Greece has a magic that washes over you and it weaves a spell that offers something for everyone; the birthplace of modern civilisation, democracy and the Olympics married with the sparkling waters, sandy beaches, blue-domed churches and quiet culture of the islands. Athens and its associated historical draws are the crown on top of Greece’s mainland attractions, leaving its coastline quiet and largely undisturbed.
Nestled among olive groves as far as the eye stretches is the Messinia region of the Peleponnese and it’s here that Messinia’s boy done good Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos had a dream to turn the local economy around and transform it into a world-class, high-end tourism destination. Driven by a desire to promote the region internationally, it’s for all our sakes that the company he’s founded is deeply committed to preserving and enhancing the area, environment and local traditions, rather than just use their vast resources to bulldoze into the area.
Enter Costa Navarino
Costa Navarino comprises of a number of different developments and it includes 5* hotels and all the associated accoutrements you may expect from a luxury development – spas, conference facilities, luxury residences and golf courses.
Our destination is Navarino Dunes, 1km of sandy beach extending up to 130 hectares across gently rolling hills, and the setting for two sprawling hotels. The Romanos caters to a high-end luxury audience and the Westin, whilst also luxurious considers itself as creating the ultimate family experience.
We’re here to test out this claim en famille and once we’re settled into our family suite, we set about exploring. The range of activities set up for the young and young at heart are extensive and I defy anyone to find themselves at a loose end of what to do. There is a tennis court, indoor climbing wall, basketball and volleyball courts, bowling lanes, outdoor centre which houses all manner of bikes and hiking equipment to use to explore the local area, pools and since we’re right on the coast, all the watersports you can think of – surfing, kayaking, yachting, snorkelling and diving.
For a more gentler educational introduction to Messinia, there’s a Natura hall dedicated to the natural habitat of Messinia, showcasing not only the natural flora and fauna but also highlighting the key environmental protection issues of the region.
With our children being a little young to take part in the more structured activities, we found ourselves turning to the kids club where infants as young as 4 months and up to the age of 12 can enjoy a specially dedicated space with engaging staff and facilities especially tailored for them whilst we, the parents, explore a bit more of what there is on offer.
With the children otherwise occupied, a spa date is pretty much a no-brainer! And it is there that I’m headed to try out a signature massage where all the stresses and kinks in my back and shoulders are pounded away to oblivion. Unique to the Anazoe spa is the range of therapies available, salt water pools of varying intensities, ice cold bucket showers, mist rooms, ice grotto rooms and of course a jacuzzi and sauna. All the herbs used in the spa are actually grown outside in the spa’s own garden and I suspect that this may be the only massage I’ll ever have where I’ve left extremely hungry thanks to a mouthwatering aroma of rosemary infused olive oil used on my skin.
Luckily we’re in a veritable hotbed of culinary options and all tastes are catered for. Lunch at the Kafenion Deli and Restaurant was traditional Greek and it had the benefit of a very unique piece of theatre – songs around the kitchen table. A group of local Greek women come to the Kafenion and regale diners with traditional songs that they sing while preparing meals and finishing off with a very enchanting dance.
Trying to decide where to have dinner every day was a challenge – we opted for a child-friendly buffet at Morias one night where the majority of families dined and splashed out once at the specialist Italian, where we devoured smokily smooth mushroom risotto and thin crispy pizzas finishing off with lashings of Tiramisu. But our favourite of all was the beach restaurant Barbouni (below) right by the waters edge, benefitting from a cool breeze coming off the sea and the very freshest fish and seafood washed down with a fresh zingy cocktail whipped up especially for us!
You don’t have to restrict yourself to just staying in Costa Navarino when you’re on holiday – the next phase in their development features a suite of luxury properties to be called Navarino Residences. All the benefits of the resort’s facilities and every villa would come with its very own private outdoor pool, making it a slice of heaven, permanently.
It’s an enticing prospect and I can highly recommend Costa Navarino and the wider Peleponnese area that are just calling out to be explored further. The expansion of Kalamata airport is opening up this region to tourists and it won’t remain undiscovered for too long! Kalamata is just a short scenic hour’s drive away or for more numerous flight options, there is Athens International airport of a few more hours drive away.
Costa Navarino: Rates at the two hotels at Navarino Dunes, start from: The Westin Resort Costa Navarino: from €195 in Spring and Fall, and from €300 in Summer, and The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort: from €390 in Summer. For further information and reservations visit www.costanavarino.com. Prices are for a deluxe garden view room on a bed and breakfast basis, based on availability.