This summer, I discovered the most underrated Greek town. Neapoli Voion, or simply Neapoli or Vatika. This small town is located in the South of the least famous “leg” of the Peloponnese peninsula. The one with terrible roads and very few tourists. If people know Neapoli, it is because the ferries to Kythira depart from here, or they are confused with the one in Crete. However, when looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience in Greece, this town should be on your itinerary.
Neapoli lies in the South of the Laconia region on the Peloponnese peninsula. Between the famous Mani region on the right and the well-known Porto Cheli on the left. You can reach Neapoli by car from Athens in four and a half hours. However, this route will not take you through the beautiful road I have traveled to get here. Therefore, I advise exploring the coastal roads leading down from Astros, making your way to Vatika an adventure.
Neapoli in Greek means New (nea) Town (poli). And although the town you can visit today is new, the city’s history started in ancient Greece. Between the 10th and 9th century B.C., Heraclied Boeus founded a city on the ground that is now Neapoli. He called it Boiai, named after himself. Boiai later became the port of Sparta and was an ancient Greek city complete with a forum and multiple temples. However, in 375 A.D., the earthquake that created Monemvasia destroyed Boiai. Only remains from this city are preserved and displayed at the Archeological museum of Neapoli.
In the Middle Ages, a new village arose named Vatika. And although the name Vatika is still used today for the region of Neapoli, the settlement was later renamed Pezoula. In 1837, the Bavarian architect Birbach designed an urban plan for a new town. Neapoli was created and grew to 3.000 inhabitants today.
As an architect, I mostly like Neapoli because Birbach did a great job. The town feels well-designed, practical, and great for its inhabitants. Almost every house in Neapoli is no more than a five-minute walk away from the beach. In the middle of the beach is the port. And along the coast is the heart of the town. A boulevard as long as the town’s width, with stores, taverns, and bars.
Neapoli shows how important urban design is for a city. It shows how much architecture influences the way people live. In Neapoli, the locals can enjoy an early morning swim, endlessly sip coffee in front of the sea, and stroll at the boulevard at night. Even Thessaloniki, a city famous for its Siga Siga mentality, is not set up for a life as relaxed as here.
The urban plan of the city also makes for a friendly environment. Besides the boulevard, there are hardly any cars passing through the streets, which are all one-way. You can safely walk around and even let your children play outside or walk to the beach by themselves.
The town has a lot of green areas, with palm trees and other vegetation. And there are even front gardens! How often do you see those in a Greek town?
What I also noticed in Neapoli is that there are not a lot of abandoned or unfinished buildings around. This means that rules about construction are clear and complied with. Besides, it shows that people stay in the area, don’t have money problems, and take care of their property.
The town of Neapoli has a Blue Flag Beach, a couple of museums, and tasty food. However, I recommend you to stay in Neapoli because of the culture of the locals. Neapoli made me slow down because no one here seems to know what rushing is. Besides, there is a sea view from almost everywhere.
If you are planning on visiting Neapoli, book accommodation up front. There are not a lot of places to stay in the area during the summer months. We found a comfortable apartment called Sea view house Matina on booking. I can recommend this place to any couple. It is close to the beach and boulevard, has kind neighbors, and above all, has an amazing view. Check the available accommodations in Neapoli and support me to keep writing.
Vatika, the area around Neapoli, is full of beautiful untouched nature and amazing sites. Here are a few you should definitely add to your list of destinations:
- Petrified palm forest. A unique natural phenomenon. Due to a similar process as Faraklou in Lemnos, but with a different and unique outcome.
- Pavlopetri. An Underwater city of about 5000 years old situated in the clear blue waters of Vatika Bay. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear!
- Kastania Cave. One of the most impressive caves in Greece.
- Beach at Pounta and Elafonisos. The bluest water in the area, with big white sandy beaches.
- The many churches in the area. They are located on top of mountains and have great sea views.
- Visit Neapoli and Vatika during the summer months or at least in the months you can enjoy the sea. The beach is such an important part of this town that visiting during another season will not provide the experience I want you to have.
- Live like a local! Swim, eat, and repeat throughout the day. Relax in this quiet town. Neapoli is the perfect destination if you want a combination of exploration and relaxation. A hike in the mountainous and rough landscape around is a must. But don’t expect nightlife, crowded shopping streets, or fancy beach bars. Just relax.
- In the middle of Neapoli is a river that is always dry in summer and used as parking. However, when a summer storm comes, don’t forget to get your car out of this river bank. Last year, some tourists, as well as locals, lost their cars to the sea like this!
- Combine Neapoli with Monemvasia, Gythio, Limin Ieraki, Elafonisos, or Kithira.
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I visited Neapoli this summer, together with my boyfriend. Unfortunately, he got sick when we entered the town. My stay in Neapoli was, therefore, not what I had planned. I was worried about him and panicking about how our trip was going to continue since I did not have my driver’s license yet and needed to get back on the road the next morning.
In the end, I did like Neapoli more than I thought I would. While I planned on staying here to explore the Vatika region, I ended up surprised by Neapoli itself. However, I intend to go back next year to explore the area as I had planned. But I do know for sure that I will stay again in Neapoli.
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