Aetolia, as the greater vicinity of Messolonghi used to be called, was inhabited by the Aetolians and the Curetes in the prehistoric era. Many important cities-states prospered in this area since the 7th century BC, the most significant of which were Calydon, Pleuron and Oiniades.
Dalmatian pirate erected the first settlement in the place where the city of Messolonghi now stands in the 13th century AD, on three islets which were later unified. The Lagoon of Messolonghi has always acted as a natural fortress protecting the people against invaders, since its marshes and bogs hindered access.
The town of Messolonghi gradually evolved from a pirate anchorage and fishing village to an important trading harbour with noteworthy shipyards. Its people would develop great shipbuilding and trading activities in the 17th & 18th centuries.
Historical memory has identified Messolonghi with the uprising of the Greek people in 1821 to be freed from the Ottoman oppressors and was closely associated with one of the most glorious pages of Modern Greek history, the heroic “Exodus of the Free Besieged”, which stands as a universal symbol of the people's struggle for freedom. It is for this contribution to the fight for freedom that Messolonghi has been proclaimed as the “Sacred Town in Greece”. It is the only Sacred town in the world so proclaimed not for religious reasons but due to the sacrifice of its people on the altar of Freedom.
“Every free man is a citizen of Messolonghi” reads the stone plaque greeting visitors at the eastern gate to the city. Present-day Messolonghi is a major fish farming centre and college town with roughly 4,000 students. It is the largest bicycle town in Greece, which, in a way, will prompt and encourage you to leave your car behind and opt for a different means of transportation, as most of its people do.
The most interesting spots which you must visit are the Exodus Gate, the Heroes' Garden, the Town Hall at Markos Botsaris Square, which houses the History and Art Museum, the Folklore Museum, the Trikoupis' Residence, the Palamas' Residence, the Valveios Library, the Centre for Language and Art “Diexodos” and the modern art gallery by Christos and Sofia Moshandreou.
An evening stroll in Tourlida, an extraordinary lakeside settlement of “pelades” (floating fisherman's houses) which balance on pegs at the entrance of the lagoon is a unique experience. The route is exquisite and will lead you to a magical sunset, compared to which even the most renowned sunsets in the world pale by comparison...
The sights of Messolonghi do not end here, since the entire town and its surrounding area has spots which beg to be discovered, while tourist interest, both from an ecological as well as a historical perspective shall climix around the lagoon which encircles this “Sacred Town”.
The Lagoon of Messolonghi and its human-geographic landscape have been proclaimed a National Environmental Park and are protected by the Ramsar & Natura 2000 Treaties.
But in Messolonghi you fill also find traditional tavernas and places serving ouzo and titbits, as well as many high class restaurants which are filled with patrons and lend a different aura to the area. In Messolonghi food and drink are a tradition, with local recipes and dishes which have remained undiluted in the passage of time. Messolonghi is famous for its fish roe, eels & grilled salted and sun-dried sea-bream, salted fish and quality salt.
Idyllic nature & tastefulness, salt & tranquillity in a land that is beautiful and brims with tradition and history, beginning in the Mycenaean Period & extends to the present.