Messinia has an inexhaustible natural wealth nature lovers can enjoy at any time of year.
The indigenous evergreen forest
The indigenous evergreen forest of arbutus on the island of Sapientza, which has been designated a protected monument of nature, is unique in the Mediterranean, with trees whose height reach and exceed 10 – 12m with an estimated age of 10,000 years. On the island of Sapientza visitors have the opportunity to see a unique spectacle, the valley of pollen called Spartolakka. This is an unusual layer of orange-colour fossilized pollen that has formed a strange layer of stone.
Polylimnio: a wonderful array of small lakes
In the deep gullies of the ravine of the Mavri Limni (Black Lake) lies something very special. Polylimnio is a succession of tiered lakes. In a secluded setting lay 15 lakes, each a complete world in its own right, with its aquatic flora and fauna. With unusual names such as Black Lake, Little Heart, Italian, Kadi, Panagos, Stathoula and all of them are exquisitely beautiful. Along with gorges and waterfalls they create a unique green ensemble surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. The lakes are joined by successive waterfalls and lush shade. The most beautiful and largest are the Mavrolimni (Black Lake) and Kadi lakes which are fed by impressive waterfalls. Visit Polylimnio in the summer and follow the shaded pathways and dive into the cool waters. The path is made up of steps and rope barriers in the more difficult areas so this natural paradise is accessible to most visitors.
Neda: a mythical river.
The Neda Gorge is the natural boundary between the prefectures of Ilia and Messinia. Neda owes its name to Greek mythology: a nymph who first held the newborn Zeus in her arms. Nedas long journey starts in the springs of Mt. Lycaeon and ends at the sea in the Kyparissiakos gulf. Walking along the river, or even a small part of it, promises views of spectacular waterfalls, sunless gorges and deep pools of blue waters. The middle stretch of the river is lost for awhile in a natural tunnel where hundreds of bats reside. Along the way at former crossing points little stone bridges have survived and a few mills that made use of the power of the water. The oak, wild fig trees, thick reeds and proud poplars characterize the region and all visitors will be impressed by the large blue dragonflies (Odonata galopteryx) flitting in the dense foliage. The waterfalls, the outsized white rocks and the ecosystem of the region all complement the rich vegetation.
The river is only accessible during the summer months as the remainder of the year the water is so violent that it makes any attempt at crossing impossible. The most direct and easy access Neda is from the village of Platania, where a good dirt road leads to the stone bridge. From here the path starts near the chapel of the Holy Resurrection close to the village of Neda and ends at the village Karyes. The river Neda and the sea finally blend together on the vast sandy beach of the Gulf of Kyparissia. In the warm sand, loggerhead turtles (Caretta-Caretta) have laid their eggs for thousands of years. One of the largest populations of loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean has placed its hopes for survival in this sandy bay.
The Gorges of Viros and Rindomos
On the west side of Messinia, in the Messinian Mani and more specifically Lefktro, Viros Gorge, with a total length of 20 km. In ancient times widely known as the ‘bridge’ due to the fact that it connected Messinia with Laconia. The route is spectacular as the starting point is at an altitude of some 1,400m. on mount Taygetus and descends through the Vasiliki and St. Dimitri forests towards Kardamili and the sea. The Rindomos Gorge, located just outside Kalamata at the start of the Messinan Mani, is equally beautiful and challenging for anyone who wants to traverse its 19km length. The first historical mention of the gorge is made by Pausanias (160 AD). A set of cliffs and rivers with crystal clear waters, which, in conjunction with abundant vegetation and dense clusters of trees creates a coolness that in summer, even at midday, the sun’s rays are unable to penetrate.
The group of islands to the south of the Messinian peninsula, just a short distance from the Methoni coastline, are known collectively as the Inousses Islands. They comprise of the islands of Sapienza, Mariani or Agia Marina and Schizas. These green havens conceal exotic vegetation in the hills and are a haven for wild birds and animals. All surrounded by crystal blue waters containing evidence of the ancient civilisations that used these waterways and more recently the exploits of the pirates that terrorized this coast.