Greece 2015 – Pilos, Methoni, and Koroni

Methoni, Greece

The day was far from over when we left the wonderful Polilimnio Waterfalls. We drove straight west until we reached the coast and the town of Pilos. In Pilos we parked our car at the pier and walked around the central square to finally get a coffee and some ice cream. With its central square and the small restaurants surrounding it, Pilos is the kind of town I think of whenever I remember our vacations in Greece when I was a child.

Pylos, Greece

After Pilos we drove to Methoni, a sleepy tiny town with a formidable citadel. We parked the car somewhere near the entrance of the citadel and started strolling around its huge defensive walls. After a few hundred meters we were almost ready to turn around and go back when we came upon the most serene beach we had seen in Greece. Although we had done plenty of swimming already that day it only took us a few minutes to get back to the car and get changed again. The beach was wide and very shallow, so one could just walk for hundreds of meters while still being able to reach the ground.

Methoni, Greece
Pylos, Greece

The last stop that day was the tiny town of Koroni. It might not have been much smaller than Methoni, but the street to the harbor was a lot more narrow and went straight through the central square in Koroni. There is really not much more to say on Koroni or the other places. We drove back to Kalamata for our last night before leaving for Nafplio.

Methoni, Greece

Greece 2015 – Polilimnio Waterfalls

Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece

On our second day in Kalamata we went on a daylong road-trip around the western tip of the Messenian Gulf. The main reason we drove straight west was a tip from the receptionist in Katakolo. He had prepared a small annotated map of his favourite spots on the Peloponnese. One thing he repeatedly told us what the absolute had to visit Polilimnio Waterfalls, the highlight and an absolute must-see on our trip. Although he had warned us that getting there would take a fair amount of hiking, the photos and the remoteness of the waterfalls meant we had already made our decision.

Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece

To get to Polilimnio we had to drive through two small villages and follow local signs. The latter part of the road was rough gravel, but there was enough traffic that we were confident to be heading the right way. We had to park the car eventually and make our way downhill by foot.

The Polilimnio Waterfalls are a series of small lagoons fed by a mountain creek. The valley is just a few meters wide in some spots, quite steep in other places and in general densely vegetated. When we came upon the trail we decided to hike downhill first, not knowing where we’d find the bigger lagoons. After about half an hour of hiking and climbing down slippery rocks and iron rungs we had arrived at the lowest lagoon. With just a few square meters of even surface, we stripped down to our swimming suits and jumped into the lagoon. The water was ice cold and completely pure, shimmering turquoise intensely.

Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece

After the lowest lagoon we had to hike back up, happy that the whole path was covered in shade. We passed a number of lagoons on our way up, stopping at a smaller one to swim and have some lunch. By now we had figured out that the biggest lagoon was still ahead, so we continued uphill. In this narrow valley we weren’t alone at any point in time, there were Greek and other tourists of all sorts and ages. Having climbed some particular rough terrain, we finally arrived at the biggest lagoon, called “Kadi Lake”. It wasn’t only the biggest lake but also the one with the most spectacular waterfall, good rocks to dive off of and enough space for a few people to enjoy it at the same time. Used to the cold water by now, we immediately stripped down and dove into the water. It was even possible to swim below the waterfall and feel the force of the water coming straight down. When we were done swimming and taking in the breathtaking view, we headed back to the parking lot, which took us quite a while. For the rest of day we had planned to visit some small cities along the coast.

Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece
Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece
Polilimnio Waterfalls, Haravgi, Greece

Greece 2015 – Kalamata

Our next stop after Katakolo was Kalamata, the second most populous city of the Peloponnese. We hadn’t been able to find a hotel quite as nice as in the other cities, but at least it was right at the long waterfront promenade.

Kalamata, Greece

We noticed that Kalamata is probably not a prime destination for international tourists right when we arrived. We parked our car in front of the hotel. The building next to it was unfinished concrete, like one is used to seeing in certain parts of Greece. The hotel itself was OK, but a little dated. At the least we had a grand view from our balcony, see the photo below.

Kalamata, Greece

On day one, we walked into the center of Kalamata by way of a small footpath along a park which had been created in place of the old rail lines. The park, like the hotel, was OK, but neglected, and that was a feeling we had repeatedly in the small streets of Kalamata. Again, this is only the tourist in me speaking as I’m sure that Kalamata is a happening place to be for Greeks, not just because of the nightlife and beaches.

Kalamata, Greece
Kalamata, Greece Kalamata, Greece

Near the center of Kalamata, we went up to Kalamata Castle, located on a steep hill and overlooking both city and bay in all directions. The view was nice, but we had the strange feeling of being the only tourists in the whole city on that day. I took a lot of photos of derelict buildings which looked like they had seen better times. We also found a sublime place to eat on that first night, dining at a small Greek restaurant without a written menu in one of the roads branching of from the beach promenade. There is not terribly much else to say about Kalamata, so I’ll leave it at that. The next day we went on a tour which was pretty much the highlight of our whole vacation, which is why I’m dedicating a separate post to that.

Kalamata, Greece
Kalamata, Greece Kalamata, Greece

Greece 2015 – Katakolo & Olympia

Katakolo, Greece

From Galaxidi we crossed the mighty Rio-Antirrio bridge which connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese peninsula. We drove right past Patras as we were headed to the tiny village of Katakolo, some 120 kilometers away. While this might seem like a short distance, the small inland roads and reckless driving of some people made it an interesting journey.

Our hotel in Katakolo was located on the hill behind the village. To get there we had to drive through the centre of the village, which is basically just one stretch of road past. In the US it would be called “Main Street”, in Katakolo this was basically the only street. It was a little after noon when we drove through the village and we were surprised to see hundreds of tourists browsing the shops and strolling down the street. At the far end we saw the reason for the disproportionate amount of tourists compared to the size of the Katakolo. There, in the harbour, a huge cruise ship was anchored, just a minute walk from the shops and restaurants.

Katakolo, Greece

The hotel was everything we had hoped for. It was quite new, stylishly furnished and almost completely empty. From our balcony we could see the whole bay and the harbour and watch the constant stream of people from the cruise ship. That afternoon, the cruise ship left the harbour, and the village of Katakolo basically came to a halt. All the shops closed, main street stood empty and at the restaurants, the proprietors were the only other customers. We had been told to expect that.

Katakolo, Greece

The next day we drove to ancient Olympia, which was just a 30 minute drive and the main reason we had stayed in Katakolo in the first place. The historic site of ancient Olympia is a lot bigger than I had remembered it to be. This didn’t help since the sun that day was quickly becoming unbearable, so much that we’d basically only stop walking once we had reached the next shady spot beneath a large tree. Next to the entrance of the site, we saw archeological tents and people excavating what looked like a large courtyard. Even with the large area already discovered, they are still make new discoveries every day, something I found inspiring.

Olympia, Greece
Olympia, Greece Olympia, Greece
Olympia, Greece

The rest of the site was impressive yet a little monotone. Olypmia is probably the worst example of ancient Greek sites with fields of columns and blocks of concrete stone lying around with no apparent structure. Landmarks like the stadium and some of the buildings were easy to recognise, but between them, fields of square rocks were the norm. It was still an interesting visit and another must-see. Just a short walk from the archeological site, we visited the museum. It housed all of the smaller discoveries, like pottery, weaponry, bust, and statues. Here, the amount of items was simply overwhelming, though they were presented in a modern and well organised way. The village of Olympia was a little touristy, but still very laid back and nice enough for us to get some proper Greek sweets.

Katakolo, Greece

Back at our hotel we stopped at the reception to talk with the receptionist. He was a young Greek who was very enthusiastic about his job and in love with his country. We would chat with him whenever we got back from the beach or the village, and he’d have many ideas on what we should do and where we should go. The last time we saw him he gave us a map he had annotated with directions and photos of a place we should definitely visit on our next leg. We were grateful and also a little impressed that he had used his free time to compile this mini guide just for us. A few days later we’d go there as well.

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