National Geographic

20 Best Trips of 2011

National GeographicLooking for an out-of-the-ordinary destination for your next vacation? Check out these 20 top trips, hand-picked by National Geographic Traveler editors as the best of 2011. Where do you want to go this year?

 

National Geographic
Greece Photograph by Yiannis Tsouratzis, IML Image Group

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Messinia Region

Widely known for its Kalamata olives—Messinia produces about 55,000 tons of mainly cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil annually—this road-less-trampled region on the southwest Peloponnesian coast features numerous World Heritage List archaeological sites, including Olympia, Mystras, and the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae.

Sun-drenched hills and valleys are dotted with stone houses, vaulted tombs from the Mycenaean era, Byzantine churches, and medieval castles (such as the castle of Methoni, above). Retreat to secluded bays, remote beaches, and protected lagoons, including Gialova, Greece’s southernmost major wetland and home to more than 270 bird species.

The latest chapter in Messinia’s 4,500-year history is being crafted by international shipping magnate Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos, the visionary behind Costa Navarino, an energy-conscious resort that aims to be powered entirely by renewable resources. The luxury destination’s Navarino Dunes on the Ionian Sea opened in 2010. Initial sustainable elements include “living roofs” planted with native fauna and the world’s first large-scale geothermal heating and cooling installed beneath a golf course.