Delicious food, friendly locals and beautiful beaches are just some of the experiences visitors to Stoupa in Greece can enjoy.
Stoupa is a village on the coast of the southern Peloponnese in the historic region of Mani.
My family and I flew into Athens from Bristol and hired a car. It is an easy 2.5-hour drive down a deserted motorway to Kalamata and then a further hour to Stoupa. The 43 km drive along the coast from Kalamata is breathtaking. The craggy ridges, pine clad gullies and imposing mountains make the hour-long drive a pleasure – unless you are of a nervous disposition and fear the sheer drops off the narrow, windy roads.
Stoupa remains unspoilt by tourism. There are scatterings of stone built houses with the majestic backdrop of the Taygetos mountain. Most visitors stay in self-catering accommodation although there are a handful of small hotels. Some have pools but the beaches are just a stone’s throw away.
Sun worshippers have the choice of two sandy beaches. The town beach, handy for the shops and tavernas, and Kalogria beach which is my favourite. It is breathtaking with powdery white sand leading to a shallow turquoise sea. Taking a dip in the sea is an experience. Lurking under the warm water are icy cold springs which can be a shock when you unknowingly swim over them. For those who need shade, tamarisk trees nestle at the back of the beach. Lunch is a pleasure with the choice of three authentic tavernas and a couple of bars.
I have been visiting Stoupa for over 20 years with my family and it hasn’t changed – apart from the sun bed situation. Many years ago there was a war between sun bed suppliers. It led to a late night fight on the beach and police confiscating all the sun beds. These days it is a very organised affair and sadly, the number of beds on Kalogria has tripled. Each supplier has been allocated their own area and the set-up reminds me of buying an airline seat. First class, business class or economy. A pair of beds with plump mattresses and an umbrella on the waters’ edge cost 25 euros a day, the middle range beds at 10 euros a day and, at the back of the beach you will find economy with basic sun beds at seven euros a day.
We visited the last week in September and the temperature was exceptional around 32 degrees. It is a great time to go and popular with the more mature – mainly Brits but some Germans who are not averse to getting their kit off. This caused great amusement on the beach when a ‘mature’ topless woman, in her 50s with bright pink hair, approached a young beach waiter at very close quarters – the look on his face said it all.
One of the highlights of Stoupa is its incredible sunsets – a perfect time to have a pre-dinner cocktail – the 360 bar’s roof terrace is highly recommended. It can be difficult to decide where to eat because there is so much choice.
The beachfront, home to many tavernas, is closed to traffic in the evening and is a great place to people watch. I was intrigued by the village boys who sat on the beach wall every night playing computer games – a few girls tried to distract them but to no avail. I was also pleased to see an old friend was still around. An ancient parrot outside Katerina’s supermarket. This year he had a new friend. An elderly gentleman who sat alongside him, eating nuts and constantly talking to him.
It was great to see that 20 years on some of the tavernas, including two on Kalogria beach, are still being run by the same families – it is like visiting old friends.
One of the most authentic family restaurants is the Five Brothers offering great-value home cooked food from local ingredients. The majority of tavernas treat diners to a surprise with their bill. This varied from donut like cakes drizzled with syrup, to half a carafe of Rose, a shot of Oozo or a cinnamon liquor, Rakomelo which was so good I purchased a bottle to bring home.
One of the joys of strolling back to our apartment in the eventing was the scent of honey and almonds which was heightened in the evening.
Stoupa is a second-home to our family. The perfect place for a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of many holiday destinations.