The island Sapientza, one of the seven islands of the Messenian Oinousses, is located opposite Methoni on the southwestern coast of Messenia. Sapientza, which covers an area of 9 square kilometers, is the second biggest island after Schiza. It is a green island with rare flora and it is incredibly beautiful. Since 1986 it has been considered “a preserved natural monument” and it has been incorporated in the network Natura 2000 along with the area around the cape of Akrita.
The Trails of Taygetos
The most famous mountain in Messenia is Taygetos and it is ideal for walks and tours close to nature.
Itinerary Mistras – Taygeti – Monastery of Faneromeni
The itinerary starts at a stone-built trail that is situated north of Mistras at an altitude of 320 metres. From this point we walk at first towards the village of Taygeti, which is at an altitude of 700 metres. It takes about 60 minutes to reach this place and the itinerary up to this point is approximately 2.5 km long. There are a lot of trails at the village of Taygeti such as the well-known European Path E4, which heads towards the settlement of Anavriti, which is then on connected with a series of other trails and reaches the mountain shelter that is situated in Mount Taygetos.
This itinerary starts at the village of Parori, over which there is a small gorge. It is considered to be a very easy itinerary and it has an enchanting view of the plain of Lakonia. This trail leads to the cave monastery of Panagia Lagadiotissa and it continues parallel to the gorge. It takes about half an hour to arrive there. Then on, the itinerary follows the slopes of Agios Elissaios taking you to Panagia Zagouna and about an hour later you reach the well-known monastery of Faneromeni.
Itinerary Anavriti – Agios Ioannis
The settlement of Anavriti, which used to be regarded as the industrial centre of the area, is the starting point for numerous hiking itineraries and it is connected to the European path E4. One of the most beautiful and short itineraries is the one that takes us from the stone-built trail to Agios Ioannis, which is located to the east of Mount Taygetos. This itinerary lasts about 60 minutes and it is 3.5 km long. What it more, it passes by the gorge with a 400-metre difference in elevation.
Itinerary Kalivia in Soha – Soha – Lakomata – Tsarkos
A beautiful trail starts at the village Kalivia in Soha and it takes us at first to the church f Zoodohos Pigi (Life-Giving Spring) and continues through the plain of Sparta towards Soha, a stone-built settlement that is used as a hostel. This trail stops outside the settlement where it comes into a second trail that leads to Lakomata. This itinerary lasts about an hour and a half. At the end of the trail there is the European E4, which leads to the mountain shelter of Taygetos. If you go towards the opposite side, you will reach Tsarkos at an altitude of about 1,700 metres, where the Botanical and Geological Museum of Mount Taygetos is located.
Itinerary Maganiari Spring – Mountain Shelter of Taygetos – Top of Prophitis Ilias
This itinerary starts at an altitude of 980 metres from Maganiari Spring. The trail leads to the top of Mount Taygetos and crosses the forest. After about three hours we reach the springs of Varvara and then on, we arrive at the mountain shelter that is located at an altitude of 1,500 metres. The European path E4 passes by the shelter and leads to Lakomata and to Prophitis Ilias that is situated at an altitude of approximately 2,500 metres. The itinerary takes about 4.5 hours to hike and it is around 9 km long.
Itinerary Koumousta – Pentavli – Mountain Shelter of Taygetos
The trail starts at the settlement of Koumousta that is located on the slopes of Mount Taygetos at an altitude of 750 metres and leads to the area of Pentavli at an altitude of 1,200 metres. This beautiful itinerary lasts about 2 hours and it is 7 km long. At Pentavli we can choose to walk down the European path E4 that will take us to the mountain shelter at the top of Mount Taygetos.
Itinerary Koumousta – Monastery of Gola
The trail towards the monastery of Gola starts at the settlement of Koumousta that is located at an altitude of 750 metres. This monastery is characterized by the portrayal of ancient philosophers and it is unique in the south of Greece. The itinerary is almost 4 km long and it takes about 1 hour to hike it.
Cape Matapan, which is the southern edge of Europe and in ancient Greece signaled the passage to the Underworld, is a very nice place for hiking. Starting to the right of the temple after about an hour we reach the lighthouse, which is 16 metres tall and is built 20 metres higher than the level of the sea. In this area it is worth visiting the settlement of Achillio that is characterized by tower houses, the traditional tower Grigoraki and the traditional settlements Paliro and Vathia.
A very special place for hiking is Rintomos Gorge that is characterized by its natural beauty, rich flora and multiform rocks. You can follow two different itineraries. The first itinerary starts at the village of Anavriti and the second one starts at the shelter of the Greek Mountaineering Club of Sparta that is located at Varvara. This itinerary is a bit difficult and the most suitable period to hike it is early in the summer when the temperature is not very high.
The itinerary that passes through Viros Gorge, which is situated to the west of Mount Taygetos, starts at the village of Agios Panteleimonas. It is approximately 20 km long, it is incredibly beautiful and it leads to the villages of Eksohori and Tseria. Apart from the natural beauty of the gorge, it is also worth mentioning its historical significance as the Royal Road that connected ancient Sparta with the harbor of Kardamili passed by this gorge.
The Gialova Lagoon
One of the most beautiful places to explore in Messenia is the Gialova Lagoon, which is considered to be one of the most important wetlands in Europe. It was created in prehistoric times due to the intense tectonic activity in the area, as well as the elevation of the sea level. These two phenomena created this beautiful ecological zone. The Gialova Lagoon has been incorporated in the European network of Natura 2000.
Neda is one of the most famous and beautiful rivers in Greece and it is 32 km long. Neda Gorge is exceptionally beautiful and the best period to explore it is during the summer. The whole itinerary through the gorge is about 20 km long and it requires very good preparation because it is a quite difficult and long itinerary that in many places requires a lot of attention and even experienced climbers.
To the south of the range of Taygetos there is Vassiliki Forest, which covers an area of about 3,000 acres. You can reach this natural beauty from Eksohori and the 21-kilometre itinerary that brings you here through the forest is unique.
The Pylos Lagoon (Divari)
The Pylos Lagoon is located in between the settlement of Gialova and the Voidokilia Cove. This area, which is also known as Divari, has been characterized as an archaeological site and its area of 1,500 acres is shelter to more than 250 bird species. It is worth mentioning the presence of the African chameleon, a rare endangered species.