As part of our larger Greece trip we wanted to explore the Peloponnese and our first stop was to Stoupa, Greece for three nights. You may ask where is the Peloponnese? Or why we didn’t travel to the typical Greek islands like Mykonos, Santorini, or Crete? Well, I can’t tell you how the Greek islands are but I can say the Peloponnese and Stoupa, Greece were spectacular! It was honestly surprising how few tourists were in this part of Greece in the middle of summer. There are both historical and natural sites that would be crawling with people if it were anywhere else. Within the Peloponnese there is literally a whole ancient city from the 3rd century BC with only 20 other people! Not to mention the amazing food that is also very affordable!
How to Get to Stoupa, Greece
We arrived into Greece after spending a couple of days exploring Amsterdam, Netherlands. The closest airport to Stoupa is Kalamata (KLX) which has limited airline service even in peak summer time. The other option is to fly into Athens and either take a combination of buses or to drive a rental car. We opted for the flight option and flew nonstop on Transavia from Amsterdam into Kalamata. From there we attempted to rent a car from Sixt which failed miserably and we thought we were on the brink of a major travel blunder.
Apparently in Greece if you are from the United Kingdom, the United States, or really anywhere outside of the Schengen region you are required to have an international driving license. The online rental agreement did not state that and what I thought was a trusted source (Rick Steves) also said not to worry about the international driving license. Sixt would not allow us to rent a car without the international driver’s license. After the moment of panic subsided, we checked out other rental car places at the Kalamata airport and found that Avis allows individuals to rent a car without an international drivers license. So our crisis was adverted but our rental car price more than doubled…
From Kalamata it is about an hour drive to get Stoupa. The easiest and fastest way is to take the toll road around Kalamata city (only went through one toll) and then you wind up and down the mountains that hug the coast. The drive was gorgeous but slightly stressful as it took a while to get used to the very skinny Greek roads. Despite the skinny roads it is a very manageable drive.
Where to Stay in Stoupa, Greece
There are no hotel chains in this part of Greece so don’t expect to be able to use your Marriott points but most places are affordable. We were able to book a private villa with a private pool with an incredible vista overlooking the mountains and the sea for less than $150 a night. There are many villas available to rent along the shore and up along the mountains. There are also plenty of options if you would like to stay at local hotels for extra comfort.
One thing to note about Greece in general is that the sewage pipes are not up to your typical standards. What this means is that all paper including toilet paper must be put in a little waste bin next to the toilet. While at first this was hard to get used to it really was not a big deal. Also, while the majority of Greece has fine drinking water our particular accommodation just outside of the main town of Stoupa did not. The manager of the property did not recommend trying the drinking water and we took her advice. We did not have any issues with the drinking water within the town of Stoupa or at other spots in Greece.
The Town and Food
The town of Stoupa is relatively small with most of the restaurants and stores sitting along the main beach. The main beach is conveniently called Stoupa Beach. Behind the main beach sits the main road which is pedestrian only during the peak season. Most of the restaurants are along this road but there are more than a couple of other roads coming off this with more food and accommodations options.
The beach is crescent shape making for calm waters. There are plenty of chairs available if you are willing to pay for food or drink from the restaurant serving them. We spent the majority of the at Stoupa Beach as we really enjoyed the restaurants, chair options, and of course the spectacular water.
For dinner we ate Five Brothers one night and Akrogiali twice because we loved it so much! Akrogiali has the best view of the beach as it sits on the very south side which affords it with a view of the entire beach plus the beautiful mountains in the background. The food was great too and more than reasonably priced. In Greece we fell in love with the food and Akrogiali was one of favorite restaurants of the entire trip.
About a ten minute walk north of Stoupa Beach is the other popular beach, Kalogria. Kalogria has a different feel than Stoupa Beach with a deeper sandy beach and feels a little bit more touristy. There are beach volleyball courts, kayaks, and other activities readily available. The chairs here are quite a bit more expensive than Stoupa Beach and the quality a bit lower but the beach has amazing views. If jumping in the water here, which is a must, you may find the water to be a quite a bit colder as there are fresh water springs right off the shore. There are less restaurants on this side of Stoupa so I recommend heading back to the Stoupa Beach area or the southern part of town.
The final beach that would be considered in town is Halikoura which is just a five minute walk south of Stoupa Beach. While the beach here is very limited the views and food options are once again superb. The beach is a tiny strip of sand backed by a wall with no options for chairs. However, up behind the wall are some good restaurants options and is a great spot for the sunset.
Many of the accommodations are in town but there are also plenty of homes to rent up in the mountains. Depending how far your accommodation is up the mountains it could be possible to walk into town. From our villa it was only a 20 to 30 minute to the beach or the main strip of restaurants. Just be warned going downhill is easy, coming back up is not especially in the heat!
For those who do not want to walk there is street parking along some of the side streets, but it is not always clear where it is appropriate to park. However, the best option to park is at the church and can be found by taking the second main road into town and then follow the parking signs. We didn’t have any troubles parking at the church lot in July, but it could be more difficult in August which is the peak tourist season.
For gas or petrol there are a couple of stations nearby. There are two grocery stores located on the road leading through the edge of Stoupa. We did not find the quality at the grocery store to be very good, so we opted to eat out at the great restaurant options. There is also a small shop along the beach which does have groceries, drinks, and alcohol but that is even more limited but is a good way to pick up items on your way back from a day at the beach.
On your drive down from Kalamata to Stoupa you will have to drive through the charming town of Kardamyli. It is worth more than stop to enjoy the quant town and some of the many hiking options nearby. We enjoyed completing an incredible hike starting in Old Town Kardamyli then through the Viros Gorge to an abandon monastery. Just be sure to start early as it gets hot in Greece! It is only a ten minute drive between Stoupa and Kardamyli.
The Deep Mani
Stoupa is also a great spot to explore further into Greece’s most desolate area the Deep Mani. Unfortunately, our planned day to the Deep Mani did not happen as we had more rental car troubles, so we enjoyed the beach instead! But if you do have the chance to venture further south you can head to the picturesque Limeni, Diros Caves, Gerolimenas along the coast, Vathia for the famous tower houses, or many secret coves.
We absolutely loved Stoupa and it was a great introduction to Greece. We were one of the few Americans in this part of the country with most people either being Greek or European tourists. The limited airline service and the popularity of the Greek islands is probably why there were not many Americans. If you are into the party scene or nightlife, I would not recommend Stoupa but if you are looking for a relaxing Greek beach vacation without the crowds, Stoupa is the place to go.