Photo: Visit Greece

Messinia

Generous nature, historic wars and a clash of several cultures during the millennia have given way to a little piece of paradise on Earth. Filled with stone towers, enchanting castles, stunning beaches, diving opportunities, and famous sites such as Olympia and Messene, the prefecture of Messinia is bound to captivate every eco visitor. Its capital is Kalamata, actually built on reclaimed swampland, and now known for its castle, lazy coffee shops by the sea and cultural events. It features a couple of must-see museums and serves as a good starting point for excursions to the rest of Messinia.

Photo: Visit Greece

Blessed with an outstanding sandy beach Messinia boasts a variety of authentically traditional and picturesque villages to wander through. Happening beach towns such as Methoni with its castle and Kyparissia with cobblestone streets contrast with the agriculture seaside town of Gargaliani and coastal town of Kardamili beside the Virou gorge. Kardamili is also the site of a historic castle and Agios Spiridon – one of the oldest churches in Greece dating from the 6th century. Noteworthy as well is the historical, traditional town of Pylos that feels more like an island and hides its troubled history well. The town of Koroni, built on the site of a prehistoric settlement, is also amazing with its castle, whitewashed houses and narrow streets. Like many others, Koroni’s history and culture was shaped by ancient peoples, as well as by the Venetians, Byzantines, Ottomans and modern Greeks.

The village of Agia Theodora features 17 huge trees growing out of its roof, while Leontari boasts three Byzantine churches with stunning frescoes. Then there’s the village of Tripi where its nearby gorge was supposedly used by the Spartans to hurl their weak babies to death. On higher elevations the town of Exohori represents the perfect point to discover the Virou gorge. It also has mountain roads that lead up to Taygetos mountain, accessible by 4-wheel drives only. Diverse wildlife and flora are the rewards of those who venture on the magical trails of these mountains.

Photo: Visit Greece

Visit the Golden beach, the beaches of Voidokoilia, Romanos and Petrohori. Climb to the Palaiokastro (old castle) from where the view is breathtaking. Explore the whole area which consists of many olive trees. Climb the natural paths leading to King Nestor’s cave in nearby Pylos. This region hides so much secrets that will truly amaze the visitor.

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Location - Messinia

Finikounda Beach

Finikounda Beach: A 3 kilometre-long beach nominated for Blue Flag designation, and is somewhat on the windy side which makes it perfect for surfers and sea sports.

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Voedokilia Beach

North of Navarino with an amazing shore and blue, shallow waters, considered one of the finest beaches in the country. Beside the beach there is the salk lake of Divari in the Gialova area, considered a habitat for aquatic and bird life.

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The Hellenic Ornithological Society (considered the Greek partner of Birdlife International) has counted as much as 270 species of birds around the Gialova lagoon. Many of these birds, who fly to Africa during autumn, stop by the lagoon one final time to refuel before continuing the 3000-kilometre trajectory over the Mediterranean and towards the Sahara. Some stay at the lagoon over winter, while others return in spring to before continuing the journey back north.

The temperate climate of this region makes it ideal almost any time of the year. The winter is quite mild compared to the rest of Europe, with many sunny days that require no more than a light jacket. In winter the lagoon offers many opportunities for bird watching, particularly in the early morning hours. There are three designated bird-watching spots in the area (free entrance).

Overall, this small wetland is not as famous as larger ones in Northern Greece and has been designated relatively recently compared to other ones. Nonetheless, its small size allows for a larger concentration of birds in one area, with one or two hours in the watch tower being enough to spot most of the fauna there. This includes bitterns which are sometimes elusive, as well as eagles.

Photo: www.picturesque-peloponnese.com

Many other species are best seen between September and May. Several are there as early as August, such as black-winged stilts, golden plovers, garganeys, grey herons, squacco herons, little egrets, glossy ibises, curlews, glossy ibises, kingfishers and more. The venerable osprey, however, arrives only in early September, so do other species such as pallid harriers, marsh harriers, most terns and waders, sandpipers, spotted redshanks, dotterels and avocets.

It is estimated that almost 20,000 birds are present around the lagoon in winter, the majority being coots and ducks. Over 500 of these birds are herons (little egrets, white egrets, grey herons), which have learned to catch fish like cormorants. In the morning, you can see the cormorants displaying an interesting "steamroller" pattern of fishing in the lagoon and canals, where the last line in a flock comes in front to fish, followed by another. They are sometimes joined by marsh harriers and hen harriers. Before dusk, you may very well see flamingos, as well as a few bitterns.

Photo: costanavarino

By late February spring migration beings, as thousands of birds make their way to the lagoon. These include herons, harriers, terns, swallows, wagtails and others. Some like the waders (including broad-billed and marsh sandpipers) arrive at night, while others like the curlews arrive by day. The most common waders are the wood sandpipers and ruffs though. April sees the arrival of greenshanks and spotted redshanks, followed in May by curlew sandpipers and turnstones. Curiously, some large birds such as marsh harriers and grey herons look like they're making a direct drop into the lagoon in spring, as if falling directly out of the sky. Spring also brings with it some 1,800 glossy ibises who pass through. The area even witnesses many breeding birds such as peregrine falcons, eagle owls, kestrels and black-winged stilts. If you're a birdwatcher or simply a nature lover, this part of Messinia – around the Gialova lagoon – is not to be missed.

There are a number of different cycling routes you can choose, some flat and other mountainous. Messinia offers either or a mixture of both.

Photo: costanavarino

Examples of cycling tours include:

· Taking the road coastal road between Petalidi and Koroni to discover this part of the gulf of Messinia.
· Crossing plains of Messinia, such as from Messini to the ancient site of Ithomi, then on to Valyra, Meligalas and Diavolitsi.

Touring through mountain villages such as Syrizo, Stasimo, Kakaletri, Neda, Sklirou, Ampeliona and Agios Sostis, passing by the temple of Epicurius Apollo as well.

Plenty of beaches and diving opportunities will enthral divers across the Messinian coast, particularly the gulf of Messinia which boasts impressive underwater caves of with wonderful colours. Of particular interest is the bay between the mouth of the Tsane river until Helonaria, as well as Venetiko island, Sapinetza island, Voidokoilia cape, Avgo and Petrokaravo. Note that the south part of Sapientza is off limits to divers as there is an underwater abyss.

An amazing bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables can be found in Messinia, encouraged by an ideal climate and traditional cultivation methods. Olives and olive oil are on top of the list, but so are vinegar, honey, figs, herbs, homemade jams and more.The olive tree is perhaps the most beloved in this part of Greece, thanks to excellent soil and old harvesting methods. Kalamata olive oil and olives, named after the capital of Messinia, are protected by name to distinguish them from other varieties.

Winemaking has existed in Messinia for millennia, a tradition which today manifests itself in exceptional fruity wines full of flavour and colour. They are aged in winery cellars to produce a great taste and 'jovial' bouquet. Messinia produces around 6,000 tons of dried figs every year, which are perfectly dried in late August and September by the heat. The fig is nutritious and acts as a mild laxative, enjoyed fresh as a fruit or dry and ripened. Sometimes it even accompanies alcoholic spirits.

An abundance of tomatoes, potatoes, peas, cucumbers, squash, melons, augergines, peppers and watermelons are grown on coastal areas, such as Methoni, Petalidi, Logga, Chrani, Finikounda, Romanou and Koryfasio. The Spring Potato is even exported to England and Germany.Worth trying also is the local Pasteli, the nutritious sesame-honey bar that give a boost during hikes and lazy days at the beach. Messinian Pasteli is considered superior than many others. Also on the sweet front are the local Diples, a fried and crunchy doughy dessert dribbled with honey.

Photo: www.melitaygetos.com

The area's raisins are also well known, and Corinth Raisins are grown here (particulary Pylia, Trifylia and Messini), even if Corinth itself is in the neighbouring prefecture of Corinthia. Keep these dark, juicy raisins with you as a snack wherever you go, as they're full of iron, potassium and other nutrients. Dried naturally, these raisins also used to make quality vinegar and spirits. If you're in Lagadia, head to the Katastima Trofimon (literally 'Food Shop') run by the amicable Kanella Mouroutsou. You'll find homemade sweets, cheeses, dried fruits, vinegar, local fruit preserves, grains, honey and sun dried tomatoes, among many other traditional ingredients and fare.

The grand Mount Taygetos spills into Messinia and offers a hiking haven for trekking enthusiasts. Its highest peak is over 2400 meters (Profitis Ilias) in addition to a number of higher peaks. There are now detailed maps available locally for hikers and climbers, including a good labelling system.

Photo: Landlife Travel

All the routes that once linked the mountain villages to one another have now been restored, with a choice of difficulty levels. One interesting way to discover the mountains is to follow their rivers, delighting in the nature and gorges, as well as the diverse fauna and flora. A hiking cane and good athletic shoes are advisable for the following routes:

Nedousa-Limnadita

At the 18th kilometre of the Kalamata-Sparta main road head to the village of Nedousa. Start your hike just after you pass a bridge to reach Lagou Hani, where there is a wooded path that goes up to Limnatida. The Nedontas River will by below you.

Lagou Hani - Velanidia Monastery - Kalamata (6 Hours)

The highest part of the path does not afford us a view of the river or the road, and while it takes a few confusing turns, it eventually leads us back to the river. The walk along here is pleasant, without sharp inclines. Passing by a goat shed, we reach the Velanidia Monastery. This is a good place for a short break. We continue down the faded path, which is traversed by roads, to Nea Agora and the Kalamata coach station. Cars can also be left at the monastery.

Lagou Hani - Alagonia (2 Hours)

Start from Lagou Hani heading away from the town and to the village of Alagonia. Follow the Nedontas river past the church to get to the path, which will take you across stunning scenery with stone bridges and remains of different sites. Climb to Alagonia where you can have a bite. You may return to Kalamata using public transport or by using the same route.

Pano Karveli – Ladas – Taygetos visitors' Centre(5 Hours)

Begin from the path across the spring right before Karveli village. After 15 minutes you will see a stone bridge connecting Pano Karveli and Emialos villages. Continue walking up to Ladas village through Emialos for a break. Walk up past the village houses towards Agios Georgios mountain. After almost 2 hours between road and path, you will reach the Kalamata-Sparta highway. Cross carefully and go around for 20 minutes back to the visitors' centre.

Kato Selitsa (verga) - Profitis Ilias (4.5 Hours)

There's a stone path above Selitsa (also known as Verga village), which goes up the west side of the mountain. The path comes across a little church and then to Pano Selitsa (upper Selitsa), which has very few inhabitants. There is a small spring for water and a snack bar, which serve you will for continuing to Profitis Ilias. The path passes near a fir-tree forest with views to the beaches far below, then goes to an area called Portes and up to the Church of Profitis Ilias.

Photo: www.picturesque-peloponnese.com

Swimming is perfect almost anywhere between Stoupa and Gargaliani, with golden beaches, amazing landscape and verdant hills. There are many coves with sand dunes and sheltered caves, with little or no people.

Chrani Beach

Chrani Beach: crystal waters, olive trees and vineyards dotting the coastline, with several beach cafes.

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Finikounda Beach

Finikounda Beach: A 3 kilometre-long beach nominated for Blue Flag designation, and is somewhat on the windy side which makes it perfect for surfers and sea sports.

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Gargaliani Beach

Gargaliani Beach: Golden sandy beach that’s very clean and with natural beauty, only 7 kilometres away from the healing springs of Vromoneri.

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Kalamata Beach

Kalamata Beach: Right next to the city yet with very clean water, awarded the Blue Flag in Europe. Many cafes, shops and restaurants along the beach.

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Stoupa beach

Stoupa beach: Another very clean sandy beach, located in Stoupa.

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Voedokilia Beach

North of Navarino with an amazing shore and blue, shallow waters, considered one of the finest beaches in the country. Beside the beach there is the salk lake of Divari in the Gialova area, considered a habitat for aquatic and bird life.

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Zaga Beach

Zaga Beach: Starting from Koroni castle and connecting to Memi beach, it goes as far as Vasilitsi and the stunning beach of Faneromenis Kalamakiou. The Zaga-Memi area is naturally beautiful and attracts breeding for the Careta Careta turtle.

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Finikounda Beach

Finikounda Beach: A 3 kilometre-long beach nominated for Blue Flag designation, and is somewhat on the windy side which makes it perfect for surfers and sea sports.

Find Out More

Voedokilia Beach

North of Navarino with an amazing shore and blue, shallow waters, considered one of the finest beaches in the country. Beside the beach there is the salk lake of Divari in the Gialova area, considered a habitat for aquatic and bird life.

Find Out More

Messinia Diving

Plenty of beaches and diving opportunities will enthral divers across the Messinian coast, particularly the gulf of Messinia which boasts impressive underwater caves of with wonderful colours.

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Kalamata is known for its silk scarves and handkerchiefs, as well as other woven items. The Monastery of Agios Konstantinos and Agia Eleni is particularly famous for its silk fabrics.

Photo: www.greekguide.com

Ancient Messene

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Ancient Thouria

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Niokastro at Pylos

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Palace of Nestoras

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Early spring in Messinia is truly wonderful, with rare species of flowers in the area, including certain species of orchids, crocuses and lilies.

Photo: newsmessinia.blogspot.com

Neda river

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Polylimnio

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Ridomo gorge

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Viros gorge

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Inomessiniaki Winery

Peloponnese / Messinia
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Book with booking.com

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Book now

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Peloponnese / Messinia
Book with booking.com

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Book now

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