We continue our tour of one of the most beautiful areas of Greece (you can read the first part here) visiting important archaeological sites and impressive castles, unique natural sights and swimming at some of the best beaches in the country!
Day 4 – Polylimnio, Koroni, Methoni
Time to visit two of the most famous castles in Greece, but also one of the most unknown paradises of the Messenian land. We start from Polylimnio, a “fairy” land of unique natural beauty, where you will see lakes and waterfalls formed on many levels by the water passing through the Polylimnio Gorge!
The lakes have until recently been well hidden from visitors, but now the area has been developed, and has also two parking lots. It is located outside Charavgi village, 33 km from the city of Kalamata. On a three kilometer long trek we meet 15 consecutive lakes with strange names and we can dive into whichever we want and as often as we want to enjoy the crystal clear waters.
Whenever we decide to leave the natural paradise, we continue our journey to see from up close two important human achievements. Next destination is the Castle of Koroni, built during the Byzantine era and the only castle in Greece that is still inhabited to the present day.
We go inside and see the fields and houses on our left and continue towards the great plateau on our right hand, where we will admire the breathtaking view of the whole Messenian Bay in the depths of mountain Taygetos!
We continue the tour and visit the Byzantine church of Agia Sophia and the church of Agios Charalambos, originally a Catholic church dedicated to St. Rocco, then turned into an Ottoman mosque and later into an orthodox temple, as well as the monastery of Timios Prodromos.
Leaving Koroni and before heading towards Methoni, we pass by some of the most famous beaches of Messenia, such as the beach of Finikounda in front of the homonymous resort, the Loutsa beach, where there is also a camping for 70 seats, Lambes beach and the Anemomylos beach (also called Xaroupia and Makrinammos), the most famous beach of the area.
Next destination is the imposing castle of Methoni which dominates the southwest tip of the Peloponnese. It is one of the most significant castles in Greece, with an area of about 93 acres, while at its edge by the sea is Bourtzi, which can be reached by a paved corridor through the Pyli tis Thalasas (Gate of the Sea).
Built in 1209 by the Venetians on a rock penetrating the sea, it is separated from the mainland by an artificial moat, which is overlapped by a beautiful stone bridge. Inside we see the ruins of the homes of Venetian noblemen and other buildings, Byzantine churches and bastions.
Opposite we can discern the Strait of Methoni and two of the most important islands of the region, Schiza and Sapientza. Schiza is the largest island of the Messenian Oinousses and is located opposite Finikounda, while to the southwest of the island lies the deepest point of the Mediterranean, known as the trench or Calypso deep (Frear ton Oinousson) with a depth of 5.121m.
Sapientza is considered the most important and most beautiful island of the complex, with lush vegetation and crystal clear water at its beautiful and unique beach. On the island there is also the unique to the Mediterranean Strawberry Tree Forest, as well as a natural phenomenon: in the center of the island instead of vegetation you will find an amber plateau! To visit Sapientza, you can take a boat departing from Methoni.
Day 5 – Pylos
We begin the trip from Kalamata towards Pylos, on the western edge of Messenia, but before we get there we should definitely make a stop at one of the major archaeological sites, the palace of Nestor.
It is the most well-preserved Mycenaean palace in Greece and is located 4 km south of the village of Chora and 14km from Pylos. It belonged to the famous Homeric king of Pylos and it is estimated that it was built in the 13th century BC, just before he led Pylos into the Trojan war.
The excavations have brought to light more than a thousand tablets from the files of the palace of Nestor with texts in Linear B, thanks to which we are able to know a lot of important information about the daily life, as well as the economic and trade activities of prehistoric Pylos.
The palace consists of three main independent wings, which are in turn divided into 105 compartments. The large rectangular ‘throne room’ with a circular fireplace, the bathroom with the ceramic sink and the warehouses with numerous storage vessels are considered the most important findings of the site.
We depart from one of the greatest cultural attractions towards one of the greatest natural sights in Messenia, the Lagoon of Yalova. Considered to be one of the most important wetlands in Europe, it is the southernmost stopover point for migratory birds from the Balkans to and from Africa. The lagoon covers an area of 6,000 hectares and its deepest point does not exceed 4 meters.
It is estimated that 254 species of birds find shelter there, such as herons, cormorants, kestrels, seagulls, flamingos, ospreys, imperial eagle and other wading birds. There also takes shelter a very rare species throughout Europe, the African chameleon, considered to be an endangered species.
We continue our journey to another one of the major attractions of Messenia, the Voidokilia beach, which easily earns a place among the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece! Its name comes from the word Voufras, which means “where the cattle live.” It is also mentioned in an ancient inscription as Vouvota – Voidokilia.
Of course another obvious explanation for its name may be derived from the large curvature of the bay which looks like the belly of an ox (which is exactly what the name means in Greek). Fine white sand stretches over a large area, from one edge of the beach to the other.
The waters are calm, turquoise and exotic. On the left is Palaiokastro at the base of which lies the cave of Nestor, while to the right and up the hill, is a vaulted tomb attributed (but not yet confirmed) to Thrasymedes, son of Nestor.
Afterwards we visit Pylos, a picturesque town in the historic bay of Navarino. It is considered a “new” town, as it was essentially established after the Battle of Navarino, in 1828, by the French engineers of General Maizon.
It is built amphitheatrically, while the residential environment is dominated by the beautiful square with the imposing monument of the three Admirals supported by two cannons from the Battle of Navarino, Venetian and Turkish.
At the edge of the town stands the Niokastro, one of the best preserved fortresses in Greece with the beautiful pine trees and the important monuments. In the Pasas building, the Museum of Underwater Antiquities is housed.
In front of Pylos and in the opening of the Bay of Navarino lies the oblong island Sfaktiria, which acts as a “natural breakwater”, making the port of Pylos one of the safest in the world.
On the island, which can be visited by boat, you can enjoy the sea, as well as visiting one of the following memorials: the memorial to the Greeks who fell in the battle of 1825, the tomb of Paul Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, who was killed there in 1827, and the memorial to the Russians who died in the Battle of Navarino with the Russian church of Agios Nicholas.
Day 6 – Kyparissia
We conclude the tour of Messenia with a visit to the northwestern part of the county, where the main town is Kyparissia, the third largest city of Messenia after Kalamata and Messene. It is built at the foot of Mount Egaleo and stretches all the way to the coast of the Ionian Sea.
It is divided into the old Ano Poli (Upper Town), which is a traditional and protected settlement and the Kato Poli (Lower Town), the modern part that reaches the sea. Trademark of the town is the Byzantine Castle, which stands at the top of the Ano Poli, majestic to this day and an attraction to visitors.
The Castle of Kyparissia dates back to the early 13th century, with its history lost in mythology, as it is said that it was the base of Giants, a tradition that has to do with the fact that it is built from stones of enormous proportions!
Apart from the Castle, in Ano Poli you can also see the square Arcadia with the plane tree and the drinking fountains at the entrance of the castle, traditional houses with the characteristic wooden balconies, and the ruins of the Ottoman hammam to the east of the Castle.
You should definitely visit the magnificent temple of the Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), where it is said that the altar of the church is resting on the remains of a pillar from an ancient temple of goddess Athena.
As to where you can enjoy the sea in Kyparissia, you have plenty of options, but the most spectacular beach is Elea with the golden sand and blue waters. It is approximately 10 km from the city and into it flows Neda, the only river in Greece with a female name.
In the area surrounding Kyparissia we can also enjoy the Faraggi me tous Stalaktites (Gorge with the Stalactites), in the village Raches, which begins from the northern side of the archaeological site of Peristeria and at its end there is an impressive cave.
We continue our journey to the beautiful villages of the region and pass from Filiatra, with the ornate drinking fountain on the main square and the model of the Eiffel Tower at its northwestern entrance.
Next stop, the church of Metamorfosi tou Sotiros or Agia Sotira (the Transfiguration) in Christianoupoli that many compare with the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, hence the popular saying of locals “Agia Sotira in Moria (Peloponnese) and Hagia Sophia in Poli (Istanbul)”. We continue towards the Forest of Evaggelistria (Annunciation), near the village Valta. Holly, oak and maple trees create a landscape of incomparable beauty, combined with the many streams because of the river that crosses the forest.
Final destination of our journey is Marathopoli, the picturesque fishing village opposite the island Proti. The village is famous for its fish restaurants, but also for the local beaches, such as Lagouvardos, Vromoneri and the cosmopolitan beach Mati.
We can visit the island Proti by boat and enjoy a dip in the calm coves, as well as visit the monastery of Kimisis tis Theotokou (the Assumption) of Gorgopigi, climb the steep cliffs, hike in the lush surroundings and dive in the magnificent seabed!