ITIKI is going to take us anti-clockwise around the Peloponnese Peninsula (PP), the 3 fingers that protrude south easterly at the very bottom of the Greek mainland. We cross back to the mainland leaving the Ionian crowds behind. Hopefully we will be back this way again when things are a bit quieter. Our next destination is Katakolon which is a very touristy town, hosting reasonable sized cruise ships who like us, use this as a gateway to visit the Archaeological site of Olympia. We tie up on the town quay for a couple of nights and hire a car to visit Olympia. This is truly an amazing site where the Pan-Hellenic, pre-cursor to the Ancient Olympic games, are said to have originated. Olympia was a major religious sanctuary of ancient Greece. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and the ruins of a large Temple of Zeus can still be seen here, not far from the 100m running track... The Pan-Hellenic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. The site itself is quite large and the museum holds some amazing bronze age artefacts so is also well worth a visit.
We head further south to our next stop, Pylos. The entrance to this huge and sheltered bay is quite spectacular. Guarded by a rock formation with caves and a lighthouse at the top. Across the bay we can see a fortress which we visit the next day. Quite an impressive fortification, church and archaeological museums here and the town is lovely too. We anchor in the far north of the bay away from the town. Across the spit there a large lagoon, home to prolific birdlife. Also here we find the most spectacular fan-shaped sandy bay with crystal clear water called Voidokillia. What a hidden gem! We take the RIB around the headland to visit rather than walking across, but it is a bit bouncy! Perhaps the walk over the spit would have been wiser and there are caves and castle ruins to visit on the way, if it is not too hot.
Closed on a Tuesday
The bay of Methoni is next on the Tour de Peloponnese. The north entrance of the bay is guarded by an Ottoman fort with a Venetian castle right on the end of the point (why not?). We paddle around the bay and check it out from the outside. Can’t quite fit under the bridge though. Here we also catch up with Rex and Cathy from (SY Ole), seasoned Med sailors that we met over the Southern summer at Airlie beach. Great to spend some time with them swapping stories. They are on their way north as they head out of the Med to cross the Atlantic later this year. Unfortunately we left our land-based visit to Methoni castle until Tuesday morning when sadly it is closed! Oh well, I guess there will be other ruined castles to visit along our travels.
Below: External views of Methoni Castle
Definitely Do Diros!
When it comes to limestone caves we have all seen our fair share of them, so we are not usually in a rush to visit these. They have to be pretty good to impress us cynics and fair to say that the caves at Diros were really something special and spectacular indeed. Rather than your usual self-guided walk through up and down stairs and in and out of stalagmites and stalactites, these caves are visited by boat. The underground and underwater caves run for several kms and the trip in a little wooden dinghy takes us through 1.5kms of the system. We regularly find ourselves having to duck and weave under low hanging stalactites as our helmsman pushes us along at quite a quick pace. I can’t imagine what it is like after a heavy rain (and I try not to think about the Thai soccer team…) A very different way to experience limestone caves, including the glamorous orange “Mae Wests”.
The good, the bad and the ugly
After the caves we stopped in a lovely looking bay called Kayio, we fancied a meal ashore but unfortunately picked the worst restaurant ever! The anchorage was also quite a rolly one so despite it being a lovely, quiet place it was not the best experience. But the good news is, if we dont like a place, we just up anchor and move!
Below: A few shots of Kayio
Another beautiful beach
Our last stop before we enter the Aegean, is the beautiful island of Elafonisos. This sits just to the west of the last of the 3 fingers of the PP. Here we find two wonderful sandy bays with crystal clear water separated by a small sand-spit and prominent rocky headland. There is a small, simple and isolated beach resort with nothing else around. We drop anchor here for a few days and enjoy swimming, paddling and walking on the beach. The colour of the water is truly amazing
My, my is that Monemvasia?
Finally it is time to enter the Aegean, which at this time of year is known for its strong northerly winds aka The Meltemi. More on that in the next post… Our final stop on the PP is a lovely town called Monemvasia. The old town looks like it is carved into the side of a hill on a rocky outcrop separated from the mainland by a short spit. We anchor to the north of the spit and get our first taste of the catabatic winds this area is famous for, with strong westerly gusts coming over the steep hills of the mainland. Dinner ashore at a lovely restaurant called Skorpios which restores our faith in Greek cuisine and hospitality. The next morning we visit the old town, heading along the edge of the hill and straight up to the archaeological site at the clifftops. Here there is a beautiful church perched on the side of the cliff overlooking our northern anchorage. We explore the ruins of this old citadel before heading downhill to wander around the lower town. This lower part is still a thriving village with quaint and well kept houses, hotels, restaurants and small shops.
That westerly wind has tempted us to head north in the afternoon, in anticipation of a fast reach and to catch up with some Sydney friends (Soni and Martin on SY Reflexion) who are also sailing this area. Stay tuned for our journey across the Cyclades as ITIKI’s Greek Odyssey continues!
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.