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Greek islands that still live life at a quieter pace June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands.

Just 20 minutes by boat from the western coast of Greece, Kalamos and Kastos offer a true escape from the madding crowds

There are still some islands that do not cater to the mass tourism market and where cars are a rare sight. Kalamos, off the west coast of the southern Peloponnese, is a wooded island, 780 meters at its highest point, with several small, isolated beaches, so isolated that one of them, Asproyiali, was one of Aristotle and Jacqueline Onassis’s favorite bathing spots.

The villages are also hidden among the greenery; three large plane trees shade the port, the busiest spot on the island as virtually all transport is by boat. Summer visitors arrive by yacht, keeping the island’s economy going, while locals use their own boats to go swimming at one of the beaches or go shopping on the mainland. The port is also the center of what nightlife exists on Kalamos.

There are roads on the island but they are put to little use apart from a few Municipal vans and the odd bus or taxi. Visitors are driven about by a local youth, Panos, in the Municipality’s car.

It is a walker’s paradise and the best hiking route is from Kalamos to the island’s other inhabited settlement, Episkopi, home to less than 10 people in winter, about a 90-minute walk. The road passes through an impressive pine forest and the vegetation around Episkopi is lush, with thick hedges of ferns reaching up to 2 meters in height. Lower down the hill, thorny thickets form an impassable barrier. But there are olive trees, cypresses and laurels, even almond trees.

Twenty minutes along the route is Kastro, where a picturesque path leads down to three of the best beaches on the island, Mylos, Dafni and Poros. Overland access here is only for the more able-bodied but the walk is worth it.

Kastro, a small settlement only inhabited in the summer, is named for the beautiful but abandoned fortress right next to the Church of Aghios Georgios, built in 1854, and cared for by a neighbor, Antonia, in the summer months. Closer to Kalamos, the vegetation thins out into a pine forest suitable for picnicking.

Sea taxis are available to take visitors anywhere around the coast. The closest beach and therefore the favorite with most visitors to Kalamos is Agrapidia, about 10 minutes’ walk from the port. There is a taverna among the houses shaded by citrus, almond and pomegranate trees.

At first sight less impressive than Kalamos, its neighbor Kastos has many hidden beauties, its beaches, the peace and quiet, the age-old olive groves and a breeze that cools the port during summer. If getting away from it all is what you are looking for, this is where to find it; the loudest sounds are the crickets, the birds and the waves. The only settlement is home to some 35 permanent residents, who grow much of their own food as there is not even a single local store, but in summer the houses and courtyards fill with holidaymakers, who usually eat at one of the three tavernas or the souvlaki stand.

Again, walking is the favored mode of land transport but boats are available. About 20-50 minutes’ walk from the port of Kastos, there are plenty of pristine beaches. At Limni beach, the biggest and the furthest from the main town, there is plenty of shade but Kalada is closer. The olive groves on the island are a monument to nature, centuries-old, with huge trunks carved by time into shapes as fascinating as the rocks that surround them.

For information call > Kalamos Municipality 26460 91100, Kastos Municipality 26460 91484.

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