|Occupying the western portion of Central Greece, the prefecture of Aetoloakarnania combines the beauty of both sea and mountains.
The capital Messolongi is considered the sacred city of Greece. The heroic exodus of the "Free Besieged" was a bright moment in Greece's modern history, as well as a source of inspiration for the poets Solomos and Lord Byron. The city was founded in the 16th century on three islets at the mouth of the Acheloos and Evinos Rivers, later united by silting to form three scenic lagoons. History buffs will want to visit ancient Kalidon, ancient Pleuron, the castle of Kyra Rhini, as the locals call it, and the Windmill, a revolutionary monument. The second largest town of the prefecture is Agrinio, an important tobacco-producing centre with an archaeological museum worth a visit.
At 6 kilometres north of Messolongi, in a backdrop of plane trees and running water, stands the historic 17th monastery of Aghios Symeon, where 1,800 of the besieged sought refuge and were finally saved. The small island of Etoliko lies 13 kilometres northwest of Messolongi and is connected to the mainland by an arched stone bridge, offering a fascinating distant view.
The summer resort of Astakos, a picturesque market town, overlooks the gulf with the same name. Its long unspoilt sandy beaches and its turquoise sea make it a popular destination for carefree summer vacations. The 15th century monastery of Profitis Ilias near the village with the name of the Greek hero Karaiskakis, is where the illustrious revolutionary had his headquarters.
Travelling west on the coastal road one comes to Aktion, renowned in history as the site of the great naval battle between Octavian and Marc Anthony. Here lies the famous "Channel of Cleopatra", the area where the fleet belonging to the celebrated queen of Egypt was anchored prior to its defeat at Aktion.
The coastal road joining Fokida and Aetoloakarnania leads to Nafpaktos, third largest town of the region. This market town with its attractive Venetian castle and circular walled harbour delights even the most discerning visitors. The well-preserved citadel with its series of ramparts winding up to the top of the hill is one of the most beautiful in Greece.