Category: Greece mainland villages & towns (page 1 of 9)

Some photo highlights from our return visit to Nafplio

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Nafplio waterfront

Nafplio waterfront view to the Bourtzi sea fortress 

 

Back again: Exactly two years ago, we travelled to Nafplio for the first time and spent a full week exploring areas in and around the town. We liked it so much we decided it was high time to come back for a return visit. And here we are, enjoying Nafplio just as much as we did the first time. It truly is one of our favourite places in all of Greece.

Below are some sights and scenes from our first couple of days in the historic Old Town district of the picturesque seaside town.  I will publish more images in separate posts.

 

Nafplio street

A canopy of bougainvillea in a lane in the Old Town district of Nafplio

 

Nafplio waterfront

Cafes and palm trees along the Nafplio waterfront promenade

 

Nafplio street scene

A rustic building on a street corner in the Nafplio Old Town

 

 

cruise ship at Nafplio

The MSC Poesia cruise ship, viewed from the Arvanitia coastal promenade.  Daytrippers from the cruise gave the Old Town a lively buzz, but didn’t overcrowd the streets or make the town feel uncomfortably busy in any way.

 

Banieres swimming area of Nafplio

The Banieres swimming area on the Nafplio waterfront is a popular place for locals to sunbathe or take a dip in the sea

 

a street in Nafplio

One of the colourful pedestrian streets in the commercial area of the Old Town

 

Palamidi Castle and the Land Gate

The Palamidi Castle (top) and the historic Land Gate, the original main entrance to the Nafplio Old Town

 

Palamidi Castle view of Nafplio

An evening view of the Old Town, from a point roughly two-thirds of the way up the nearly 1,000 steps to the Palamidi Castle

 

Palamidi Castle steps

A steep flight of steps leading to the mountaintop Palamidi Castle. I counted 80 stairs on this particular stretch of the climb to the top.

 

Acropnauplia fortress stairs

It’s much easier to reach the Acronauplia fortress, one of the three castles at Nafplio, since considerably less stair climbing is involved. This is the stepped path leading from the upper Old Town to one of the Acronauplia entrance portals.

 

Nafplio coast

Coast and sea views from the Acronauplia fortress

 

Coast views from Acronauplia

Acronauplia fortress views of the sea, coast and Arvanitia beach

 

Arvanitia beach at Nafplio

Part of Arvanitia, a stone and pebble beach that’s popular with locals and tourists alike since it’s only a short walking distance from the Old Town

 

Rooftops in Nafplio

From a vantage point in the Acronauplia fortress, a view of Syndagma Square (upper right) and the first Greek Parliament building — the building with the domed roof at center left.  Nafplio was the capital of Greece from 1823 until 1834, when the Parliament was relocated to Athens. 

 

Syndagma Square in Nafplio

A quiet morning moment at Syndagma Square, which is lined with cafes, shops, restaurants and the archaeological museum (top)

 

a street in Nafplio

A street in the pedestrianized commercial area of the Old Town

 

steps in Nafplio

A long flight of steps on a hillside lane in the Old Town

 

Kapodistriou Street in Nafplio

Part of Kapodistriou Street, where our accommodations were located

 

a lane in Nafplio

A lane near the top of the Old Town’s hillside area

 

Catholic church in Nafplio

A peek at the exterior of the Catholic church in the Old Town

 

Philellinon Square at Nafplio

Philellinon Square and the memorial to the French soldiers who fought for Greece in the country’s war of independence

 

a street in Nafplio

A restaurant patio along one of the main pedestrian streets in the commercial heart of the Old Town

 

steps in nafplio

Steps in a narrow hillside lane in the Old Town

 

Bourtzi sea fortress at Nafplio

Nafplio waterfront view to the Bourtzi sea fortress

 

Bourtzi sea fortress

People can take a small excursion boat to visit the castle. The trips are offered daily and cost €4.50 per person; they include a 20 minute stop for a walkabout on the castle islet (the interior of the fortress is closed for maintenance construction) and a short ride along the waterfront so passengers can enjoy sea views of the Old Town.

 

Arvanitia promenade

The Arvanitia coastal promenade and the Banieres swimming area of Nafplio

 

Arvanitia promenade at Nafplio

A tree-shaded section of the Arvanitia coastal promenade that leads from the Nafplio Old Town to Arvanitia beach

 

Arvanitia promenade

View from the promenade toward Arvanitia beach and the Palamidi Castle, partially visible on the mountain peak at upper right

 

waterfront in Nafplio

The waterfront promenade is lined with palm trees on one side, and boats on the other

 

a building in Nafplio

A rustic corner building on a hilltop in the Old Town

 

 

Where to dine, drink and shop local in Kyparissia’s Old Town

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Palia Agora in Kyparissia

Street view of Palia Agora, where a selection of scrumptious mezes topped off our enjoyable visit to Kyparissia 

 

Fab food & drink: Take us to a town or village with sensational views and scenery, and we will probably like it. If there are archaeological sites, or historic buildings or places close by, we will certainly like it even more. Picturesque streets and interesting architecture?  Beautiful beaches, majestic mountains or scenic seasides in the vicinity? A relaxed setting and laid-back atmosphere? Those are guaranteed to tick off even more boxes on our “like” list.

But a destination won’t completely win our hearts if we don’t go home with fond memories of restaurants and cafes. (We’re not foodies or wine snobs by any stretch of the imagination, but we do like to eat, we love good coffee, and we enjoy sipping some nice wine as well.) Since Kyparissia has many of the characteristics that make us happy on holiday — plus really good food and drink in particular — we couldn’t help but love our short visit there in May 2017.

What impressed us on the food & drink front were three places we discovered in the charming Ano Poli (Old Town) district of  Kyparissia:  a shop selling a wide range of local food items and other Made in Messenia products, a comfortable cafe-bar; and a delightful estiatorio – mezedopoleio. Conveniently and coincidentally enough, all three establishments were located  just a stone’s throw apart on Eleni Chameri Street, the main road of Ano Poli.

Here’s a closer look at each:

♦ Palia Agora

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

Palia Agora’s beautifully decorated bar and dining room 

 

A late lunch at Palia Agora was the highlight of our afternoon in Kyparissia. We took one of the tree-shaded tables in front of the restaurant and ordered wine and a selection of cold and hot mezes (small plates perfect for sharing),  then sat back and relaxed while our meal was prepared. The local wine was delicious, and the food was amazing. In fact, it was one of the best meals of our spring 2017 vacation. Some of the standout dishes included the grilled pleurotus mushrooms, local sausage, pork slices accompanied by potatoes and pieces of oranges, the fava with olives and onions, and cheese balls rolled in chopped pistachios. Equally impressive was the friendly and efficient service. We would go back to Kyparissia just to have another meal here, the food was that good.

Not surprisingly, Palia Agora is ranked as the #1 restaurant in Kyparissia by TripAdvisor, and it recently received the 2018 Gold Award for Quality and Taste from the leading Greek gastronomy website estiatoria.gr

You can read over 200 customer reviews, and see more than 100 photos of the restaurant and its tasty dishes, in the Palia Agora listing on TripAdvisor.   There are dozens of additional photos on the Palia Agora Facebook page.

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

The grilled pleurotus mushrooms (left) were divine.  Also tasty were the cheese balls rolled in chopped pistachios, and served with a salad and  pita. 

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

From the restaurant’s Facebook page, a photo showing the Palia Agora sign, entrance and part of its streetside dining area

 

Palia Agora restaurant in Kyparissia

If you visit Palia Agora for a meal but sit outdoors as we did, make sure to take a peek inside the restaurant to check out the lovely decor and the interesting interior design details, like the light fixture above. 

 

♦ Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar

 

Algorithmos cafe bar

Street view of Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar, which occupies the ground floor of this beautiful building on Eleni Chameri Street

 

Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar in Kyparissia

In addition to its streetside tables and indoor seating area, Algo-rithmos has an open-air balcony out back, where customers can enjoy views of Kyparissia and the sea

 

We stopped at Algo-rithmos for two coffee breaks during our walkabouts through the Old Town and to the Castle of Kyparissia. We sat at one of the tables out front, next to the street, both times, but we could have chosen to sit inside or on the town- and seaview veranda at the rear of the building had we preferred.

Though we only ordered coffees and tea, the cafe has a full bar serving beer, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Snacks and light food dishes are available, too. The shop interior is cozy and comfortable, with an eclectic interior design (there’s a bicycle, musical instruments and several bookshelves mounted on the walls, and a stack of hardcover books suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the room.)

The service was friendly and prompt, and we liked the music that was playing.

You can read more about the cafe-bar in the customer reviews posted on the Algo-rithmos listing on TripAdvisor.

 

Allgorithmos Cafe Bar in Kyparissia

This image, which Algo-rithmos provided for its listing on TripAdvisor, shows part of the cafe-bar interior

 

♦ Messinia Gi

Travelling shopaholics won’t find many stores to browse in Ano Poli, but they will find it worthwhile visiting  Messinia Gi, especially if they like to support regional artisans by “shopping local” for food, fashion accessories and other items to give as gifts or to take home for personal use or souvenirs.

Messinia Gi boasts an extensive selection of food, beverage, fashion and souvenir products made either locally or in the  Messenia region.  Food items on offer include sweets, healthy snacks, honey, packages of handmade pasta, olive oil, olives, herbs and spices, nuts and many more. General merchandise includes jewellery and other women’s fashion accessories, personal care products, and ceramics. (You can view dozens of photos of the shop’s seasonal and regular merchandise in the albums and posts on the Messinia Gi Facebook page, and see additional pictures on the Messinia Gi listing on TripAdvisor.

We picked up postcards and several local food items to bring home for friends and ourselves, including jars of delicious figs stuffed with nuts, while our friends walked out with several bags containing what looked to us like enough food to prepare a week’s worth of meals once they returned to Athens.

The pleasant young lady who was minding the store was very helpful in explaining the contents and sources of the various food items we were considering, and in making suggestions for products to try.  

If you’d like to take home some tastes of Messenia, be sure to visit the shop while you’re in or near Kyparissia.

 

Messinia Gi shop in Kyparissia

If you visit the Old Town, you’ll find a vast variety of local products at Messinia Gi. The made-in-Messenia items make great gifts or personal souvenirs.  This photo of the storefront is from the Messinia Gi page on Facebook.

 

Messinia Gi shop in Kyparissia

Local product displays are shown in this photo that Messinia Gi management provided for the shop’s listing on TripAdvisor. Below is another photo of the store interior, also from its TripAdvisor listing.

 

Messinia Gi  shop in Kyparissia

 

An afternoon at the Old Town and castle in Kyparissia

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Kyparrisia Castle

Houses on the hillside below the ruins of the Castle of Kyparissia, which was built during the 13th Century

 

Impressive introduction: On the fourth day of our May 2017 road trip through the western Peloponnese we discovered another charming town to which we will have to pay a longer return visit sometime: Kyparissia.

We had scheduled Kyparissia for just a sightseeing stop during our drive from Marathopoli to Katakolo, yet within minutes of stepping out of the car we were already wishing we could stay longer than just the afternoon. 

That strong first impression came from the quick realization that Kyparissia has all the key features and characteristics we find particularly appealing in a small Greek town: beautiful scenery and views; a castle and lots of old buildings that convey a strong sense of history; plenty of intriguing lanes and streets to wander and explore; picturesque buildings and interesting architecture;  inviting places to have coffee, dine, and do a bit of browsing or shopping; and a comfortable “I feel at home here” ambiance.

However, with fewer than five free hours before we would have to hit the road again, we knew we were only going to scrape the surface of all that Kyparissia and its surrounding area have to offer. Still, we enjoyed everything we did manage to see and do in our limited time, and we were glad we had included the town as one of the stops on our journey. We would consider Kyparissia to be a “must see” destination for anyone undertaking a driving tour like the one we did through the western Peloponnese, and we think it definitely deserves more than a quick look around.

 

Kyparissia main street

When we arrived at El. Venizelou Street in Kyparissia in late morning, clouds above the nearby mountains suggested we might get rained on. But most of the clouds cleared away, leaving us with bright sunshine all afternoon.

 

Kyparissia former National Bank building

We’re drawn to old buildings, whether derelict or restored, and we found the facade of the former National Bank building — now a historic landmark —  right across the road from where we parked the car upon arriving in Kyparissia

 

a building in Kyparissia

We found this once-elegant edifice near the National Bank, and spotted many more charming old buildings throughout the town

 

Upon arrival in Kyparissia, we parked briefly on El. Venizelou Street in the lower town so we could have a look around and check out a few of the shops. The road was lined with a mix of commercial and residential buildings from different architectural design eras, including elegant old buildings, some of which — like the former National Bank — were in derelict condition, and others that were either in excellent shape or appeared to have been painstakingly restored. They gave us a sneak peak of the wide variety of building design styles and construction periods we would soon encounter in Kyparissia’s Ano Poli, the historic hilltop Old Town, where we had planned to spend most of our time.

Our next stop was Eleni Chameri Street, the main road in the Old Town, where we found on-street parking close to the Memorial of the Fallen. The war monument is situated in a small square with amazing views that include the Castle of Kyparissia off to the right, and the entire town below, extending all the way down the hill to the sea.

 

Kyparissia Old Town

A view along the Eleni Chameri Street, the main road of the Ano Poli / Old Town district of Kyparissia

 

Kyparissia panoramic view

From the square where the Memorial of the Fallen monument is located, visitors can see the Castle of Kyparissia (upper right) and the town below

 

From the memorial we walked to the Castle of Kyparissia, located at the opposite end of Eleni Chameri Street. We strode through the open gate (there is no ticket booth at the entrance) and climbed steps and trails up the hillside to see what remains of the ancient fortress. Apart from the external fortification walls, only a few stone buildings still stand on the site — but none are open to the public.  It doesn’t take long to wander around and explore the grounds, but the castle is worth a stop, especially for its wonderful views of Kyparissia and the surrounding area.

 

Kyparissia Castle view

Kyparissia Castle has excellent views of the upper town  …

 

Kyparissia Castle view

…  the lower town and the sea to the southwest …

 

Kyparissia Castle view

… and the lowlands, mountains and Messenian coast stretching to the north as far as the eye can see

 

After our castle hike we returned to Eleni Chameri Street and made a beeline for Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar, where we sat in the shade at one of the tables out front to have coffees and rest our legs.  Refreshed from our coffee break, we all set out on our separate ways to explore the Old Town and vicinity. There was little traffic and only a few people out and about, so the neighbourhood was exceptionally quiet and peaceful. It was nice not having to jump out of the way of passing cars and trucks, or jostle past other pedestrians, while observing the scenery and taking photographs.  The place is probably bustling during July and August, so we were glad we got to enjoy the town’s scenic streets and lanes without hordes of tourists teeming about.

 

Kyparissia Old Town

The Old Town’s streets and lanes are lined with a fascinating mix of meticulously maintained houses …

 

a church in Kyparissia

… a few beautiful churches …

 

a building in Kyparissia

… and numerous derelict or dilapidated buildings bursting with charm, character and — in many cases — tremendous renovation potential

 

We regrouped back at Algo-rithmos for another coffee break a couple of hours later, then did some souvenir shopping across the street at Messinia Gi, a store which carries an extensive selection of food, beverage, fashion and souvenir products made locally in Messenia. After more walking around, we all agreed it was time to call it quits on sightseeing, and find a nice spot for lunch. We chose Palia Agora, which is located just a few doors down the street from Messinia Gi, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed a variety of delicious mezes. I will tell you more about Messinia Gi and Palia Agora in a separate post.

The fabulous meal brought our brief Kyparissia visit to an end on a high note. We reluctantly piled back in the car for the drive to Katakolo, where we would spend the night before heading to the port at Kyllini to catch a ferry to Kefalonia. We’ll go back to see more of Kyparissia another time. We’ve got to — it’s exactly the kind of place where we enjoying spending vacation time.

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where I have posted more photos of the Old Town and castle, as well as a video of the castle and its views. 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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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.

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