Re-Discovering Nafplio and a Coastal Walk to Arvanitia Beach

Breakfast at Polyxenia is served by Maria who is sister to Alexandra who checked me into the hotel yesterday. A set breakfast is brought to me at a table in the small dining area. There is the option to also sit outside. Yoghurt with honey, two slices of cake, freshly squeezed orange juice, tea, bread and marmalade and cheese and ham in toast. More than enough to set anyone up for the day.

Maria is a mine of information and so generous with the recommendations that she imparts. She asks me if I have ever walked to Arvanitia Beach along the coastal path. It is where the locals go in the evening after work as it is a nice place to relax and to see the sunset. I put this on my list of things to do today. Firstly I want to re-trace my footsteps from when I was here last just to try and get my bearings. Take a left out of the doorway of Polyxenia and I can see that it is next to Nafplio Town Hall and in front of it, Plateia Trion Navarchon. Take a right out of the doorway of Polyxenia and then a left and you are practically at the bus station. It really is in a great location if you want to be ‘on the flat’ and close to the transport connections.

A stroll along the waterfront, past the Port of Nafplio brings me to Bourtzi Castle which sits a short distance out from the harbour. The mountains surrounding the Argolic Gulf along with the man-made breakwaters make this a very sheltered spot. The water is often as flat as glass and IMHO one of the prettiest views in Nafplio. I say ‘one’ of the prettiest because there is no definitive perfect view of the town. Most of Nafplio is chocolate box pretty. One of the reasons why I love this view so much is because of the mountains that seem to encase the whole area. In particular the view of snow-capped Mount Zhria sitting high above all the surrounding mountains. There is just something about this mountain that I find absolutely captivating and I struggle to draw my eyes away from it.

When I was in Nafplio 6 years ago I stayed at a hotel called the King Othon which was opposite the fantastic ice cream parlour (of which there are many in Nafplio but this is the best) called Antica Gelateria di Roma. The King Othon was a beautiful old building that used to be a bank if I remember correctly. It had a lovely little courtyard with tables and chairs under several citrus trees. For some reason, we were sent to Hotel Victoria a few doors down to have breakfast. I had wondered why the King Othon hadn’t appeared on any of my searches for hotel rooms but now I can see why. The hotel looks semi-derelict. The pretty courtyard with shade-giving trees is now a building site. I suspect and hope that it is being refurbished but at the moment there are no signs of activity here.

The temperature today is definitely up on yesterday and I think that this is an opportune time to walk to Arvanitia Beach as Maria had recommended. Back on the coastal path I continue to follow it to the left which takes me past the Nafplio Lighthouse that sits at the end of a harbour arm. Locked gate? A sign saying danger of death by rock fall? No problem! I just copy the locals and swing my body around the gate post to get to the other side!

There is a bit of a drop from the edge of the path to the sea. I find myself walking close to the cliff face as anyone with vertigo would. It is covered in plant life including spring flowers but in particular the prickly pear cactus plant which seems to be sprouting out of every little crevice. Just how do they grow in such barren conditions? At ground level, many of the cactus leaves have been carved with the name of a country or a person or someone declaring their love for another. Another form of graffiti I guess.

In the weather-worn crevices in the cliff face, pigeons battle each other for prime spots. I can hear the whoop whoop of their wings as they try to intimidate a resting bird from the recess. It’s spring so I guess the nesting and mating season is here.

Sitting high above on the cliff edge is Acronafplia Castle, Nafplio’s oldest castle (of which there are three). At some points, you can see its defensive walls crowning the crag on which it is built. Continuing around the bend at the tip of the promontory, I arrive at an archway carved out of the rock. As I peek through I can see that it gives a perfectly framed vista all the way to Arvanitia Beach in the distance.

Ten minutes later I am on the path above the beach. I am taken aback when I see people sunbathing and swimming! This really blows my mind. Just two days ago I was only 145 kilometres away on the ski slopes of Kalavryta. Now here in Nafplio, it is as though summer has arrived already! What a contrast in two towns just a relatively short distance away from each other. The diversity of the Peloponnese is really quite unique and has something for everyone.

I have to swing myself around another locked gate to access the path down to the beach. Here there is an organised facility called Blublanc. It is closed at the moment but in-season it offers changing rooms and a bar and restaurant. For now, the locals still have access to the changing rooms and are making the most of this glorious day and a perfect little suntrap.

After climbing back up onto the coastal path, I arrive at a small parking area. At the back of the parking area there is a large section of fortified wall adorned with a carving of a lion (one of many). Instead of following the road behind the defensive wall, I continue along the Palamidi coastal path. Pine trees offer some sort of shade and a barrier above the sheer drop down to the sea. Looking at Google Maps this appears to be more of a hike than a leisurely stroll. I think Maria told me that this walk is about 7 kilometres and it is getting way too hot for that kind of malarkey! After about twenty minutes I turn back.

Akropnafplia and Palamidi are part of the Natura 2000 network that aims to protect the biodiversity of an area. These two particular sites are home to rare and endangered endemic plant species as well as lizards.

Once back at the car park I do take the road at the corner of the fortified wall and lo and behold I find myself walking down towards the bus station, the Land Gate and the statue of Staikos Staikopoulos – a striking figure! Ah now it all makes sense!

Google Maps isn’t always very accurate when mapping your timeline so I’ve tried drawing it out by hand. This is a lovely circular walk that can start almost anywhere including the bus station, the port and the lighthouse. Continue along the Palamadi path for a longer walk.

This evening I find myself back at Taverna Aiolos where the menu is broad enough not to get bored and the welcome is always warm. I won’t eat here every night honest!

Tonight a full moon casts itself over the town. The weekend visitors have gone, giving me the opportunity to walk the streets in silence and wonderment. It also gives me time to reflect on why Nafplio has such a special place in my heart. I’ll save that for another day.

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