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When you hear stories of Greece, it’s typically about ancient ruins, stunning island beaches, and Mediterranean flavors.
Never have I ever heard about hidden waterfalls cascading into crystal clear aqua and turquoise lakes. That is, the hidden gem of Polylimnio Waterfalls in the Messina area of the Peloponnese.
They are Greece’s best kept secret, located in the Messina Gorge and can be reached by a short trek through a gorgeous forest and craggy canyon.
On this hike, you’re met with water so blue and clear you might associate it with glaciers. Here in the Peloponnese, you won’t have to make such drastic efforts like climbing a mountain to see something just as beautiful.
There’ll be no icebergs waiting at the top of the lake for you either. Which means swimming is possible – although still slightly cold.
In this guide, I’ll delve into what makes the waterfalls of Polylimnio so special. I’ll also be sharing how to reach the waterfall, share my experience hiking the enchanting walking trail, as well as share some must-see attractions nearby and essential tips for an unforgettable experience.
Don’t be like me and leave your swimsuit in the car!
Why visit the Polylimnio Waterfalls?
The reason why you should visit Polylimnio Waterfalls, or Gorge of Polylimnio Waterfalls as they are sometimes called, is simply it’s a side of Greece you didn’t realize was there. The waterfalls and pools are an idyllic backdrop for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
There is a short 3km out and back trail that leads you to the main waterfall, so there is a touch of adventure as you scramble over rocks.
This secluded paradise provides a refreshing escape from the summer heat, with its emerald pools and cascading waterfalls forming a landscape of beautiful nature with aqua blue waters.
The lush vegetation includes olive trees, pine forests, and an array of wildflowers, creating a vibrant and fragrant environment. Keep an eye out for various bird species, butterflies, and even turtles that call this area home.
My friend Keryn from Twist Travel Mag and myself embarked on an easy day trip from Kalamata on our free day during the TBEX conference.
We were both bummed we missed out on a spot on the Polylimnio Waterfall tour. But tears were not necessary, as I had a rental car.
What are the Polilimnio Waterfalls?
The Polylimnio Waterfalls are a collection of cascading waterfalls and interconnected fresh water lakes located in the heart of Peloponnese formed by the flow of the Kadis River.
The name of this waterfall complex comes from the word (poly=many, limnio=lake), which together means many lakes!
It’s the artwork of one waterfall – Polilimnio – as it makes its way down from the nearby mountains carving its their way over limestone rocks to form other small waterfalls and hidden lakes.
Each of the numerous fresh water lakes has its own name. There’s Mavrolimna, meaning black lake, Tou Italou, which means ‘of the Italian’, and Stathoula, which is a girl’s name.
The biggest lake is Kadi Lake, which has the biggest waterfalls that reach a height of 25 meters.
How to Hike The Polylimnio Waterfall Hiking Trail
- Distance: 2.7 kilometers out and back
- Elevation gain: 139 meters
- Duration: roughly one hour without stopping
- Difficulty: easy
- Terrain: natural surface (quite rocky in places)
The hike to the Polylimnio Waterfalls is relatively easy with no significant altitude difference along the trail, so anyone with reasonable fitness can do it.
The trail starts at a small cabin near the parking lot, which has restrooms, snack food and drink. So, take care of your business before you start the trail as there are no amenities along it.
From there, you walk down a dirt path down the hill with views of the mountain peaks in front of you. Before long you’ll walk into the shady forest.
You’ll almost immediately come to a small waterfall plunging into a pool of water – a clear sign you made the right decision to have this fun little day trip from Kalamata.
From here the trail goes up or down. Signage is not good at all, so you’ll have to choose a direction and go for it! If you face this first waterfall, turn right, the trial heads up to the main waterfall.
Alternatively you can download the app MapsMe which has the trail marked and you can follow it using an offline satelite.
We did not go the other way (down) when we returned on the trail. If you have time, I suggest you do. You will find more hidden lakes and apparently a pretty cave of butterflies.
The trail will take you next to the small streams created by the spectacular waterfalls, which cross through green forests and small parks.
Along the trail, you’ll encounter picturesque wooden bridges, rocky paths, metal handles, and lush vegetation, adding to the charm and allure of the journey.
After the small bridges, there are some small signs will point the way to the lakes with names such as Mavrolimna, Kadi, Kadoula, and Stathoula’s.
You won’t really know what they are referring to as it’s hard to distinguish one lake from another – some are just small pools of water gathering at the base of the small waterfall.
The trekking path to the main lake and waterfall, Kadi, is hard to distinguish and mostly is scrambling over rocks.
Stick to the right side of the waterfall and you’re headed in the right direction. Be careful as the rocks are slippery, and you’re bound to put a foot in the water here and there.
You will see iron rungs sticking out of the rocks you can use, although the ones we saw were in unusual positions that didn’t look too helpful.
The blue green waters really sparkle at Kadi with the 25m high waterfall dripping down from the mountain. It was beautiful just to sit and soak it in.
But, for the adventurous you can enjoy swimming in its very cold waters or diving off the rocks or from a rope ladder to the side of the waterfall.
It looked like the trail continued on beside the waterfall here, but it was very steep, and we weren’t in the mood for that kind of adventure, especially when signs were minimal, and we really didn’t know where we were going.
We didn’t realize just how steep the climb back out after the walk is, until we were walking it.
It’s not overly bad, but if you’re not of reasonable fitness, you may need to take it slow and pause for breath. There is pretty mountain scenery to keep you company.
Getting to the Polylimnio Waterfall
To reach the Polylimnio Waterfalls, the most convenient option is to rent a car or hire a taxi from nearby towns such as Kalamata or Pylos.
Most people visit the waterfalls from Kalamata, so I will give directions from there.
The waterfalls are near the village of Haravgi (also sometimes spelled village of Charavgi). From Kalamata to Polylimnio, it is a 30 to 40-minute drive to the waterfalls depending on where in Kalamata you stay.
You should drive along the EO Pilou Kalamatas highway (82) which pretty much takes you all the way there, and you’ll see the signpost telling you to take a left turn from the main highway.
You can view the directions in this map.
The road up to the site is well-signposted, and there is a small parking area is available for visitors.
As it’s small, I’d come early to secure a park especially during peak season. We visited in May and there was only one other car there around 9:30 am.
Tips for Visiting The Polylimnio Waterfalls
Before you go, here are some words of advice that I learned from my visit…
- Wear sturdy shoes suitable for hiking such as walking boots or trainers with grip, as the terrain can be uneven and slippery. Don’t attempt it in flip flops, you’ll only regret it.
- Pack a swimsuit and towel for a refreshing dip in the lakes.
- Bring sufficient water and snacks, as there are limited facilities available.
- Use the restroom facilities before starting the hike.
- Pack a healthy picnic or some snacks for the end of the hike so you can recover your energy.
- Respect the natural environment and adhere to any signage or guidelines.
- Give yourself enough time to appreciate the beauty of the lakes and falls.
- Keep your eyes on your kids, if you’re bring them, as there are many places they can slip and fall.
- Visit during weekdays or non-peak hours to avoid crowds.
Visit Voidokilia Beach
After hiking the waterfall trail, we took a slight detour – only 20 minutes – to the nearby Voidokilia Beach before returning to Kalamata.
Voidokilia Beach is tucked beyond sand dunes and is famous for its unique horseshoe shape, pristine white sands, and clear azure waters.
We visited on a grey day so did not get the full impact of its stunning colors and its unique shape curved like a giant Greek omega – best viewed from the two rocky promontories that define the entrance of the beach.
Or the curvature also looks like an ox’s belly, which has ties to the meaning of its name, which originates from Voufras, which translates as “where oxen live.”
Because of the weather, we decided to forgo hiking up to the cliff top for that Instagrammable view.
But I enjoyed seeing its pristine beauty from the shores of the bay. Its calmness makes it an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling,
This is a protected area, so you won’t find any development or facilities. Also protected, next to the beach is the Gialova Lagoon, a brackish body of water that serves as a wildlife habitat, particularly for migratory birds.
The Polylimnio Waterfalls is one of the true hidden gems of the Peloponnese, Greece, and offers a mesmerizing natural escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
With its cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes, and enchanting walking trail, it is a real natural paradise for nature enthusiasts.
It really was a great hike and the perfect outdoor activity for a warm summer’s day.
Follow our guide to make the most of your visit and immerse yourself in the unspoiled beauty of this stunning destination. And don’t forget those swimsuits!
Looking for a place to stay near these waterfalls? I loved my stay at the Grecotel Filoxena Kalamata right on the beach. My pool and beach view room was spacious and comfortable and I loved being just a few steps away from swimming in the beach and great restaurants and bars. See rates and availability here.
For a lux stay near Voidokilia Beach you may love the W Costa Navarino. I attended a party there and was in awe of the property! See rates and availability here.
More Peloponnese Travel Tips
If you’re planning to spend more time in the Peloponnese and need some inspiration for things to do, here are some other guides that might be useful to you: