Messinia, in the Peloponnese, is a rich and beautiful region that many visitors overlook. Only two hours from Athens, it is known for its olive groves, ancient sites, rich cuisine and divine beaches. Sit back and relax, because we’re here to show you what you should do in Messinia, Peloponnese.
Visit the capital
The second city of Peloponnese behind Patras, Kalamata is the main port and capital of the Messinia region. This humble city may look like a small town, but it has all the advantages of a city. With a wealth of museums, cultural events and a low-key yet vibrant nightlife, it should definitely be on your agenda. From the Byzantine churches to the municipal gallery, cool and hip bars and restaurants and waterfront establishments, Kalamata will give you a run for your money while still offering relaxing and quiet corners.
The luxury resort of Costa Navarino is located by the water and consists of two five-star hotels, villas, golf courses and private beaches. Its highlight is undeniably the plethora of cultural activities available. Don’t despair if you can’t afford to stay here as there are other more budget-friendly options in the region.
Soak up some vitamin D on the Messinian beaches
The coastline of Messinia features several beautiful beaches, including Stoupa, Finikouda, Kalogria, Velika and the omega-shaped Voidokilia, in the Gialova Lagoon, with its diverse fauna and flora. Their natural beauty, low-key vibes and length will certainly entice you to spend the whole day by the water. If you drop by Voidokilia, don’t forget to check out the mythical Nestor’s Cave, where Hermes is said to have hidden the cattle he stole from Apollo.
Messinia has its own set of islands, including the small but beautiful Proti, a paradise for history buffs right across Marathopoli. Despite its small size, the island features some archeological sites of ancient temples, the ruins of a citadel, an acropolis from pre-classical and Mycenean times and the monastery of Panagia Gorgopigi. Thanks to its good visibility, it is also home to a dozen dive sites where you can spot turtles, coral, sponges rays and damselfish.
Messinia is filled with ancient sites, including the Palace of Nestor and the ancient city of Messene. The Palace of Nestor is one of the most well-preserved Mycenean structures still visible today. Located 14 kilometers (8.5 miles) from Pylos, the palace was built by King Nestor, son of Neleus, and features in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Comprising several sections and built on two floors, the palace was destroyed by fire in the late 13th century BCE and was never rebuilt, but many of the artifacts were recovered and are now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Chora and at the Archaeological Museum of Messenia, in Kalamata. Ancient Messene is another fascinating site, with some temples, residential houses and public buildings still standing.
Less than 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Kalamata, the little town of Koroni awaits. Built amphitheatrically on a hill, the small town is dominated by another Venetian feat. Dominating the cape of Akritas, on the Messinian Gulf, the Castle of Koroni was constructed in the 13th century by the Venetians, before undergoing some renovations when the Ottomans took control of the region in the 16th century.
Dedicated to Apollo, the god of healing and prophecy, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is a UNESCO-listed sanctuary that has been surprisingly well preserved throughout the centuries. Its striking and unique elements make it a one-of-a kind temple that archaeologists and history buffs the world over come to visit and study. High up in the mountains, the temple is protected from the elements by a tent, but outside offers striking views.
Overlooking the sea and the island complex of Oinousses, the castle in the beach town of Methoni was built on a rocky outcrop by the Venetians in the early 13th century. One of the largest Venetian castles in the Mediterranean, it includes a stone bridge of 14 arches connecting the castle to the shore, making it a stunning sight to behold as you arrive. The gate bear the lion of Saint Marc, the symbol of Venice. Walk around the site to discover the ruins of two Turkish bathhouses and admire the inscriptions on the walls.
With its complex of waterfalls and natural pools running through a gorge, Polilimnio is a green haven in Messinia. A day at Polilimnio, though quite strenuous to reach, is one of the best ways to stay cool on a hot summer’s day. Swim in the fresh water, admire the nature and picnic at the nearby Mavrilimna Lake.