Taygetos Mountains

The views from the Taygetos mountain range which stretches 100km down the Peloponnese region in Southern Greece are truly breathtaking. The tallest peak, Profitis Ilias reaches almost 8,000 feet and rises above pine clad slopes (some of which were hit by the devastating fires of 2007).
The Vassiliki Forest covers a vast area of the Southern segment of the Taygetos (and forms part of the E4 International walking trail). We set off in a jeep climbing from the village of Saidona up a stoney dirt track. Although some attempt this route in non 4x4s, I wouldn't advise it - especially in a hire car! The views all the way up are fantastic, although you do need a head for heights.
From the fire watch post at the top we could see right down the Mani peninsula to Cape Matapan and stood a while marveling at the contours and the majesty of the mountains set against the blue mediterranean horizon.

Entering the forest the tall pines were decorated with the cocoon-like silk spun nests of the Pine Processionary Caterpillar. Along the forest floor long lines of these caterpillars made their way along trails marked with a pheromone secreted from their body. They rely on these trails to find their way between their nest and feeding sites. We watched these hairy creatures with interest as they emerged from underground cocoons and instinctively joined their processions, taking care not to touch them. Their hairs can cause nasty rashes.
Dotted around the vast forest there are little communities of tin huts and log cabins, and a few farms in the sheltered grassy valleys. Following the track that loops around the forest the summit of Profitis Ilias was always dominant. The only sounds was the song of birds and an occasional tumbling brook. Clusters of spring flowers, primroses and violets punctuated the forest floor. Once over to the Laconian side of the mountains we took the route down toward Githeo.
The Vasiliki Forest is well worth a visit if you're in Laconia or Messinia, Peloponnese, Greece.


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