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Beaches steeped in history

Greek beaches: the pride and joy of the thousands of the Greek islands and of the mainland’s rugged coasts alike. Countless beaches, famous for the purity of their waters and their morphological diversity, inspire the visitor with the magic of their ethereal beauty as well as with their own unique history…

Navagio: the postcard perfect beach of the Ionian Sea

The landmark of Zakynthos; one of the most renowned beaches of Greece; a nature’s miracle and the result of… a sea accident, Navagio (=shipwreck) is certainly one of the island’s most remarkable sites.

With its mile-and-a-half long stretch of shiny white pebbles cutting deep into a sheer cliff and its crystalline turquoise waters lapping against the island’s northwest coast, Navagio (pronounced “Naváyio”) invites you to unveil its well-kept secret. In its white bosom rests the rusty skeleton of the merchant ship Panayiotis. It was in 1982 when the coastguard detected the ship transporting an illegal cargo. Due to the persecution that followed, and along with the bad weather conditions in the area, the ship was washed on the shore, named “Agios Georgios” until then.

Impossible to reach from the shore and only reachable via sea transport, the beach attracts thousands of visitors. Daily cruises departing from the port of the island’s capital, from Alykes, and from Laganas Gulf make a necessary stop on the beach for photographs and fun dives!

If you want to take in a panoramic view of the beach, head to the village of Anafonitria, 30 km NW of the capital. An iron platform hanging on the edge of a cliff in the vicinity of “Agios Georgios ton Gkremnon” Monastery offers you the most awe-inspiring sight of the beach. Stand on the queue and wait patiently for your turn to take a wonderful picture of the wild pristine beauty of the beautifully embraced by the grandeur of the Ionian Sea Navagio beach.

Matala. The hippies’ paradise!

On the border between Mesara and Mt. Asterousia, 70 km SW of Heraklion, lies Matala, a small fishers’ village boasting one of the most renowned beaches of southern Crete (named Matala as well).

On the golden beach of 300m in length you will find a number of caves carved into the soft white limestone, many of which are reachable through the sea way while others are hidden underwater. Archaeological finds indicate that the area had been inhabited for the first time in the Prehistoric Era, while during Roman and Christian times the caves were used as tombs. Admire the church, which is actually carved out of the rock and was used as a catacomb during the times of the Christians’ persecution. The area was also the port of Phaistos during the Minoan period and of Gortyna during the Roman times.

Matala gained international fame in the 60’s and 70’s, when it was discovered by the hippies. The restless lovers of “flower power” were flocking to Matala in the search of a place of freedom, inspiration and creation. Important celebrities such as Joni Mitchell (she has also written a song about Matala, named Carrey), Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Cat Stevens were only some of them.

During the last decade the wider area has undergone a rapid tourism development offering to the visitor modern hotels as well as endless choices for food and fun! The beach, also awarded with a blue flag, is perfectly equipped with state-of-the-art tourism and sport infrastructure. The shaded by tamarisks part of the beach is ideal for carefree relaxation moments after a fun day by the sea.

Voidokoilia: a beach-embrace

On the northwestern side of historical Pilos in Messinia and at a close distance from Gialova lagoon you will find the Voidokoilia bay with its dreamy golden beach.

Symmetrical as if it was drawn with a pair of compasses or resembling an “aquatic” ancient theatre, the beach is nothing but a circular gulf with thin golden sand and crystalline azure-green waters. Two huge rocks form a narrow passage, from which the sea flows smoothly to meet the golden sand and the dune.

The bay and beach of Voidokoilia have been declared as an archaeological site and a landscape of unique beauty. Excavations revealed a plethora of important monuments representing a long period of time. On its north side you will find the ruins of a Mycenaean vaulted tomb while on its south side still stand the ruins of a 13th century medieval castle constructed by the Franks residing at that time in the Peloponnese. Today it is known as “Paleokastro” and it offers a fantastic view to the beach and the Ionian Sea. On its foot, below Paleokastro, you will come across the mythical cave of Nestor, where also ruins of a 4th century BC Neolithic settlement have been found.

Frangkokastelo: on the traces of “Drosoulites”

On the edge of a plain overlooking the Libyan Sea and surrounded by the imposing mountains of Sfakia lies a castle; it may be small but it is associated with great myths, mysteries and bizarre, inexplicable mirages.

Although built by the Venetians in 1371-1374, the most important day in the history of Frangkokastello proved to be the 18th May 1828, when Hatzi-Michalis Dalianis, a fighter from Epirus, arrived to the occupied island of Crete in order to support the revolution against the Turkish conquerors. One hundred horsemen along with six hundred fearless warriors fought against the 8.000 soldiers of Mustafa Pasha, the Turkish commander of Crete. In front of the Castel Franco a fierce massacre took place and the earth was filled with blood. Some 335 of the Greeks died, their leader included. Since then, it is said that its sun-kissed sand, whose grace is lavishly offered today to the visitor, is haunted by Drosoulites. Every year, on the anniversary of the sacrifice, from the end of May till the beginning of June at the break of dawn, a phantom army of black-dressed shadows parades from the monastery of Agios Charalambos all the way to Castel Franco, alongside the misty beach.

Harmless ghosts or simply a reflection of the sun? All scientific approaches have failed to explain the phenomenon so far. Inhabitants and visitors claim to have witnessed this unexplained phenomenon. Myth or reality? Until we know for sure, we shall let our imagination run free until we meet the legendary Drosoulites.

 

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