To visit the Peloponnese picture gallery - click HERE
Perhaps I should state at this point that the title ‘Peloponnese’ is not strictly accurate. We were based in Stoupa in the Mani peninsular, and most of our experiences relate to the Mani region of the Peloponnese.
Our experience of Stoupa all started at a welcome meeting in Skiathos in 1996 when I overheard someone ask the Kosmar rep if they went to Stoupa. He remarked that they had been there the year before and said that it was beautiful. Well 4 years later , in June 2000, we finally went there - and yes it is very beautiful.
Stoupa is full of many excellent tavernas. Our particular favourites are Dionysos, Akrogiali, Akrotiri, Xasapis(The Pig Man), Riviera and To Steki to name but a few. The Pig man is a bit of a character – he can also be seen around the village on his motorcycle and sidecar outfit. Each day he cooks a pig, which is on display for all to see. The pork may at first seem expensive but remember it is priced per kilo. Careful you don’t end up with too much.
The village is dotted with taps, which provide drinking water fresh from the mountains. Just buy some bottled water from the supermarket and then top them up from the taps.
The beaches in Stoupa are excellent. Occasionally when swimming you will encounter ‘cold spots’. This is actually water from the mountains that surfaces in the seabed. Don't let anyone fool you that the seawater springs are 'refreshing'. They actually mean COLD. You may also see the Ducks that sometimes frequent the beach area. They usually receive 5 star treatment from holidaymakers eager to make sure that they don't go short of water or food.
Almost everyone who goes to Stoupa walks the coastal path to Ag. Nikolaos. Just make sure you get good directions to the start of the path. The last time we were there we thought we would be clever and find a short cut. We spent half an hour struggling through an olive grove before we stumbled across the path. On the way back we continued on past the point at which we had appeared earlier in the day and found that the path actually came out in the village.
There is a very good booklet available titled ‘Walks in the Stoupa Area’ by Lance Chilton. He offers some interesting advice on what to do should you encounter wild dogs, snakes, blood sucking ticks and prickly shrubs. Great stuff and guaranteed to encourage the casual walker to strike out off the beaten track !!
Ag. Nikolaos is well worth a visit. Try and get there early one morning – say about 8 o’clock. Sit down in a café, order a frappe or whatever takes your fancy and observe the daily ritual of the fish market unfold. It can be excellent entertainment only bettered by the comings and goings of a couple of the village characters and their antics as they parade up and down the harbourside. Usually lots of shouting and arm waving. Before you know it, it is lunchtime !! Well maybe you should continue your stroll along the coastal road to the beach at Pantazi and back. Now it is definitely time for lunch.
The area is good for getting out and about, although you could just as easily let 2 weeks slip away relaxing on the beach. Over the years there have been a number of ‘Sun Bed Wars’ involving various local factions in hot competition with each other. Some days you pay, on others you don’t. If you are lucky you may even get to pay the same price 2 days running. All part of the local culture – best just to enjoy it rather than let it irritate.
Out and about
If heading north towards Kalamata there is a wonderful stop for an early morning dip at Fonea. The water is exceptionally clear and deceptively deep. Before reaching Kalamata take the main road to the left and head towards Mirto, Avia, Akrogialli and then on to Kitries. There are plenty of places to stop for a snack or a meal and also numerous opportunities for a refreshing dip in the Messiniakos Gulf. The area appears to be very popular with the Greeks. Out of the main season though it is very quiet.
On a journey to Mistras, the Kalamata one-way system came as a bit of a surprise as I had assumed that we would be skirting around the outside of the city. It started off that way but somehow you then get drawn into quite a busy section. On our first visit, I only missed one vital keep left sign and ended up in the main bus station. It was quite pleasing on our second visit to spot this particular sign and realise where I had gone wrong before. If you do see the bus station – don’t panic, you are heading in the right direction for Sparti.
From this point the road to Mistras/Sparti becomes one of the most spectacular drives in all Greece dropping down through the Langada pass.
An interesting diversion is to turn off the Langada pass and take the road to Nedousa and on to Alagonia and Piges returning to the main road again near the mountain café bar. A further detour took us to Ladas, Emiali and Karveli before once more re-joining the Sparti road. If you really don’t fancy the Kalamata one-way system on the return journey then a diversion via Perivolakia and Eleochori is well worth it.
A favourite journey is to take the road up into Taygetos, the highest and most impressive mountain of the southern Peloponnese. The best route is to head for Saidona. From this point onwards it is all dirt track. Surprisingly, near the top there is a smallholding where an old couple appear to live – a long way to the shops !! The views are stunning whichever way you care to look. The air is clear and cool. At times you could be forgiven that you were in the Alps. It is wonderfully quiet. Very few people seem to make it this far but it is well worth it. Don't recommend going down the other side. We did the first time but it was an extremely bumpy ride to say the least. The best of the scenery is on the 'upward' part of the journey. Second time we did this drive we went to the highest point and then turned around and took in the view going down. Every now and then just leave your vehicle and walk for a while.
The drive through to Githio, via Areopoli, is rewarding. Githio has a nice feel to it and has many tavernas that line the waterside. It is well worth travelling just a little further along the coast to Trinisa. Here you will find a stunning beach with very shallow water. The main beach is served by a very trendy beach bar frequented by the beautiful people of Greece.
Another good spot to visit on the eastern side of the Mani is at Skoutari. It has a long sandy beach with a few small coves for ‘private’ sunbathing. We first discovered Skoutari after a visit to Kotronas. An absolutely amazing road links the two. I can only think that there was a surplus of tarmac at the time. On the map it is shown as a dirt track. Well, it is now a brand new road, which in places is as wide as a dual carriageway !! Don’t get too carried away though. Although it is new tarmac I'm not sure they used any kind of levelling methods when laying the tarmac. So consequently you find yourself rolling from side to side and moving around as if you were on a boat.
The further south you venture into the Mani the scenery becomes more barren and desolate. At the far end there are some small hamlets and nice beaches and finally the Greek equivalent of ‘Lands End’. It is actually the southern most point of mainland Europe.
Stoupa was once one of those little secrets just a few well informed people knew about. If you want to go there be quick before it loses the village charm that attracted people in the first place.
For more information on Stoupa and the Mani region of the Peloponnese, check the Zorbas Website
To visit the Peloponnese picture gallery - click HERE
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