Secrets of the Peloponnese – Visiting the Bay of Navarino

Voidokilia beach Peloponnese

The Peloponnese is perhaps best known for its rich history and globally recognised ruins, such as Ancient Olympia and Ancient Mycenae.

But as I recently learned, the southwestern coastline of ancient Messenia is home to some of Europe’s most unspoiled yet spectacular feats of nature.

The Bay of Navarino and the municipal unit of Pylos-Nestoras has somehow gone largely unnoticed by the vast majority of Peloponnesian travellers who opt to stay in and around better known Kalamata.

This landscape of exceptional natural beauty has been recognised and subsequently protected by the Greek government to ensure that it remains an unspoilt haven for wildlife and visitors alike.

Olive Grove, Peloponnese

So if you’re seeking an eco-friendly taste of nature that is easy to get to and even easier to fall in love with, take a chance on the Bay of Navarino.

Getting there

We travelled from Athens to Navarino, stopping at Ancient Mycenae and UNESCO World Heritage site, Mystras, en route to break up the 3.5 hour drive.

Mystras, Peloponnese

You do have the option to fly direct to Kalamata which is a 1 hour drive to Navarino.

The majority of the drive is motorway and you will hit quite a few tolls, but as you reach Kalamata the roads quickly become smaller (and the drivers more unpredictable).

The mountain views are spectacular but the area of Messenia is otherwise largely undeveloped once you leave Kalamata. Primarily still agricultural land, you won’t see much more than a few car garages, the odd restaurant and perhaps an oddly placed furniture or gardenware store on your way to the coast.

Stalls by the side of the road sell fresh Kalamata olives and oranges for just a couple of Euros.

What to see and do

Voidokilia beach

No other geological formation like Voidokilia Bay exists anywhere else in the world, and the area is of great archaeological interest.

Situated near the tiny village of Romanos, Voidokilia is voted as one of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

Voidokilia Beach

This secluded, crescent shaped bay boasts clear, shallow waters fringed by golden sand dunes. True, unspoiled nature.

It is one of the most popular sites in the area – not that you’d know it. We arrived at 9:30am, midweek in June, and were the only people there for at least an hour.

Voidokilia Bay

A lone runner joined us and shortly after, followed by a couple and their little girl who arrived to splash around in the shallows.

I am told that during summer months, the beach is busier but no less spectacular.

Gialova lagoon

Gialova lagoon, also known as Divari (from the Latin vivarium, which means “fish farm”) is one of the most significant wetlands in Europe.

Designated as a European Ecological Natura 2000 Site, a Special Protection Area and as a Site of Community Importance, this oasis is one of the most important areas for migratory birds from Africa.

Gialova Lagoon

Gialova is also home to the rare and endangered African chameleon.

Vast, still waters meet marsh and dunes, and rich, abundant countryside surrounds. Whether you’re a bird or wildlife enthusiast – or just enjoy beautiful things – Gialova lagoon is not to be missed.

Waterfalls in the Peloponnese

Kalamaris

The Kalamaris waterfall is close to Gialova town and is well signposted from here. You’ll take a small dirt road to the car park, from which point you will follow a footpath through the trees for 10-15 minutes to reach the Kalamaris waterfall.

Lesser known than the Neda waterfalls, Kalamaris is still well worth a visit – especially in the shoulder seasons when the falls flow with more vigour due to more substantial rains.

Bring a change of clothes and plunge into the pool at the base of the waterfall, which coupled with the lush, surrounding greenery makes for truly instagrammable photographs.

Waterfalls, Peloponnese

Neda

As one of the only two Greek rivers to be given a female name, Neda waterfall is arguably the most beautiful of its kind in the country.

The Neda falls get busy in July and August so again, the shoulder seasons are probably the best time to visit.

These breathtaking waterfalls are reached by one of two roads from the villages of Platania or Figaleia, and from the car parks (there are two) the Neda gorge is around a 15 minute walk.

It’s best to wear trainers or comfortable shoes with grip for this rugged walk.

Follow the winding waters through the trees. It’s just you and mother nature. You’ll come across two smaller waterfalls before arriving at an emerald pool in front of the spectacular, 20 meter high Neda waterfall.

Spend time bathing in the refreshing pool beneath the charging waters.

Castles in the Peloponnese

Methoni Castle

If you only have time to visit one castle during your stay, choose Methoni.

Methoni castle

Just 11km south of the town of Pilos, stands Methoni Castle. Built by the Venetians in the early 13th century, this is among the largest castles in the Mediterranean.

Wear trainers or comfortable shoes with grip as reaching and exploring the ruins does take a fair bit of walking – and the occasional scramble. I’d allow at least two hours.

While you’re visiting, allow extra time to visit the beautiful town of Methoni and its well preserved architecture.

And if you have extra time to spare, visit the catacombs of St Onoufrios and the catholic monastery of St Leon. Or spend a few hours swimming at the beautiful beach by the castle or at nearby beaches Mavrovouni, Amenomylos, Loutsa and Akritika.

Niokastro: Pilos Castle

Niokastro – or Pilos Castle – is a charming fort in the heart of Navarino Bay. It functions as a centre of submarine archaeological research and boasts three on-site museums and a church.

Go for the beautiful views of Navarino Bay and the museums which boast an array of interesting artefacts. Or just wander around the Ottoman fortress and its fortified town snapping photographs. There’s plenty to see.

The castle of Koroni

Koroni Castle was built by the Venetians in the 13th century and altered over the years, with the Ottomans being the last to leave their mark in the 16th century.

This beautiful castle encompasses houses and churches, some of which are still occupied today. Wander around the grounds and take in the spectacular views of the southern edge of the Messinian Gulf.

Koroni Castle is free to enter and explore. Allow approximately 2 hours.

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