If you’ve already read Part 1 of our Peloponnese trip, you must be super-eager to read Part 2 🙂
Based at our campsite in Mavrovounio, we decided to go on a tour of Mani on the following day. Looking at the map, you will see the Peloponnese has three peninsulas on the south – Mani is the middle one. On that day we drove past the south part of Mani, south of Areopoli and Gytheio.
The first place we visited (and by far the best known activity of the area) were the caves at Diros. I have been there twice before, but I don’t mind visiting this place again and again. What makes this cave unique, is that most of the route is done in a boat! Pictures were allowed in this cave, so here is one. Geez, I should get a new camera.
The tour of Mani took us several hours, as the roads are pretty windy, but was totally worth it. It’s a super mountainous area – Mount Taygetos is over 2,400 metres tall! My favourite place was an amazing village called Vatheia, where all houses were made of stone.
We mostly drove on the road close to the seaside and visited a couple of beaches there, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see all of them. So we have to go back at some point! If you can read Greek, have a look at this article for a list of beaches in that area. If you can’t… too bad 😛
After an exhausting drive, I went to bed at 22.30. Wow!
This was our temporary home in Camping Kronos. If you are ever in the area, I really recommend this campsite. Though the facilities are not very new, this place has a soul!
(Yes, Dave somehow fits in that tent).
Next day we set off to Kalamata. We had been told to stop at Stoupa on our way there, but honestly this was the most disappointing place of the whole trip. Lots of crowds, and super touristy – it actually looked like a resort for German pensioners. So we drove on, and found a little taverna by the sea after Kardamyli, where I swam for a while and we had a quick lunch. Eventually we arrived in Kalamata and stayed at campsite Fare for a couple of nights. For a city campsite, that wasn’t too bad – plus it was close to the town, so we went for an evening stroll. If we didn’t know there is a crisis in Greece, there is no way we would have guessed, as everyone was out and about. Crisis? What crisis? I also had a quick talk with a local waitress, who was very surprised when she heard that we are touring the Peloponnese, and said she hoped to do it as well, which I thought was very sad – after all, she lives there…
I somehow managed to survive the cockroaches in the campsite (even the one that was moving around in the toilet), and the next day we set off to Mystras, which is a Byzantine settlement close to Sparti. It took us almost an hour and a half to drive those 60 mountainous kilometres, that offered some stunning views and some pretty cool tunnels, like this one!
I had visited Mystras a few years ago, but I guess we were lazy and had just visited a few parts of it, and therefore I didn’t remember that the site is huge! There are actually two entrances to it. Tip: If you’ve been in the car for over 2 hours and are therefore desperate for the toilet, make sure you go to the main entrance at the bottom, rather than the one of the top, as they don’t seem to have a toilet there!
Mystras used to be a very important Byzantine settlement, second only to Constantinople (Istanbul)! We should have realised then that it would take us several hours to go through all of it. Obviously, there are a lot of churches there – my favourite one was the most remote one, called Perivleptos.
We also climbed all the way up to the castle. If you are looking up from the lower entrance, the castle will look like it’s very far. Guess what – it is!!! But the views were pretty cool, so I guess it was worth it – though I was personally thinking about my next beach day 🙂
When we left the site (after having bought two extra bottles of water each… July in Greece is pretty hot) we were absolutely starving – which is natural, considering we spent a little more than four hours in Mystras. We were super lucky as we found an amazing restaurant called Ktima Skreka very close to Mystras. This was one of the few restaurants in the small village of Pikoulianika since a long time, and currently is owned by the grandsons of the original owner. This was by far the best meal we had in the south peloponnese at very reasonable prices, and I really really wish we could go there more often! YUM!
Next day it was time to hit the road again – our next destination would be a beach called Finikounta, on the south of the left peninsula of the Peloponnese. But there were more ancient sites to visit, and it was Ancient Messini’s turn. This is another big site, and again we managed to arrive there in the afternoon, when the sun is hottest – we are actually very good at that!
The ruins in Ancient Messini date from around 5th – 2nd century BC, and within the settlement one can find sanctuaries, public buildings, fortifications, houses, tombs, a theatre and a huge and very well preserved stadium. It is quite possibly the worst sign-posted ancient site in Greece (I haven’t been to all of them yet though) and it is quite possible to completely miss the stadium which, in my opinion, was the most impressive structure. How can you miss a stadium? Go there and see what you think. The red arrow below points at myself sitting at the stadium!
Another thing I found impressive there was this plant. No, it’s not what it looks like.
So we drove down, on the east coast of the region of Messinia. We passed by a few nice areas, and ended up at Camping Thines, right on Finikounta beach. This is a well organised campsite, where a lot of families choose to go, and where the door closes at midnight. So our return at 23.30 wasn’t received with great enthusiasm by our French neighbours, who declared that “WE SLEEP”! Organised campsites like that are not really my thing, but this was was definitely good, and there was A LOT of space around tents – which you don’t always get in Greek campsites.
The next day was finally spent on the beach, doing pretty much nothing – for the most part I was dozing off and Dave was typing away on the tablet (nerd). Bliss!
In the next couple of days we managed to visit three castles – Koroni, Methoni and Pylos! If you are ever in the area but have limited time, I would probably suggest visiting Methoni, which is a real castle and very well preserved. Koroni has kept the castle structure and surprisingly people still live there, while Pylos castle is pretty big and imposing. Views from all of them were obviously very nice. If I was a queen (or a king!) I think I would have preferred to stay in Methoni castle, as the sandy beach next to it was really nice!
Though, to be fair, one of my favourite beaches and spots in the area is Tsapi beach. It takes a while to get there, but it’s super amazing – there’s a campsite (where I had the second best meal in the Peloponnese), a taverna, and an uncrowded beach with very clear water (at least when we were there).
Leaving Pylos, I realised that we didn’t have too many days left until I had to get back to Athens to go back to the office 😦 So I figured we’d find somewhere to stay close to the coast near Kyparissia, where I really wanted to spend a few hours. The highlight of our room stays in the Peloponnese was definitely Terpsi rooms, at the village of Terpsithea, where we had a huge room with complete kitchen and even washing machine at the extraordinary price of 30 euros / night! They were not right on the beach, but close enough to the beautiful beach of Elaia, a few kilometres away from Kyparissia.
This was a very quite spot, until a group of scouts appeared out of nowhere. Apparently, on this weekend there was a bit scout meeting from all around the Peloponnese! I hope they cleaned the beach afterwards, as I managed to collect a big bad of trash before they had even arrived. I wonder if we are ever going to get better at this???
Our next day was a bit of a weird day, as we visited three rather weird buildings. Dave wrote a very comprehensive post about it, but I could sum it up as a fairy-tale castle, the temple of Epicurius Apollo up in the middle of nowhere (which can be explained by the fact that Iktinos, the architect who is most famous for designing the Parthenon, was exiled in the area), and the church of Agia Foteini near Tripoli. I think this horse outside the fairy-tale castle really liked me!
To complete our day, we spent the night at the weirdest rooms for rent I have ever stayed in the past few years – not refurbished, but definitely with a character that reminded me of my grandma’s balcony back in the 80s. The owner was great though – and there was even a ping-pong table 🙂
Our last place to visit was Mycenae. To be honest, since ancient Greek buildings were never of great interest to me (this has started to change though… I guess I’m getting old!!!) I hadn’t quite understood what Ancient Mycenae was about – I thought that we would see some ancient tombs. However, this site, which is quite big, contains the remains of a castle and a city established in the 13th century BC. That is 800 years before the Acropolis and the Parthenon were built… I was most impressed by their underground cistern, to which entrance was unfortunately not allowed, though it used to be in the past. Why didn’t I just go in there? No clue!!!
And with this we took the way home. That was a lot of information to take in, even though I had been to most of these places before, and it left me a little tired… and looking forward to the next trip 🙂
Tips for the south Peloponnese in summer:
- Bring very light clothes. The Peloponnese is warmer than most of Greece.
- Don’t go to historical sites from 11.00 – 16.00. Many of them are open until 20.00 anyway.
- Go to the beach!
- Drink plenty of water!
- Drive, drive, drive – and try to come in a jeep if you can 🙂
A few numbers…
- Number of nights we stayed:16 (of which 9 in rooms and 7 in campsites)
- Number of kilometres travelled: 1920
- Money spent on gas: 197 (the Starlet Jeep is very efficient)
- Money spent on accommodation: 414 euro (where are the good old days of couchsurfing and free camping!)
- Money spent on food / drinks / ice cream: you don’t wanna know!