WHAT TO DO
It is located on the southern coast of the Peloponnese in Greece and only a 45 minute drive from the nearest airport in Kalamata or a 3.5 hour drive from Athens International Airport. With hot, glorious summers and mild winters and two main gorgeous golden sandy beaches, the village of Stoupa is becoming more and more popular with tourists.
Stoupa belongs to the Municipality of Lefktro in the prefecture of Messinia – this fascinating area known as ‘Mani’ is the only part of Greece that has never had to be conquered by invaders.
The “Maniotes” built tower houses (known as Maniatic towers) and sneaked in them, causing local vendettas. Some of these manic towers have been restored and can still be seen in the area. The writer Nikos Kazantzakis wrote “Zorba the Greek” while he lived here and his statue can be seen above the beach of Kalogria.
Stoupa is blessed with wonderful sandy beaches. The main sandy beach of Stoupa is gently sloping and abundant with marine life and has a beautiful mountain. Sunbeds and umbrellas are readily available for hire with some tavernas not charging for the use of their sunbeds at all.
At a distance of five minutes on foot from the beach of Stoupa is the popular beach of Kalogria. With its expanse of pure golden sand and clear shallow waters, it is a favorite of Greeks and tourists alike. Volleyball is always a feature of this beach and there are excellent beachside tavernas and restaurants for your enjoyment.
FOOD & DRINKS
On the beach of Stoupa there are about 20 taverns and restaurants, where you can taste the delicious local and traditional Greek cuisine.
All taverns and restaurants are family run and the emphasis is on high quality local products. The owners of the restaurants are also the olive growers who produce a world-class product of which they are rightly proud. In many cases they also grow their own vegetables and if the owner of the tavern is not a fisherman, then surely his cousin is.
The Castle of Lefktro: Visit the village of Lefktro, east of Stoupa, where the imposing castle dominates. The traveler Pausanias mentions that there was the temple of Athena with her statue. During the Frankish period, the castle was rebuilt and given the name Beaufort, which means “beautiful castle”.
The Prastovas Mine: It is worth visiting the abandoned coal mine of Prastova in Neo Proastio, where Nikos Kazantzakis and Alexis Zorbas worked.
Taygetus: The wild natural beauty of Taygetus fascinates the visitor. The steep slopes, caves and gorges create a beautiful mountain landscape. Sports and mountain lovers can go cycling, hiking and mountain climbing, following unique mountain routes.
The Stoupa and the surrounding area has always attracted artists and writers. Over the past five years or so, this has blossomed into a thriving cultural scene. The Nartura group organizes festivals throughout the year, including one in September celebrating the famous friendship of Kazantzakis and Zorba and another in June that takes place on Lefktron Hill (the former Crusader stronghold at Beaufort Castle) overlooking the Stupa . Smaller events such as bar theater and Celtic music nights are organized throughout the year. Local artists created the Mani Pulse festival in September, focusing on visual arts and music. A number of local British writers (modesty forbid etc) have launched a literary festival in October, which includes free creative writing workshops, book launches, talks, performances and ‘meet the author’ events. From the foothills of the Himalayas to Colditch, whenever the number of Brits in one place reaches a critical mass, the inevitable happens: we do am dram. The Neon Players play once or twice a year, usually British comedy, usually in the winter.
There is also a lively local music scene. If you visit the Stoupa, look out for posters and blackboards advertising live music in taverns and bars. The Parea Sti Mani website and the Stoupa Life Facebook group can be useful sources of information, but many events are still only advertised by poster and word of mouth. In the summer especially, you may see festivals advertised. If you have never experienced one of these traditional Greek village festivals, it is not to be missed. One of the biggest takes place in Neohori, a few kilometers from Stoupa, on the last Friday of July. Another popular event is the Chestnut Festival which takes place around the third Saturday of October in the mountain village of Kastania. With free roasted chestnuts and chestnut soup. skewers, wine and beer for sale. live music from midday until the early hours, this is a well organized party not to be missed if you are here in autumn.
Another recent addition to the Stoupa calendar is the Maniacs 10k Run, which takes place on the first Saturday in July. There is also a 1k route for parents and toddlers and a 5k option. The evening run now precedes a swimming event. Local hero Nicodemus usually wins the men’s 10k, but it’s a fun event for runners of all abilities.
Dive Code is a PADI approved dive center based in Kalogria Beach. They can organize individual dives or you can take a certified course.
If you want to do something a little different on holiday, The Olive Grove creative holidays run weekly mosaic classes at Patriko bar. Patriko is also the summer meeting place of the local Stitch’n’Bitch group. You are welcome to join them every Thursday morning from 11, even if you haven’t brought your embroidery with you on holiday. They are very friendly, although I’ve always found it a bit light on the pop.