Just a 3-hour drive from Athens, Messolongi in Western Greece, is a quaint and non-touristy town where visitors can relax by the mesmerising sea lake filled with charming fishermen houses.
Overlooking the beautiful lagoon and striking mountains, it’s the ultimate escape for families, foodies, photographers and those who love fishing, cycling and bird watching. This ideal year-round destination is a place where you can enjoy peace, serenity and an authentic travel experience that’s rich in history, gastronomy and natural beauty.
Here we share the best things to see and do when visiting Messolongi.
Stunning Lagoon and Wetlands
The lagoon of Messolongi, the largest wetland complex of Greece, is a natural paradise of islets, dunes, forests, rich flora and fauna. The twin lagoons of Messolongi-Aitolikos, together with the deltas of the Acheloos and Evinos rivers, form one of the Mediterranean’s largest habitats for birds and fish. The Messolongi lagoon is not only one of the most important wetlands in Greece, but all of Europe, as it’s home to hundreds of species of birds, amphibians, reptiles and sea turtles. The lagoon’s calm waters are ideal for kayaking all year long and if you paddle across to the islet of Agios Sostis you may even see flamingos.
Bird Watching and Fishing
More than 300 bird species have been observed in different seasons, lagoons, lakes and other wetlands in the region and the surrounding hills, including 32 of the 38 raptors vultures in Europe, with many of them, nesting either year-round or seasonally around the lake and surrounding mountains, where they find abundant food. The sea lake of Messolongi offers great fishing and bird watching, which is even more special around the farms, where you will find stilts and waders and if you drive along a scenic canal to the beach of Tourlida, you will find a magical spot to throw in a fishing line.
Swimming and Catching the Sunset
The region is ideal for total relaxation by the beach or in the countryside, with two of the most popular spots being Tourlida and Paliopotamos. And after a nice swim at one of the calm beaches, you can enjoy one of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever see in Greece. The best time of the day in Messolongi is late afternoon/early evening where you can watch the sun go down.
Hiking and Cycling
Another popular activity in Messolongi is hiking, with many old footpaths leading to historic monasteries, small villages, secluded beaches and hilltops with breathtaking views; keep in mind, hiking is best enjoyed in autumn and spring when it’s not so warm. Another great way to explore the town is on a bike and you will find most locals pedalling their way around Messolongi, as there are so many pedestrianised roads. Interesting fact: bicycles in Messolongi actually outnumber the 15,000 residents by 3 to 1.
Also referred to as the “Holy” city, thanks to the heroic behaviour of its inhabitants during the independence struggle against the Turkish occupiers in the 19th Century, Messolongi was declared a sacred city in 1937. There are many monuments and museums around town highlighting the town’s great contribution to the Greek Revolution including a leafy garden commemorating the heroes of the Greek War of Independence of 1821. Here, you’ll find the tombs of many renowned patriots, as well as that of philhellenic poet Lord Byron, who passed away in Messolongi. Also make sure to visit the Museum of History and Art, in a neoclassical building and the Folklore Museum.
Enjoy Local Delicacies
Messolongi is famous for its fish roe, eels, sun-dried sea-bream, salted fish and quality sea salt. Make sure you try the butterflied grilled grey mullet (petali), grilled or baked eel and shellfish. One of its unique specialities happens to be one of Greece’s most unique Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) food products and is named Bottarga Messolongi, otherwise known as the “Greek caviar”. Made from the eggs of grey flathead mullet, it’s flavourful and described as a combination of salty and spicy.
Don’t leave until…
Just minutes away from the Marina lays the best-kept secrets of Messolongi- the natural mud and salt spas. Every season thousands of locals from around the country come here to take a refreshing and healing mineral mud or salt bath. The seawater in the region has increased salinity due to the microclimate of the area and swimming in this water is wonderful for both the skin and body.