This doesn’t look much like any other beach I’ve ever been to in Greece. Where are the sunloungers, the umbrellas, the rows of carefully oiled bodies? But this isn’t a place normally associated with Greek beach holidays. I’m in Messinia, in the southwest corner of the Peloponnese peninsula, a region famous for its unspoilt beauty and laid-back way of life….
The beach is called Voidokilia (meaning “cow’s belly”), a sweeping semicircle of light golden sand on the Ionian coast. Surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, it’s said to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
Today, in early April, it’s deserted, with no sound save for a light breeze and the pale turquoise water lapping the shoreline. It’s a warm day and I feel like leaping in, which wouldn’t be such a wise move given that I’m on a cycling tour and have left my swimming gear back at the hotel.
Dimitri, my cycling guide, points out the ruins at the top of one of the cliffs. “That’s the Paleokastro (meaning “old castle”), built by the Franks in the 13th Century to guard the bay. Just below it is Nestor’s Cave.”
I Google “Nestor” later and discover he is an important figure in Greek mythology, who was mentioned in Homer’s famous epic poem The Iliad.
As we walk back to the top of the beach where we’ve parked our electric-powered mountain bikes, Dimitri tells me a little of the region’s history.