Nafpaktos, Greece is a wonderful, mainland destination to discover over a long weekend from Athens. Steering away from the more popular Greek islands that tend to receive the most attention when it comes to holidaying in Greece, those seeking fresh places to explore will be excited and enthralled by the beauty that Nafpaktos, Greece has to offer. Situated on the coast of Western Greece, on the Corinthian Gulf’s northernmost point, Nafpaktos has a rich history that spans many centuries, with some sensational landmarks to show for. Fortifications on the coast, imposing bastions and stone seawalls reveal unique visuals with tales to tell, while the story of region really comes to life as you listen to chapter after chapter, from the hospitable locals themselves.
Here is a guide to a weekend in Nafpaktos, with an itinerary that will allow visitors to fully immerse into the most essential parts of Nafpaktos, Greece, and the neighbouring Messolonghi.
Nafpaktos Itinerary: 3 Days in Nafpaktos Greece
Arrival: Thursday evening
Leaving Athens on a Thursday afternoon, in about 2 hours and 20 minutes driving along a lovely, scenic coastal route of the Peloponnese’s northern coast, you reach Rio, just before Patras city.
At Rio, you must cross the sea to reach Nafpaktos, Greece, and the fastest way to do so is via the Rio Antirio bridge, although there is also a boat option too.
Dinner in Nafpaktos:
We enjoyed a sensational dinner after our arrival at the 4 Epoxes taverna in Nafpaktos, which literally means 4 seasons.
There, we were welcomed by the Deputy Mayor George Siamantas who gave us a heartfelt greeting and expressed his delight in us exploring Nafpaktos.
We indulged in a delicious, light dinner meal that was packed with a delightful selection of dishes including ‘ntolmadakia’ (stuffed, vine leaf rolls), rice with mussels and chickpeas, as well as some fresh, crisp salads and green ‘kerato’ peppers.
3 Days in Nafpaktos Greece: Day One | Friday
Starting our day with a wonderful breakfast at Hotel Nafpaktos, to fuel us for day one of our much anticipated weekend in Nafpaktos.
We savoured some of the freshly baked goods selection that included cakes, croissants and pies, fresh orange juice squeezed to order, as well as some scrambled eggs and local sausages. The highlight was an exquisite, handmade olive bread that was absolutely moreish.
Late morning: Messolonghi
Off to Messolonghi which is about a 40 minute drive from Nafpaktos, Greece. Messolonghi is an important cornerstone in Greek history; it is the setting of a dramatic siege during the Greek War of Independence and the death place of poet Lord Byron, making it doubly poignant.
Culture fix: Garden of Heroes The Garden of Heroes is dedicated to all those who fought in the battle for Greek independence.
Highlights are definitely some intricate tombstones as well as a statue of Lord Byron, who also contributed toward the Greek cause.
The Sacred site of Messolonghi is considered to be the equivalent of Alamo town in Texas, where historical events immortalised the legacy of those who took part, forever changing the course of history from then on.
Special thanks to our guide, George Apostolakos, who was very relatable and highly knowledgeable. His engaging narration brought to life all the events that took place once a upon a time ago…
For something that is really fascinating, visit the free entry museum at the Municipality. There you will find an interesting painting by the famous Eugène Delacroix.
Painted in a highly demanding technique, the painting is that of a mother killing her own child, while the most disturbing fact is that, as you walk around following a specific route, you can feel the movement of her eyes following you.
Activities alert: Discover Messolonghi
After a quick culture fix, our next stop takes us to the offices of Discover Messolonghi by foot from the Garden.
We discovered that this part of Greece is capable of offering its more adventurous visitors a huge plethora of outdoor activities, which we were eager to find out. Horse riding, bird watching, cycling, trekking and hiking on land, sailing, diving, rowing, rafting and fishing at sea or at the nearby Evino river are only a few of the activities that Nafpaktos and Messolonghi can provide!
Natural attractions: Wetlands & local produce
Passing above the Messolonghi wetlands, we admired the salt reserves in the salt lakes. Interestingly enough, 80 % of Greece’s salt is produced here (natural, unrefined salt).
Did you know that Greece produces caviar? We learned about and tasted the famous Bottarga, the Greek variety of caviar, made from mullet fish.
We tried the local, Trikene (brand) ouzo which has been produced in the area since 1901 and is three times awarded at the Expo in Thessaloniki for its smoothness.
To accompany our ouzo, as you should never drink on an empty stomach, we also savoured another local delicacy of NEALIS (brand) which was fillets of sea bream, one in olive oil and the other one had been smoked. You can find these in selected delicacy shops.
Boat ride to Tourlida beach
With the help of the locals, we experienced a great boat ride to Tourlida beach, aboard an actual fishing boat!
Tourlida Beach is home to quaint, small fishing houses called ‘pleades’ that are a colourful attraction along the seafront.
We lunched at Mpoulis taverna just a short drive from Tourlida Beach, where we ate fresh sea bream, salted fish, salads and tasted the lovely house wine.
Weather permitting: for a really exclusive dining experience, you can arrange a fresh seafood and fish menu dinner right on the waterfront, while learning all about the processes Bottarga caviar production.
Return to Nafpaktos:
After our meal, we made our way back to Nafpaktos, Greece. Walking around the picturesque harbour, it made for a very nice stroll, as we soaked in the amazing visuals around sundown.
Location was a deciding factor regarding dinner plans, so we chose taverna Petrino on the Nafpaktos promenade and enjoyed a selection of salads, spinach pie and rooster in red wine sauce with pasta (kokkoras krasatos).
3 Days in Nafpaktos Greece: Day Two | Saturday
Culture fix: Castle of Nafpaktos & Tower of Botsaris
After a wonderful breakfast at our hotel, the first feat of the day was to hike to the impressive Castle of Nafpaktos.
One of the largest and best preserved castles in mainland Greece, it dates back to the Byzantine era and commands amazing views from the top of the hillside, as it was strategically built to provide a favourable vantage point over the Corinthian Gulf.
We then visited the Museum of Nafpaktos and the Tower of Botsaris, an important benefactor of the region, and General of the Greek army at the time of its struggle for independence.
Afternoon excursion: Trizonia island
Venturing to Trizonia island by boat from Chánia, east of Nafpaktos, for a wonderful lunch at the family-run Ostria Taverna.
We savoured a great selection of seafood dishes and paired them with ouzo, including anchovies, fish and octopus in red sauce, freshly sliced tomato and olives, mussels cooked in a thick lemon sauce, and also tried their spaghetti Bolognese which was fantastic!
Owned by two siblings, Dimitri and Gianna, the latter explained how they moved to the island years ago, starting a few businesses.
Including those, is a small coffee shop called Iasmos Bistro, a few steps from Ostria taverna, selling homemade sweets and a tangy, refreshing fresh lemonade which we tried upon arrival.
A leisurely hike around Trizonia island ensued, passing by luscious olive groves while the sun was shining, veiling the small island of Trizonia in a tranquil quiescence.
We discovered a handful of lovely beaches around the island that can be accessed directly by boat.
Evening: Return to Nafpaktos
A stroll around the harbour in the evening is absolutely sensational. During sunset, especially, the ambiance and scenic views soothe the senses.
Amplify this by having dinner at one of the restaurants on the promenade, and then enjoy a drink at one of the bars that you will find around the harbour.
3 Days in Nafpaktos Greece: Day Three | Sunday
Rafting at Evinos River
Our final morning began with another great breakfast at our hotel before we braced ourselves for some adventure. As already mentioned, the wider region of Nafpaktos is fully capable of offering a plethora of activities and experiences within nature. Today we choose to try rafting! The drive to the river was a wonderful journey of about an hour, amidst beautiful surroundings.
We chose Rafting House for our rafting adventure at Evinos river, and were joined by the owner George Kaltsis which was a bonus. Rafting House provides all the necessary equipment you’ll need, such as wetsuits and safety gear. Additionally here are some pointers for being comfortable while you raft:
Insight tips on Rafting:
– Wear a bathing suit under the suit
– Wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet
– Wear a long sleeve shirt
– Dry pair of socks and towel
– Waterproof pochette for your personal items, if you insist on carrying them.
Our instructor and owner of Rafting House, George was very amiable and well informed, giving us the required instructions and confidence needed before we hit the water. At the end of it, it was an utterly thrilling day, packed with adrenaline, fun, laughs and an appreciation of the wild beauty and silent power of nature.
Lunch in Nafpaktos & return to Athens
We returned entirely famished to Nafpaktos, as our adventure had definitely worked up our appetites. We decided that for our last meal in Nafpaktos, Greece, we would revisit the first place we had dinner upon our arrival on Thursday evening, so lunch at 4 Epoxes it was! We enjoyed a selection of red and white meat dishes, accompanied by salads and various starters, before our return to Athens in the late afternoon.
This concluded an amazing weekend in Nafpaktos, full of excitement, relaxation, adventure and learning about the region’s culture, history while tasting the best that Nafpaktos, Greece has to offer.
Where to stay in Nafpaktos:
For spending a great weekend in Nafpaktos, choosing the right place to stay is perhaps the first thing to do. During our stay in Nafpaktos, Greece, we had the pleasure of enjoying the hospitality of two wonderful hotels.
Hotel Nafpaktos is a 3 star hotel, with a sophisticated design, located only 5 minutes from the centre of Nafpaktos and a stone’s throw from Gribovo beach.
A highlight is the delicious and filling breakfast we enjoyed, as well as comfortable, quiet rooms to relax in.
Lepanto Beach Hotel is situated right on the beach of Gribovo, with wonderful views and rooms that met our demands. A great breakfast served here too, and our stay was overall entirely cozy.
Nafpaktos is also wonderful during autumn, read all about our previous visit here.