There are so many wonderful places to explore in the Peloponnese so it really wasn’t a hard decision to pick Kalamata as a home base for exploring the region. Kalamata isn’t the most beautiful city Greece has to offer by any means but it is the largest city in the Peloponnese and has a larger selection of hotels and restaurants to offer than many of the smaller towns I had on my list of places to see. It’s also very well connected by bus or even taxi.
Where to Stay
Elite City Resort If you’re looking for more of a luxurious place to stay, a place to unwind, a place to have fun then Elite City Resort is a great option. Now if you’re looking at just a place to use as a home base then maybe one of the simpler hotels would be a better bet, but if you did want to have a resort type of vacation for a few days this is a great hotel with every amenity including a beach bar, onsite pool and breakfast and wifi included. Prices start at €94
Hotel Ostria I have to admit this is where I spent most of my time in Kalamata. It’s a basic no frills hotel. Clean comfortable rooms, reliable wifi, a free breakfast, and a central location on the beachfront within walking distance of shopping, restaurants, markets and the city centre. Prices start at €54
What to Do and Where to Go
Explore Kalamata on Foot
Despite being the largest city in the Peloponnese, Kalamata is a great walking city. The city centre is actually very compact and easily explore in an afternoon and evening. Though afternoon and evening are two very different types of cities so definitely do both. Be sure to visit the Kalamata market, where you can pick up fresh figs, dried figs, olives, olive oil and honey.
Spend an Afternoon at one of Kalamata’s Beach Bars
Kalamata has one sprawling waterfront, but not necessarily the best beaches. So what do they do? Why they open up bars all along the beach. Just pull up a lounge chair or a table and grab a drink or meze while listening to music by the water. They usually open mid day and close in the wee hours of the morning
Explore Messinia by Kayak
This was one of my favourite ways to explore the amazing coastline of the region. Explore Messinia offers one day trips as well as several multi day trips around different parts of the Peloponnese. I preferred to explore the caves and coast of Kardamyli and the Mani visiting many sea caves and fishing villages along the way. Theres an included picnic on a secluded beach consisting of local fruits, olive oil, and honey. On my trip the other participants never showed up so while I loved my private tour, please show up if you sign up. Be cool. Explore Messina also offers SUP, and hiking tours as well. Prices start at €55 and include photos and videos. Starting point is Kardamyli harbour but you might be able to arrange a pickup from Kalamata if you ask nicely.
Day Trip to Mystras and Sparta
A UNESCO world heritage site, Mystras is an early 19th Century abandoned Byzantine villiage that is surprisingly well preserved with sprawling views of the mountain valley and the Taygetos. I rented a car from Kalamata however it is possible to visit by bus. From Kalamata take a bus to Sparti and from there take a taxi to Mystras. Make sure to tell the driver to drive you to the top. If you can get your driver to wait an hour for a reasonable price (I’d say around €10) that would be incredible. Otherwise just ask someone at the lower exit to call you another one to take you back to Sparta
Once in Sparta, you’d be surprised at how little remains of this ancient city. It’s remarkably small and you can see everything in about 20 minutes. Just make sure you time your visit with the bus to return you to Kalamata
Day Trip to the Mani
This is one of the most amazing regions in the Peloponnese and one of my favourite hiking spots in all of Greece. You can rent a car and drive the Mani which I highly recommend because you can just cover so much more ground, get out of the car and hike all the tiny little villages. But if you can only go by bus, there is a connection from Kalamata to Stoupa. From here get out and hike the villages nearby just make your way back in time for the bus back. There is only one return daily.
Caves of Diros
This is one of the main tourist draws in the region. But in my opinion I’d just skip it. The underground caves are spectacular and the little dinghies you get ferried around are fun but I was underwhelmed with the €13 pricetag
I highly recommend driving down to Cape Tenaro to visit the tip of the peninsula. This is a spectacular peninsula overlooking the Mediterranian. Take a hike to the lighthouse and some of the villages along the rocky coast.
After a day of hiking the villages I recommend taking a little break in Gerolimenas, the main town in the Deep Mani. Grab a drink or sunset meal at the Kirimai hotel. This is also where you’ll find the best food in the region bar none. The mani is known for it’s own traditional cuisine and it is here that you’ll find it. You won’t go wrong with a selection of meze
Where to Eat
Someone once told me Kalamata is the only city by the beach that doesn’t eat seafood. I laughed but it was true. Most of the seafood that gets delivered to Kalamata is of the frozen variety so people just don’t order it. I’m not really sure why it’s always frozen. Is it the restaurants? No demand? I don’t really know. What I do know is that this is a heavy meat loving city. But even if you’re not, you can still find many options in the city.
Ta Rolla This is the place to go for a good inexpensive homemade meal. Go up to the case in the back of the restaurant to order your food. It’s a different menu everyday but if the stuffed peppers or pastitsio are on offer then you can’t go wrong with either.
Souvlakia O Tzimis If you’re looking for the best souvlaki in the city, this is it. If you’re also looking for that late nite bite all roads seem to lead here somehow. Service is a bit slow, but that’s more because they keep things as fresh as possible and you just have to wait for good food. There’s no seating inside (actually there is no inside) but they’ve put cushions down on the squares benches and ledges
Athanasiou is a wonderful place to grab some breakfast pastries, mid day sandwich or sweet nibble or beat the heat with some gelato. They have locations all around Kalamata but the one on the beachfront was my personal favourite
Kyrimai Hotel If you’re at all into food, please find a way to get to this hotels restaurant. By far the best food in the region and right up there with the best food I’ve had anywhere in Greece. Come for an amazing brunch, or an unforgettable lunch or dinner. Or give yourself an extra treat and stay the night. It is quite simply an unforgettable experience and most definitely worth the trip. Located about an hours drive from Kalamata in the heart of the Mani Peninsula
Hopefully this quick guide helps you plan a trip to this wonderful region in Greece. It’s vast and theres a lot to cover, but it’s well worth trying to explore even for a few days. Summer and early fall are most definitely the best times to visit. It doesn’t get crowded but it can get quite cold in and around the Taygetos Mountain.