Kalamata: The Pine-Fringed Peloponnese City With A Standout Food And Drink Scene

Start your Greek mainland explorations in cosmopolitan Kalamata, which, with its sandy beaches, silk scarves made by local nuns and ever-evolving food and drink scene, has a lot more going for it than just olives


Kalamata, Messinia, Greece

Why now?

Greek Orthodox Easter preparations are in full swing in
Kalamata, the sun-warmed second city of the Peloponnese, whose distinct local fire dance,
the Saitopolemos, will see revellers gather on the beach on Sunday
night dressed in traditional costume to set off paper shuttles full
of gunpowder – a centuries-old custom celebrating Hellenic heroism
during the Turkish occupation. But, for enlightened travellers
looking to swap the Cycladics for the Greek mainland this year, there’s lots to love
about this destination even after the chocolate eggs have been
polished off, including idyllic Blue Flag beaches, forested
mountain trails, fertile valleys – source of those world-famous
olives – and archaeological monuments, all just around a
two-and-a-half-hour drive from Athens (or via a direct flight from

Messinia region, Greece
Taygetus, Greece

The Messinia coast, left, and Taygetus mountains

Don’t miss

Rugged, untamed wilds are just a short drive away. It’s worth
tacking Kalamata onto a road trip through Messinia and the Mani
peninsula, visiting the stalactite-studded Caves of Diros, the
breathtaking beaches (try Voidokilia) and guesthouse-dotted green
folds of the Taygetus mountains. So beautiful is this area that
travel writer Bruce Chatwin’s ashes were scattered here following
his death – a request he made after exploring the region.

Where to stay?

The Grand Hotel Kalamata. Built on the site of the
former America hotel, this 10-room, 13-suite stay is just 700m from
the beach. The restaurant is helmed by lauded Greek chef Alexandros
Tsiotinis, who has worked under Hélène Darroze and Alain Passard.
The young Greek makes a point of only using Messinia-grown olive
oil in his dishes.

Where to go for dinner?

Try Oinopantopoleion Chrysomallis for fresh anchovies
doused in peppery olive oil, beetroot and orange tartare, and silky
artichoke risottos, plus a roster of Peloponnesian wines. The fairy
light-strung courtyard is the city’s summer sitting room.

Grand Hotel Kalamata
Grand Hotel Kalamata

Grand Hotel Kalamata

And for a drink…

Platea. Set
in a converted neoclassical mansion on the spacious (and, at night,
raucous) Vasileos Georgiou Square, this theatrically designed bar
serves smoky rum and pineapple pours, plus rosemary-infused
cocktails made with Greece’s fiery 45 per cent proof tsipouro

Who to take with you?

A traveller with a refined palette who won’t complain about all
the olive oil tasting. Put them to use picking out an on-the-hoof
lunch at the cornucopia of Messinia-made larder specialities that
is Typropoleion Delicatessen.

Essentials to pack…

Nothing much; save room in your suitcase for the beautiful silk
scarves made by the sisters of the Orthodox nunnery that’s next
door to Ypapantis Church.

How to get there

Fly direct to Kalamata International Airport from London Gatwick
with EasyJet.

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