Category: Greece mainland (page 1 of 10)

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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Even in severe winter weather, Greece’s scenic beauty shines through

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Little Venice Mykonos during January storm

Surf sprays two storeys high as roaring waves crash ashore at the Little Venice area of Mykonos Town, flooding the entire seaside strip of cocktail bar terraces. This photo was posted on the Mykonos LIVE TV Facebook page on January 18, the day gale-force winds raged across much of Greece.

 

Storm scenes: When wild winter weather swept across Europe this week, Greece wound up in the path of powerful winds that pounded some places, including Syros island, with gusts reaching as high as 122 kmh — the equivalent to force 12 on the Beaufort wind scale.

The fierce winds raged relentlessly on Thursday January 18, toppling trees on several islands, damaging one of the iconic windmills on Mykonos, and preventing planes from landing at Syros airport. The storm disrupted ferry travel and shipping, too, as rough seas forced the cancellation of many sailings as well as the closure of the ports at Lavrio and Rafina. At Piraeus port, the passenger ferry Panagia Agiasou broke away from its moorings during the tempest, while waterfront areas at Mykonos Town, and Kini Beach on Syros, sustained damage from massive waves that walloped the shore.

 

 

Although most residents stayed indoors to avoid the incessant blasts of wind, which made walking perilous and even driving difficult, some did venture out to observe nature’s fury and photograph the stormy conditions. I found numerous pictures and videos on social media showing skies filled with massive dark clouds, and huge waves crashing onto seafronts and beaches in Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Syros, Rhodes, Lesvos, Samos, Skyros, Skopelos, Ithaca, Paxos, Kefalonia, Nafplio, Athens and elsewhere. Many of the images showed that, even in ferocious weather, the scenic beauty of Greece’s coastal areas still stands out.

 

Nafplio photo by Nafplio Kalimera

Takis Vassiliou shot this view of the Nafplio waterfront and Bourtzi sea castle, and shared the image on his Nafplio Kalimera page on Facebook

 

Paros photo by Waves on the seafront at Parikia on Paros photo shared on Facebook by ΠΑΡΟΣ like Facebook page

Maria Alipranti captured sunlight illuminating stormclouds and waves at the Parikia waterfront on Paros. Her photo, and more than 20 others she shot, were shared on the ΠΑΡΟΣ like page on Facebook.

 

Stormy sky on Lesvos photo by Eleonaora Pouwels

Eleonora Pouwels photographed this scene of waves, stormclouds and sunset at Psiriara beach on Lesvos 

 

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where I have posted more photos and several videos that were shared on social media.

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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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A visit to Androusa Castle

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Androusa Castle aerial view

Androusa Castle aerial view

Aerial views of the remaining walls of Androusa Castle in Messenia. The images are from an on-site information plaque that describes the features and history of the ancient castle, as well as recent restoration work by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia.

 

First fortress:  On Day 2 of our May 2017 holiday in the Peloponnese, we drove south from Ancient Messini, where we passed vast groves of olive trees and several small settlements before stopping at the village of Androusa to see the first of several castle ruins on our list of attractions to visit.

As I noted in my earlier post Our 4-day road trip in the western Peloponnese, the village is home to Androusa Castle, a fortress built by the Franks in the middle of the 13th Century.  It was a significant military stronghold for the Kalamata region for several hundred years, after which the castle became an important administrative center. But just as the need for a fortification in the area declined, so did maintenance of the castle, which eventually crumbled and lay in a state of neglected ruins from the early 18th Century.

In early 2012, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia launched a €550,000 project to restore parts of the castle’s eastern curtain walls and repair its few standing towers. The work was completed in 2015.

 

 

There isn’t much on the site apart from the rehabilitated wall sections and towers, and a few small stone buildings, so it doesn’t take long to walk around the grounds and see all that’s there — including lovely panoramic views of the lush green landscape that extends to the Messenian Gulf. If you’re travelling in the area and happen to be passing through Androusa or close by, you might find it interesting to stop for a quick look, as we did. But unless you’re a huge fan of castles, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it. Within reasonable driving distance you’ll find several immense and largely intact fortresses that are much more worthwhile to visit, including the Neokastro at Pylos and the Methoni castle at Methoni.

On page 2 of this post, you can view our photos of Androusa Castle. If you’d like to see or learn more about the fortress, check out these links:

♦ the Castle of Androusa page on Kastrologos — Castles in Greece;

♦ the Castles page on Picturesque Peloponnese (you’ll have to scroll about two-thirds of the way down the page to view the Androusa section); and

♦ the Androusa page on the Castles of Greece website operated by Andrew Sawyer.

 

Androusa Castle

Part of the restored eastern curtain wall and tower at Androusa Castle, which was built more than 700 years ago

 

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Top places to visit for a winter holiday in Greece

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Arachova Greece

The alpine town of Arachova in Central Greece, seen during our visit in June 2017. The website Greece Is has ranked Arachova one of the country’s Top 10 places to visit in wintertime 

 

Off season delights: Are you trying to pick a place to visit for a unique winter getaway? Have you considered going to Greece?

If you’re like many of the people reading this post, you probably picture Greece only as a summer destination, primarily because of the immense popularity of its world-famous beach-blessed islands.

However, Greece is more than just islands and beaches — it’s a year-round travel destination with activities and attractions that appeal to everyone, from outdoor sports enthusiasts, to foodies, to history buffs, nature lovers and more.

As for what makes Greece special during the off-season winter months, here’s a nicely succinct description by one of my favourite food, culture and travel publications,  Greece Is:

“Winter is the time to swap the sandals for hiking boots, and the cold beachside beer for a brandy or warm rakomelo by the fireplace. Hearty, slow-cooked stews replace light summertime salads, and a whole host of different seasonal products begin to appear: wild mushrooms, juicy oranges, fat chestnuts. This is a time to experience a different sort of Greece – one of rivers, mountains and glorious natural landscapes as yet undiscovered by mass tourism. One that is emptier, wilder but also comforting in its own way, insulated from the rush and chaos of the modern world.” 

Although there are scores of places in Greece that would be wonderful to visit in the off-season, Greece Is compiled this list of The Top 10 places to visit in Greece in winter:

♦ Zagori

♦  Arachova

♦  Kalavryta

♦  Meteora

♦  Tzoumerka

♦  Metsovo

♦  Loutraki – Pella

♦  the mountains of Corinth

♦  Pilio (also known as Pelion), and

♦  the mountains of Arcadia

What I particularly like about the Greece Is Top 10 list is that it includes descriptions of each destination or area, and outlines the winter activities that are most appealing at each place. The listing also includes links to additional insightful articles and practical information about each location, as well as photo galleries. I found it a great starting-point for researching a trip to Greece not only in winter (though that’s the focus of the ranking), but really for any time of year — all the destinations would be marvellous to visit in spring, summer or fall, as well.

To get some Greece travel inspiration for yourself, click here to read the full article.

 

 

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