Navarino Bay, an expedition to Pylos and Gialova

A Kitesurfer at Navarino Bay, close to Gialova beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese

Gialova is a small coastal village in the Bay of Navarino. The harbour is formed by a long, rocky island (Sphacteria) running along the coast.

Pylos, the lovely town at the eastern side of the bay is named after the Ancient Greek Mycenean Pylos.

Gialova beach with its golden sand. Navarino Bay, Messenia, Peloponnese
Gialova beach with its golden sand. Navarino Bay, Messenia, Peloponnese

The Bronze Age administrative center known as the Palace of Nestor is an important archaeological site. More info at The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project.

A Mycenaean tholos tomb near Nestor's Palace. Epano Englianos, Messenia, Peloponnese
A Mycenaean tholos tomb near Nestor’s Palace. Epano Englianos, Messenia, Peloponnese

The site is currently closed for renovation and it may re-open at the end of 2014. There you can admire the best preserved Mycenaean bathtub, probably the one described by Homer in Odyssey, when the son of Odysseus, Telemachus went to Nestor’s Palace looking for information about his lost father.

Mycenaean bathtub, or larnax, made of terracotta decorated with circular patterns, 13th century B.C. This is said to be the one described by Homer in Odyssey, where Nestor's youngest daughter, Polykaste, bathed Telemachos, son of Odysseus when he came searching for his father. Palace of Nestor, Epano Eglianos, Messenia, Peloponnese
Mycenaean bathtub, or larnax, made of terracotta decorated with circular patterns, 13th century B.C. This is said to be the one described by Homer in Odyssey, where Nestor’s youngest daughter, Polykaste, bathed Telemachos, son of Odysseus when he came searching for his father. Palace of Nestor, Epano Eglianos, Messenia, Peloponnese

“Meanwhile she bathed Telemachus, even fair Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor, son of Neleus. And after she had bathed him and anointed him with olive oil, and cast about him a goodly mantle and a doublet, he came forth from the bath in fashion like the deathless gods.” 
[Source:  Homer, The Odyssey – The Harvard Classics.  1909–14,  Book III, Bartleby.com]

Golden cups with meander patterns, findings from Nestor's Palace. Archaeological Museum of Chora, Messenia
Golden cups with meander patterns, findings from Nestor’s Palace. Archaeological Museum of Chora, Messenia

Nestor’s son, Peisistratus, was first to approach and took them both by the hand, and made them sit on soft fleeces spread on the sand, beside his father, and brother, Thrasymedes, so they could feast. Having done so, he served them inner portions, poured wine in a golden cup, and drinking her health, spoke to Pallas Athene, the aegis-bearing daughter of Zeus:
‘Stranger, pray to the lord Poseidon whose feast you have chanced on here. And when you have poured libations and prayed, as is right, pass your friend the cup of honeyed wine so he may pour. I expect he too prays to the deathless ones: since all men need the gods. But as he is the younger, and of my own age, I will first give the golden cup to you.’
[Source: Homer, The Odyssey – Bk III:1-50 Telemachus and Athene reach Pylos, poetryintranslation.com]

Clay containers of different sizes and shapes, findings from Nestor's Palace. Archaeological Museum of Chora, Messenia
Clay containers of different sizes and shapes, findings from Nestor’s Palace. Archaeological Museum of Chora, Messenia

At Pylos harbour we hired a small, 4 person boat for a ride around Navarino Bay and Sphacteria. Sphacteria is also known for the defeat and capture of the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War.

Hiring a boat at Pylos is a perfect way to explore Navarino Bay and Sphacteria island. Pylos, Peloponnese
Hiring a boat at Pylos is a perfect way to explore Navarino Bay and Sphacteria island. Pylos, Peloponnese
The Golden beach is close to Vromoneri, a few kilometers north of Gialova. Messenia, Peloponnese
The Golden beach is close to Vromoneri, a few kilometers north of Gialova. Messenia, Peloponnese

The naval Battle of Navarino was fought there on 1827. It was the last significant battle between wooden sailing ships.

The wooden church of Aghios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) built in 1897 is a monument to the Russian fallen soldiers at the Battle of Navarino. Sphacteria island, Navarino Bay, Messenia
The wooden church of Aghios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) built in 1897 is a monument to the Russian fallen soldiers at the Battle of Navarino. Sphacteria island, Navarino Bay, Messenia

This bloody and destructive battle was continued with unabated fury for four hours, and the scene of wreck and devastation which presented itself at its termination was such as has been seldom before witnessed.
Admiral Sir Edward Codrington
[Source: Memoir of the life of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington Internet Archive]

Paleokastro Castle built in 1278 by the Franks and Pylos town in the background. Navarino Bay, Messenia, Peloponnese
Paleokastro Castle built in 1278 by the Franks and Pylos town in the background. Navarino Bay, Messenia, Peloponnese

At the west end of Gialova beach, there is Sykia pass, the narrow northern entrance to Navarino Bay. There we followed the path leading to Paleokastro Castle, a Frankish castle built in the 13th century A.D. It is a great hike and the Castle offers a stunning view!

The stunning view from Paleokastro Castle to Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
The stunning view from Paleokastro Castle to Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese

Special attention should be taken when exploring the castle, the walls fall apart. Also inside the castle there are deep cisterns, used to collect rain water, which should be approached with caution!

Sand dunes at Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
Sand dunes at Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
Gazing at Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
Gazing at Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
The area around Paleokastro Castle is full of spiders, some quite large. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
The area around Paleokastro Castle is full of spiders, some quite large. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese

At the north side of the castle we passed through an opening at the wall and followed the downhill path towards Voidokoilia beach and Nestor’s cave.

The stunning view from Paleokastro Castle to Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese
The stunning view from Paleokastro Castle to Voidokilia beach. Gialova, Messenia, Peloponnese

Voidokoilia was great for a dive after the hike to Paliokastro Castle. The sea was clear and shallow. As we were swimming we could see the sunset between the narrow opening of the rocks. This was a fantastic scene!

We followed the path right next to the lagoon and under the huge rocks of the castle that leads back to the starting point at Gialova beach. The mosquitos were in abundance in the wetland and attacked us with fury after sunset…

Voidokilia beach and Gialova lagoon host a dynamic and unique ecosystem. Gialova, Navarino Bay, Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece
Voidokilia beach and Gialova lagoon host a dynamic and unique ecosystem. Gialova, Navarino Bay, Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece

Gialova lagoon hosts a rich and varied fauna. It is an important wetland and stopover for many bird species on their way to and from Africa. Perfect for bird watching and wildlife photography!
There’s so much to see and photograph at this part of Messenia, Pylos and Gialova that I always promise myself to go back and further explore this area.

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Swallows on power lines at Yannitsochori, Eleia, Peloponnese
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