Category: Greece mainland beaches (page 1 of 4)

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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