How to hike to the Old Navarino Castle near Gialova (Messinia)

Voidokoilia Beach

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Even with only a couple of hours to spare in the area of Gialova, the hike to the Old Navarino Castle is a must. This easy 2-hour hike will take you through some truly stunning scenery including two of the most beautiful beaches of the area, Voidokoilia and Chrisi Akti, the lagoon of Gialova bursting with wildlife and the Palaiokastro of Pylos perched on a rocky hill above.

The trail starts at the far end of Chrisi Akti beach (also called Golden Beach or Divari) easily accessible by car from Gialova. There is a small car park at the end of the beach and a sign pointing towards the castle and Voidokoilia beach. I haven’t seen any more markings along the way but the trail is pretty easy to follow with no option whatsoever to stray in the wrong direction.

There are no shops at this end of the beach so come prepared with water and snacks. The hike itself only takes around two hours to complete but during the summer it can get very hot on the exposed ridge and you’ll probably want to spend some time at Voidokoilia as well. Starting early in the morning is ideal, especially in the summer. I left Chrisi Akti at around 8 o’clock and it was already hotter the I’ve anticipated.

Birdwatching at Gialova Lagoon

Hiking to the Old Navarino Castle from Chrisi Akti Beach

The initial section of the trail slowly climbs from the Chrisi Akti beach up to the castle on the western slopes of the Korifasios peninsula. What starts as a narrow dirt road soon turns into a wide trail with few cobbled sections and beautiful sea vistas. The view of the castle walls is far more impressive from here than from Voidokilia beach and the climb less steep making it the preferred ascent route.

The trail is not particularly challenging even in the heat unless you suffer from any form of arachnophobia! I don’t, but I still found the amount and size of the spiders I’ve encountered (and accidentally run into their webs) quite disturbing. But they are a frequent sight around Messinia and a small price to pay for all the beauty of this region.

Once at the castle, follow one of the many paths crisscrossing the hilltop. It’ll take you to the Voidokilia entrance with stunning views of the beach. The castle is officially closed to the visitors and unkempt, with the centuries-old walls crumbling down and bushes and shrubs taking over most of its premises. Be cautious while exploring, especially around the dangerously looking exposed cisterns and rickety fortifications.

The Frankish fortress, also known as the Old Navarino Castle, was built at the 13th century on the site of an ancient acropolis. It is one of the oldest fortifications in the area built to protect the natural port of the Navarino Bay. However, it was later replaced by the New Castle of Pylos at the entrance to the bay and left to slow decay.

The trail to Palaiokastro from Chrisi Akti Beach
The beginning of the trail to Palaiokastro from Chrisi Akti Beach
The old Navarino Castle
The old Navarino Castle
Spiders on the way to Palaiokastro
Trying to avoid the spider webs on the way to Palaiokastro was definitely my biggest challenge.
The Old Navarino Castle
The Old Navarino Castle
Wandering around the Old Navarino Castle
A view from the Old Navarino Castle towards Pylos
A view from the Old Navarino Castle towards Pylos

Voidokoilia Beach and Gialova Lagoon

Once done exploring the ruins and with dozens of stunning aerial photos of Voidokoilia under your belt its time to descend down to the beach. This path is much steeper than our ascent route and secured in few spots by metal steps and some rickety railings. It passes the large Nestor’s Cave, allegedly used as stables by King Nestor, before reaching the sand dunes above Voidokilia.

Starting out early not only meant avoiding the midday heat but also experiencing Voidokilia in all its morning beauty and stillness. Being one of the most stunning beaches in Greece, it gets pretty busy during the summer filling quickly with colorful umbrellas and excited holidaymakers. But arriving at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning I had the whole beach to myself for a well deserved refreshing dip.

To get back to the trailhead at Chrisi Akti beach walk across the sand dunes on the southern end of Voidokilia until you reach a narrow trail. There is no signpost pointing in the right direction on this side of the trail or at least I haven’t seen one but the path was easy to find and follow. Squeezed between the staggering cliffs of the Korifasios peninsula and the calm waters of Gialova Lagoon this was a magnificent walk even if short (around 15 minutes).

But it wasn’t just the beautiful scenery that made this part of the hike so memorable. The lagoon and its surroundings are one of the most important wetlands in Greece serving as a resting point for many migratory birds on their way from Europe to Africa. They are home to many more or less endangered species of birds, reptiles, fish and small mammals and are protected as part of the Natura 2000 reserve. The rare African Chameleon is the lagoon’s most famous resident, but the rest is no less awesome and in most cases much easier to spot.

The wetlands are a paradise for bird watching enthusiasts, especially during the migration period in Autumn. However, even if you cannot distinguish a goose from the cormorant it is an amazing experience to wander through the wetlands watching its majestic inhabitants roam freely through the beautiful countryside.

Looking for more hikes near Gialova? Check out this post about the beautiful Kalamaris Waterfall just a short hike away.

Voidokilia Beach from Palaiokastro
The view of Voidokilia from Palaiokastro
The trail to Paliokastro from Voidokilia
The trail to Paliokastro from Voidokilia
Voidokilia Beach
Voidokilia Beach
Voidokilia Beach early in the morning
The Old Navarino Castle from Voidokilia Beach
The Old Navarino Castle from Voidokilia Beach
The trail from Voidokilia to Chrisi Akti
The trail from Voidokilia to Chrisi Akti
The trail from Voidokilia to Chrisi Akti
Hiking from Voidokilia back to Chrisi Akti
Gialova Lagoon
Morning at the Gialova Lagoon
Birdwatching at Gialova Lagoon
You don’t have to be an ornithologist to enjoy birdwatching at Gialova Lagoon 

BEST OF MESSINIA

Beaches, castles, waterfalls and the best olive oil in the world!

2 thoughts on “How to hike to the Old Navarino Castle near Gialova (Messinia)”

  1. Hello, congratulations for your wonderful posts!
    We love Greece (not only during the summer) and we plan to come this winter in Peloponnese, on our Christmas holiday; would it be possible to hike during this time of the year? Is it snowing or raining a lot? (last year we have been in Pilio, and we have had a wonderful time hiking through the old villages, but at the end of the holiday we had plenty of snow, too!) And it is possible to hike there with a dog, as this is a protected area?
    Thank you from Romania!
    Dana, Alex and Ari the dog

  2. Thank you Dana! Hope you have a great trip. I don’t think you have to worry about snow at this part of Messinia but it can definitely rain for few day. Winter weather is quite unpredictable, it can be sunny and warm – think short sleeves – or really dark and rainy. Anyway, the bad weather never last for too long. If the weather’s good you can definitely do this hike in winter, just be careful after heavy rain. I would start from Chrisi Akti beach if I were you, which is the easier section, and see how it goes. Have fun!

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