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At 2.407 meters, Mount Taygetost is the highest mountain in Peloponnese and a personal favorite of mine. Named after the nymph Taygete and devoted to the god of Sun, Helios, Taygetos is destined to provide a mystical experience.
But it is the peace and quiet of the mountain, disturbed only by an occasional distant sound of goat bells, and the striking views across uncountable peaks of this 100 kilometers long mountain range that remain with me long time after I left.
There are many hiking trails crossing the mountain including the challenging 2-day traverse of Pentadaktylos ridge or the ascent to Profitis Ilias peak through the beautiful Vyros Gorge above Kardamili.
However, the classic (and probably easiest) ascent route to Taygetos’ highest peak starts at Manganiari Spring on the eastern side of the mountain and climbs to the top via the Taygetos Refuge.
Getting to Manganiari Spring from Sparti
To get to the starting point of the trail at Manganiari spring follow the Sparti – Githio road for about 10 kilometers. When you reach a small village called Trapezanti watch out for a sign pointing to the right towards Paleopanagia.
In Paleopanagia, you’ll see the first signs for Taygetos refuge (Katafygio Taygetou). From here, the narrow mountain road climbs up through uncountable turns for another 9 kilometers until it reaches its end at Manganiari Spring.
Maps, signposting & difficulty
The trail from Manganiari Spring to Profitis Ilias is covered by the Anavasi map of Northern Taygetos. However, the scale of the map is too large to provide any useful information for this particular hike and the trail is marked so well that a map really isn’t necessary in this case.
The path is marked by red signs and wooden poles with few tables along the way with information about the destination and approximate hiking time. It was by far one of the best signposting I’ve seen here in Greece and very easy to follow.
The trail itself isn’t technically difficult. It starts as a comfortable, well-trodden path and later turns into a rocky trail, nothing too difficult to handle for an average hiker.
That being said, with almost 1500 meters of altitude gain, the climb (and especially the following descent) is very challenging physically!
We are talking about summer months here of course, during winter the ascent of Mount Taygetos becomes a serious mountaineering quest asking for proper equipment and skills.
Manganiari Spring to Taygetos Refuge at Varvara
The trail to Profits Ilias peak starts at a place called Manganiari Spring at an altitude of 980 meters. It passes through beautiful forest of firs and pines providing welcomed shade on hot summer days.
There is a large parking space at the end of the asphalt road, two springs with running water, a couple of stone benches and pick-nick tables as well as a few information tables pointing out the fauna and flora of the area.
We spent a night here in order to start our hike early in the morning. Arriving late, we pitched our tent on a tiled pavement near the first spring and spent a very uncomfortable night trying to find at least a slightly comfortable sleeping position on the hard surface.
However, in the light of the next morning, we discovered a much better camping spot in the forest above the road, right before a small creek running across.
During summer, Manganiari spring is the last water source on the way to the top so make sure to take enough for the whole hike.
The trailhead is marked by a wooden sign pointing towards the Taygetos Refuge and Profitis Ilias summit. The time estimate towards the refuge was one and a half hours but it took us at least two.
I didn’t find this section of the trail too challenging considering that it is a steady climb with an elevation gain of approximately 500 meters. For my boyfriend, however, this was the most tiring part of the climb.
The hike from Manganiari Spring to Taygetos refuge can be omitted altogether as there is an 8 kilometers long dirt road leading all the way up to the refuge. This way, you can make the climb shorter and considerably easier.
We drove up to the refuge in our tiny Peugeot 106 a few years back and it was a hair raising experience! But it is worth mentioning that we completed the drive on a rainy night which made navigating through the many sharp turns and potholes very challenging.
On the other hand, during our last visit, we saw quite a few regular cars parked at the refuge so either the road has been fixed recently or it is not as bad during daylight.
Either way, I loved hiking through the sweet-scented forest while getting first glimpses of the rugged peaks of Mount Taygetos bathing in beautiful morning light.
The Taygetos Refuge (1550 meters) is run by the Mountaineering Club of Sparti and opens only upon prior arrangement so don’t expect to buy any refreshment here.
But it is a pleasant place to take a break before embarking on the main section of the climb. It is a crossroads of few other marked trails including the E4 long-distance path.
Taygetos Refuge to Prifitis Ilias Peak
The climb from Taygetos Refuge to Profitis Ilias summit takes around 3 hours and has an elevation gain of about 850 meters. Initially, the trail continues ascending gently through the forest but soon enough it leaves the trees behind and climbs straight up over a rocky slope.
The combination of steep climb and unexpectedly hot weather for late September made this the most difficult part of the climb for me. Thankfully, it didn’t take to long before the path flattened a bit again and continued its steady climb through the grassy meadows of Mount Taygetos.
A cool breeze and stunning views opening up all around as we climbed higher and higher made the tiring ascent all the more enjoyable. However, it also resolved in slacking on reapplying sunscreen which made for some painful burns later on! Don’t make the same mistake!
Right before reaching the Portes col on the ridge of Mount Taygetos, we passed through a place called Plakes. This is possibly the most impressive section of the climb with limestone plates creating a natural “pavement”.
At Portes, the views towards the western side of Taygetos open up with the Messinian Bay and the rugged peak of Chalasmeno becoming its main stars.
The trail running to the top of the pyramid of Taygetos can be seen for the first time, too, making the summit seem just a stone throw away.
The final ascent to the top is trickier than it looks from the col, though. The narrow trail is covered by small slippery gravel-like stones, especially at the upper part, making every step a balancing challenge.
But when it is over and you finally step your foot on the top and victoriously ring the bell of Profitis Ilias church all the suffering of the ascent is forgotten!
The views from the top are magnificent! On a clear day, you can admire the imposing ridgeline of Central Taygetos to the north, the glistering Messinian Bay to the west, the lower yet equally beautiful peaks of Southern Taygetos running down through the Many peninsula, the Laconian Bay, and even Mount Parnonas towering above Sparti to the east!
There is a small, roofless church of Profitis Ilias and a cluster of other stone-built structures scattered across the top. Among others, they serve as a shelter to those spending the night at the top in order to witness the famous shadow of the Taygetos pyramid at sunrise.
As tempting as it is to chill at the top of Mount Taygetos for hours enjoying the striking views, keep in mind that the descent is as hard (if not harder) as the ascent.
We managed to get back to Manganiary Spring just before dark with our muscles burning and knees aching after the long day on the mountain. But the amazing experience was well worth the effort!
Looking for more beautiful places to visit in Messinia? Then check out THIS post about the region’s beautiful beaches, castles, and waterfalls.