Greece: Hiking in Ridomo Gorge, Peloponnese
There are oh, so many great hiking destinations in Greece and in Peloponnese. It would be easy to spend weeks just exploring the mountains, coastal cliffs, beaches and small villages, using the old footpaths or more official marked hiking trails. In this post we introduce Ridomo Gorge, and a day hike that we made there when staying in Kalamata in Messenia region, Peloponnese.
The west side of Mani Peninsula, just south from the regional capital Kalamata is often outside of tourists radar, mainly because it’s a bit far away, and not as full of significant archaeological sites as many other areas in Greece. But that doesn’t mean that West Mani area wouldn’t have anything to offer to visitors, on the contrary actually; it’s nature lovers paradise, and possibly the most beautiful region in Peloponnese. The mountains seem to rise almost directly from the sea, there are several deep canyons and a lot of outdoor activity possibilities. The highest peak of Peloponnese, Mount Taygetos (2407 m), together with neighboring high peaks, dominates the landscape. The mountainous inland area is still today largely just wild nature with fascinating flora and fauna.
Ridomo Canyon starts from Mount Neraidovouna (2031 m) and stretches all the way to the coast, ending in Santova (Sadova beach), just around 15 km south from Kalamata. The total length of the gorge is 25 kilometers, and the width varies from just above 1 meter to 100 meters when it gets closer to the sea. It’s a geological phenomenon with interesting limestone formations, created by changes in earth’s crust and the effect of water rushing down from the mountains.
The most impressive part of the gorge is close to mountain village of Pigadia. There the gorge gets really narrow, and the vertical walls are 60 meters high. Walking through this part is a great experience. At times we needed to beware of small waterfalls dripping down from high above, and partly the walls were decorated by evergreen ivy plants. Here is also the Pigadiotiko Bridge, a gorgeous old stone bridge arching over the gorge. It is part of an ancient stone path, that connects the small mountain villages.
Just few hundreds meters west (down the canyon towards the sea) from the bridge, the gorge is wider, but full of huge boulders, part of them several meters high. Hiking through this section is somewhat challenging, since you need to pull yourself over and around the rocks at some points. There are some grips that help the climbing though. It can be done both ways, but we recommend that you do the hike upwards in the gorge, and get down using the path above the gorge, since it’s easier to climb upwards over the big rocks than get down.
Our day hike in Ridomo Canyon
The village of Voria is a great place to start a hike in Ridomo Gorge, though we doubt that there isn’t any regular public transportation to the village, so you either need your own wheels, or could try to hitch a ride. To get to Voria from Kalamata, you need to drive south the Kalamata-Kardamyli main road until the village of Kampos. The road actually crosses the canyon, that is really wide at this point, along a bridge near the bottom just few kilometers before Kampos. When in Kampos, turn right towards the mountains, and you will reach Voria after driving 7,5 km along a winding, narrow mountain road. Just before arriving in Voria, you will see the first sign that marks the way to the gorge. We parked the car in a small parking lot next to Aghios Nikolaos church in the village.
From there, just follow the signs and a dirt road about 1 km past small Prophet Elias Monastery on a hill just next to the canyon. From there you will have two options; either to follow a path down to the gorge, or another one that goes above the gorge. To make a nice, almost 12 km circulating hike, we took the path down first and walked in the canyon, and then came back along the path above the canyon. As explained before, this is the recommended way also because of the huge rocks that require some climbing. So, take the path down until you reach the rocky bottom of the gorge, and turn right, heading up towards the mountains. Hiking route in the gorge is marked with red paint, not that it would be possible to lose your way in the bottom of the canyon. The markings come handy after couple of kilometers, when you will reach the part with bigger rocks; painted arrows point the easiest ways around and over the rocks.
The gorge is really picturesque during the whole length of the hike, so do stop to admire the surroundings every once in a while. You might also spot goats skillfully balancing on the almost vertical walls. After around 5 kilometers the rockiest part is over, and the canyon begins to get narrower. Soon you will find yourself in narrow corridor between vertical walls, listening the echo of your steps and almost able to touch both walls at the same time. This is the most famous part of Ridomo Gorge. Shortly you will spot also two bridges high above, and when walking still a bit further, there is a path up to the stone bridge. This is where the route back to the monastery and Voria, along the edge of the canyon, begins. If you have time and energy, go still further along the canyon, or cross the bridge and walk to Pigadia village. We unfortunately needed to head back at this point, to finish the hike before dark.
As a sum up, if you are traveling in Peloponnese, we can warmly recommend visiting Mani Peninsula and hiking in Ridomo Gorge. For this circular hike you will need around 4 hours time, water and maybe some snacks, and proper hiking shoes. We also recommend carrying a first-aid kit, headlamp or torch to explore the caves and of course a cell phone for emergencies. In February we saw no other hikers during the hike, but during summer it’s probably much more popular.
Coming up next: Road trip and nomad life in Peloponnese and travel plans for coming months, stay tuned!