Traveling around Greece is always a pleasure. One can spend weeks just island hopping, road tripping along the coast, or exploring its ancient sites. Even better, it’s easy to venture off to a lesser-known destination; there are so many! This year we took a train towards Patras, where we were to decide where next. Initially, we were thinking about the islands of Zakynthos and Cephalonia, but once there, we heard about a place called Nafpaktos, apparently quite popular in Greece. We fell in love immediately. Not only it’s a gorgeous beach town, but it’s also a place full of history. Prepare to be dazzled!
Things to Do in Nafpaktos
- 1 Things to Do in Nafpaktos
- 1.1 Learn About the Battle of Lepanto
- 1.2 Spend Some Time in Nafpaktos Port
- 1.3 Find the Only Remaining Mosque
- 1.4 Enter a Unique Historical House
- 1.5 Explore the Upper Town
- 1.6 Visit the Venetian Castle of Nafpaktos
- 1.7 Have Coffee and Cake in a Fabulous Café
- 1.8 Spend Some Time on the Beach
- 1.9 Go on a Day Trip
- 1.10 Cross the Gulf of Corinth on a Boat
- 2 How to Get to Rio Antirrio Bridge
- 3 Where to Stay in Nafpaktos
- 4 Where to Eat and Drink
Learn About the Battle of Lepanto
Two battles that changed the course of history happened in Nafpaktos. The Battle of Naupactus was a naval war in Ancient Greece between the Athens and Peloponnese armies. However, it was the naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571 that placed Nafpaktos and all Greece into the world’s spotlight. It was a victory of the Spanish Empire and their European allies against the Ottoman Empire. The great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes took part in the battle, and lost his left hand. If you visit Nafpaktos in the first or second week of October, you’ll be able to participate in a colorful festival commemorating the battle.
Spend Some Time in Nafpaktos Port
A Venetian fortress surrounds the city center of Nafpaktos. It ends by the sea right at Nafpaktos Port. Historically, this was the port for navy vessels that defended the city. Today, private yachts occupy the place. On one side there is an old lighthouse, while on the other a large fortification with two statues. The first depicts the Greek national hero Anemogiannis, while the other one the Spanish writer Cervantes. In the middle of the port, we find the city’s main square, Limenos. The main street Papacharalampous is to the east of the square. Some of Nafpaktos’ best bars and restaurants are here.
Find the Only Remaining Mosque
Nafpaktos was under Ottoman rule for more than 300 years. Among the several mosques that adorned Ottoman Nafpaktos, only one survived. The Fethiye Mosque is a legacy of Sultan Bayezid II, who built it right after conquering the city in 1499. It was the city’s main mosque throughout the Ottoman period. After the liberation of Nafpaktos, it was closed and turned into an exhibition hall. Today it is only open on special occasions. The mosque is behind a white façade in a small street perpendicular to the port. Go to the other side of the port, and you’ll see a giant dome in front of the sea.
Enter a Unique Historical House
One of the best things to do in Nafpaktos is to pay a visit to the city’s most famous house. The Botsaris House consists of two different towers. The Venetians built the left one in the 15th century, while the Ottomans built the right one in the 16th century. A bridge connects the two towers above the street. The city’s governors lived here throughout the centuries. After the liberation, General Notis Botsaris bought the house. Today it hosts the city museum that displays paintings, sketches, and maps related to the Battle of Lepanto. A gorgeous garden surrounds the house.
Explore the Upper Town
After passing under the bridge that connects the two towers, the road turns right until reaching the Sideroporta, the main link between the lower and upper towns. If you continue right along the city walls, you’ll end at the Nafpaktos Clock Tower from 1914. The area north of the tower used to be called the Mosque district. People who participated in the liberation of Nafpaktos in 1829 settled here. Among the few surviving houses from that period, the nicest one is the Tzavela Family Mansion. The nearby esplanade with a giant tree hosts two Ottoman ruins: a mosque and a bath.
Visit the Venetian Castle of Nafpaktos
No matter how many days you plan on spending in Nafpaktos, you should find time to visit its grand Venetian castle. The Castle of Nafpaktos occupies the uppermost part of the fortifications, on top of the hill. The original castle dates back to the 5th century BC, but what we see today is mostly from the Early Middle Ages when Nafpaktos was part of the Venetian Republic. You can get to the castle by car or on foot. We recommend the latter since you’ll be able to enjoy the views from different angles. Of course, the best ones are from the top. You can see all the way to the new Rio Antirrio Bridge. While you are there, don’t miss the small Church of Prophet Elias.
Have Coffee and Cake in a Fabulous Café
Once you’re done with sightseeing, it’s time to relax and soak up the views. Even better, have coffee and a cake at the Kastro Café. The café is in the Upper Town, right where the road leading to the castle starts. There is no interior space, so visiting on a rainy day is not a great idea. On a sunny day, it’s the perfect place to chill and enjoy delicious coffee and a cake. Their selection of cakes is splendid. Let us not forget their first class service and, of course, the outstanding views. You’ll want to stay forever!
Spend Some Time on the Beach
No matter what time of the year you visit Nafpaktos, you should spend some time on its beaches. The city itself hosts two lovely pebbled beaches on both sides of the port. Grobovo Beach, on the east, is relatively narrow. Psani Beach, on the west, is bigger and therefore less crowded. Traffic is prohibited in both streets running along the beaches. Giant trees offer much-needed shade, just like the parasols of numerous bars and restaurants. You can also choose between the two beaches close to the city. Monastiraki, to the east, is in a fishing village. Platanaki, to the west, is even more relaxed.
Go on a Day Trip
If you think Nafpaktos has a lot to offer, wait until you see the rest of the region. The Blue Lake is one of the most unusual places to visit near Nafpaktos and Greece. The lake is close to the sea, and there is a narrow strip of pebble beach in between. If you are into the mountains, the Nafpaktia Region offers quite a few scenic places. Some of the best hikes in the region start at the historical Ano Chora. Platanos, with its collection of 19th-century houses, is another beautiful village. For the adventurous, we recommend searching for old bridges. The Artotiva Bridge dates back to the 15th century!
Cross the Gulf of Corinth on a Boat
Most visitors come to Nafpaktos by private vehicle. For those of us who don’t drive, there are other alternative ways. At the moment, there are no direct buses between Nafpaktos and Patras or Athens. Instead, you can take any bus that crosses the impressive Rio Antirrio Bridge, hop-off at Antirrio, and take a taxi from there. We took a ferry boat from Rio to Antirrio and admired the Gulf of Corinth in all its beauty. Not only that, but we also got to visit both Rio and Antirrio fortresses. Take note that the ferry is free for pedestrians and bicycles, while cars and other vehicles pay a small fee. During the day, there are ferries every 30 minutes. At night they are less frequent.
How to Get to Rio Antirrio Bridge
From Patras, you can get to the town of Rio by suburban train and then walk or take a taxi to the bridge. Alternatively, you can take a taxi directly from Patras to the bridge. We took a train from Athens to Kiato and another one from Kiato to Aigio. The railway line between Aigio and Patras is under construction, but buses cover the route. You can ask the driver to hop-off in Rio, close to the bridge. In Antirrio there is a pole with a taxi number, so you should call one. If you don’t have a European number, ask someone in the kiosk next to the pole to call the taxi for you. In Rio, taxis are waiting for passengers.
Where to Stay in Nafpaktos
Nafpaktos hosts a plethora of hotels for every taste. Just like elsewhere in Greece, they are either small or middle size family-owned hotels. We stayed at the gorgeous Flisvos Hotel, ten minutes away from the Port. Its location at the end of the Psani Beach is ideal, as we wanted to avoid the crowds. Rooms are huge, and have a large terrace overlooking the sea. They also allowed us to have breakfast in the room. If you prefer staying in the city center, some of the best options include Amaryllis Hotel, Akti Hotel, Ilion Hotel, and Pepo’s Guesthouse.
Where to Eat and Drink
Greece is heaven for food lovers. Greek cuisine is varied, fresh, and prepared with taste. Our favorite place to dine in Nafpaktos was at Psani Beach. No matter which restaurant you choose, you’ll be happy with the food and the service. Besides, having dinner listening to the sound of the waves under the moonlight is priceless. Our special mention goes to Soúsouro that serves delicious Greek and international food. In the port area, two of the best restaurants are Evoinos and Captain Cook. The Living Room is the best bar and restaurant on Grobovo beach. If you are looking for a place to have a drink, we recommend Centro Porto right in the port.