The secret is out!
As the world starts to open up from the Pandemic, Preveza has hit the headlines. European Best Destinations has listed the safest beaches in Europe for a Summer Holiday in 2020 and Preveza is No.1! Forbes Magazine picked up the article so USA readers now know about it. Unfortunately, at this time the USA, Canada, and UK are not on the list of country's allowed to go to Greece. (I'll update as changes happen.)
The number one sandy beach these articles are touting is Monolithi Beach in Preveza. It is 25 km long and up to 80 metres wide, so there is lots of space for physical distancing. You might think it is called Monolithi because it is so long and huge, but there was actually a monolithic rock there. That rock was bombed by the Germans in 1942. What is left is now an underwater reef.
I think, when North American's are considering Greece, they want to go to Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos. Or some may have enjoyed the Masterpiece series The Durrells on the island of Corfu, and so that may be on their radar. At least Corfu is close to Preveza. There is a whole lot more to Greece than the southern islands and I find the country fascinating. Snowskiing in Greece? Yup. Ancient forests? Yes. Major rivers? Yes. One is know as the Blue Heart of Europe. There is so much more to see. Preveza can be a starting place.
Preveza is a town of just under 20,000 people in Western Greece on the Ionian Sea at the entrance to the Ambracian Gulf. It is blessed with lots of very good beaches including Monolithi. (The background picture are my feet at Monolithi). The water is warm, clear and clean at all the beaches.There are beach bars at most beaches. One of the many at Monolithi is Barracuda Beach Bar with plenty of chairs, umbrellas, food and a very active night life. Or you can find your way down to the beach, as with most beaches, and just enjoy it. Find some sand and plunk yourself down. Families do that, with food and toys and umbrellas and kiddos that swim like fishes. The parents jump in and enjoy the water with them.
I'm lucky to have family in Preveza, so have visited often. Preveza is thrilled to have this acknowledgement of their sweet town in the articles about Monolithi Beach. We stayed at an AirBNB, not far from my family. Almost every day we went to a beach. Sometimes it would be at 6 p.m. (in August) and it was still very warm. Sometimes we got up early to see the sunrise, or visited a beach for a swim and for sunset pictures. Then we'd go for drinks and food. What a life!
This is what you to when you go to a beach bar. Find empty lounge chairs on the beach with an umbrella over top and a little table between. Sit down and admire the view. Soon a waiter will show up with a menu. Order a drink. Admire the view. Your drink arrives with a little plate of mezze (a little something to eat - no charge). Pay now or run a tab. Listen to the kids playing in the water. Have some of your drink, a bite. Enjoy the view. When you get too hot or the look of that delicious water entices you, jump in. No one will disturb your towel or take your chair. (Always be careful of your valuables though, no matter where you are in the world). And unlike the French Riviera you don't have to pay to lounge. And that fabulous view is free too! This is relaxing at the very best. When you're ready to leave, pay for your drinks and please tip because it is often students who are your waiters.
One of the beaches in town we enjoyed was Kyani Akti, which means Blue Coast. There's a parking area plus you can park along the road near a fort. There's eucalyptus trees for shade, sometimes with men playing boules (or bocce or petanque, I don't know what they called it) under the trees, a bar and a view of a marina on the other side of the water. It can be crowded but it is walkable from town. You don't have to go the bar or sit near it. Again, there's plenty of beach space to be near the water. Other beaches to try are Lygia, Loutsa or Vrahos.
The town of Preveza is very old and quite charming. The Ambracian Gulf was the site where Augustus' forces in 31 BC defeated those of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. (Tony and Cleo had a summer place up on a hill near where the Nicopolis is now.) Nicopolis, meaning City of Victory was built to celebrate the victory. Preveza, like all of Greece, has visible influences from all the different conquerors. The clock tower in the middle of town is of Venetian design and of course there's lots of Roman and Ottoman influences.The Ambracian Gulf is now an important wetland for birds with fish, shrimp and eels, and is also a commercial fishing area with fish farms.
This is a town for walking. Lots of alleyways with stores and tavernas often leading to the waterfront. Early in the day, some roads are open for cars taking supplies to the shops and cafes. Later on, they are open for pedestrian traffic only. The waterfront is also lined with tavernas, cafes and has administrative offices (City Hall) looking out to the water. We had breakfast one day at a cafe looking out at the very large sailboats, from all over the Mediterranean, tied to the promenade. The breakfast was very good but huge. We could have split it three ways and it would have been enough. Guess they don't want the boaters to go hungry.
In the summer there's a festive air to the place. At one end of the promenade is a Ferris wheel. At the other end a market. Along the promenade there are vendors selling sunglasses and balloons and knick knacks and things that light up. All a child could want. There may be photo shows, fresh food markets or fishers selling fish right from the boat. The area around Preveza grows a lot of fruit and vegetables. The tomatoes are delicious.
So you stroll during the day, go home for a nap, go to the a beach, then at night come out for drinks and dinner. Stay as long as you want, they won't kick you out. There may be outdoor concerts. Music is everywhere. Again you can stroll in and out of the alleyways and businesses and visit with friends, in the cool night air. Tavernas and bars stay open very late. Don't forget to watch the sunsets.
Preveza is a town I can't wait to go to again. There is so much to see and do. (And a great place to relax.) As I learn more I want to know more. Greece is fascinating--an amazing history of a country overtaken by numerous countries from ancient to modern times, and yet it comes out as an example of resilience, with strong-willed people and a democracy that endures.
If you get tired of the beach, the shopping, the ouzo (you have to try it), and want an afternoon of exploring there's plenty of places to go. The Ancient Nicopolis is a close ruin where you can stand on the stage and give a speech or sing to your friends in the stands. The acoustics are good. Check out the Nicopolis museum (about 2km before the ruins) before you go. It is really well done.
About 29 km from Preveza is the Zalongo Memorial on top of a cliff. It honours the women, who in 1803, danced with their children over the cliff because they chose death over surrender to the Ali Pasha's army. A powerful, beautiful memorial. There is a song and dance dedicated to their self-sacrifice. The statue can be seen for miles. Parking is near by and steps lead up to the memorial. The second Sunday of August is a celebration of their sacrifice.
Spend a day going to one of the Seven Gates to Hell (my story here). The Archeron river, known as the river of sorrows in Greek mythology, is a great way to spend a hot day. Walk in the river, raft, horse ride, zip-line or shop. If you're up to it, try camping. Enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the riverside tavernas. Yummy!
Take the Aktio-Preveza Undersea Tunnel (the first in Greece) under the entrance to the Ambracian Gulf and go to Lefkada, also known as Lefkas. It's an island with lots of beaches and bars and interesting towns. The Aktion National Airport is there where you will arrive if you fly to Preveza from Athens or other EU countries. You can rent a car there.
There are lots of other towns and islands to visit like Parga. It has a castle and a monastery on an island. Take a tourist boat from there to Paxos and Anti-Paxos. Or take a ferry to Corfu from Igoumenitsa. Corfu is another fun island with a fort and monastery.
If you are up for a long drive (two plus hours from Preveza) there is Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These are Greek Orthodox Monasteries built on high rock pillars. Visit Ioannina on the way or stay overnight there. Ioannina is famous for silver work and of course has a castle and a very large lake.
So much to see...
A local website for more info and places to stay is Visit-Preveza.com