The Old Navarino Castle is one of the most beautiful places to visit on the west coast of Messenia in Greece. Not only because the hike up to the castle (which is really more of a fortress) is beautiful but also the view from the top where you can look down at Voidokilia Beach.
Voidokilia Beach is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and behind it is Gialova Lagoon. Gialova Lagoon (also known as Divari) is one of the most important wetlands in Europe and is great for bird-watching.
The hike up to the Old Navario Castle is gorgeous and well worth it. During the summer months, though, it’s almost too hot to hike it, so most people end up spending the full day at Voidokilia Beach instead!
But trust me, the view from the fortress and Nestor’s Cave (right below the fortress) is incredible.
It’s one of the coolest hikes we’ve done here in Greece and once you’re actually inside the castle walking along the fortress walls you get some of the most incredible views you’ve ever seen!
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Everything you need to know for the Old Navarino Fortress hike
In this post, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about the Old Navarino Fortress including the best way to hike to Nestor’s Cave (below the castle), what you need to bring, and where you’ll get the amazing view overlooking Voidokilia Beach.
The Old Navarino Castle is actually a fortress so in this post we will be using both ‘fortress’ and ‘castle’ interchangeably.
This fortress is from the 13th century and was built to guard the bay as one of two fortresses – the other one being the New Navarino Fortress.
This post is mainly about the hike but we’ll also share the different ways to get to Voidokilia Beach since it is the most iconic and famous bay in this part of Greece and it is located right below the castle.
Depending on what time of year you come to hike the castle it may be nice to go for a dip in the ocean after hiking up all that way, especially during the peak of summer.
We can’t wait to share this unique hike in Greece with you! For us, it is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Messenia!
Practical information about hiking to Old Navarino Castle
Distance: 2.7 km return / 1.68 miles return
Elevation: 127 m / 416 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail
Length: 1-1.5 hours return (time for photos along the way)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Here’s a picture of the beginning of the Old Navarino Fortress hike
Starting the hike at Old Navarino Castle trailhead
We have mapped out exactly where the hike up to the fortress starts. The reason is that most people don’t think of driving on the little gravel road to the trailhead and instead hike the whole gravel road.
You can see the starting point for Old Navarino here to give you the exact point.
There’s no need to walk on the boring gravel road that takes you to the trailhead. You can save that time by enjoying the views from the top of Navarino Castle or down by Voidokilia Beach!
The only thing to make sure of is that you follow the right trail when you start from the Old Navarino Fortress trailhead. It is quite obvious but some people miss it.
At the trailhead, there is one trail on the right-hand side that’s relatively flat. This trail will take you directly to Voidokilia Beach.
The other trail is on the left-hand side and this is the trail you take up to the Old Navarino Fortress!
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Up towards Old Navarino Fortress
Once you’re on the right trail (the one that goes left) you’ll start with some incline and you’ll instantly be treated to some awesome views!
We’ve done a lot of hiking in Kananaskis in Canada where most of the hikes are long and the views are from the top of the mountain! But here, hiking to the fortress, it’s short and there are views the whole way up to the fortress which is awesome.
As you make your way up, you’ll get a great view of Spachteria Island! When the tide is low you can supposedly walk across from the mainland to the island! We’ll save that for another post though.
As you make your way up to the fortress, you’ll notice the trail is really easy to follow and quite visible – and the trail is short. As soon as you turn around the first bend you’ll already see the fortress ruins at the top of the hill (‘mountain’ seems more badass though).
It’s a beautiful trail since you get the fortress in front of you and the stunning coastline all around you.
On a clear day, it’s crazy how far you can see. Especially since you’re at one of the most western points in the Peloponnese.
Enter the Old Navarino Fortress
This is probably the coolest part of the whole hike! You can actually enter the fortress and the area you can walk around is huge.
Inside the fortress walls, there’s a ton of overgrown bushes and shrubs that don’t really get maintained. But there are quite a few visible trails between all the bushes and trees!
You can also walk around the perimeter of the fortress on the fortress walls. If you’re afraid of heights it might not be the most exciting experience but we did feel relatively safe on the walls.
At the end of the day, the main goal is to get to the opposite side of the fortress where you’ll get the iconic and probably most famous view here in the Peloponnese: The view of the stunning Voidokilia Beach!
It’s just up to you how you get there!
Don’t worry the fortress is big but not that big. From the entrance of Old Navarino to the viewpoint, even getting lost a few times shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to the other side!
Take in the views overlooking Voidokilia Beach
There are a few awesome viewpoints overlooking Voidokilia Beach. You can walk around and explore which one you like the most.
There is also the entrance or exit that you’ll see that you can take from the fortress down the hill and towards Voidokilia Beach.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to hike down as we were tight for time which is too bad because it was a clear sunny day and 25 degrees Celsius out! Next time though! 😉
But if you want to you can hike down to the beach this way.
Alternative route to Voidokilia Beach:
There is a famous cave just below the fortress called Nestor’s Cave which you can stop by on the way before you enjoy a well-deserved afternoon at Voidokilia Beach. From the beach, you can head back to your car via the flat section!
This trail is from the Old Navarino Fortress parking lot, up to the fortress, down to Nestor’s Cave, and to the beautiful Voidokilia Beach before heading back to the car.
We didn’t get to do that but we did enjoy the view from up top! There are tons of cool photo opportunities and spots to get cool pictures as you hike around the fortress walls!
This is such a unique and cool spot so make sure you take it all in. This view as well as the Polylimnio Waterfalls are probably two of our favourite places in all of Messinia!
Back down from Old Navarino Fortress
If you don’t do the alternative route to the beach as we described above, the easiest way down to the parking lot is to go back the same way you came from!
If you hiked along the walls on the way to the viewpoint you can also try going through the trails in the middle of the fortress! Just to see something else.
You may hear some sounds in the bushes and it’s most likely a bunch of geckos or lizards that live in them. We did see a small snake there though. So if that’s not for you then maybe the fortress walls are your best bet!
Whichever way you take, once you get back to the entrance of the fortress you’ll continue back on the path the same way you came up.
You’ll get another view of Spachteria Island (which is totally worth visiting one day) and the stunning Greek coastline.
When you get down to the bottom of the trail, there’s also another beautiful beach where you can jump into the ocean if you want to cool off!
And that concludes this awesome hike!
What to bring on the Old Navarino Fortress hike
Let’s talk about the weather in the Peloponnese because this is going to be a big factor in the hike. When we’re hiking in the Canadian Rockies or Slovakian Tatras hiking during the summer is awesome.
Where in Greece summers can be extremely hot (40 degrees Celsius) which means you have to be very careful when you go hiking. It’s almost better to hike off-season during the cooler months!
But we definitely recommend everything from lots of water to sunscreen and any other protection from the heat!
We hiked in mid-October and by the time we got to the bottom we were absolutely roasting and it was “only” about 25 degrees Celsius outside.
Packing list for the Old Navarino hike:
- Bring lots of water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes or day trips and even during them when we can. We suggest bringing an extra water bottle for this one even though it’s a short hike.
- Sunscreen!! We already mentioned this but it gets hot here in Greece and the UV goes sky high!
- This is a short hike but with all the ascent it may be nice to have some good hiking poles. Even while walking around the fortress walls hiking poles can definitely come in handy.
- A power bank is nice to bring as well because you don’t want to run out of battery while you’re hiking or swimming by the beach!
- Some snacks or even a lunch to enjoy when you make it to the top of Old Navarino Fortress or down to Voidokilia Beach.
- If you do plan to go to Voidokilia Beach then anything you may need for swimming or the beach (such as towels, swimwear, and sunglasses) is a good idea to pack in your bag!
You can check out this great list of hiking gear to get some more inspiration!
The best affordable camera for beginners
If you’re looking for the best and most affordable camera for beginners, check out the Sony Alpha a6000 Camera.
This is the camera we’ve been using for years and still use to this day.
It’s perfect for travelling and super easy to use – even if you’re a beginner.
Before you go hike Old Navarino Fortress
Check the weather
As a rule of thumb, you should always check the weather before you go hiking.
This hike is great to do on a “cooler” day around 20-25 Celcius or early in the morning before it gets too hot. That way, you also avoid the crowds in case you’re visiting during the peak season.
I’m not sure if we recommend hiking to the top of Old Navarino Fortress in the peak of summer – unless you go early in the morning or later in the evening.
We actually heard a local say they shut it down in the peak of the summer because it gets so hot. We haven’t been able to confirm this anywhere online though.
In the summer it may be best to just go to Voidokilia Beach and swim in the ocean in the extreme heat.
Obviously, this is a hike you don’t want to do when it rains.
You’re super exposed to the elements, and from our experience, rain here in the Peloponnese is often followed by thunder and lightning. Needless to say that you shouldn’t be hiking in that kind of weather.
Wear hiking shoes
We always recommend wearing hiking shoes or trail shoes on almost every outdoor adventure we do.
This trail is nice but the surface is quite uneven and even hiking in the fortress you’ll want good shoes for it. There are lots of rocks and there can be snakes (we actually saw one) – but they’re supposedly harmless.
Especially if you hike down to Voidokilia Beach the trail there has some loose rocks and loose terrain so it’s good to have the right type of shoes for this hike.
If you don’t have any hiking shoes, we highly recommend the Newton Ridge hiking shoes from Columbia. Jo just got these recently and she loves them!
Leave no trace
When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of others.
Rent a car in Pylos or Kalamata
Even though the Old Navarino Castle is near Pylos, it’s still 9 kilometres to the trailhead from Pylos. Having a car makes this trip so much easier so you don’t have to add 18 kilometres and 4 hours of walking to your hike!
It’s also great having a car if you want to explore more of Messinia and Peloponnese. We had a car for 10 days during our trip and went to see some cool places like the Old Navarino Castle, Polylimnio Waterfalls, and Kyparissia.
Driving around the Peloponnese is quite relaxed we’ve found – especially the highways are pretty good!
To find the best prices and deals, you can look on DiscoverCars. When we looked, there were rental cars starting at €125 a week. That’s €17 a day!
DiscoverCars is the platform we use every time we rent a car during our trips and we’ve always been happy with them. Their customer service is great too, even if you have to make changes or cancel.
When is the best time to explore the Old Navarino Fortress?
This is probably one of the most important questions to ask when hiking the Old Navarino Fortress…
When it’s way too hot during the peak of summer it’s better to go to the beach and swim in the ocean than be up hiking with the sun roasting down on you.
It gets into the 40s (Celcius) during July and August and it’s just not fun hiking in that heat. Especially since the hike is super exposed!
But I guess if you plan to hike to the fortress and then down to Voidokilia Beach to cool down in the ocean then that can actually be a good idea!
This hike in particular is awesome to do during the off-season (late spring and around October). The weather is great during the shoulder months and you’ll also have way fewer crowds!
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How to get to Old Navarino Castle
The trailhead to the fortress actually is quite easy to get to especially if you have a car and you’re coming from nearby!
It’s located on the western coast of the Peloponnese not too far from Pylos and right next to the famous Divari Lake Wildlife Sanctuary.
As we mentioned earlier, you will need a car unless you want to walk very far from Pylos or go on a guided tour from Kalamata to Old Navarino Fortress.
From Kalamata to Old Navarino Castle:
It’s a 1 hour and 15-minute drive from Kalamata to the fortress trailhead. You can find the directions here.
Pylos to Old Navarino Castle:
It’s a short 25-minute drive from Pylos to the fortress hike. You can find the directions here.
Once you get close, you will reach a gravel road that has a few small potholes but nothing major. It’s a short 5-minute drive on this gravel road.
Soon you’ll cross a little bridge and you’ll see the area where to park right before the trailhead!
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Recap of hiking to the Old Navarino Fortress
This is quite a cool hike since it takes you to a famous fortress here in the Peloponnese. The history behind the fortress is quite fascinating as well!
The hike offers a good combination of amazing views, a bit of a challenge, and possibly one of the best viewpoints in Greece overlooking Voidokilia Beach!
We hope you have the best time exploring Messenia and the Peloponnese. There are so many beautiful things to do and see here and this hike is just one of them.
If you have any questions about the hike, how to get there, what else to do in the area, or anything else, feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below.
We hope you have an amazing time in Greece and enjoy this awesome hike!