A bit of sideways thinking is key for planning great adventure holidays on a budget. And wild camping in Greece really was an adventure and a holiday that was well within our financial limits. Read on for how we did a week of wonderful and wild camping in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece.
Planning on camping wild
My obsession with camping wild under the stars, without a tent, was getting out of hand. I was wasting too many hours at work checking and rechecking the weather forecast just holding out until the next bit of promise on the report. Then even more wasted hours researching places to go and things to do and not really getting to as many of them as I would have liked.
Holiday planning soon came on the agenda. Perfect – let’s save some cash and wild camp! But for those of you who also make a habit of sleeping wild, you’ll know that the weather really is a key player in the game of seeing how warm and dry you can stay. Camping wild in bad weather for one night is bearable, an adventure even. But the idea of a week’s ‘holiday’ battling the elements becomes an endurance test designed for only the most foolhardy of adventurers. Not a relaxing or pleasurable experience. So somewhere hot then.
We’d had Greece on our minds for a while and started looking at the camping laws there. Much like England, the pitching of a tent outside of a campsite is illegal in Greece. But also, like England, there is no mention of sleeping on land with public access without a tent… bingo! Little encouragement was needed to book the flights and start planning.
Past experience has taught me that I work best adventuring with my own wheels. The mix of freedom and control to go wherever and do whatever, is to me, the best way to explore within a limited time frame. The spontaneity of what might come along when you have time on your hands goes out the window, but on the flip side, you have a greater degree of control of what you can get up to. A hire car was essential and so we booked early for a worthwhile saving.
Excitement was growing in anticipation for a week of waking up to the stillness of a deserted beach sunrise. And yet all people could comment on was whether the weather was going to hold or not. ‘May in Greece can be a bit unpredictable – aren’t you going to take a tent? Why don’t you stay in a B&B?’ No! We actually really love camping wild… (And in any case, we don’t have any room to pack a tent!)
Back to my weather checking habits at work again.
Wild camping in Greece
Finally we arrived in Athens. 27°C and rising. Heaven! A couple of days there enjoying the business and culture was enough to get us itching for some wilderness exploration. So we picked up our car and headed Southwest to the Peloponnese peninsula with only a rough idea or where seemed to look good based on our ‘extensive’ research on Google Earth.
We weren’t disappointed. Within 20 minutes of hitting the coast, we had found ourselves a delightful little east-facing beach looking across the stillness of the Argolic Gulf. The barely audible lapping of the waves and slow rising of the huge orange full moon immediately soothed us into a deep and satisfying sleep. Nothing but the rising of the sun at our feet to wake us.
Four more nights camping wild on the beaches were spent in a similar state. The temperature dipping to a comfortable 16°C at night and the degree of isolation only growing more favourable the deeper into the peninsula we ventured. Such was our detachment from civilisation that we were able to enjoy fireside dining, whipping up some delicious camping meals with local produce bought during the daytime. And we treated ourselves to a couple of lunches out in idyllic towns to keep us from turning totally feral!
It was a blissful existence and a great balance of exploration and holiday making. Each afternoon we would spend a couple of hours driving down dead end dusty tracks to the edge of a cliff or a field going nowhere. But sometimes these paid off and with further exploration on foot, our blind faith in the road less traveled delivered a gem of a spot where humans hadn’t ventured for decades (at least that’s how we liked to see it!)
A successful wild camping adventure!
A key part to the success of the trip was the time of year in which we traveled. Early May is the very start of the holiday season in Greece with only a few restaurants and tourist attractions starting to open up. The crowds don’t start rolling in until later in the month and so even the popular tourist beaches maintained some sense of quiet.
And of course the weather held! Whilst our bivvy bags would have kept us dry in a shower and did a good job at keeping the dew from saturating our sleeping bags, we heeded the warnings of potential bad weather and slipped an army bivvy sheet (tarp) into our packs… just in case! Rain threatened one evening with moody skies and deep rumblings over the mountains. So we rigged up our stealth camping shelter in anticipation of a wet night ahead. But the few fat drops amounted to nothing more than atmospheric skies to frame yet another spectacular sunset.
Packing essentials for wild camping in Greece
As well as your usual camping gear, you will need:
- bivvy bag
- trowel for toilet stops
- bug spray
- long layers to cover up when the bugs come out
- biodegradable washing up liquid and shampoo
We explored a lot of beaches and bays and deserted coves. Some of which were no more than a pile of pebbles gathered between the rocks and all of which offered us totally different things. For prettiness, good snorkelling, beautiful views of the mountains and perfect soft sand we would have to choose Stoupa beach. For isolation, quietness and tranquil waters then Skoutari Beach definitely made the grade.
The fresh whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets of Keroni had a wonderfully relaxed feel about it. Located on the South Eastern point of the Messenia peninsula, the small fishing town was welcoming without being too touristy. The castle ruins and working monastery perched on the cliff tops above the town are well worth a visit if only for the views over the bay below.
Forget souvlaki, kebabs or even moussaka – our hands-down favourite dish was Melitzanes Papoutsakia – stuffed aubergine. So delicious!