It is the long, rocky island lying in front of the natural harbour of Pylos, and it acts as a breakwater.
Its strategic location in one of the largest natural harbours in Greece is the reason why Sfakteria Island is associated with several historical events in the region, such as war conflicts, from the ancient years to the Ottoman domination.
During the Homeric years, the Pylians (under King Nestor’s reign) fortified the north end of the rocky isle with a fortress. The reason was their participation in the Trojan War and the fear of possible retaliation.
In 424 BC, the Peloponnesian War was going through its seventh year. With a brilliant, strategic, but risky plan, Demosthenes managed to exclude a large part of the Spartan army on the Sfakteria Island. The Spartans negotiated a truce, but the terms of the Athenians were callous. The negotiations fell through, and the island became the place of the Spartan massacre.
Two years before the naval battle of Navarino, Sfaktiria became a battleground between the Turkish-Egyptians on the one hand and the Greeks and Philhellenes on the other. On 16th April 1825, Ibrahim came against a thousand Greeks and foreigners defending the island. The battle was uneven, and Ibrahim prevailed by killing most of them while very few managed to escape.
Thus, Ibrahim established his dominance in the region, at least until October 20th and the Navarino Naval Battle, when he was defeated by the smallest but more experienced fleet of allies.
At the northern end of Sfaktiria, there is a beach of sand that you can reach from the inland as the waters are shallow.
You can also reach the island by boat from Pylos and Gialova and visit the heroes' memorials dedicated to the victims of the battles.