Amid Kyparissia mountains, Lykodimo mountain, mount Taygetos and, in the center of the prefecture, the verdant plain of Messinia, charming villages and ruins of prehistoric settlements, archaeological sites, medieval castles, and picturesque monuments lie before you.
With prolonged cool summers, sweet springs, gentle autumns and mild winters, this “land of fair fruitage and watered by innumerable streams” as Euripides called it, provides various opportunities of experiencing the local cuisine, the coastal environment and underwater life, and scenic landscapes, unique to each season.
Whether you are interested in exploring rocky shores or the underwater world and shipwrecks, rock climbing at Proti island, sailing Sfaktiria in Navarino bay, bird watching in Gialova or simply strolling around the sandy beaches, and relaxing in a village square, Messinia is a diverse destination.
The west coast of the region has vast sandy beaches with crystal clear waters; some are long strips of sand, others like natural harbors and secluded bays. Within 20 km., you can reach the impressive Voidokilia -the “sandy Pylos” as Homer referred to it-, Golden Coast (Mati), Lagouvardos, Vromoneri, Barlas, Golden Sand (Divari), Petrochori, and Romanos (Glyfadaki).
Lagouvardos is a large sandy beach surrounded by pine trees and mountainous background. Surf lessons are possible here, as well as canoeing out of the bay to sail the beautiful waters for snorkeling, fishing or for relaxing. While it is a summer paradise, for surfer lovers it is also a favorite place to visit during wintertime.
Barlas is a picturesque sandy and rocky beach surrounded by cliffs, caves and small coves. It is great for snorkeling and fishing.
Vromoneri is a sheltered little bay with thermal springs gushing out from the rocks. It is nice for snorkeling around the cliffs and fishing.
Golden Coast is the longest beach of the area with nice golden sand. Locals also call it “Mati”. Here you will always find a remote spot to swim. It is also a nest place for the loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). On one side of the beach, the new resort hotel, Costa Navarino is located.
Romanos, also called Glyfadaki, is located near the homonym village. It is a long beach with fine sand. Petrochori beach is located close to the next village, surrounded by many small bays one next to another.
Voidokilia is a large semi-circular bay with blue-green shallow waters and fine golden sand. It is surrounded by sand dunes and is sheltered by steep cliffs at the edges. A wonderful way to escape the sun can be a short hike up the hill to Nestor’s cave and the old castle of Pylos, Paleokastro. At the other side of Voidokilia over the hill, lie the ruins of a vaulted tomb attributed to Thrasymedes, son of Nestor.
Divari sandy beach stretches along for 2 km into Navarino bay separating its sea waters from the lagoon. It has shallow calm waters with fine golden sand. From there you can climb up to Paleokastro or take an evening stroll to the Gialova lagoon.
Opposite Marathopolis at a short distance lies Islet Proti, with its natural harbor, deep blue clear waters and sea caves. The landscape is greenery with vertical limestone, covered by evergreen bushes and wild olive trees. Word has it that the sheltered bays of the island were once a refuge for sailors and pirates, and there are remains of a circular wall of ancient fortification dating back to the Mycenaean or Prehistoric Era. The unique sandy beach of Vourlia is in a quiet cove with crystal turquoise waters. From the little port of Marathopolis you can take the boat to the beach or for a tour around the island. It is also great for snorkeling, climbing and diving.
In the Navarino bay lie the small island of Sfaktiria, associated with major historical events from 425 B.C., and the islets of Fanari and Marathonisi, while off the southwest coast you can sail the Messinian Oinouses island complex. They are uninhabited with mostly low vegetation, a protected strawberry tree (arbutus) forest that can reach a maximum height of 12 m. and is more than 10.000 years old, kri-kri goats, subspecies of mouflon sheep, and many bird species.
Calypso Deep (known in Greek as Oinousses Trench), located in the Ionian Sea south-west of the Messinian Oinouses, is the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea, with a maximum depth of 5,267 m.
Generous and pristine nature, unspoiled valleys that cut through the evergreen hills surrounded by ancient sanctuaries and cities, and hidden wonderful waterfalls; welcome to Neda, the marvelous 15 waterfalls and lakes of Polilimnio and the little paradise of Valta. Neda has its springs close to the village of Neda in mountain Lykaion, the birthplace of Zeus and homeland of Pan. It is a narrow long gorge with different levels of trekking. The best time to visit it is in the summer, especially from the end of August to the beginning of September since the water can be warmer. In Polilimnio, after a short hike, wherever you end up the view is amazing.
Divari lagoon of Gialova is a natural wetland characterized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and part of the Natura 2000 area -protected for its rich and various fauna, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and for the flora. Thousands of birds (egrets and herons, flamingos, cormorants, eagles, etc.) flying to Africa in autumn and returning in spring, stop here, while many species overwinter at the lagoon. It is a small area where you can spot most of the birds.
The best period for observation is from September till May, especially from the beginning of September for the king of the lagoon, the osprey. Spring migration starts at the end of February. Many species stop by mostly till mid April, while the Glossy Ibises pass the whole spring here. The Hellenic Ornithological Society has created an interesting booklet and nature trails with birdwatching hides. The narrow stretch between the lagoon and the sea is also home of the only African chameleon found in Europe.
In short distance from the lagoon, passing through dense vegetation you can rejuvenate yourselves to the cool waters of Schinolaka (or Kalamari); a little lake with a waterfall surrounded by rocks and plane trees, many orchid species and wild flowers.
From the Mycenaean vaulted tombs, an indication that around 3.500 years ago an important site of the Mycenaean civilization was located here, to Ancient Messene which was at its peak in the 4th century B.C., the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae (86 km), and the castle of Methoni, here you can walk side by side with history.
For those who love archaeological sites, apart from the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor on the hill of Ano Eglianos, you can visit the beehive tombs of Chora, as well as the ones in Peristeria hill. On your way to Kyparissia, at the charming old town lies its castle with elements of Mycenaean architecture in the walls, a turret and restorations during Byzantine times.
Pylos hosts two noteworthy castles, the old castle (Paleokastro), a mix of Frankish and Venetian architectures set on an ancient acropolis, and the new castle (Niokastro), a rectangular, two-stored stone building, which was built in 1573 and nowadays houses the museum and the centre for underwater archaeology.
Ancient Messene (Ithome) is one of the most significant cities of the antiquity in terms of form, size and level of preservation, set in an intact and fertile environment at the foothills of the limestone mass of Ithomi. It is a remarkable example of a typical ancient city, having not been destroyed or covered by later settlements.
The site of ancient Olympia, located in short distance (83 km), would be also well-worth taking the time to explore for a lengthy visit.
For the museum lovers, here is a small list with some places you can visit:
- Archaeological Museum of Chora
- Antonopouleion Archaeological Museum of Pylos
- Museum of Ancient Messene
- Archaeological Museum of Messinia
- Benaki Archaeological Museum of Kalamata
- Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata
- Railway Museum of Kalamata