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This "secret" location in Greece won't be for much longer


First the jet-set discovered Mykonos. Then, Santorini. Movies created booms for Captain Corelli's Cephalonia, Luc Besson's Big Blue sent the French to Alonissos, and Mamma Mia's mythical island of Kalokairi boosted real islands of Skiathos and Skopelos. Now the latest hot spot in Greece may be ... Messinia.

Previously known mainly for the epic Battle of Navarino, which was fought off the coast of Messinia, Messinia has retained its local identity while reaching out for more - possibly much more. Better known among British and other European travelers, the area is almost unknown to visitors from the United States. With the opening of the massive resort complex called Costa Navarino, with its pair of golf courses and plans for ongoing expansion, the once neglected but beautiful coastline had arrived. Now, the secret filming of the third of the "Before" trilogy, "Before Midnight", starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy has provided it with a boost of star power and a romantic storyline.

So, before the film's release in 2013 inspires hordes of visitors - assuming that Greece plays its part to the max in the movie - here's what you need to know about Messinia.

Where is Messinia in Greece?

Messinia is located in the southwestern area of the Peloponnese Peninsula, the large near-island located in the southwest of Greece. If you are looking at a map of Greece and the Peloponnese peninsula, the farrthest-left "finger" of the Peloponneses roughly corresponds to the Messinia area. Unlike much of Greece, Messinia has numerous springs, several rivers, and many small streams, so it tends to be a green paradise most of the year.

Sightseeing in Messinia

You've probably already heard of one of Messinia's most fascinating areas, but may not have known it was part of the Messinia region. This is the Mani area in the westernmost part of Messinia. Here, unusual architecture featuring easily-defendable old stone towers attests to a local culture frequently torn apart by intense feuding. The Mani crosses boundaries and the region spreads through Lakonia as well. The village of Kardamili, where some scenes of Before Midnight were shot, is the heart of the Messinian Mani.

Cities, Towns, and Villages in Messinia

Messinia's best known town is Kalamata, a word which is well-known outside of Greece because of the purplish, pointed Kalamata olive which is exported worldwide. Kalamata has another famous export - Olympic swimmer turned composer and performer Yanni hails from Kalamata.

Kalamata is probably the only "city" in Messinia. Other towns and villages include:

  • Filiatra
  • Finikounda
  • Gargaliani
  • Kiparissia
  • Koroni
  • Messini - Ancient Messini is located inland.
  • Methoni
  • Pylos

Beaches of Messinia

With about 140 kilometers of coastline, Messinia can feel more like an island. In addition to its coasts, it also has a number of small satellite islands, including Proti, Sfaktiria, Sapienza, Schiza, and Venetiko, plus a group of small islands called the Inousses consisting of the islands of Agia Mariani, Sapienza, and Schiza. While some of these were inhabited in ancient times, most of them today host only a few residents.

Natural Wonders of Messinia

Messinia's most famous natural spot is the Valley of Neda, an unspoiled area that is rich in wildlife and many types of indigenous plants. It's said to be the only "female" river in Greece, named for a nymph, though some other rivers and streams might dispute that designation. It's open to visitors during the summer, who hike along its banks, but rough water the rest of the year makes it dangerous. Even in summer, it requires care.

Some of Messinia's Gorges and Natural Wonders:

Events in Messinia

September 8th - Festival of the Virgin Mary
July 17th - Festival of Agia Marina or Agia Mariani on the island of the same name off the coast of Methoni
August 23rd - Festival of the Kimisi tis Theotokou tis Gorgopigis, near Vourlia on the island of Proti
October 20th - Battle of Navarino Celebrated around this date in Pylos -

History of Messinia

The archaeology of Messinia is still giving up its secrets, but the region was inhabited early, in the late Stone Age. The southern part of the Peloponnese Peninsula had extensive ties with Minoan Crete and Minoan-era remains have been found throughout the area. It gained greater importance in Mycenean times, as the Mycenean-era palace of Nestor at Pylos shows.

In Venetian times, the dramatic fortress of Koroni was built and dominated and protected the western side of the gulf of Messinia.

Getting to Messinia

The vast majority of visitors to Messinia fly into Athens and then drive or take other transportion to Messinia. If you want to fly in more directly, the airport at Kalamata hosts a few international flights.

The new road makes driving from Athens to Kalamata much easier and quicker, with the trip taking about three and a half hours.

There are KTEL long-distance buses connecting Kalamata and downtown Athens. There is also the option of taking a train to Kalamata from Athens.

Where to Stay in Messinia

The current queen of the Messinian coast is the Costa Navarino resort complex with its pair of golf courses. It's an upscale, celebrity-attracting retreat. One plus: it offers a twice-daily shuttle all the way to and from the Athens International Airport.

From Kayak: Hotels in Messinia

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