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.
Museum of Pylos
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.
Do not hesitate to ask the person in charge for more information. It is worthy of a visit!
Old Pylos Castle (Palaiokastro)
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.
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.
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…