When I saw Katakolon was one of the stops on our Mediterranean Cruise itinerary last October, I had never heard about it and had no idea what it was about. After a quick research, I must confess my expectations were not exactly high.
Katakolon is a small port and beach town in western Greece, facing the Ionian Sea. It is the second busiest port in all Greece, after Piraeus. And it’s most famous for Olympia, the ancient site where the Olympic Games were born on the 8th century BC –basically the reason cruise ships stop there at all.
Being not so into ruins or spending the whole day in a shore excursion, we decided to skip Olympia altogether and explore Katakolon on our own. It was the best thing we did.
Turns out the day we spent in Katakolon was one of my favorites during our cruise experience. Like during my visit to Aegina Island the previous year, I felt that in Katakolon we got to grasp a more authentic side of Greece, not always easy to see in more manicured places like Mykonos (the next stop in our cruise).
So here’s what to see, do and taste for a perfect day in Katakolon:
Stroll around town
Upon our arrival to Katakolon early in the morning we found our way to the small seaside town, where a horde of travel agents was expecting the cruise passengers with information about all kinds of tourist excursions and programs available from Katakolon.
We passed them all, and strolled around the picturesque streets, full of souvenir shops, little cafes and tavernas, and along the harbor, aligned with restaurants and bars admiring the sea.
The town itself is pretty small and you can see everything in less than an hour.
Enjoy the breathtaking views
We still had a lot of time in our hands, so we decided to take the Katakolon Fun Tourist Train and explore outside town, for only 6 Euros each (price for adults).
From the moment we departed from Katakolon into the countryside, I felt we were entering real Greece – a country made of green hills and valleys, vineyards and olive gropes, typical villages and crystal blue waters.
If only for the views of the landscape and the Ionian Sea, this train ride is well worth taking. We even got to experience a true Greek traffic jam, a.k.a. a flock of sheep that made the train and other vehicles slow down their pace.
Taste the local wine
The first stop on our train guided tour was the Mercouri Estate and Winery, where we were greeted by the owners and their cat.
Surrounded by 40 acres of vineyards, the Mercouri Winery is run by the fourth generation of the Mercoury family and is the second oldest estate in Greece. It was founded in 1864 and has over 150 years of history in the production of wine and olive oil.
Today, it grows more than 15 varieties of grape of both Greek and international origin, and produces 13 different wines, as well as olive oil. Most of its products have repeatedly won international awards for their exceptional quality.
We paid 3 Euros for the admission ticket, which included a glass of red or white wine and a free walking around the property, where you can admire the family’s original residence and a small private church, the outside wine production area, and vineyards that stretch far out of sight. There are also peacocks, cats, dogs, geese, and a goat.
I really enjoyed wandering around the farm savoring its authentic rural charm and great wine!
Go to the beach
After our visit to the Mercouri Estate, we caught the next train to our last stop – Agios Andreas beach (you can jump in and out of the tourist trains with the same ticket).
Agios Andreas is a lovely little beach and beautiful bay, located in a tinny village with the same name. There’s a bar/restaurant just above the beach, and loungers and umbrellas on the sand for the guests.
We visited in late October but the day was really hot and sunny, so we came prepared with our swimming suits – and we were so happy that we did it!
The beach is a bit rocky when you first enter the water, but if you go a little further away you can have a wonderful swim. Not to mention the temperature of the water, that was just perfect. We couldn’t help but spend a long time splashing around and playing underwater with my GoPro.
Unfortunately we then had to hurry up to catch the last train back to Katakolon, but I can’t recommend this beach enough!
Have lunch by the harbor
When we finally left the beach and got to the little tourist train, it was already so full I feared for a moment that we were going to be left behind in Agios Andreas. Luckily the train driver, who didn’t speak a word of English, pointed us to its own small open cabin, and we both squeezed in next to him for the drive back to Katakolon. I doubt that was even legal, especially given the speed we were driving, but it certainly made for a fun, although not so safe, experience.
Back in Katakolon, safe and sound, we enjoyed a relaxed and delicious lunch in one of the many restaurants by the harbor. We had local olives and garlic bread, and then a Greek salad for me and the grilled octopus for my boyfriend, all accompanied by Greek beer.
After lunch, we still had time for one last stroll around Katakolon and a coffee in the cutest taverna, before sailing off again into the Mediterranean.
Katakolon was definitely one of the highlights of our one-week cruise last October. We had a great time and I loved how authentic and unpretentious this place felt, especially when compared with other more touristic destinations in Greece.
From the picturesque little town to the beautiful countryside and the delightful Agios Andreas beach, not forgetting the delicious wine and food, Katakolon makes for a perfect day and is most certainly worth a visit in its own right.
Have you been to Katakolon? What did you like the most about it? Share in the comments section below.
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