In the 90s there was a stone- built train station above the dunes, on which the trains of Peloponnese- the line trains of Patra- Kalamata precisely- made a stop. On its sign was written “Kaiafas” and people went down the dunes and into an endless sandy beach with turquoise Ionian waters.
Behind its dunes there was a lush pine tree forest, under the shade of which lots of people were putting up their tents. Further back, there was a road and across it, behind plenty of tall pine trees, there was a lake. The lake’s name is also Kaiafas, from which the train station took its name, where young people used to come here for their summer dips. Local people call it though “Zacharo beach”, “beach of Tholou”, “beach of Kakovatou” and many more names, although all these beaches are one endless coast of hundred kilometers.
So, although the trains do not stop here anymore, since they don’t still cross Peloponnese, and perhaps the beautiful pine tree forest was burnt down on the lethal fires of 2007 and still tries to be rebirthed from its ashes, the rest are all here: The giant dunes with their white lilies, the vastness of one of the most beautiful beaches in Peloponnese, the turquoise Ionian waters that spread across the horizon without a single sight of land, the ecstatic sunset with the sun diving in the sea, the stone- built train station and the blue lake with its healing waters.
Have you ever wondered why healing waters smell bad? Our ancestors had an answer: Once came here Chiron the centaur, or perhaps another centaur called Pylinor, after he was hurt by the arrow of Hercules. The venom from his wounds fell in the waters and they never stopped smelling since then.
Of course, Kaiafas Lake didn’t exist here back then. There was a small river, called Anigros, whose smelly waters Pausanias refers to. We do not know for sure when the river became a lake, but it was probably around the 6th century after a strong earthquake that stroke the region. Today, the lake spreads in three kilometers with its depth reaching the two meters. The waters that made the region famous as “Kaiafas Thermal springs” have healing qualities for musculoskeletal disorders and well from the ground, in some places warm and in some others cold, creating in this way a natural Turkish bath. The springs are two and are located in two caverns on the roots of mountain Lapitha that rises over the lake: The Cavern of “Anigridon Nymphs” and that of “Geranio andro”. A dip in the healing waters of these natural pools that are open from spring till the end of autumn, is a true experience.
Five kilometers away from the lake there is Zacharo, a lively town with plenty of options in accommodation, food and drinks. The part of the beach that spreads in front of it is organized with sun loungers and umbrellas, and is perfect for kids who love playing with the sand all day. You can find rental rooms and beach taverns at the villages south of Zacharo, like Kakovato, Neoxori and Tholo, which is famous for its organized camping.
The villages of the region were all built after the emancipation of Greece, around 1840, and that is the reason why they lack historical sights and picturesque places. However, they are the ideal base to start exploring other places rich in History, like Ancient Olympia that is 38 kilometers away from Zacharo, Ancient Figalia, 44 kilometers away, and the temple of Epicurius Apollo, at the 52 kilometers.In addition, 14 kilometers south of Zacharo there is the fantastic beach of Elaia, with its lush pine tree forest, which is ideal for hiking and cycling in its trails. Here, from the Ionian waters emerges to lay her eggs the protected species of sea turtles, Caretta Caretta, which she really doesn’t care that, with Elaia included, we have now crossed the borders of the prefecture of Ilia and we have entered Messinia.