Naupactus is situated on a bay on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, 3 km west of the mouth of the river Mornos. The harbour is accessible only to the smallest craft.
It is 9 km northeast of the Bridge Rio-Antirrio, which is connecting mainland Greece to Peloponnese on the western part of the Gulf of Corinth. The Greek National Road 48/E65 (Antirrio – Naupactus – Delphi – Livadeia) passes north of the town.
The name ‘Naupactus’ means ‘boatyard’, from naus (ancient Greek meaning “ship”) and pêgnuein (Ancient Greek meaning ‘to build’).
In Greek legend, Naupactos is the place where the Heraclidae (the numerous descendants of Heracles / Hercules) built a fleet to invade the Peloponnese.
In historical times it belonged to the Ozolian Locrians (related to the Dorians); but about 455 BC it fell to the Athenians, who peopled it with Messenian refugees and made it their chief naval station in western Greece during the Peloponnesian war. Two major battles were fought here.
Philip II of Macedon gave Naupactus to the Aetolians, who held it till 191 BC, when after an obstinate siege it was surrendered to the Romans. It was still flourishing about 170, but was destroyed by several earthquakes during the 1st millenium AD. From the late 9th century, it was capital of the Byzantine thema of Nicopolis.
In the late Middle Ages it was part of the Despotate of Epirus but was afterwards taken by Venice, who fortified it so strongly that in 1477 it successfully resisted a four-month long siege by a Turkish army of thirty thousand; in 1499, however, it was rumoured to have been sold by the Venetians to the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II. Under the Ottomans, Naupactos was known as İnebahtı and was the seat of a Turkish sanjak. The mouth of the Gulf of Lepanto (Lepanto is the English name for Naupactus) was the scene of the great sea battle in which the naval power of the Ottoman Empire was nearly completely destroyed by the united Papal, Spanish, Habsburg and Venetian forces (Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571). In 1687 it was recaptured by the Venetians, but was again restored in 1699, by the Treaty of Karlowitz to the Ottomans. It became part of the Kingdom of Greece in March 1829.
The two “arms” of the castle continue all the way down to the sea, embracing the historic city center. The old houses with their well-kept tiny gardens are stringed up along the narrow streets with the many stairs in the slopy town Naupactus. A local law prevents buildings with more than 3 stores and all houses must have ceramic Byzantine tiles.
You will find atmospheric small cafés and traditional tavernas with fresh sea food, delicious and straight from the Corinthian Gulf. At the central marketplace you’ll find some of the best tavernas, cafés and bars.
The greatest and most interesting attraction of Naupactus is the well-preserved fortress with its 25 towers, some of which are circlular as other are square. The fortress has witnessed many battles in the past and offers a fantastic view to all of the town and the Corinthian Gulf.
Following the paved streets North of the square at the Port you will arrive in front of a building with impressive form, which causes the attention and interest of everyone who sees it for the first time. This is the “Botsari Tower”.
This building, built in two phases in the 15th and 16th century was often used to accommodate the current rulers of Naupactus. Shortly after the release of Lepanto, in 1829, this building came in possession of General Noti Botsari. Today, it is hosting a permanent exhibition of copies of paintings, sketches and maps related to the Battle of Lepanto (1571 AD).