Why Kalamata is Greece’s best-kept secret
With a history to rival the Greek capital, sun from February through to November, a bounty of beaches and top-notch regional cuisine, isn’t it time you explored Kalamata?
Endless sunshine, dreamy hidden beaches, long lazy lunches accompanied by a carafe of wine, happening upon ancient ruins and mediaeval fortresses while out exploring – Greece and its 6,000 islands are loved for all these things. But how about all of that, but with fewer crowds? Kalamata in Messenia – on Greece’s southern peninsula – and the rest of the Peloponnese are still fairly unknown to travellers. Find out why you should add the region to your 2021 holiday plans, whether travelling solo, with another or as a whole family clan.
A story on every corner
In a country with a history as exciting and varied as Greece, the Peloponnese still packs a storied punch. Kalamata’s history begins with Homer, who mentioned the city Pherae, near where Kalamata Castle still stands today, in the Odyssey. That same castle was a sanctuary to locals during the Greek War of Independence in the early 19th century. It’s also one of the best places in the area to watch the sun set. Just below the castle is pretty Kalamata Old Town, a maze of delightful cobbled streets and a jumble of churches and quirky shops (the perfect place to stroll around on a sunny afternoon). Drive a few hours of north of Kalamata to visit Olympia, where you can sit on the same bank on which spectators witnessed the inaugural Olympic Games in 776 BC. The city went on to host the event for 1,000 years.
Land or sea
Kalamata’s skyline is dominated by snow-dusted Mount Taygetus. Hikers will discover myriad ancient ruins, while coastal walks reveal cliffside monasteries and fortresses. But the wonder doesn’t stop there, as the region’s coastline is dotted with celestial coves. Take a small boat at Diros, two hours’ south of Kalamata, and explore the intricate stalactites at this otherworldly network of caves. 20 miles west of Kalamata is Polylimnio, a heavenly hidden gorge filled with 15 lakes and waterfalls providing perfect swimming conditions if you prefer cooler waters. Those looking for sun-soaked beaches are rewarded with Kalamata’s 4km of Blue Flag-approved coastline, gently lapped by the sparkling Ionian Sea and with an abundance of excellent restaurants near the beachfront. Or venture 50 minutes down the coast to Kardamyli, a beautiful beach fringed by wild olive groves.
If romantic, all-out-luxe escapism is on the agenda, check into the Euphoria Retreat – Mystras: this five-star resort is at the foot of Mount Taygetus, surrounded by forest and infused with an ethos inspired by Hellenic and Chinese healing philosophies and practices. For a different kind of activity, golfers will be happy to hear that the Peloponnese is home to some of the best golfing grounds in Europe. Two 18-hole courses, part of luxury resort The Westin Resort Costa Navarino – Peloponnese, stand proudly on the west coast. A great option for all the family, there are tons of activities on offer, a super-luxe spa and an aqua park.
The famous Kalamata olive is so prized that it has Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Take an olive tour to discover – and sample – why these tangy stone fruits are so cherished. The tsakonian aubergine – still purple, but with long white stripes and a slightly sweet taste – is also native to the region and is superb layered with potato in moussaka, stuffed with meat and then baked, or as part of briam, a gorgeous vegetable stew medley that also includes potatoes, tomatoes, red onion and courgette. Due to its mild, sunny climate, the Peloponnese is home to the largest grape-growing area in Greece, resulting in a fantastic line in sweet wines and vibrant reds. Explore the region’s food further at the market in Kalamata on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Alongside Kalamata olives, sample local delicacies such as sfela (a semi-hard cheese), honey and lalagia (a very moreish type of doughnut).
Take off to Kalamata
British Airways flies to Kalamata from London Heathrow. Flight time: around three hours, 45 minutes
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