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From Zakinthos (Zante) down the west coast of the Peloponnese to the Gulf of Navarino, is very much a coast of passage. It could be bypassed in one long day's sail with the prevailing brisk summer NW winds from Kefallinia to Navarino bay, but you would then miss the turtles of Zakinthos, and Olympia, the spectacular site of the original Olympic games. Passages north in summer are harder work. Safe harbours are close enough for day passages against the wind, especially if you set off early in the morning before the winds reach full strength.
Zante has very much a tourist coastline to the south and east, with sandy beaches, lots of noise, and (especially in Laganas) a very British youth culture of late night boozing. There are many turtles off the beach of Laganas, often accompanied by "turtle watching" excursion boats. Inland Zante is another matter; a green and undeveloped farming area, completely foreign to the coastal shenanigans. Frequent summer charter flights connect with many UK airports.
Ayios Nikolaos is a conveniently sheltered small ferry harbour near the north cape, which has a couple of tavernas and a shop.
Zante (Zakinthos) Town. Zante has a busy harbour, and shows little concession to tourism. The town lost most of its lovely Italianate buildings in a massive 1953 earthquake, and many visitors don't like the serviceable buildings which replaced them. However, The town has a busy and active Greek life. Check out Taverna Arekia for some lively entertainment; travel north along the sea front, pass the lido (about a kilometre?), then look out for a group of small tavernas. They offer 'kantadhes' (sample, filmed on the spot!). Nearby 'Alisvos' also does music, more formal though.
Ormos Keri. In summer this is the only permitted anchorage in Laganas bay. Sadly, speed and anchoring restrictions designed to protect loggerhead turtles are often ignored in peak season as groups of tourists sprint in RIBS to circle and photograph turtles in high summer.
Nisos Strophades, Settled weather anchorage. Two tiny islands owned by the church. Monastery and fortress well worth a visit en route south. Dense with migratory birds in early and late season. Occasional wardens try to keep hunters away, and will show you around and explain history.
The West Peloponnese has enough harbours for day sailing against prevailing winds to be feasible. The coast includes the longest undeveloped sand beaches in Greece, notoriously lacking in anchorages. This is pure Greece, with tourism confined to enormous cruise ships visiting Olympia, and the enclosed luxury holiday development at Navarino Dunes with its 3 golf courses (!), south of Nisos Proti. North to south places en route are:
Killini, on the NW corner of the Peloponnese, tatty and dull, but useful as a sheltered harbour for a brief rest while beating to the north. Ferry terminal for Zante (Zakinthos) and Cefalonia (Kefallinia)
Katakolon. Two gems make this a "must stop" in spite of exposure to (rare) SE winds. Olympia (see lower) and the Mercouri Wine Estate just 4km north of the harbour. Tour and taste; see a good modern winery at work. Yacht mooring in N of harbour, against N or W quay. Mooring chain parallel to the N side 50m off snags anchors. W quay exposed in (rare) E to SE winds. Electricity and non-potable water available. Good anchoring N of harbour.The south part of the port caters for cruise ship visitors to Olympia, with a cluster of fairly smart cafés and restaurants around the harbour front, loads of taxis and car hire firms. Cheap layup ashore is possible here in a small yard, using a local crane, tailor made cradles. Buses to nearby Pyrgos, a busy town, from whence buses to Athens (8 times a day). A small railway runs 4 - 6 times a day through Pyrgos to Olympia when cruise ships are in.
Olympia, a well labelled classic site 20km inland of Katakolon, is a 'must see', even though very crowded in high season, especially if a big cruise ship is visiting - a common occurrence. Buses from Pyrgos or taxis from Katakolon. Also train (above)
Kiparissia. A busy town, no tourists, very Greek, attractively set below a mountain range with nice central square about 2km from harbour. Extended harbour walls provide first class shelter, with free water and electricty if you can track it down making this a useful stop (with lots of space) en route north or south, and a possible live aboard wintering spot for those who enjoy Greece where little English is spoken. Explorers may seek out the castle above town - good views.
Spot the Disney like castle half way between Kiparissia and the small inland town of Filiatra (which has an Eifel tower imitation!).
Off Nisos Proti. When winds are from N to NE, the mountains between Kiparissa and Proti accelerate the general wind by 1 or 2 beaufort, a local effect going about 2 - 3nm to sea. Temporary anchorage in the lee of Marathopoulos, a small holiday town opposite Nisos Proti.
Next stop - Navarino bay - the reason for your trip south.
Reviewed Jul 2016