Skoutari, turquoise gem full of surprises…

Sunrise at Agia Varvara beach, Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

The first thing we saw at Skoutari bay was a long and shallow beach with a tavern. Further along was an inviting turquoise sandy beach. And another one…  and another one…

All beaches at Skoutari are marvels of the nature. They are side by side, along a full kilometer in a nice mixture of golden sand and pebbles in all kinds of shapes and colours. They are separated by rocks on the shore which you can easily surpass swimming by.

The chairs of a beach fish-tavern and the Byzantine church of Aghia Varvara in the background. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
The chairs of a beach fish-tavern and the Byzantine church of Aghia Varvara in the background. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

The first one on the left is called Kalamia. It is the shallower and the sandier. The middle one is Vorthona Beach named after the ancient city of Vorthona  which submerged during a nasty earthquake, just like Atlantis. They say that the seabed of Skoutari Bay is full of antiquities. We have no proof of that, as -much to our dismay- we forgot our snorkelling equipment.

The Byzantine church of Aghia Varvara (Saint Barbara). Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
The Byzantine church of Aghia Varvara (Saint Barbara). Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

The third one is Aghia Varvara, named after the so called Byzantine chapel built there. The Byzantine frescos in the chapel are very badly preserved but you can still sense their naïf beauty. There are two taverns (Akroyali and Aghia Varvara) that serve everything from coffee and ice cream to sea delicatessen. Attached to Aghia Varvara Beach to the right, there is a small port ideal for fishing, with a secluded pebbled beach.

The chairs of a fish tavern and the Byzantine church of Aghia Varvara in the background. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
The chairs of a fish tavern and the Byzantine church of Aghia Varvara in the background. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

Skoutari village is built on the hill above the beach and it is close to Kotronas village. It has a long and troubled history, as almost any other place in the Peloponnese. It was founded by the people who survived the strong earthquake that swallowed Vorthona. During the 17th and 18th centuries the area became a haven for pirates. Powerful Maniot families/clans like the Grigorakides and the Kalkantides controlled the area and fought fiercely against the Ottomans. Mani remained free throughout history.

The statue of a sailor at Aghia Varvara beach. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
The statue of a sailor at Aghia Varvara beach. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

Here we were, the lucky ones, visiting Skoutari at its best. No earthquakes to suck us under the water, no bloody pirates to kill us, no Ottomans to enslave us. The tower ruins in the village and the remains of the cities under the waves just make their strong point; People that lived in this place many years ago had a very hard life!

Aghia Varvara beach, a fish-tavern and the Byzantine church of Agia Varvara in the background. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
Aghia Varvara beach, a fish-tavern and the Byzantine church of Agia Varvara in the background. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

We were joined in the afternoon by a friendly pair who shared our admiration of the place. After several plunging in and out of the crystal clear waters, we settled at one of the taverns. We watched the sun setting for hours, feet in the sand, beer in one hand and ears wholeheartedly to the enchanting stories of the tavernier.

The entrance of a fish tavern with its sign, the fishermans pants and sandals. Aghia Varvara beach, Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
The entrance of a fish tavern with its sign, the fishermans pants and sandals. Aghia Varvara beach, Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

“We tried to capture the giant turtle. It was huge and its carapace was big like a boat! We tied it with a strong rope from the fence on the beach. Allas, the animal was so strong that pulled all of the fence out and it disappeared into the sea…”

“ A pair of seals live in this bay. Late in the night you can hear them calling each other…”

Fishing boats at Aghia Varvara (Saint Barbara) beach, named after the Byzantine chapel on the middle of it. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
Fishing boats at Aghia Varvara (Saint Barbara) beach, named after the Byzantine chapel on the middle of it. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

By dusk we watched in awe the tavernier’s 80-year old father getting into his small rugged boat. He had to spread his fishing nets! He was soon followed by his son in a modern boat. The friendly rivalry between these two lovers of the sea was funny and touching at the same time.

Aghia Varvara beach and the shelter of a fish tavern. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
Aghia Varvara beach and the shelter of a fish tavern. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

The remote pebbled beach, at the far right end of Aghia Varvara Beach, was destined to be our campsite. As mountaineers, nature lovers and outdoor photographers, we often enjoy the experience of sleeping in the wild. We do not recommend staying over at this eastward beach with no shade. Late morning risers will get sun-grilled. After all, free camping is strictly illegal in Greece before sunset and after sunrise. There are a number of rooms and pensions for rent in the area close to the beach.

An old house with Maniot tower near Aghia Varvara beach. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese
An old house with Maniot tower near Aghia Varvara beach. Skoutari, Laconia, Peloponnese

We drove our car there by a small detour of the road from Skoutari to Kotronas. Setting up the tent was a breeze and soon we found ourselves horizontal, staring at the starry skies. Our pebbled bed was surprisingly soft; it had an under layer of sea weeds.

During the night we did indeed hear a seal at the rocks nearby!

 

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