As I sit here writing this update my view is one that can only be described as one of stunning beauty. The golden sandy beach backed by the azure blue sea and the distant view of Zante in the background. Another bit of Peloponnese paradise. The only sounds are of the waves as they crash on the shore, but although the Peloponnese coast is beautiful and unspoilt we have also experienced history in abundance and amazing mountain scenery. I started my Greek blog some weeks ago by explaining that we had visited Greece on many occasions previously and this isn’t a lie, however in our motorhome we have not only visited Greece we have experienced it. Greece has given us lots of simple pleasures, seeing a young girl herding goats in the Louisos gorge, going back in time to the birthplace of the Olympic games, watching villagers while away hour after hour in local cafes sipping dark rich coffee, becoming part of the natural generosity of Greek people as they share gifts of fresh produce, turning a corner and to jaw dropping coastal views , watching eagles sour above us as we drive through mountain passes, feeding the numerous stray dogs we have befriended along the way, seeing wild tortoise whilst out hiking all of these have made this a truly unforgettable adventure.
Really though if we wrote about every beautiful beach or mesmerising sunset we really would bore you all silly as there have been so many, so below you will find a few of our highlights from the last few weeks:
The Diros Caves
Normally I’d groan at the thought of visiting caves, but we’d heard good things about the caves of Diros so thought we take a look. A small boat takes you around the part of the caves that’s open to the public and they really are spectacular. The magic of the colour, and the beautiful shapes, formed by the stalactites and stalagmites makes a unique spectacle. I read somewhere that the total length of the caves is over 14 km’s – that’s some distance. We stayed just the other side of the caves on a beach front (GPS 36.640147 22.382931) within walking distance, a lovely secluded spot which would have been perfect in good weather, but it was stormy and overcast so probably perfect for a cave visit but not for hanging around a beach . Other than campsites this is the first place we have really seen a gathering of other motorhomes 11 in total including a converted Dutch fire engine.
Cool camper conversion
If you only visit one region of the Peloponnese make it the Mani steeped in history this previously feuding region with its unique tower houses is wild, rugged and unspoilt. The narrow winding roads lead to small sparsely populated villages and cliff top views to secluded bays with clear aqua waters. Our own little paradise overnight stopover was at the delightful bay Porto Kagio (GPS 36.428206 22.486936) which has just a handful of restaurants set around a small sheltered bay. The views from the top are truly spectacular and another tiny piece of my heart was left behind at this delightful destination. Arriving early we were fortunate to get one of the limited spaces on a parking area owned by one of the restaurants who welcomed us to park there without charge and even have use of their sunbeds on the beach. We repaid them by taking lunch at the restaurant of freshly cooked sardines coupled with a Greek salad and washed down with an ice cold beer – delicious! The bay is located just 3 miles from Tainaro cape the Southernmost point of mainland Greece and Europe. We’d planned to stay for a couple of days in our peaceful haven, but the weather had other ideas and a storm and heavy rain arrived overnight. With nothing to do but walks and the beach we decided to at least drive to Tainaro Cape to take a look, in hope that the weather would abate, however as the rain got heavier we simply glanced at the tip from our window and put it on the “To Do” list for next time.
As we have made our way around the Peloponnese we have been surprised that the majority of it has not been affected by tourism, the region is truly special and right now we get to enjoy it unspoilt. We wanted to take a look at Stoupa which is one of the only draws for British package tourists who fly into the nearby Kalamata military airport. We opted to stay at the small village of Agious Nikolias (GPS 36.822739 22.283513) around a 40 minute coastal walk away. Although now bowing a little to the tourists that do make it to this region the village is still very charming. The local fisherman can be seen for a couple of hours in the early morning leaving the sanctuary of the perfect harbour in their boats, returning in time to sell their catch at the little market slab by the harbour wall. By midday they are spread along the prom like sparrows on a wire, arguing and drinking coffee before the hour of the siesta.
In the evening they’re back but this time spruced up (a clean T-shirt, perhaps) and their seats along the prom have been taken by tourists, to whom they serve the fish they caught that morning, cooked by their wives.
It’s a simple routine that’s been at the heart of Greek tourism for decades.
There’s something unique and timeless about Greek tourism, and it’s not surprising that the country’s economic situation has virtually no impact here. In neighbouring Stoupa, you can clearly see the local businesses making the most of the tourists that arrive.
In other areas of the Mediterranean tourism has been turned over to big business which has struggled with economic difficulties and employment legislation, however here the restaurants, hotels and accommodation are all run by local families giving it something extra special.
After 3 nights at Ag Nik we dragged ourselves away and headed just along the coast to Kardamyli noted to be one of the prettiest villages in the Peloponnese and who are we to argue. We squeezed Boris down a single track lane to a small spot right next to a tiny beach and harbour (GPS 36.883205 22.234391), although the village boasts a huge crescent shaped beach at the other end which attracted several other motorhomes there were no motorhome signs there though so we decided not to risk it. The quaint village contains enough shops, restaurants and bars to give visitors a good choice and carries a certain charm that would bring us back another time.
Our plan a few weeks ago had been to leave the final finger of the Peloponnese for a future visit however an issue with the electrics on my bike changed that. After heavy rain the control panel had stopped working and we needed to get a replacement shipped over. After a bit of toing and froing we decided on a campsite about an hour away from Patras giving us easy access to the bridge back to the mainland, but before we made our way there after several weeks at the coast we were feeling the pull of the mountains and headed inland to Louisos gorge. Dotted with monasteries and an array of quaint hilltop villages (which made for interesting driving in a large vehicle) the gorge attracts some serious hikers. We chose to stop just before the village of Dimitsana (GPS 37.591555 22.042876), where you can easily access the gorge on foot. The village square has a detailed plan of various trails throughout the gorge depending on your level of fitness. We opted for a shorter 6km walk as the weather forecast was not favourable and despite getting up and out by 8am we only just made it back in time before the heavens opened. Our visit was therefore a little hampered by the weather and instead of long hikes our afternoon was spent going stir crazy inside Boris!
Our route down took us to the site of Ancient Olympia. Having been fortunate enough to be at the 2012 Olympic games in London we simply couldn’t miss seeing where it all began. The first ancient Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC. They were dedicated to the Olympian gods and were staged at this site. They continued for nearly 12 centuries, until Emperor Theodosius decreed in 393 A.D. that all such “pagan cults” be banned. Olympia functioned as a meeting place for worship and other religious and political practices as early as the 10th century B.C. The central part of Olympia was dominated by the majestic temple of Zeus, with the temple of Hera parallel to it. All free male Greek citizens were entitled to participate in the ancient Olympic Games, regardless of their social status. Although the ancient Games were staged in Olympia from 776 BC through 393 AD, it took 1503 years for the Olympics to return. The first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896. Top Tip: If visiting ensure you visit the history museum before the archaeological site as this puts it all in perspective
Other than the campsite to collect our parcel from the UK Katakolo harbour was to be our last stop on the beautiful Peloponnese before making our way back up the east coast in the general direction of Bulgaria. Our parking was in a large area in front of the harbour which provided facilities all for €5 a night (GPS 37.648307 21.317958). The harbour not only houses small craft that are sailing around the Greek isles it’s also home to the huge cruise liners that dock here for guests to take in the nearby sights. We saw 5 of these moor up over the two days we were here. The small seaside town caters therefore for the huge number of tourists that disembark these huge vessels with numerous shops selling souvenirs. Prices here reflect this as we found out when we stopped off for a beer each and got a bill for 11€!
Being parked just beside the sailing boats led us to get chatting with a couple Jackie and Bruce originally from South Africa but living in Britain for over 15 years. It was great to hear their story of how they came to be sailing the Greek isles. Bruce having been a fisherman for many years was used to the sea, but had never sailed before they bought their boat and embarked on this trip. He took his qualifications and off they went and they have now been sailing around Greece for the last 2 ½ years. Jackie admitted to being a fair weather sailor and why not when you have the choice!
Bruce & Jackie
So for now we have to say our goodbyes to the Peloponnese region as we continue our travels onwards slowly making our way to Bulgaria. Greece and particularly this unspoilt area has captured our hearts so we know our farewells will not be forever.
More travels from Greece coming soon
Love Andi & Paul