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Between Navarino bay (the SW corner) and Cap Malea (opposite Kythera) the Peloponnese has some of the best sand beaches in Greece, and many anchorages suitable for settled weather. Free WiFi is common in cafés. The towns (Pylos, Methoni, Koroni, Kalamata, Gythion) have lots of character and are favourite holiday resorts for Greeks, sometimes noisy on feast days. "Must sees" include Navarino bay, ancient Mistras, and the Diros caves. Free of charter yachts, this is cheap and uncrowded cruising in real Greece.Take this coast slowly and hire a car to explore inland. It's worth it.
Stunning beaches, sheltered anchoring, free skeleton marina (excellent shelter), great walks, wonderful views, a great little town, a pretty resort - all hiding in a sheltered bay just 2nm x 3nm. Some attractions:
Pylos. A most attractive small town. Shaded cafés around the town square, old arcades and well sheltered yacht harbour with no facilities. No organised tourism, some foreign presence. 50 ton crane for a shore lay-up - if you can find the operator. Layup afloat or live aboard in the yacht harbour - no charges. But (formal) electrics or water. Good shops and banks. Map and Detail.
Yialova is an inexpensive and neat little resort chiseled out of an old fruit packing factory in the NE corner of the bay and marked by a shallow quay. More than 1m draft, you'll have to anchor off. Yialova is home to a tiny museum - homage to Greek country life (ask for Kosta Balaphoutis). There are several seasonal restaurants, some set on a beautifully kept sandy beach, shaded with tamarisks and palms, planted with many flowers. All together, Yialova is a civilised gem. Map and Detail.
Voïdokilia is a horsehoe shaped beach with brilliant turquoise water set among sand dunes just north of Navarino bay. There is a 'must do' walk here, but it involves a steep scramble, so take good walking gear. Anchor in the north corner. Ashore, turn left and walk to find a sign to the castle. Ignore "no entry" signs (a disclaimer, should rocks fall from the arch above!). Go to the north end of the castle; great views. Scramble through a hole in the wall at the north end, and follow the steep and rocky path (more scrambling down than walking) to a big cave. Pause. Walk down to the golden arc of Voidokilia. Have a swim to cool off. Walk back to the boat along the side of a brackish lagoon (home to a wide variety of sea birds, chamelions and tortoises). The east end of the lagoon is a twitcher's paradise in the evenings.
The two deeply indented Gulfs (Messiniakos Kolpos; Lakonikos Kolpos) are separated by the rugged Mani peninsula. Persistent summer winds are moderate N or NW. Both gulfs often have southerly afternoon sea breezes blowing into them. If stronger NW west winds are forecast (F5 +) the lee of the long headlands throws powerful white water gusts. The ability to reef quickly is then important. Both bays have many beaches and anchorages, in summer only exposed to rare southerlies.
Methoni is pleasant town with an enormous castle skeleton. Anchor off; exposed to rare SE. ATMs and good shops 700 metres inland to the north, including "Express" (previously Carrefour Express). Panorama is a sunset bar/restaurant on the ridge above town; look out for the green flash. "Hippocampus" bar, near the castle entrance, serves value draft beer and WiFi. Tourists visiting this awakening old town (almost deserted 30 year ago) are mainly Greek, with some campers from N Europe. Map and Detail.
Beaches. Many beach anchorages between Methoni and Finikounda, some affected by swell when prevailing winds are more westerly. All safe in settled summer weather.
Finikounda was a farming village, and is now also a popular summer holiday resort for Athenians. Town beach is forested with brollies in high season. The two westerly beaches (out of four) make good anchorages in settled summer winds. Town quay has free water and (informal) electricity (rummage under the quay lamposts!). Recommend bows to - rocks beneath the quay. Free WiFi at quay root (Gardenia café). Wide choice of restaurants in season; Eleni's, overlooking the harbour, is very good. and has been host to Cruising Association rallies. ATM, supermarket, butchers. Text or email us if you're passing. If we're there, we'll join you for a beer. Map and Detail.
Koroni (anchor off) is a pretty old town bustling with life along the harbour front. The anchorage is uncomfortable in the occasional stronger northerlies. In gentle onshore winds some quayside restaurants are a little smelly. Narrow lanes wind up the hillside to a shady castle above. No organised tourism, some foreign residents. A good visit.
Kalamata is a port of entry, and a bustling and lively town whose attractive old centre is hidden about 2km inland among rather untidy and scruffy surrounds. The full service marina (good value) is suitable for live-aboard, or lay up ashore or afloat. It is surrounded by some good restaurants. Mechanical facilities are good; almost anything can be fabricated locally, and Yanni is a good American speaking engineer and chandler on site to give a hand. This is good base from which to visit Mistras, (another of those wonderful Greek sites), and Diros caves. Summer scheduled and charter flights from nearby airfield. Frequent Athens buses - 3hr30.
Diros Caves. A wonderful sea level cave system. A tour in a punt takes you through miles of passageways lined with stalactites. The anchorage has poor shelter in any wind, so consider visiting from Stoupa, Kalamata or Gythion for a visit.
Port Kayio is a tiny hamlet with three summer tavernas in a rather stark setting at the eastern end of the Mani peninsula. Useful as an en-route stop, but don't seek it out. Best holding in westerlies is in the western-most corner of the bay, quite a long row to the village.
Gythion, at the head of the Lakonikos gulf, is a pleasant, busy little town with no organised tourism, and a traffic noisy seafront. It's another good base from which to visit Mistras. Also, walk out along the causeway (just south) to see the lighthouse. A museum nearby (only occasionally open) describes much of the extraordinary history (in English) of the families who occupied and feuded over the Mani peninsula, building fortress houses from which to conduct their battles against each other
Elafonisos is an island of magic anchorages. If the regular winds are blowing, tuck into the W side of the south facing Frangos bay. Brilliant turquoise sand backed by sand dunes. This is one of the great beaches of Greece, with only Greek visitors, but perhaps too many umbrellas and sunbeds in high season for real comfort. There's a taverna and a camp site about 1km over the dunes. If it's too rolly here, go to the well shltered town harrbour, since it's not easy to find good holding in the eastern facing anchorage.
Kythera is a very quiet, rather barren island with a lovely settled weather anchorage at Dhiakofti. The Hora, above Kapsali, is also worth a visit in settled weather, but it's well away from most people's routes, unless you're en route to or from Crete.
Cap Malea is notorious for its local strong blasts of wind, and the busy sea traffic where lanes from Athens converge with lanes of traffic from the east.
Reviewed Mar 2016