Category: Greece mainland beaches (page 1 of 3)

Central Macedonia: A great four-seasons travel destination

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This is the lead video in a Central Macedonia tourism campaign that invites visitors to come “do something great.” The promotion includes four additional short films (see below) that will tempt travellers with fabulous photography of great things they can see and do in the region.

 

Greatness abounds: It’s widely known as the historic home of its king, Alexander the Great, in ancient times, but the mainland Greece region of Central Macedonia wants more people to discover that it’s also an incredible place for tourists to visit 365 days a year.

The region already attracts more than 7 million visitors annually, drawn to such internationally-known destinations as the city of Thessaloniki, the holy monasteries at Mount Athos, the beach-blessed Halkidiki peninsulas, and the tallest peak in Greece, Mount Olympus.

But Central Macedonia isn’t even on the radar for countless other people who have been to Greece, or who might be planning to visit, and aren’t aware there’s so much more to the country than Athens and the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes. Crete and  Corfu. To show those potential visitors why they should give Central Macedonia a closer look, the region has produced five promotional videos that highlight the vast array of vacation experiences available for all types of travellers and their holiday activity preferences.

With spectacular cinematography, the 2-minute videos showcase some of the region’s magnificent landscapes and natural scenery, exciting outdoor sports and adventure activities, arts and cultural attractions, beautiful beaches, and its traditional and contemporary cuisine. The sheer breadth of the region’s natural and human-created wonders may be an eye-opening surprise to people who aren’t familiar with this part of Greece.

The “Do Something Great” video, posted above, is the primary film for the tourism campaign. Published on YouTube and shared on social media platforms, it provides a general cinematic overview of Central Macedonia’s appealing travel attractions, while four other videos, posted below, shine a spotlight on destination features that appeal to specific visitor pastimes:

♦ Taste the Great! whets viewers’ appetites with images of mouth-watering traditional and contemporary cuisine;

♦ Sun the Great! displays brilliant scenes of gorgeous coastal landscapes to show that “nothing beats a sunny day on the beach”;

♦ Experience the Great! profiles some of the thrilling outdoor activities that sports enthusiasts can pursue, such as: mountain biking; skateboarding; surfing; rock climbing; scuba diving; alpine skiing; boating; and river rafting; and

♦ Admire the Great! spotlights cultural attractions, including: art galleries; museums; historic sites; monuments; memorials; churches, temples and monasteries; and music entertainment. 

 

Each of the videos is well worth watching, and the full series takes only 10 minutes to view. We don’t have a favourite to recommend; although we’ve notched half a dozen viewings for the food film, and at least two apiece for the rest, we enjoyed them all.

If you’re interested in learning more about the region after watching the clips, you’ll find the Central Macedonia travel website (pictured below) is a great place to start your research and holiday planning.

 

Central Macedonia tourism website

 

Video spotlights spectacular Greece sights and scenery to send inspiring message: ‘Dreams can’t be quarantined’

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Filmmaker Aris Katsigiannis collected compelling images of Greek people, some of Greece’s most famous sights and attractions, and views of the country’s spectacular natural landscapes, to create this exhilarating video

 

Don’t stop believing: If you’re suffering a severe case of self-isolation blues because your upcoming trip to Greece has been cancelled or indefinitely delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic,  Aris Katsigiannis’s inspiring video Dreams can’t be quarantined should give your spirits a big boost. The 4-and-a-half-minute film presents a dazzling panoply of sights and scenery from all over Greece as it conveys an uplifting message to people around the world: Don’t let these dark days stop you from dreaming.

If it’s dreams of going to Greece that you’ve been forced to put on hold, we strongly suspect the film’s visual delights and inspirational message will give you some joy and remind you that Greece is well worth waiting for, whenever you can finally get there. And we’re all hoping that will be sooner than later.

In notes accompanying the video’s release on YouTube, Katsigiannis says he started work on the project after the Greek government imposed a nationwide lockdown in late March in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. He wanted to create a film that “could share a positive message worldwide, and motivate people globally during these difficult times.”

To send a message of hope in bleak, dark times, Katsigiannis couldn’t have picked a better subject for his film — after all, Greece has long been called “the land of light.” 

Copywriter and narrator Joanna Trafalis acknowledges this in the video’s introductory voiceover, noting “We have learned to see the light in the darkness. We have learned to never stop dreaming. The rough times will pass, so don’t forget your dreams.”

And as Katsigiannis adds in his descriptive notes, “Please remember this: We are all afraid, confused and we are all dealing with this crisis in our own way. But there is one thing that is for sure. Our dreams cannot be quarantined. We are all in this together. Stay positive, united, safe and better days will return.”

More moments in the Mani peninsula of the Peloponnese

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This short film offers a short but sweet tour of what its producer,  Fist AK Productions, describes as “one of the most beautiful areas of Greece.”

 

More Mani: Regular readers might recall my Magical moments in the Mesa Mani post last summer, in which I shared a video and travel information links for a region of Greece that truly fascinates and intrigues me — the rugged Mani peninsula of the Peloponnese. I mentioned that the Mani was on our bucket list of places to see, and in fact it was on a short list of destinations we were considering for our upcoming spring holiday. We ultimately chose an island for our next trip, but still intend to make it to the Mani.

While I was organizing bookmarked articles and photos of the Mani to keep for future reference, I discovered a short video that had been published on Vimeo in March, by Fist AK Productions.  Rather than relegate it to a bulging bookmarks folder where I could easily overlook or even lose it, I’m sharing the short film here, along with a pair of older clips that I was going to file away as well — just in case any of my readers might be planning a Mani visit themselves.

Aerial views of the Laconian Mani, captured by fabdrone

 

In background notes posted with this film, fabdrone observes that “Until recent years many Mani villages could be reached only by sea. Today a narrow and winding road extends along the west coast from Kalamata to Areopoli, then south to Akrotainaro (the pointy cape which is the most southward soil of continental Greece) before it turns north toward Gytheio. Another road, that is used from the public buses in the line Piraeus – Mani and exists several decades now, comes from Tripoli through Sparta, Gytheio, Areopoli and ends in the Gerolimenas port near Cape Matapan.”

This video by YouTube contributor Stelios Hontas includes alluring scenes of Porto Kayo, Lagia, Marmari, Kokkala, Paliros, Castro, Achilleion, Cape Tainaro, Kokkinogia and Diamistastika.

Crete clinches 4th place ranking on TripAdvisor list of the world’s top destinations for 2019

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Greece, Greek islands, Crete,Crete island, Crete Greece, Chania, Chania Crete, harbour, port,, Chania harbour,

Greece, Greek islands, Crete,Crete island, Crete Greece, Chania, Chania Crete, harbour, port, lighthouse, Chania lighthouse,

Views of the historic Venetian harbourfront and the iconic lighthouse at Chania, a perenially popular travel destination in northwestern Crete

 

Crete shines: Millions of travellers around the world have spoken, and their positive reviews, ratings and comments have landed Crete island in 4th place on the prestigious TripAdvisor listing of the Top 25 destinations in the world this year.

The 2019 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice awards were announced this week (on March 26), lauding London as the #1 destination in the world, followed by Paris, Rome, Crete, and Bali in Indonesia. Last year Crete placed fifth, behind Bali. 

TripAdvisor is the globe’s largest travel website, containing listings for more than 156,000 destinations. Each year it presents its Travelers’ Choice awards to top international destinations, honouring the places that are most popular with people who post reviews on the website.

A press release announcing this year’s winners quoted TripAdvisor’s VP of Global Communications, Desiree Fish, as saying: “The Travelers’ Choice awards for Destinations recognize major cities and islands that continue to deliver an outstanding experience and are beloved by our global community of travelers.”

The news release explained that award winners “were determined using an algorithm based on reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and experiences in destinations worldwide over a 12-month period. The methodology takes into account quality and volume of reviews to surface destinations that consistently deliver the best overall experience for travelers.”

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Loutro village in southwestern Crete

 

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Looking along the spectacular southwestern coast of Crete from one of the many beaches near the town of Paleochora

 

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A taverna courtyard in the heart of the historic old town area of Chania

 

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Sweet Water Beach in southwestern Crete, between the villages of Chora Sfakion and Loutro

 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, southwest Crete, Agia Roumeli, village, coast, mountains, Samaria Gorge,

A view of Agia Roumeli village, situated at the foot of the world-famous Samaria Gorge. Extending for 16 kilometers, the gorge is the longest in Europe and is one of Crete’s top tourist attractions.

 

We spent more than two weeks on Crete in late fall of 2017, and could easily see why it has been ranked among the world’s Top 5 travel destinations two years in a row — it truly delivers outstanding travel experiences. Crete has something to suit every traveller’s taste, style and budget: fascinating cities, towns and villages; vibrant resorts; breathtaking landscapes, stunning scenery and gorgeous beaches;  superb food and wine; significant historical sites and attractions; a diverse range of outdoor activities for all ages and lifestyles; myriad hotel and lodging options, and much more. 

Crete also claimed two spots in the list of the world’s Top 25 Beaches: Balos ranked #15, while Elafonissi took 21st place. Though both are situated in western Crete, the region in which we focussed our 2017 holiday travels, we never made it to either beach, so they remain on our bucket list of places to see. The island is blessed with a bounty of beautiful beaches, however, so visitors still have countless strands to choose from if they can’t get to Balos or Elafonissi.  (We saw many impressive beaches along the island’s southwestern coast.)

Greece in general fared well on other top rankings, particularly for hotels, where it won top honours in two categories. It nabbed the number 1 and 2 spots in the Top 25 all-inclusive hotel ranking, and it claimed the number 1 and 3 position on the awards list for the world’s Top 25 Small Hotels. Greece also achieved Top 25 rankings for best hotels, luxury hotels, best service, romantic hotels, family hotels, and bargain hotels.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that Greece received TripAdvisor recognition for the world’s top two all-inclusive hotels because, in TripAdvisor’s own travel forums, regular visitors to Greece routinely advise travellers to avoid all-inclusive properties, urging them to stay at hotel or self-catering accommodations instead. In essence, the forum commentators claim Greece simply doesn’t do all-inclusives very well, and visitors don’t experience Greece if they stay at an AI resort. With this year’s awards, however, it’s quite clear that all-inclusive resort guests disagree! 

Greece, Greek islands, Crete, Crete island, beach, Greek beach, Elafonissi beach Crete, Elafonisi beach Crete,

Famous for its brilliant turquoise waters and pink-hued sand, Elafonissi beach is seen in an image from the Best Travel Tips to Crete page of the Tourist Maker website.  Elafonissi ranked #21 on the TripAdvisor list of the Top 25 beaches in the world.

 

Balos Crete photo 02 by Antoine Nikolopoulos

Lagoons and sandy beach strips at Balos are seen in this photo shot by Antoine Nikolopoulos of Odyssey Art Photography. Balos ranked #15 on this year’s list of the world’s top beaches.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where I have posted photos and rankings for the Greek hotels that placed in the world’s Top 25.

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Top beach, golf, diving and other outdoor activity attractions near Marathopoli

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Proti Island

Located just one nautical mile from the town of Marathopoli in southwestern Messenia, Proti Island is a popular day trip destination for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, cliff jumping and trekking. This aerial photo of Proti Island is from the website for the Artina hotels in Marathopoli.

 

Lagouvardos, shown in this aerial video by Giannis Mpantes, is a long golden sand beach less than 3 kilometers from Marathopoli. It’s considered one of the top surfing spots in Greece, and also attracts enthusiasts of windsurfing, SUP, canoeing and other watersports. 

 

Surf’s up!: In a recent post I noted that the quiet, laid-back town of Marathopoli is an ideal base for travellers wishing to explore Methoni, Pylos, Navarino, Voidokilia and other popular places in the Messenian region of the southwestern Peloponnese. 

Even closer to the town are two noteworthy destinations that draw active travellers seeking scenic spots for outdoor sports activities such as swimming, surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking and fishing.

Uninhabited Proti Island, which dominates sea views from the town, is approximately one nautical mile away and can be accessed in summer on boat trips from Marathopoli harbour.  The tours take passengers to secluded coves, including Grammeno Bay,  and stop at picturesque Vourlia beach for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling or jumping into the sea from rocks and ledges along the rugged coast. 

 

This aerial video of a boat trip to Vourlia beach on Proti island is from the website for Proti Cruises, which offers a variety of daily “mini cruise” excursions from Marathopoli

 

Proti Island monastery

The Monastery of the Assumption of Gorgopigi is one of the sights that hikers might encounter while walking some of the trails on Proti Island. This photo appears on the websites for Lagouvardos Apartments and other Marathopoli-area businesses.

 

 

Trekkers can explore Proti Island on three designated hiking routes, while rock climbers can test their skills on the challenging cliffs and coastal rock formations. Fishing trips and sunset tours also are available.

For those curious to see what lies beneath the waves, Ionian Dive Center offers scuba diving excursions to such island sites as the Anouar shipwreck in Vourlia Bay, the Tiganakia wall and cavern, the Blue Hole cavern with stalactites, Callens Valley and the  Beacon Cove.

 

This video by Ionian Dive Center will take you to the Blue Hole, one of the sights that scuba divers could explore during excursions to Proti Island

 

Lagouvardas beach

This photo from the official Marathopoli tourism website shows an aerial view of the long strip of golden sand at Lagouvardos beach

 

Lagouvardos Beach is only 3 kilometers from Marathopoli so it can easily be reached by car, bicycle or even walking. The Culture Trip website has included Lagouvardos on its list of The Best Surfing Spots in Greece, while travel publications and online guides regularly recommend the beach for windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), swimming, canoeing and other watersports. Equipment rentals and lessons are available from the Beach Break surf club at Lagouvardos.

For beach lovers and watersports fans who don’t mind driving a little farther afield, some of Messenia’s most beautiful and world-famous beaches — including Vromoneri, Mati, Romanos, Golden Sands Divari, and the incomparable Voidokilia — are situated within a span of just 7 to 15 kilometers. 

 

Vromoneri Beach

Just 7 kilometers from Marathopoli is Vromoneri beach, seen in an image from AllMessenia.com

 

Located about 9 km from Marathopoli is gorgeous Mati beach, seen in this aerial video by KOABeach Pool Bar

 

Additionally, the Marathopoli area is ideal for bicycling and mountain biking, while two globally renowned 18-hole courses at nearby Costa Navarino offer golfers the opportunity to tee off in spectacular settings.

 

Dunes Golf Course at Navarino

Award-winning world-class links await golf enthusiasts at Costa Navarino, just 13 km from Marathopoli. The green pictured above is on The Dunes Course, while the one below is on The Bay Course. Both images are from the Costa Navarino Facebook page.

 

Bay Course golf course at Navarino

More stunning photos and extensive information about the two golf resorts can be found in the golf section of the Costa Navarino website.

A castle- and seaview lunch break at Methoni beach

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Methoni Castle and Methoni beach

Our lunch at Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni was served with three lovely views, including the historic Methoni Castle to our right …

 

Methoni Bay

… Methoni Bay and Sapientza Island directly in front, and …

 

Methoni beach

… the golden sands and turquoise waters at the town beach to our left

 

Seaside dining: It was a huge treat to have lunch in the town of Methoni after visiting the area’s leading historic attraction for a few hours (which I described in my recent post,  A Walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle).

What made our lunch break so special wasn’t just our feast on fabulous Greek fare, but the beautiful views we got to enjoy from our seaside seats at Akrogiali Taverna. From our table a mere meter from the water’s edge, we could gaze at Methoni’s golden sand beach, its picturesque bay and small harbour, and the imposing stone walls of the ancient castle. 

That kind of restaurant location and scenic backdrop is simply impossible to find anywhere back home in Toronto. Even though our city boasts an enviably long waterfront on Lake Ontario and a clutch of small islands with extensive parkland just a short ferry ride from downtown, we can’t dine right beside the water anywhere (not even on the Toronto Islands), and there are no centuries-old historic places along the shoreline. (Toronto is a young city by European standards — it was incorporated only in 1834).

The unique experience of open-air dining at a beach or seaside taverna with a scenic view is one of the main reasons why we love travelling to Greece so much, and our visit to Akrogiali was the first such meal of our 2017 spring holiday.  It really hit the spot given that it had been over 11 months since we had last been to a beach taverna.  

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Beach view of the entrance to Akrogiali Taverna

 

After walking around Methoni Castle in the hot sun for more than two hours, and then strolling through part of the town of Methoni, we were looking forward to cooling off in the shade and having a good lunch. We found a couple of options on the Methoni beachfront, but liked the look of Akrogiali the best, so we got a table there.

Our lunch was just as delicious as the scenery: Greek salad, gigantes (giant beans baked in a tomato sauce), kolykythokeftedes (zucchini fritters), piperies me tyri (grilled peppers stuffed with a spicy feta), keftedes (Greek meatballs), a platter of gavros (small grilled fishes) and a big plate of fried potatoes.

With the calming views, light sea breeze and the sound of waves lapping against the sandy beach, it was pure bliss. I would have been happy to spend the rest of the day there, drinking wine and nibbling mezes while watching swimmers and boats in the bay, and looking at the castle.

Below are more photos of our lunchtime view and three of the dishes we enjoyed. If you would like to read what other people have thought of the restaurant, you can find more than 100 reviews under the Akrogiali Taverna listing on TripAdvisor.

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Part of the large open-air dining terrace at Akrogiali

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Tables along the edge of the patio offer unobstructed views of Methoni beach and bay

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Side view of part of Akrogiali’s large, shaded patio

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

The taverna is less than a 5-minute walk from the Methoni Castle entrance

 

Akrogiali Taverna

Toilet humour: a sign on the taverna wall points the way to the restrooms. They were only 30 steps from our table.

 

Akrogiali Taverna's grilled stuffed peppers

The piperies me tyri (grilled peppers stuffed with a spicy feta cheese)

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Kolykythokeftedes (zucchini fritters) and gigantes (giant beans)

 

Methoni Bay

Sailboats in Methoni Bay

 

Methoni Bay

View toward the mouth of the bay and Kouloura islet

 

Akrogiali Taverna in Methoni

Customers enjoying the view from Akrogiali’s patio

 

The quiet end of Divari, the mile-long golden beach in Messenia

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Divari beach on Navarino Bay

A bend near the northwest tip of Divari, also known as Golden Sands Beach

 

Divari beach on Navarino Bay

The shallow bay between Divari beach and Sfakteria Island

 

Delightful Divari: Sunshine, warm temperatures, two beautiful sandy beaches, a crumbling ancient castle and superb Greek food.  Combine those ingredients and you’ll cook up a perfect vacation day in Greece — as we discovered during our 2017 spring holiday in the western Peloponnese.

I recently wrote about our bucket-list visit to Voidokilia, one of the beaches we got to see on the third day of a  road trip through Messenia. The other beach we enjoyed was Divari (Ntivari in Greek), an enticing ribbon of golden sand that curves along the northwestern coast of Navarino Bay near the town of Pylos.   (I will tell you about the castle and food another time.)

Divari was the first stop on our agenda, since it would bring us close to a footpath leading to the ruins of the old Castle of Navarino,  a.k.a. Paleokastro, an historic site we were keen to explore. To get there from our hotel base in Marathopoli, we drove down the two-lane Kyparissia-Pylos highway (Route 9) to the village of Gialova, where signs directed us to the Divari access road. 

 

 

The beach extends a considerable distance — approximately 1.5 kilometers, in fact — and sections are visible from the dirt road that runs its full length. Evergreen trees, bushes, and dunes block some views of the beach, but open areas between the trees reveal plenty of tempting places to spread a towel or a mat. If you want to sit on a chair or under the shade of an umbrella, though, you have to bring along your own gear — unlike many popular beaches in Greece, Divari is not organized with rows of rental lounge chairs and umbrellas, and isn’t lined with beach bars and tavernas.

Please click on the link under the video below to continue reading and see more photos of Divari beach.

 

This aerial video by Manolis Gialyrakis features great views of Divari beach and a shipwreck close to the shore

 

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A bucket list visit to Voidokilia, the extraordinary Ω-shaped beach in the Peloponnese

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Voidokilia beach

I got my first in-person peek at beautiful Voidokilia beach from this breathtaking vantage point in the ruins of the Castle of Navarino …

 

Voidokilia beach

… and shot this picture two hours later while walking along Voidokilia’s amazing arc of soft brown sand 

 

My Omega moment: I’m a big fan of beaches, as you’ve probably gathered from perusing my blog posts. I love looking at them, walking on them, and of course taking photos of them. It doesn’t matter if they consist of soft sand, pebbles or stone; are situated in secluded coves, scenic bays or along lengthy stretches of coastline; or face onto calm water, rolling waves  or rough seas — they all make me happy. I can’t explain exactly why, but there’s something about beaches that makes me feel surprisingly calm yet incredibly invigorated at the same time. (Mountains have the same effect). It’s no wonder I love Greece so much: since the country is blessed with myriad beaches on its islands and mainland coasts, I feel great wherever I go. (Greece has mountains aplenty, too, but I’ll write about those another time.)

Although there are dozens of must-see places on my Greece travel wish list, only 13 are beaches per se (though many of the other spots are located at or near beaches I’d love to visit). All are stunning, some are world-famous, and each has  a unique appeal, distinctive feature or superlative natural beauty I want to witness in person at some point during my lifetime, even if only briefly or from afar.

My beach bucket list (no pun intended)  includes five on Crete — the Balos lagoons, plus Preveli and Vai, Matala, and Stefanou/Seitan Limania;  Navagio (better known as Shipwreck Beach) on Zakynthos; Porto Katsiki on Lefkada; Myrtos on Kefalonia;  Simos on Elafonisos island in the Peloponnese; Manganari on Ios; Papafragas on Milos, and Agios Demetrios on Alonissos. Though not technically a beach, the Giola lagoon on Thassos is right up there, too.

Until last spring, there had been 14 beaches I particularly wanted to see, but last May I finally got to visit the incomparable  Voidokilia in the Messenia region of the Peloponnese. 

 

 

Voidokilia first enthralled me in 2011 when  the Greek National Tourism Organisation published an aerial photo in the Beaches Album on its Visit Greece Flickr page. Voidokilia’s semicircular arc of light brown sand, strikingly similar in shape to the Greek letter Omega Ω, seemed surreal and almost other-worldly.  It looked too perfect to be natural. I instantly wanted to see it, but didn’t foresee having the opportunity anytime soon. We had been hooked on island hopping at the time, and didn’t have a Peloponnese holiday in our near-term plans. But in 2016 we finally made our first foray into that part of Greece, visiting several places in the eastern Peloponnese, and we paid the region a return visit last year to explore some of its southern and western reaches. I was excited when I discovered that Voidokilia was one of the top attractions on our scheduled driving route along the Messenian Gulf coast.

Since Voidokilia was the first bucket list beach I was going to see, I nervously wondered if it would live up to my lofty expectations.  But it  didn’t disappoint. If anything, it made an even better impression than I had imagined. I gasped when I first observed Voidokilia from a lookout point in the Navarino Castle, and when I later walked along its soft brown sand a short time later, and gazed  across the sparkling turquoise bay it encircles,  I felt like I was living a dream. I was utterly gobsmacked, as some Brits might say. I now like to describe the experience as a personal OMG moment — though I pronounce it O-Me-Ga instead of Oh-My-God (pun intended this time).  I savoured every second I was there, and now consider Voidokilia one of my favourite beaches anywhere in the world. I will go back again.

I did take plenty of photos, of course, but I’m not entirely happy with how they turned out — they simply don’t make Voidokilia look as stunning as it actually appears in person.  I suppose I was just too busy enjoying the moment and the captivating scenery around me to pay more attention to what I was doing with my camera. I have posted some of the images on page 2, so you can be the judge. But I really think you should just go and see Voidokilia for yourself. It truly is a marvellous sight.

Below is a video that I believe does do justice to Voidokilia’s striking beauty. Beneath that is a link to page 2, where you can see our photos as well as a few more videos of this fantastic place in the Peloponnese.

 

This 5.5-minute film from Studio Gaël Arnaud features stunning drone views of Voidokilia as well as the hilltop Paleokastro (Castle of Navarino) from which I shot some of my Voidokilia beach photos in May 2017.

 

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