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February 25, 2016

Explore Messinia

Famous beaches, historic castles, Mycenaean palaces, an important wetland and princely hospitality – all packaged in an ideal holiday destination Greek summer at its finest; beautiful beaches, quaint fishing villages, endless olive groves, coastal and mountain trails with glorious views in Western Messinia. And beyond that: ancient civilisations, Mycenaean palaces and the Gialova wetland, the only one of its kind in Greece. You’ll go hiking at Paleokastro, walk around the ruins at Neokastro and at the Methoni and Koroni castles, followed by a lovely lunch or dinner at tavernas on the water, serving fresh fish and meze.  Piece by piece, you’ll put together this puzzle that is Western Messinia. You’ll travel and explore and quickly settle into the Messinian rhythm. One summer is never enough. You’ll want to return here, to Western Messinia, year after year.

What to do in Western Messinia

Paleokastro: A forgotten Frankish castle

Don’t miss the opportunity to travel on foot to this “castle on a cliff,” one of the many attractions you’ll encounter in Western Messinia. It’s located on the Gulf of Navarino, and the view is so impressive that the locals say (well, exaggerate) that on a clear night you can see as far as the lights of Malta.

Neokastro: The impressive, listed Ottoman fortress

This is possibly one of the best-preserved fortresses in Greece and touring it is an indescribable experience. Right in its centre is the impressive Transfiguration of the Saviour church (Metamorphosis tou Sotiros), which functioned as a mosque during Ottoman rule. It was erected in 1573 and, invisible from the sea, played a key role in the famous Battle of Navarino.

Pylos: ‘Hostess’ of the Peloponnese

Nothing here betrays the troubled past of the city that is synonymous with the Battle of Navarino. Today it rests peacefully, built in the shape of amphitheatre below Neokastro, reminiscent of an island hamlet. Enjoy a leisurely coffee in the shade at the traditional kafenia in the central square of Trion Navarhon with its exotic palm trees. Visit the Archaeological Museum. Take a stroll along the coastal road and then sit down for dinner at one of its many restaurants. A little outside town you can admire Kamares, a section of the old water tower. Your holidays here will be heavenly.

Voidokoilia beach: A semi-circular summer dream

Images of the beach under Paleokastro, with its famous bay – shaped in a perfect semicircle – have travelled the world. Incredible turquoise water and fine white sand, hidden in which you’ll find beautiful seashells.

Gialova sea-lake: A habitat for rare birds and animals

Equipped with binoculars and camera, you’ll follow the footpath that leads to the bird observatory. Gialova is an incredibly beautiful natural reserve in the Peloponnese, home to 250 species of rare birds – among them flamingos, swans and mallards.  Particularly important is the presence of the African chameleon. Gialova is the only place in Europe where it survives and reproduces!

Beautiful beaches of all sizes

In Pylos you’ll find the beach of Chrisi Akti (also known as Divari), situated in a protected area that ‘looks’ towards Pylos. Nearby is Voidokoilia. And from there until Kyparissia you’ll come across endless sandy beaches, like Mati and Lagouvardos (perfect for surfing and other water sports), as well as, small and picturesque bays with deep water, such as Stomio and Filiatra. North of Voidokoilia is the infinite beach of Romanos.

Methoni Castle: The port’s guard

As soon as you cross the stone bridge with its 14 arches, flirting with the swell, you’ll be impressed by the castle and its imposing gate. A second and then a third gate lead you to the inside of the castle, where there was once a settlement. Among its remains is the pretty church, Transfiguration of the Saviour (Metamorphosis tou Sotiros), the Turkish Baths (that date back to the 19th century), the house of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt and the Bourtzi (that was rebuilt by the Turks in 1500). It was originally built in the 13th century by the Venetians.

Methoni: Picturesque, quiet and authentic

The picturesque seaside new town of Methoni, with its low stone homes, one beside the other, with their lovely patios and fragrant flowers, will charm you and invite you to enjoy its beaches, cafes and restaurants.

The fearless castle of Koroni

It was built around the same time as the castle of Methoni. Under Ottoman rule it was considered the best fortified castle in Messinia, if not in the entire Peloponnese. Inside the castle and on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo, the Byzantine church of Agia Sofia was built, right next to the monastery of Timios Prodromos.

Stately Koroni

Built in what used to be ancient Asini, modern Koroni is aristocratic and stately. With its well-preserved old stone homes and sloping streets, it has an ambience reminiscent of Southern Italy. In the summer months the coastal road overflows with coffee shops, tavernas and people, while all around you’ll find beautiful beaches, the most popular being sandy Zanga. 

Sheltered and welcoming Finikounda

Be sure to include Finikounda on your route and stop for lunch or a coffee. Situated on a sheltered bay, surrounded by sandy beaches with shallow waters, it is ideal for families with small children. Its name derives from the Phoenicians who had trade links with the region, while the modern village was developed by Cretan immigrants around 1840.

Hidden gems of Western Messinia

Sphakteria: The island-protector

On this wooded islet, monuments have been erected, dedicated to the dead of the Battle of Navarino. With the caique that takes you to Sphakteria, you’ll see the small islet Helonaki (‘little tortoise’), with its monument to the British soldiers that fell in the battle.

Nestor’s Cave

That this region has been inhabited since the Neolithic period is evidenced by the findings that date back to the middle of the 6th millennium BC, found in Nestor’s Cave, located on a hill above Voidokoilia beach and under Paleokastro.

Nestor’s Palace

The palace belonging to Homer’s Nestor covers an area of about two hectares and is perhaps the best-preserved Mycenaean palace in the Peloponnese identified so far. Notable finds include tablets with Linear B texts.

Source: Discovergreece.com

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