I tend to avoid anywhere hailed ‘the best’ usually because these areas are overrun with tourists and tacky shops and mediocre restaurants. Sure, they may have been the best at one point but as soon as the world knows about it, the world has a tendency to ruin it. Call my a cynic, but you know it’s true.
Myrtos beach has been named as one of the best beaches in Greece no less than 12 times and with good reason. But this also means that it one of the more popular beaches in Greece.
Therefore, I was hesitant on whether or not to visit Myrtos beach. Sure, the images were gorgeous. A long white-sand beach nestled amongst giant cliffs with azure water lapping gently at the shores. The beach was naturally spectacular. But was I going to be disappointed when meeting the beach in person and find it has been ruined by over-tourism?
Over-tourism is a profound issue these days. The last year alone, many once-beautiful paradises have been trashed by tourists. Maya Bay in Thailand has been closed to the public until 2021 as the ecosystem recovers. In 2017, over 3,000 people visited the small beach each day! Now it’s estimated that over 80% of the coral there has been destroyed.
In another shocking example, in Philippines an entire island, Boracay has been closed due to over-tourism. This tiny island was once hailed an idyllic paradise but a surge in tourism hit the island hard with over 2 million tourists visiting in one year.
Our cottage in Kefalonia was located a mere 10 minutes away from Myrtos beach, therefore, I couldn’t resist the short trip to see if the beach was really worth the hype.
The drive north was spectacular. A narrow road hugged the side of great cliffs, a shear drop just to our left. The road wound tightly to the cliffside, following the natural curve of the islands coastline. This made for a very bendy drive. Sharp bends were in abundance and you had to be very careful when taking one as you never knew what would be in the road on the other side. Too often there had been micro landslides and a spray of sharp rocks lay in the road.
We also saw the grim tell-tale signs of previous accidents. There were spots where barriers were completely ripped away like something had plowed through it and over the cliff. On one bend the cliff had a couple of levels before plunging down to the ocean and I managed to spot the skeletal chassis of an ancient car, mangled and in pieces.
The roads of Kefalonia are not for the faint-hearted.
We were so high up which meant that getting down to the beach was going to prove fun. The road dipped down steeply, hairpin bend followed by hairpin bend. On this road to Myrtos, there were no barriers so you had to be very careful that you didn’t under-estimate a bend.
So far, I was sceptical about what we’d find at the other end of the road. As we had approached the turn-off from the main road that lead to the beach, we had been greeted with numerous restaurants that looked super tacky, kinda like what you’d find in touristic Santa Ponça in Mallorca (I won’t quite liken it to Magaluf but it wasn’t far off). Alongside the two heaving tourist restaurants were several souvenir shops. It wasn’t exactly the first impression that I had hoped for.
When we finally reached the beach, we were met with a relatively small car park. At this point I was pleased that we’d opted for an off-roading vehicle in order to navigate the great hills of the carpark and rough gravel terrain. It didn’t take us long to find a parking spot and I was able to soak in our surroundings for the first time.
I was pleasantly surprised.
The beach was by no means empty, but compared to the beaches we’d visited in Mallorca, it was beautifully tranquil.
The centre of the beach seemed to attract the most people who were making use of the beach’s sun-loungers. Other than that, there was a handful of people here and there but the beach didn’t at all feel crowded.
There was a tiny bar by the carpark where you could pick up a snack. Lewis and I immediately headed here to grab an ice-cream each and once again were surprised (in a very good way) to find that the bar was small, calm and mostly empty. Oh, and they served damn good ice-cream too!
It’s important to note that Lewis and I were visiting in the end of September which is the end of the season in Kefalonia. Naturally, it is a lot quieter than the height of summer. I’m unsure just how busy Myrtos beach gets in peak season.
I’m always drawn to the very edges of a beach. Not only are they far quieter, but they also offer the most interesting terrains and are home to more wildlife.
To the very left of Myrtos beach there is a small cave as well as several rocks jutting out to sea. To get here we passed a sign that said something along the lines of “award-winning beach starts here.”
Myrtos beach is made-up of sediment from the eroding limestone cliffs that surround it. The end-product is an array of crisp-white, round pebbles which look beautiful but are no friend of the sensitive foot, as I learnt the hard way.
The turquoise waters were idyllically warm. Interestingly, the depth increases quite dramatically when you’ve only taken a few steps into the water. This is what is responsible for the beautiful azure glow of the water.
It’s definitely a must to bring water-shoes. I tried entering the water with flip-flops (as stupid as that sounds) but they just tried to float away from me. I resulted to wandering around the surf bare-footed but my feet suffered the consequences of that. Not only are they sharp on your feet, but the way the pebbles shift underfoot makes for a very uneven surface and I slipped more times than I can count!
It’s safe to say that after my paddle, my feet were incredibly numb.
As I was stumbling around ungracefully in the shallows, a shower of rocks plonked into the water, only a couple of metres away from me. I was perplexed but decided to ignore it, assuming it was just a bit of natural erosion.
Another flurry of stones raced into the ocean and I was left scratching my head. I stopped dancing around ridiculously and craned my neck to take a look at what was going on with the nearby cliff-face.
That’s when I saw them.
Perched precariously on the cliff-side were two shabby goats, ambling around the rock-face and shifting loose stones beneath their clumsy hooves. It was a surprising sight! I yearned for the balance which these goats possessed. It didn’t make sense to me how they were so comfortable on such a steep slope.
Before we left, we decided to take a peek inside the cave at the edge of the beach. The cave was a small size and had two openings: one onto the beach and the other out to sea. A small pool of water lay within the cave.
It was magical except for the ugly graffiti plastered onto the walls. People were carving their initials into the rocks, spoiling them with their egos and ugly entitlement. No one cares that you were here in 2015. Stop spoiling nature for everyone else.
It was a bitter end to an otherwise wonderful experience at Myrtos beach. It takes us back to my initial concerns about a place so popular. Over-tourism is an issue, especially when tourists are ignorant to their surroundings and are determined to tarnish a place out of their own carelessness.
Sometimes it feels like we don’t deserve this world when we refuse to take care of it.