When driving from Kalamata to the Mani peninsula the road climbs high up on the western slopes of the Mt.Taygetos before dropping down to Kardamili Town. If you ever find yourself on this part of the road and have some time to spare make a detour and visit the amazing Ridomo Gorge.
The Ridomo gorge starts below the peaks of Mt.Taygetos at the altitude of 2031 meters and runs all the way down to Santova Beach just outside of Kalamata. There are many marked paths crisscrossing the area and connecting the gorge with the nearby mountain villages and tiny churches scattered over the hills.
The Anavasi map of Exo Mani covers the area and besides others it contains the walking times of the main trails which can be very usfull when planning the trip.
We left the main Kalamata-Kardamili road at the Kampos village. Just before reaching the main square we turned left and drove up towards the peaks of Taygetos. After a short ascent and couple of crazy turns we arrived at a small mountain village called Vorio. Just outside the village we passed the first sign for the Ridomo Gorge. From there the road was somehow marked.
However, the best source of information about the walks around the Ridomo Gorge is the elderly owner of the only kafenio in the village. For a Greek person he was surprisingly supportive of hiking and he handed out hand-drawn map of the area with the best access points to the canyon.
After a glass of Tsipuro we left the kafenio and followed the sign down to the Ridomo Gorge. Leaving the village the bad asphalt road turns into a narrow dirt road that continues towards the little Profitis Ilias church perched on a hill high above the canyon. From the church another dirt road drops straight down to the bottom of the canyon but according to our kafeneio gentleman its better suited for walking then a car. So we continued strait until we reached another crossroad couple of kilometers further. From here, the main road turns right and climbs up towards the Ridomo settlement and a smaller road continues the descend to the valley.
Except of the beautiful views of the canyon you will be entertained by herds of very cute goats curiously observing the rare visitors. After a short drive the road suddenly turns in to a cobbled path. This is the time to park the car and continue on foot. From here the Panagia Bridge is just a short walk away.
When we first reached the bridge I didn’t find it especially exiting. It looked like just another pretty stone bridge in a green forested valley. But once I looked over the railing of the bridge and saw the narrow canyon dropping another 15 – 20 meters down in to the darkness I got goosebumps.
From the bridge the path continues descending for another approximately 50 meters until it reaches the canyon bed. From there you can follow the canyon up to the Ridomo settlement or down towards Vorio. We didn’t have so much time hence we settled on scouting the canyon around the bridge for a while. The section under the stone bridge is particularly interesting. Thanks to its narrowness it has more of a cave-like feel. Moreover, the tiny waterfalls running down the walls and low light add to a mysterious atmosphere.
The smooth walls and huge boulders eroded by the current over the years make you think about the unbelievable power of the water rushing through the canyon after the snow melt or a heavy rain. It wouldn’t be much fun standing in its way so check the weather before committing to a longer hike through the canyon.