If you travel all the way down to the western tip of the Greek mainland, you’ll find rolling hills, well-tended fields, sandy beaches, tiny harbors, and ancient towns. This is a quiet region, but a beautiful one, and it’s surprising that more tourists don’t come to visit. For it’s here that you’ll find both Methoni, the last of the seven cities that Agamemnon surrendered to pacify Achilles, and Pylos, home to wise King Nestor. Each has its own charm, and here’s what you might want to see and do if you pay a visit.
The best known feature of this small town has to be Methoni Castle.
Most of the work on this imposing structure was completed by the Venetians between the 13th and 15th centuries, but the Ottomans and the French also had their hands in its development (the French helped with some subsequent destruction as well). The most-photographed element has to be the early 16th century Bourtzi, or prison tower.
There’s a lot to see here, including entry gates, a 14-arch bridge, old churches, Ottoman baths, and a somewhat random granite column that marked the central square.
If you go, it’s worth knowing in advance that there’s not much signage here, and the signs that do exist will tell you more about reconstruction efforts than what you’re actually seeing. So you need to be prepared for some head scratching. Also, there’s a lot to see and a good deal of ground to cover — so make sure to give yourself at least an hour or two (my sister and I found ourselves with only half an hour and ended up doing a lot of running).
For a cooldown, just around the corner lies long, sandy Methoni Beach. The water is shallow and the waves are gentle.
If you’re hungry, I would highly recommend lunch or dinner at Camping Methoni. We were dubious about the notion of eating at a campground, but it turns out that there’s a lovely outdoor area that overlooks the beach and the castle walls. Both the stuffed tomatoes and the dakos were excellent — and they gave us tiny popsicles to round out the meal, which we always appreciate.
Twice the size of Methoni, Pylos feels like the perfect seaside town. We found it entirely charming; the people were warm, the food was excellent, and there were enough things for tourists to do without the town feeling touristy. We whiled away several hours drinking excellent wine and fresh orange juice at Portes Cafe under the plane trees in the enormous central square. We also went shopping and would recommend both Aerides (run by the helpful and gregarious Constantinos Diamandis) for handmade jewelry and Spyropoulou Maria for linens of all kinds.
Pylos has a castle all its own, which is reported to be smaller but in better shape than the one at Methoni — but we learned the hard way that the castle is closed on Tuesdays, so we were not able to visit (despite my sister’s efforts at pushing the doors down).
It’s worth taking a walk down to the port …
… and wandering along the water to this house, which was the birthplace of the Olympic winner of the standing high jump in 1912 (I like that it’s both a beautiful building and an entirely unexpected commemoration).
Just north of Pylos, around a few corners and then at the end of a dusty dirt road, lies picture-perfect Voidokilia Beach.
We had an incredibly windy day there (which doesn’t seem all that uncommon), but we enjoyed walking up in the dunes and looking out at the nature reserve in one direction …
… and the wild ocean in the other.
As a side note, we made a brief stop in Gialova (which lies between Pylos and Voidokilia Beach), but we would not recommend it — the town felt like an eerily Disney-fied version of Greece.
We would suggest a stop at the medieval aqueduct of Pylos, which was constructed by the Ottomans and consists of 63 brick and stone arches.
And if you can drive up on the roads just above the town, you’ll be rewarded with great views.
For dinner, we enjoyed amazing fish at Four Seasons. The service was slow, but it was a wonderful place to watch the sun set.
We loved Pylos and would happily return!