A stunning landscape steeped in the inheritance of centuries, Costa Navarino, on the Peloponnese peninsula is a fascinating place to visit.
A stunning landscape steeped in the inheritance of centuries, Costa Navarino, on the Peloponnese peninsula is a fascinating place to visit. Make sure you bring a good guide book to make the most of the many historical and natural attractions nearby. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and sunhat, too, though, as the beaches here are spectacular.
Who holidays here
If ever there was a destination designed to please two very different types of holidaymaker, this is it. If you want to do little other than soak up the sun amid soft sand and stunning scenery you’ll love Costa Navarino. If you’re one of those whose idea of heaven is to hike in the hills, and relive the past exploring the remains of ancient history, there’s more than enough to satisfy you here. If you like to do both - well, you’ve got it made!
Take a spread of scenic beauty and dot with historical interest. Add a pinch of pale, fine sand, some warm, turquoise water and heat under a golden sun. If this sounds like your recipe for a perfect holiday, you’ve come to the right place.
The bay of Navarino, a magnificent natural harbour in the Messinian Gulf, spreads out in a big crescent between two hills, as if an amphitheatre, and is protected by the rocky barrier of Sfaktiria Island (Sphacteria). The main town here is Pylos, the present-day version of which grew up at the foot of the hill of Áyios Nikólaos, on a site which had not been occupied in ancient times. Its centrepiece is the main square bordered by attractive, arcaded houses. Watch the world go by at one of the numerous cafes and tavernas shaded by enormously wide plane trees whose leaves have fluttered in the breezes for many years past. The square is called the Platía ton Trión Navárkhon (Square of the Three Admirals) after the three commanders of the victorious allied fleet in the battle of Navarino which took place in the autumn of 1827 - the British Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, the French Admiral de Rigny and the Russian Count von Heyden - who are also commemorated by a monument on one side of the square and two cannons at the centre. The allied fleets of the English, Russian and French were victorious over an Egyptian-Ottoman armada, a defeat which facilitated the establishment of an independent Greece.
The harbour of Navarino is used by fisherman to bring in their catches for the many seafood restaurants and delightful tavernas in the area, and there is also a modern marina catering for around 250 vessels. The hexagonal fortress of Neo Kastro dominates the western side of the bay, just one of many points of great historical and archaeological interest of this region. But it is also an area of outstanding natural beauty - a limestone ridge covered in olive groves and with some of the most stunning fine sandy beaches you could wish for. A little further afield is the stunning Mani peninsula, which forms a continuation of the Taygetos mountain range, the western spine of the Peloponnese. Mani is the home of Maniots, and is well-worth a day’s visit for hiking and exploring.
As well as the pretty whitewashed dwellings with terracotta roofs of Pylos, the coastline is equipped with a good range of hotel accommodation for holidaymakers and travellers, including high-end resorts offering the best in comfort and facilities. So, following a busy day of exploring this wonderful region - or of sunbathing on one of the magnificent sandy beaches - you can relax and take in the amazing sunset over the sea, enjoying first-class facilities and excellent cuisine as you plan what you’ll do the next day.
Things To Do
Boat tours: Boat trips are offered from the harbour of Pylos around the area of Sfaktiria out to the lighthouse at the entrance of the bay of Navarino.
Bird watching: The protected area of the Gialova Lagoon and wetlands cover 700 hectares at the northern end of Navarino bay. They provide the best bird-watching site in the Peloponnese and are home to up to 20,000 different waterbirds between September and March. Many others stop over on their migration between Africa and Eastern Europe.
Hiking and biking: Explore this beautiful area, perhaps taking in The Mani where you will see The Maniot tower houses and enchanting mountain top villages, or venture to the World Heritage site of Mystras.
Swimming and Sunbathing: Not to be missed, as this region has some of the most beautiful beaches you are likely to find anywhere in Greece. Take Zaga beach in Koroni, for example. This is a long sweep of golden sand and, nearby, loggerhead turtles lay their eggs. There is also renowned Voidokilia beach, meaning cow’s belly referring to its very bowed shape. This was described by the Times newspaper as the most beautiful beach in the world. It is in the north of Costa Navarino and reached via the village of Petrochori. Two rocky promontories mark the entrance to the bay where fine, light-coloured sand is hidden behind sandy dunes, protected from the wind.
Things To See
With historical attractions around almost every corner there’s no chance of running out of places to visit. Here is just a selection:
Palace of Nestor: The site of the Palace of Nestor are the remains of a two-storey building of store rooms, workshops, baths, reception rooms and a sewage system. It is the best preserved Mycenaean Greek palace that has been discovered. During excavation in 1939 around 1000 Linear B tablets (a syllabic script used for writing Mycenaean Greek , the earliest attested form of Greek) were identified. Most of the artefacts discovered date from 1300 BCE, but the palace complex was destroyed by fire around 1200 BCE.
Old and new Venetian Castles in Pylos: Named appropriately, Neo Kastro and Paleokastro (new and old castle), the former can be seen in the western part of the town, and the latter on a hill to the north of Sfaktiria island.
Church of the Metamorphosis, Pylos: The church occupies a site within the Neo Kastro (or New Castle) which was constructed above the town of Pylos by the Turks from the 16th century. Built originally as a mosque, the church is one of the few buildings to survive within the Neo Kastro.
Chora Museum: This museum contains pottery, wall-paintings and artefacts from the Palace of Nestor nearby.
Antonopoulos Museum of Pylos: Among the displays here are ceramics and other artefacts dating back to the Mycenaean period. There is also a commemorative exhibition of the sea battle of Navarino which took place on 20th October, 1827, during which fleets from England, France and Russia successfully allied against an Egyptian/Ottoman armada. This was a turning point in the Greek War of Independence and lead to the establishment of Greece as an independent state.
Moni Kalograion, Kalamata: This monastery of nuns, established in 1796, is renowned for its production of top-quality silk.
Archaeological Museum, Kalamata: Situated in the city’s historic centre, this Venetian-style mansion holds the treasures collected from various sites in Messinia dating from the Bronze Age to Roman times.
Koroni Castle: An attractive, sprawling, 13th-century castle fortified by the Venetians against the ravages of the sea, containing a microcosmic world filled with trees and flowers, white-washed small-holdings and narrow cobbled paths. Stunning views over Zaga bay.
Methoni and its Castle: Methóni is a small village in a sandy bay 12km south of Pylos, dominated by a large Venetian fortress jutting into the sea - one of the most impressive medieval sites in Greece. It was developed by the Venetians in 13th century, into a powerful stronghold and naval station on the route between the Adriatic and Crete, and was captured and held by the Turks between 1500 and 1686. Enter the castle via a bridge built in 1828 by the French, over a deep moat. Inside see the granite column and Turkish Citadel. With views of the islands of Sapientza and Schiza.
Andromonastiro: Believed to have been founded in the 14th century by Emperor Andronicus IV Palaeologus, the main church here displays stunning wall-paintings and some rare icons.
Ancient Olympia: This UNESCO World Heritage site is where the Olympic Games were first held in 776 BC. Still in evidence is the stadium and the remains of two temples.
Temple of Apollo Epicurius: Greece’s first listing of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple is located in remote mountain terrain but, as one of the best surviving examples of Classical architecture, is well worth a visit for history lovers.
The Church of Saint Theodora: Built around the 12th century and named after a local saint, this church can be found on the borders of Messenia and Arcadia. Tourists come to examine a peculiar unexplained phenomenon whereby trees growing from the roof appear to have no roots, as none are visible either outside or inside the church.
Battle Remains: In a show of strength, the allied fleet sailed into Navarino Bay on October 20th 1827, but a shot fired by the Egyptian/Ottomans sparked a battle which ended in the destruction of 58 out of the 87 Turkish vessels. The sunken remains can be seen at the bottom of the bay when the sea is calm. Three monuments to those who died in battle were erected: one to the British on Khelonáki (Tortoise Island) in the middle of the bay, a Russian one on the island of Sfaktiría and a French one on the islet of Pylos, to the south.
Kalamata International Dance Festival: Traditional music and dance held in July each year in various venues including the amphitheatre of the castle in Kalamata.