Have you ever wondered why castles fascinate people that much? It’s not just the architectural reasons that they are built to create awe and excitement. Well, it is that too. It is also because most of our childhood fairytales take place inside or around a castle, since castles symbolize a protected environment and security. And kids like security. That’s why it is so easy to love a destination just for its castle. In the case of Methoni and Koroni though, you will find many more reasons.
Seaside, island looking, small towns, half an hour from each other, with the ideal beaches of Finikounda interposing in the route, as if this Messinian tip could get any better, and crowned with their castles, Methoni and Koroni are perfect for both summer holidays and spring ventures.
White houses with red tiles spread towards the sea on a peninsula that ends up on one of the biggest and nicest castles in Peloponnese- if not of the entire Greece. Methoni in 1950 was classified as a traditional dwelling as it <<preserves the architectural features of the southern Peloponnese during the past century and it is the proper environment for the medieval fortress, which rises on its south east tip>>.
Despite the fact that this same decree mentions that Methoni was one of the first cities that were built based on a plan after the Revolution, it is historically proven that it was already inhabited since the years of the Trojan War, or maybe earlier than that- it was definitely one of the seven cities that Agamemnon promised to Achilles to calm him down, during their famous fight that started the Iliad. During the thousands of years that passed, the residents used to live inside the castle, instead of outside of it like they do today, that’s why it is vast: You will consider three hours to walk around all of it.
The castle that in 1209 the Venetians built spreads in 93 entire acres and it is instantly recognizable, even if you have never visited it before, by the thousand pictures that depict its Bourtzi, this beautiful octagonal tower on the sea, which Ottomans added almost three centuries later. Bourtzi is built on an island in front of the castle, as you see it from the sea. A stone built bridge crosses the waters of the Ionian Sea and brings you to its also stone precinct.
On the main, “land” part of the castle the first thing you notice after you cross the gigantic, taken from the Lord of the Rings gates, is the plateau in which stands the granite column, known as the “Morozini column” (please don’t be fond of him, of Frank Morozini. He is responsible for the parts missing from the Parthenon, contrary to the popular myth that blames the Ottomans for its destruction). Before you reach the plateau, be careful of an opening in the ground right after entering the castle that looks like leading to a kind of basement. Here were first found the most ancient catacombs of the Hellenic area. Unfortunately, the access down there is not open to the public.
A bit further down, the Turkish hamams and the Church of “Metamorfosis Sotiros”, which was successively used as a catholic church, a mosque and an orthodox church, depict more vividly than any History book a city that saw three empires, three great civilizations flourish and decline, and survived to tell their stories. As you climb here and there on walls and battlements, stopping every few steps to gaze at the vastness of the castle that once hosted an entire city inside, you constantly end up in the sea. It makes sense if you consider that Methoni’s Castle touches the Ionian Sea from all of its sides, except from one.
In contrast to the one in Methoni, the castle in Koroni is one of the few castles left that are still inhabited. It was also built in the 13th century by the Venetians, who lost it, regained it and lost it many times by the Ottomans during the in-between years till the Revolution of 1821 and its release from the French general Maizon, one of the three admirals in the Battle of Navarino. The castle “crowns” the totally insular Koroni, climbed on its highest pick.
Uphill roads and steps start from the pier and bring you to its entrance, to which there is a paved road that also leads there for those who don’t like walking uphill. From this way on, you pass the heavy, wooden door of the castle and you are in a completely different world: Stone built alleys go up through olive groves and vineyards, zig zag next to small houses and end up in monastery yards, in the debris of the Temple of Apollo, in a byzantine church (Agia Sofia of the 12th century), or in stone arches with a fantastic view of the sea.
On the castle’s feet, at its south where the steep Rocks of Resalto end up in a beach, spreads the small town of Koroni, the 1.600 residents of which live in two- storey, white, tile-roofed houses, which are amphitheatrically built around its picturesque waterfront. The tiny alleys of the settlement wind among ornate balconies, flowery yards and colorful yard doors, and strolling around here easily takes an entire evening- especially if you combine it with one or more glasses of ouzo by the sea.
An idyllic coastline of 42 kilometers spreads between Methoni and Koroni, with each one of their many special beaches claim a place in your schedule. First and most popular is Finikounda, with its crystal clear waters and its vast, golden sand being separated in free and organized parts. Closer to Koroni, there is the beach of Zaga that has soft, powdery sand, green dunes framing it and waters so transparent and blue-green that remind you of a pool.
On a detour of the main road that connects Methoni and Koroni, after 20 minutes of consecutive turns, the road leads you to the picturesque Tsapi that not only hermits love for its complete lack of organization, but also the families with young children for the fluffy sand and the crystal clear, shallow waters.
If you like some adventure, Marathi is probably the nicest remote beach of the area, with amazing blue-green waters, big white pebbles and a view to a spectacular sunset. The dirt road that leads here is not accessible to non 4x4 vehicles, that’s why locals will tell you that the beach is accessible only by sea.
Very close to Methoni, there is a nice and easily accessible beach, called Lamps. For the most part it is organized and has nice fluffy sand, and shallow blue-green waters, ideal for children.
The most amazing, totally blue Caribbean-like waters of the area belong to the small uninhabited island, called Sapientza
to which you can get in 10 minutes by boat from Methoni. Except for its incredible sand, other reasons to come here are the extremely rare forest that covers it (and is traversed by trails, for the lovers of hiking), the cute goats that will accompany you during your sunbathing, and the spectacular view to the Bourtzi right across the beach, in a distance that creates the illusion that you can reach it. You should take provisions with you and an umbrella, since the beach is (luckily) not organized.