Here’s my honest assessment of Stoupa, which I hope will be useful to people wondering whether to take a holiday there. These views are based on our first visit which lasted one week (11th-18th September).
We stayed in a simple apartment 2 minutes walk from the main beach (booked independently from our flights), and it was good value. We obviously cannot comment on other places, but there seems to be a range to suit most pockets and tastes.
Beaches – 8/10
The main beach is a nice crescent of mostly coarse sand, with pebbles where you enter the water. Sunbeds cover quite a lot of it, although there are empty stretches too. Around to the left (as you look out to sea) there is finer smooth sand and hardly any stones at the water’s edge, making it a lot easier for anyone who struggles with their feet. Around to the right it’s possible to find some lovely spots, and the snorkelling is quite good there.
Kalogria beach (10 minutes walk over a small hill from the main strip) has beautiful pale soft sand and the setting is lovely, but when we went there were sunbeds covering every square inch from near the water’s edge and back for about 30 metres. So the sand and the natural beauty were both pretty much irrelevant. You can’t really blame the restaurant owners, since every bed was taken and generating income for them, proving that for a lot of people the beach is still attractive. We looked around it for a short while and didn’t go back.
Lovely clear water at both beaches.
Scenery and exploring - 8/10
There are nearby mountains and some impressive views, with fine (but quite arid) scenery stretching all the way down the peninsula. If you have a car there are plenty of traditional villages within a short distance, and enough potential to have multiple days out. Lots of (mostly pebbly) beaches too, and places where you can have an idyllic peaceful lunch. The Diros caves were a fantastic maze of stalactites, which I would happily visit again. We ended up in the small harbour town of Gythio almost by accident one day, and loved it.
There’s an excursion company in the village offering all sorts of trips including ancient sites – search for “doufexis stoupa”. The boat trips had stopped running when we enquired (despite them still being listed in the schedule well into September).
Eating and drinking - 8/10
Around 20 restaurants selling good Greek food, including a souvlaki place, plus a small pizza/pasta restaurant. It was always excellent value, although we didn’t find it “cheap” – we mostly ended up paying around 50 Euros for two (a small selection of starters, a main dish each including a fish, plus wine and beer – perhaps we are gluttons!). The quality seemed consistently good – not elaborate, but with enough variations on the Greek theme to keep it interesting for a week. They pretty much all look and feel like tourist restaurants, but 10 minutes around the corner to the left (again looking out to sea) were a couple of places that were more like tavernas – we especially liked Halikoura, where you can eat home-cooked food (the best taramosalata and melitzanosalata I’ve had) with the sea splashing about 8 feet below you. You can get cocktails in lots of places (360 bar has a roof with a brilliant sunset view). To get away from the “strip”, we liked the Enigma bar on the little headland which has atmospheric outside tables, and the connected Liastres restaurant, which both look back over the bay and the mountains.
Greek experience – Stoupa itself 2/10; further afield 9/10
As far as I can tell, Stoupa itself never existed as a Greek village – there were just a handful of buildings before tourism arrived. It’s a holiday destination in Greece, which isn’t the same thing. So there is no village square with local families eating under the trees while their children run around; no street with a post office, grocers’ shops or quirky hardware stores; no real harbourside; no hubbub of people going about their daily lives. Apart from the little bakery shop on the front, the default language was English. On the other hand, it’s low-rise and pretty, it’s laid-back and there are no burger joints or loutish behaviour. At least in September, every restaurant and bar along the strip was populated almost entirely by British and other northern European couples of a certain age. It’s not meant as a criticism, especially as I fall into that category too! And from what people say, there’s more of a mixture in the high season/Greek school holidays. But I think it’s important for anyone considering a visit to understand that Stoupa really isn’t a proper Greek village, and never was.
Luckily as described above under “Scenery and exploring”, if you have transport it’s easy to get off the beaten track and find many lovely unspoilt places both on the coast and inland, so the “real Greece” (a cliché I know) isn’t hard to find and experience.
Sunsets – 9/10, especially if you’ve had a couple of cocktails!
And in conclusion – we will be back :)