Drive through the green valleys of Messinia
Messinia will get you surprised and amazed by its beauty. Green valleys, mountains and steep cloves are interspersed by olive groves and white sandy beaches. Culture and nature lovers come here to enjoy the outdoors. The beauty of this part of Greece is overwhelming. The cradle of civilization of Greece and a treat for the eye. Enjoy the peace and go back into the rough nature. It makes this area of Peloponnese in Greece well worth a trip.
Messinia lies in the south-west corner of Peloponesse and is relatively unknown by travellers. It is still an unspoiled part of the Greece mainland. It is situated by the Ionion sea. The capital Kalamata, which we already covered in our previous blog, is also the main port of the Messinia region and the biggest city in the area. This region is known for its agriculture and famous for the delicious black Kalamata olives. The cuisine is still very traditional and full of fresh and local ingredients.
Following in the footsteps of the blogger and traveller Pausanias of the ancient times, we will take you on our trip trough Peloponnesos. Pausanias was a Greek traveller in the second century AD who travelled in the Mediterranean. He is famous for his ‘Description of Greece’ books. An excellent resemblance of the travellers nowadays.
Rough Nature and Mountains
The Messina area is a rich region full of abundance nature. The scenery is dominated by the Taygetos mountains. They are lovingly referred to as the rooftop of Peloposesos. Rough hills and green valleys alternate under the hot Greek sun. It gives the landscape its rough edges. These mountains are formed by the erosion of wind and water. There are five tops, also called fingers. The highest one, the Profitis Ilias, is 2404m tall. There is even some snow on it throughout the year. Not something you would expect to see when travelling in the Mediterranian.
These mountains dominate the skyline of cities of Kalamata and Sparti and have been desired by people for many years. The rugged mountain tops dominate the landscape and are an excellent place for hiking , tracking or rock climbing. Many routes are easy to access as they have mapped out hiking trails.
The nature in this area is overwhelming. So much beauty in one place surely is a treat for the eye. We can imagine that in the ancient days many of the first cities in Greece were established here. An oasis between the mountains full of green pine trees, fruit and olive trees. Water rippling through the valley and flowers in all kinds of colours. We spotted many birds along with our trip including a Falcon that was scouting the area. There are around 85 of different birds that you can spot including many different kinds of Falcons and Eagles (including Eleonora’s falcon). The region holds also wolfs, foxes (which we also spotted) and many different kinds of other small animal species.
Peloponnese is a great destination for wine lovers. If you take an offside route through the mountains you will find lots of vineyards from local residents. The history of winemaking goes back easily 4000 years ago. Homer refers to Peloponnese in his writings as the area full of wine. From young fresh mineral white wines to rich aged red wines. We can truly say that every ‘simple’ house wine that we tasted was of high-class quality and very tasteful. Served in 0.5L carafe for 2,50 EUR, a real bargain.
Messinia is also a perfect destination for culture and history. The same goes for the whole of Peloponnesos. Olympia is one of the main tourist attraction. Olympia is known for the originate of the Olympic games and is located on the town of Elis. The archaeological site held over 70 buildings and many of these ruins survived. Despite the name, it is nowhere near Mount Olympus.
Are you looking for Castles? There are some impressive ones in Koroni, Pylos and Kalamata. The most famous is the iconic Methoni Castel. Lying in the sea looking over the bay an ideal spot for photography.
As there is so much to see in Messinia we decided to go for a relatively unknown cultural sight. We visited the area of Ancient Messina.
A must-do is a trip to the ancient Messinia located in the green valley between the mountains. After we climbed the hills by car we spotted the oases where the remains of the Ancient Messinia lies. The site is not that crowded as it is relatively unknown, but no less imposing. Actually, it is one of the most impressive sites we visited over the years, in size as in the state of preservation.
This ancient city, built-in 369 BC, lies in a green valley of Messinia and is so well preserved as it was never demolished or built over. It was built by general Epaminondas after the victory of the Spartans who ruled the Messinians for over 350 years. The massive wall of 9km long would have protected the city from outside threats and is still visible for the public.
The remains of ancient Messinia are beautifully preserved and restored. As you will enter the site the first thing you will see are the partly intact city walls. Next to these walls is the theatre and the fountain which supplied the city with water.
Along the road, you will see the Agora, a bathhouse, a Doric temple and the treasury. In the middle of the city lies the Sanctuary of Asclepius, known for its spiritual purpose. The most impressive part is at the end of the site. An impressive stadion and Gymnasium wich were used for sports.
The site is still under the hands of archaeologist and will only be more impressive as times goes by. A must-do when you are in the area and well worth the trip.
Anchient Messina – Ticket 12 EUR – open from 08:00 – till 19:00
Travel Tip: On the hills of the Moutain lies a small village of Mavromati. The restaurant here has an amazing view of the Ancient site. A wonderful place to stop for lunch before or after you enter the site.
Waterfalls of Messina
Messinia holds many nature parks and beautiful waterfalls. This makes the land fertile and green. There are many beautiful waterfalls and nature parks in the area that you can visit. The Neda waterfalls at Kyparissia, for example, are one of the most popular in this area. We decided to go for a little gem called the Waterfalls of Polilimnio.
We found this hidden gem at Instagram, yes the travel tour guide of these days. To get to the waterfalls of Polilimnio you will drive through rough terrain to get to the parking lot. From here it is a small walk to the park.
Polilimnio means multiple lakes and that’s not a lie. There are over 15 small and large shiny blue lakes, small and bigger waterfalls in the beautiful scenery. The park is excisable at own risk and hiking shoes will get you a long way as this park. In the gap between the mountains, you will find one of the most enchanting places on earth.
You will feel like walking into the untouched nature. Not too crowded with tourist. Beautiful little streams of water whispering trough the crevices, coming together in the aqua blue lakes. Flowers growing between the greens , tiny frogs jumping in front of you and birds flying over. You can take a cooling swim in one of these lakes but beware of the (icy) cold water.
Waterfalls of Polilimnio – No entrance fee – Open from sunset till sundown.
Don’t forget to take home some of the local products. Off course Olive oil as it is one of the best in the world. But also local Honey that can be bought from locals all over the area. Herbs and especially oregano are always a good idea to price your cooking at home with some Greek love. And finally some bottles of local wine. The young local biological wines are sold in light weight bottles. Perfect to take away some bottles on your flight home.
Messinia is a real lush region and a perfect destination for active travellers. Combined with the many cultural sights it makes an ideal destination for a road trip.
Next blog we will go more into detail on other ancient sights of Peloponese and the pitoresque town of Nafpio.
Until next week. Lots of Love from Angelique and Carlo.
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