishes is in the local tavernas, which can be found both in Leonido town and nearby. We had some fantastic food in Taverna Myrtoon in Boulithra and an excellent seafood feast in Taverna Akroyiakli in nearby Tyros where we went to join the Run for Fun and to learn about the Tsakonian culture and dialect. More about that next.
7. Tsakonian Culture and Dialect
Photo Credit: Ipanema Travels
In addition to its outdoor adventures and cuisine, Leonidio offers a unique opportunity to explore the rich Tsakonian culture and dialect. The Tsakonian language, a living relic of ancient Greece, sets this cultural experience apart.
In the narrow streets of Leonidio and the villages around it, a different language is spoken by the village elders. It’s the Tsakonian language, which derives from the ancient Doric dialect. Regarded as the oldest dialect in the world, it is spoken and written by some 2,000 people in this area.
During a visit to Leonidio, you can engage with locals to learn more about Tsakonian traditions, folklore, and the preservation of their ancient dialect. Embrace Tsakonian tradition by exploring local markets, chatting with artisans, and as I mentioned above, enjoying time-honored cuisine.
Tyros, one of the neighbouring villages, is a hub of Tsakonian culture. We visited Tyros to participate in their Run for Run with the locals. Then afterwards we attended a cultural show that demonstrated the Tsakonian dialect, music, and traditional costume and dancing. It was great to learn more about this ancient culture and highly recommend attending a cultural show such as this if you get the chance.
Where to Stay in Leonidio
This hotel is housed in a traditional listed stone manor dating back to 1809. The beautiful individually decorated rooms have either a view of the mountains or of the gorgeous, flower-filled courtyard.
There are spa facilities on-site which include a hammam and sauna – although sadly we didn’t get a chance to try those. We did, however, get to enjoy the superb, homemade Greek buffet breakfast which was delicious and set us up ready for the morning of rock climbing ahead.
Another very nice hotel that some of our group stayed at, that you may like was Archontiko Chioti, also in the town centre.
There are also plenty of other accommodation in Leonidio to choose from to suit all budgets and styles
Leonidio is a destination that seamlessly combines outdoor adventures with a rich and vibrant local culture. Exploring the Tsakonian heritage provides a glimpse into a world that is both ancient and alive, a living testament to the enduring spirit of a region.
So, as you explore the picturesque landscapes and take part in exciting adventures, don’t forget to embrace the cultural treasures that make Leonidio a memorable destination. This hidden gem is a must to include on any Peloponnese itinerary.
Have you visited Leonidio? Do you have any other reasons people should visit that we missed?
Planning Your Trip to Leonidio?
Planning your trip to Leonidio in Greece? Here are some of our recommended useful resources to help you have the best time possible.
SafetyWing is another solution, particularly for digital nomads and long-term travellers.
● Use Wise (formerly Transferwise) for sending or receiving money internationally. It’s cheap, easy and transparent.
● For great prices on ferries check out Ferryhopper.
● Compare charter yacht hire prices on Click&Boat.
● Compare rental car prices on Rentalcars.com.
● Booking.com usually have the best hotel prices.
● Our go-to for self-catering accommodation is Vrbo.
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Partnership Disclosure: Most activities and my stay at Archontiko Hatzipanayioti, were complimentary as part of a post-TBEX Kalamata 2023 FAM trip in collaboration with Mythical Peloponnese and Travel2Peloponnese. This did not influence my post in any way and as always I’ve provided balanced and honest reviews. Read more in our full Product Review Disclosure.