Lagoons and wetlands against a backdrop of art and history
On Greek standards, Mesolongi is a sleepy town by the sea that’s known for its salt pans, specialty eel sandwiches, and historic resistance to Ottoman rule. Yet the town is also a nature-lover’s paradise with plenty of opportunities to go birdwatching on its mysterious marshlands, kayaking through its rivers and lagoons, and hiking in the hills above the town. There are only a handful of hotels and guesthouses in and around Messolongi, including some great family-oriented properties in the countryside, which makes for a quieter vacation and a more authentic one in many ways.
From a nature perspective, the Mesolongi Lagoon or sea lake is where two rivers meet and where numerous coastal ecosystems exist, contributing to the economic livelihood of the local. Within the lagoon or lagoons, you can also visit the islet of Tourlida, named after the curlews (birds with long beaks) that used to breed there. As many as 80,000 birds shelter in the wetlands around the lagoon, and you might be lucky enough to see an impressive flock of Dalmatian Pelicans or Greater Flamingo. Cormorants, plovers, cuckoos, gulls, harriers and many other kinds of birds enhance this wondrous ecosystem and provide hours of enjoyment for bidrwatchers, whether you go by foot, by car or by bike.
Continue on the coast some 20 minutes down the road and reach the island of Aitoliko connected to the mainland by two bridges, to discover a quiet village with a handful of eateries and cafes, reflecting a very relaxed local way of life. You may also pass by the Vaso Katraki museum on the island to admire the talented works of this famous Greek female artist. Back in the town of Mesolongi, art lovers can also visit the little Moschandreou Gallery of Modern Art, as well as the Museum of History and Art which reveals more about the historic significance of Mesolongi, including paintings of the painful Mesolongi Exodus (when the city’s besieged inhabitants tried unsuccessfully to escape Ottoman tyranny). The Heroes Garden in the city, worth a visit to relax and reflect, pays homage to this important yet dark chapter in the region’s history and to Greece’s struggle for liberation. In this respect, Mesolongi is not your traditional tourism destination, yet ideally holds many surprises for those who want to tread off the beaten path.