Modern Pylos is located in the west end of Messenia, opposite a long island called Sphacteria, and the protected coast of the natural harbor of Navarino Bay. This beautiful town is warmed up by the inexhaustible Greek sun, even during the winter time.
Pylos is a prosperous region bearing a long history and remarkable cultural heritage. Having even been quoted in the Homeric poems, Pylos has all the credentials to be characterized as a “Eutopia” (εὖ- τόπος > good place). The warm Mediterranean sun and clear waters, the long history and stunning habitat make Pylos the centre of the northwest part of Messenia! Given the natural assets of this land, what more could anyone possibly ask for? The entire site of Navarino, from Egaleo Mountain, Korifasio and St. Nicholas to Sphacteria, is shielded by the abundance of light, the memories of the past, the olive trees and their the fruits along with the natural springs.
Pylos lies in the southern entrance of Navarino and spreads over St. Nicholas in the little “valley” between the hills, with Niokastro towering over it. It is picturesque and beautiful in all respects. If someone approaches Pylos from the northwest, it is worth spending some time to observe the scenery. You can see the entire marina where plentiful trawlers and tourist yachts have been stranded. The red-bricked houses and the castle, along with the village of Gialova with Divari Beach, Voidokilia, the pathway of Sykia and Palaiokastro on the opposite side of Pylos.
Pylos is also attractive at night, discretely lightened by the lights of the seaside bars and restaurants, and the piles. Let your eyes travel to the colourful night scenery that this part of the Natura 2000 protected area offers. “Fortunately!” is a word that subconsciously crossed our mind! In the beginning of the new millennium people finally recognized the importance of their heritage… even the rough way.
Nowadays, Pylos is stepping on a thin line between the new tendency of the tourist industry, which is characterized by massive investments, and the preservation and safeguarding of the historical, cultural and natural heritage of the region, and the fact that none of the latter should ever be “sold out”. The municipality Pylos-Nestoras, the heart of western Messenia, manages to keep the balance in these tough times, allowing the region to progress and keep developing without losing its regional, historic and cultural identity.
The building of Pasha in Niokastro (opposite the church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour) hosts the thematic exhibition “Shipwrecks” since August 2012. The exhibition is a lively narration of the stories of the most well-known shipwrecks that occurred around the Peloponnese. The exhibition was organized under the supervision of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities which used to be based at the Castle of Pylos.
In the beautifully arranged central room of the exhibition, the visitor walks on a big map of the Peloponnese where each shipwreck is marked with a different colour. You will learn all about the shipwreck of Mentor, Lord Elgin’s boat, who had an accident during the transfer of Greek purloined antiquities – the Parthenon marbles – to Great Britain. In one of the showcases Elgin’s derringer and other objects discovered in this shipwreck are on display. You will also learn about the method of cleaning the artefacts that are found at the bottom of the sea and the role that freshwater fish play in the preservation of such objects. Additionally, you will learn about the Roman shipwreck that occured a few kilometres outside Sapienza. Extraordinary finds, such as huge columns and sarcophaguses, have been pulled out of the water. We should note that this is the first under-construction underwater park in our country. You will also see the perfectly preserved hazelnuts found at the sunken merchant ship, along with other very interesting objects.
At the end of your visit you can ask to watch the video that presents the significant work and contribution of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in this initiative. You will see pictures of the divers – archaeologists and the rest of the stuff in action, along with scenes from the underwater finds in the various shipwrecks. This is definitely worthy of your visit if you go to Niokastro. You do not have to pay any additional fee to access the exhibition.
Niokastro or New Navarino is built on the hill above Pylos and is considered, along with Palaiokastro, the guard of the passage of the natural port of Pylos. The castle was highly developed and equipped compared to the old castle, intending to fully exploit the cannons, while simultaneously ensuring the greatest possible protection of the inner settlement and the fortification itself from the hostile fires.
It was built in 1573 by the Ottoman Turks who kept it under their control for more than a century. The construction of the new fortification started immediately after the defeat of the Ottoman fleet in the Naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The Ottoman dominance was followed by Venetian rule (1686-1715) and the very short Orlov Revolt in 1770. The final liberation came in 1821 with the Greek Revolution and the arrival of the allied French expeditionary forces.
The robust and well-preserved castle is one of the best saved fortification constructions in our days. An abundance of architectural elements and the buildings themselves that are enclosed in its walls, reveal the path of Niocastro in time: the Turkish fortification, the quarters of General Maison, the later additions during the period of the second Venetian dominance and the church of the Transfiguration of the Saver (former mosque), along with the acropolis of the castle with its six walled sides and ramparts.
The great strategic importance of the fortress for the control of the passage in the entrance of Navarino led to numerous occupations of the area by various major powers during the centuries.
The castle has two entrances. The entrance that is found on the main street, turning right at the main road of Pylos towards Methoni, is the one used in the present days. The fortification has six towers (ramparts): the northern tower, the southern tower and the towers of St. Patrick, St. Agnes and St. Anthony. The tower known as Castello da Mare was built by the Turks for the protection of the area and was later embodied in the rest of the fortification,
The quarters found within the fortified area in Niocastro were built by the French General Maison and have been well-preserved to the present days. The building which was exploited in various ways during the centuries was once used as the headquarters of the French armed forces. It is a bi-level oblong stone building which is found on your left as you enter the castle.
Today, the ground level of the building has been turned into a museum. Until 2012, it hosted the collection of Rene Puaux, one of the noblest philhellenes of all times. During his life, Rene collected a great number of drawings, paintings and other objects from Pylos and the wider area of the Peloponnese which dated back to the Greek revolution. Later in his life, he donated his collection to the municipality of Pylos. The collection has now been transferred to the refurbished Tsiklitiras’ House
(next to the City Hall).
The upper floor of the building is accessible from two entrances on both ends of the building. The centre of marine archaeology now uses this space as a library, while in the few other rooms that the building disposes, researchers and other scientists are being hosted when visiting the area.
Both the interior and exterior of the building has been extensively restored and renovated.
Three Admirals’ Square
The Three Admirals’ Square is in the heart of Pylos and constitutes a worth-to-visit spot in town. The square took its name by the homonymous monument which lies in the middle of it and is created by sculptor Thomopoulos. The monument serves as a constant reminder of the Battle of Navarino. On the three sides of the monument, one can see the figures of the admirals of the three fleets which confronted the Turk-Egyptian fleet in the Battle of 1827; Codrington, Heyden and DeRigny. In both sides at the base of the monument, there are two cannons, an Ottoman one and a Venetian one, which are symbols of the civilizations that passed through there.
It is worth to enjoy the shade under the enormous plane trees which almost cover the square from end to end. From morning to evening, you will see people discussing and walking around, near the plentiful coffee shops and confectioneries. Search for Lykoudis plane-tree which was planted by Petros Lykoudis himselft in 1880 when he was a garrison commander in Pylos.
Πλατεία Τριών Ναυάρχων - Πύλος
There are numerous shops around the square. Pylos is the ideal starting point for your excursions, offering great night-life, cultural events and natural beauty.
During your stay in Pylos, it is worth to visit the museum, Niocastro, the quarters of General Maison and Tsiklitiras’ house. We also suggest you to visit the old aqueduct with the arches that you will find on the uphill road heading to Methoni. And of course, let us not forget the island of Sphacteria and Navarino with its natural treasures!
Kostas Tsiklitiras could be characterized as the local hero of Pylos. He is an important figure for the region, enriching the notable local history. Tsiklitiras with his noble actions and achievements managed to remain in history and his name to be mentioned even in the present days. He participated in the Olympic Games in 1908 (he came second in two contests) and in 1912, winning two golden medals in standing high jump and in standing long jump. He honoured his country volunteering to fight in the First Balkan War at the Battle of Bizani, which took place in February 1913 in Epirus, between Greece and Turkey. The victory of the Greeks was decisive for the final liberation of Greece and the incorporation of this district into the Greek State.
Unfortunately, Tsiklitiras died at an early age when he was just 25 years old, from meningitis. In honour of Thiklitiras a statue of him was erected in Pylos, and his house, after it was purchased, was turned into a museum. It is located in the centre of the town, right next to the City Hall, very close to the port. It is also expected to be used as cultural space housing the Library and the Gallery of the town.
The Museum of Pylos is located in the city centre and is accessible from the road leading to Methoni, on the right of the Three Admirals’ Square. You will see the museum on your right.
The museum’s collections include archaeological artefacts which were excavated in the area of Pylia and dated back from the Neolithic Era to the Roman period. Among the exhibited artefacts, there is an abundance of votive gifts from the vaulted tomb found in Voidokilia and Koukounara, along with a plethora of vases, jewellery, spearheads, golden objects, animal representations in relief etc. Additionally, finds from Nisakouli in Methoni, Vlachopoulo, Tourlitida, Soulinati and Korifasio are also in display.
We had the chance to view and admire objects from the Hellenistic cemetery of Divari in Gialova. We were amazed by the beautifully painted glass pots, an astonishing golden belt, the magnificent statues of Dioscuri and the goergeous decorative representations on the earthen vessels.
During your stay in Pylos it is worth visiting the little islands of Navarino Bay by boat: the island of Sphacteria, the small island of Pylos also known as Tsichli-Baba or Fanari, and Chelonaki, a little rocky island in the centre of Navarino Bay. On a daily basis during the summer months the tourist boats include in their itinerary a visit to the monuments of the fallen soldiers in the Battle of Navarino between the Turk-Egyptian fleet and the Allies (the British, French and Russians).
Sight-seeing begins in Fanari (Tsichli-Baba). The boat is being stranded to the little pier and the visitors can see the monument built by the French Republic (1890) for the French who were killed in the Battle of Navarino. Fanari took its name by the lighthouse that exists on the little island accommodating the route of the ships during the night. After you climb the stairs (140 in total), you will have the chance to admire the whole town of Pylos with Niocastro and the Golden Coast in the background… the whole Bay of Navarino at your feet! The monument of the French (which was erected in 1890) stands next to end of the stairs and reminds all the important events that took place there and led to the establishment of the Greek State. You will see the lighthouse (which started functioned for the first time in 1873) right in front of you, located on the edge of the island.
You may carefully walk on the pebbles among the thyme bushes and you will find yourself on the other side of the island that overlooks the Ionian Sea. Relax and enjoy the ocean spreading out right in front of you. As you lower your gaze you will see the beautiful formations of the rocks and the bubbling of the waters upon them. Right next to Fanari you will see two immense rocks, the Koutsoynes. According to historical accounts during the siege of Niokastro by Ibrahim (26/4/1825) in the course of the Greek Revolution, the battleship “Aris” managed to escape through this passage, after having caused considerable damage to the Turk-Egyptian fleet by sinking several ships, despite all odds.
(photo by: g.gregorini
Our next destination is the island of Sphacteria with its extremely rocky topography; the island of Navarino Bay with the long historical presence along the centuries. Due to its strategic position, the island was used as the base for military operations since the early antiquity. As you sail along the coast, you will initially see the monument of Santore Santarosa, a philhellene and former Military Minister of Italy. He arrived in Greece in 1824, fought for the Greeks and died during the Revolution. The visitors will view two more monuments on the island. Initially, there is the monument of Alexi Malle. He was an officer in the French Body of Maison, who was killed during a skirmish. Additionally, there is the tomb of Paula Maria Bonaparte, the nephew of the victorious army commander Napoleon (there is a whole story behind his final burial in Sphacteria). In the centre of the island you will see the pier where the boats are being tied up. After you disembark, you shall walk for a few meters and you will see a column with the history of the island inscribed on it. If you walk a bit further in the same direction, you will see the small church of Panagoula
on your left. The building is not well-preserved. Right next to the church there is the wooden church of St. Nicholas
which was built in 1897 by the Russians and is dedicated to their people who were killed in the Battle of Navarino.
The little island of Chelonaki in the centre of the bay is the next stop of the tour. The boats are stranded in the small pier. There, the visitors will see the English monument (memorial). There is a small lighthouse for the night signal to the boats that are sailing during night. Please have in mind that you can also dive into the beautiful and clear waters either from the boat or from the small concrete pier. The extreme heat during the summer months will prompt you do that!
As you drive on the highway Pylos-Methoni
leaving behind Navarino Bay, you shall see the Kamares
on your right. The Kamares
were part of the old aqueduct which was providing Niokastro with fresh water. It is about a bipartite construction; the first part used to start from the village of Chandrinos and the second part from the village of Palionero. The area is also well-known as Panigyristra
(panigiri > local festival), due to the fact that a lot of festivities were taking place in this very spot.
to Gialova, you will see a sign on your left with directions leading to Schinolaka. You shall follow this road until you reach a crotch in the street and the relevant sign leading to Kalamaris Waterfall. Α dirt road starts in this spot, in the end of which you will have to park your car and walk the pathway to the waterfall. The pathway is narrow and covered in wild vegetation! In approximately 15 minutes of walk, you will reach a big clearing formed by plentiful anile plane trees.
Palaiokastro was built in the 13th century A.D. by the Franks, in the area of ancient Korifasio, the ancient county town of Pylos. Later additions to the fortification were also made by the Venetians and Turks.
It sits atop an imposing rock formation above the cave of Nestor, guarding the beach of Voidokilia and the Sykia Pass which separates Palaiokastro from the isle of Sfaktiria. The high spot where the old castle was constructed, offers a unique view of Pylos, but also of the entire beach of Gialova and Navarino Bay. The altitude and position of Palaiocastro gave it great strategic importance. Thus, the naturally defensible site was considered a target of great importance for occupation by several foreign powers during the centuries. It was definitely ruled by the Genoese, the Venetians, the Franks and the Turks.
Παλαιόκαστρο - Πύλος
The castle was considered almost impregnable to its enemies - and sophisticated attackers, with an only accessible entrance; the one that was found on its south side, in the end of the pathway that starts from the beach near the Sykia Pass. What is more, the Sykia Pass was also very difficult to cross and conquer, as it was very narrow and the besieged ones were able to ward off their mightier enemies by using small cannons that were placed along the walls. Palaiokastro began to decline when the Turks decided to obstruct the Sykia Pass, the most important entrance to Navarino. Gravity fell on the other - larger - entrance of the bay, and on Niokastro (the new castle of Pylos), which was built to safeguard this very entrance.
In the interior of the castle, the visitor will walk around a large yard that used to host various buildings which unfortunately collapsed over the years. Your attention will also be caught by the existence of large troughs (attention is required when approaching them), which were used for the collection of rain water, as there was no well or other natural water source in the area.
Παλαιόκαστρο - Πύλος
Nowadays, access to the ruins of the castle is not allowed, as at its entrance which is located at the end of Chrisi Akti/ Divari, there is high risk of parts falling from the fortification of the castle. There is an alternative way of accessing the castle, from the pathway that begins near the entrance of the cave of Nestor and leads to a hole in the castle’s walls. You can access the castle from that hole.
A visit to Palaiokastro is a must-do for the visitors of Pylos! The great view that it offers will definitely impress them, while at the same time, the poorly preserved cultural heritage will create feelings of sorrow and grief for the cultural treasures that are being lost in time.
The exterior part of the fortification is gradually collapsing and the castle remains unexploited and is, practically, a forbidden sight for visiting. We hope this situation changes in the near future...
This vaulted tomb dated back to the Mycenaean Era (1680-1060 B.C) had already been traced in the late 19th century by the English historian, G.B. Grundy, but the first systematic excavation was carried out in 1950 by Professor Sp. Marinatos. The excavator considered it to be the burial monument of Thrasymedes, son of mythical king Nestor, as mentioned by Pausanias in his texts. The tomb was partially plundered, but the remaining votive gifts allow us to imagine its wealth: a multitude of stone arrows, two necklaces of amethyst and sard, four gold sheetings, two small Mycenaean clay vessels and other small objects.
The skeleton of an ox that was found intact and probably came from a sacrifice in honour of the dead, was another impressive finding. Newer research (1977-1979) carried out by Professor G. Korres proved that the vaulted tomb was established on a burial mound of the Middle Helladic Era (2050-1680 B.C.). Traces of an early Helladic settlement (2650-2200 B.C.) has also been confirmed in this area based on the archaeological finds. The multitude of terracotta tablets and figurines of the 4th - 3rd century B.C., found around the vaulted tomb, bear testimony to the worship of ancestors for a well-known hero, and they are possibly related to a small structure that lies nearby, probably an Hellenistic altar, that was interpreted as being a heró
on (the hero's tomb/memorial).