• Marion Mueller

Greece Part 1 – Touring through the stunning southern Peloponnese / Gytheio and around


Intro

Greece has some very well-known touristic hubs as the busy islands of Mykonos, Santorin, Crete or Rhodes. However, for this trip I wanted to be away from the crowds in order to explore a more authentic part of Greece. Therefore, some of my Greek friends recommended me a trip to the Peloponnese peninsula.


Located in the southernmost part of mainland Greece it seemed to be the perfect place for a trip away from mass tourism. And yes, I already have to say that this part of Greece ticked all my expectations, even exceeded them.


We spent two amazing weeks among locals, experienced a beautiful unspoilt nature, enjoyed the sun on white and empty beaches and we had swims in crystal clear waters. And of course, we enjoyed the outstanding Greek cuisine with the freshest ingredients that land and sea had to offer. We wandered through ancient stone towns, explored the picturesque mountain region and made local friends.


The Peloponnese is actually a hidden gem that I can highly recommend for your next vacation. Although I am not sure if I should do so – better not to attract too much attention to this stunning place to keep its magic also for the coming years 😜😜

How to reach

Main entry gate to the peninsula is via the international airport of Kalamata. Well, it´s international because there are direct flight connections from various European airports, however the airport of Kalamata is still small and seems like you are traveling back in time. Big advantage of a small airports like that – distances are short, procedures quick so you will find yourself in no time outside and ready for your exploration trip.


Other alternative would be to travel through Athens as the Peloponnese peninsula is connected with the mainland through a land bridge crossing the canal of Corinth. This would be a nice option for a longer road trip and a combination with a couple of days in Athens.


How to book

It would be easy for this trip to book flights, rent a car and hotel direct or through various online websites.


However if you like to have an all-inclusive-good-care-package by real touristic professionals and your are based in Germany, I can highly recommend you to book your trip through below agency:


TDS Reisen www.tdsreisen.de


The owner is Greek himself as well as the other members of his team. They know all regions in Greece plus the hotels that they are selling personally. You are in best hands!


Where to stay

Above mentioned agency booked us in a very authentic bungalow hotel close to the small town of Gytheio, Cavo Grosso Hotel (www.cavogrosso.com/en/). The local owner family was super friendly. We felt very welcomed and like at home.

The bungalows are built with the traditional dark stones of this region (not the Greek cliché of white and blue) and are spread throughout a beautiful garden terrain. All is up hill, so you will have wonderful views over the sea and the mountains around. Inclusive of some sportive exercise when you walk down the steep road to the beach an up again – no pain, no gain.

Each bungalow has its separate and secluded garden/terrace area. Bungalows from inside are simple, but very spacious and clean.


Best was however the breakfast terrace and its stunning view. During our stay we were almost the only guests and therefore the breakfast buffet was not available – however much better the nice owner prepared every day a super fresh breakfast just for us. Included were local specialties as freshly made pita bread.

The public beach is in walking distance (Mavrovouni Beach) – just a view minutes down that already mentioned steep, but short road (I almost killed the gear of our rented car on my first approach to the hotel on that road🙈🙈).

For the beach you can either bring your own stuff or you can use the umbrellas and sunbed of a nearby hotel. This is free of charge, just some consumption from the bar is required. Along the sandy beach road, you can find various places like that plus additional restaurants and bars for a lunch.


In the evening some nice local restaurants are in walking distance like the excellent Taverna Synantisi, where you will eat among locals.

Otherwise, it is just a short car ride to the charming fishing village of Gytheio.


Gytheio

All the village life of Gytheio is concentrated around the harbour basin and along the sea road.

Here you can find a number of excellent fish restaurants like H Tpata, 90 Moires (www.facebook.com/90Moires) or Saga Restaurant (www.saga-fish-restaurant.business.site). Afterwards don´t miss a drink in the cute Il Porto Bar in the Old Town or a more sophisticated drink at the stylish rooftop bar @ the Las Hotel (www.lashotel.gr).


What to do and see

During our stay in Gytheio we did two very nice excursions by car.


1. Exploring the wild nature of the Mani Peninsula

On this trip you will drive through an extreme barren, but fascinating landscape. With its medieval fortress villages this part of Greece feels like out of another time. And while exploring some of the remotest corners of the Peninsula you will literally feel like at the end of the world, in fact it is however just the end of the Balkan Peninsula 😉


Our first stop was the bay of Pirgos Dirou, where you can depart for a tour through the underworld.


You will explore parts of a huge flowstone cave, Vlichada Cave (www.diros-caves.gr). Unfortunately, at the time of our visit we couldn´t take the highly recommended boat ride through the caves due to some maintenance work. Nevertheless the walking trail was already very impressive. The trail is in good condition and in most of the parts the cave is wide open. However obviously it is nothing for people with claustrophobia and proper sport shoes are necessary due to the wet ground.


Next stop was the majestic town of Vathia. A couple of massive medieval living towers made out of stone are rising high up on a rock. In ancient times the inhabitants were shooting each other out of the towers. Not a very friendly neighbourhood – the whole village appears like a fortress. Unfortunately none of the towers can be visited from inside.

Afterwards we continued our drive through the vast landscape and stone villages until we reached the southern end of the Peninsula. If you want, you can drive until the end of the road and set off for a walk until the lighthouse of Cape Tenaro (approximately one hour to reach). As it was too hot for a walk we opted for the beach and spent a couple of hours at the sandy beach of the Marmari Paradise Hotel (www.marmariparadise.com).

We then followed the ring road to the other coast of the Mani Peninsula for our drive back to Gytheio. Below are some road impressions.

In general the drive around the Mani can easily be done by any car, no 4x4 is required. Roads are all in a fairly good condition, however sometimes narrow and with many curves.


2. From a paradise beach to a picturesque town

On another day we left Gytheio to the opposite direction and were first passing by the rusty wrack of the sunken freight ship Dimitros.

Our first destination of the day was the paradise-like Simos beach. This picturesque stretch of sand counts to one of the best beaches in whole Greece and attracts beach-goers as well as yacht owners alike. Located on Elafonissos island you first have to catch the ferry boat (approx. every 50 minutes) in order to cross the 1 km wide inlet.

A warning to the drivers among you – you have to enter the ferry reverse under the critical eyes and the military like demands of the ferry staff. Proudly, I have to say that I was the only female driver and I could see in the eyes of the ferrymen that they thought I would fail. But guys you were so wrong!!! I mastered it without any hesitation and problems, actually better than most of my surrounding male fellow drivers 😜


From the ferry point on Elafonissos it is just a 4 km ride to reach the parking area of Simos beach (there is also a public bus). From there it is a short walk through some pretty nice dunes until you reach the jaw dropping beach.

It is really so extremely beautiful….white sand, turquoise and shallow water… a dream beach that I usually would expect somewhere in the Caribbean, but not in Greece. Sunbeds and umbrellas can be rented and also food and drinks are available in some parts.


After our island excursion we set over back to the mainland and took a drive across the mountains to the unique village of Monemvassia, which is really worth seeing. The Old Town is located on an island rock (1700 m long and 300 m wide), however it is connected by bridge to the mainland and new town. So it can be easily accessed. However you can only drive until the massive old city gate – the rest of the city is car-free.

Monemvassia seems like out of a film set – ancient city walls, a fortress, medieval stone houses, narrow alleys and shady plazas. In the lower part of the city most of the houses have been transferred into stylish Boutique Hotels like for example Hotel Malvasia (www.malvasiahotel-traditional.gr/en/), trendy bars like Enetiko (www.enetiko.olympicbiz.com), modern restaurants like Matoula, boutiques and galleries. The jet-set from Athens has lately discovered this otherwise peaceful little town.

The upper town can only be reached by a steep and winding road. On top you will find the Agia Sofia church plus the Turkish castle – however the best is the view around (due to a lack of time I didn´t make it up there)

We regretted that we couldn´t spend a whole night in this magic place, but after dinner we had to return to Gytheio.


This was the first part of my trip to Peloponnese. Check out my next Blog, where we changed the hotel to a place north of Kalamata. Another very beautiful part of this stunning Greek region.


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