Escape to the Peloponnese, where Myth meets history. Monuments from every period of the eventful history, great archeological sites; ancient Olympia, Epidaurus, Mycenae and Tiryns, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Byzantine churches and Monasteries.
Enjoy sightseeing and sports; explore unique villages and alluring castles amidst stunning natural beauty, mountains and forests, rivers and caves. Not to mention that the Peloponnese is surrounded by the Greek sea, with lovely beaches, sandy and smooth coasts on the western part – rocky and lacy on its easternmost side. It is no coincidences that the tour of the Peloponnese is very popular among travellers.
Since antiquity, and continuing to the present day, the Peloponnese has been divided into seven major regions: Achaea (north), Corinthia (northeast), Argolis (east), Arcadia (center), Laconia (southeast), Messenia (southwest), and Elis (west). Each of these regions is headed by a city. The largest city is Patras (pop. 170,000) in Achaia, followed by Kalamata (pop. 55,000) in Messenia.
The peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Its modern name derives from ancient Greek mythology, specifically the legend of the hero Pelops, who was said to have conquered the entire region. The name Peloponnesos means "Island of Pelops".
The Mycenaean civilization, mainland Greece's (and Europe's) first major civilization, dominated the Peloponnese in the Bronze Age from its stronghold at Mycenae in the north-east of the peninsula. The Mycenaean civilization collapsed suddenly at the end of the 2nd millennium BC. Archeological research has found that many of its cities and palaces show signs of destruction. The subsequent period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, is marked by an absence of written records.
In 776 BC, the first Olympic Games were held at Olympia, in the western Peloponnese and this date is sometimes used to denote the beginning of the classical period of Greek antiquity. During classical antiquity, the Peloponnese was at the heart of the affairs of ancient Greece, possessed some of its most powerful city-states, and was the location of some of its bloodiest battles.
The major cities of Sparta, Corinth, Argos and Megalopolis were all located on the Peloponnese, and it was the homeland of the Peloponnesian League. Soldiers from the peninsula fought in the Persian Wars, and it was also the scene of the Peloponnesian War of 431–404 BC. The entire Peloponnese with the notable exception of Sparta joined Alexander's expedition against the Persian Empire.
The weather in Peloponnese varies according to the high altitude and the region. It has the characteristics of a typical Mediterranean climate, it is mild and hot on the coast and cooler but very healthy at the center. Peloponnese is gifted with a wonderful climate and the highest temperatures are recorded in the areas of Patra, Kalamata, and Argolida.
The mountainous side of Peloponnese is characterized by low temperatures which form frost and snow will often occur, mostly during the cooler winter period. Rainfall usually occurs in the west side of Peloponnese and the summer brings some high temperatures. The weather on the east side is much weaker with no rain and poor vegetation. The average temperature in Peloponnese ranges from 18 to 19oC. During winter the mountain peaks of Peloponnese are covered with snow.
Over the centuries, many people, including Alexander the Great and Nero (involving thousands of slaves), tried to finish the Corinth Canal, but it was only completed in 1893. The success of Suez Canal made the achievement of the Corinth Canal possible. Nowadays, around 11 000 ships cross this 6km-long canal (with 80 meters high cliffs) canal. Most of them are small tourist boats or cruise ships. As the canal is only 24,6 meter in width, it’s impossible for 2 ships to cross at the same time. The organization really has to be perfect. Another particularity of Corinth Canal is its 2 submersible bridges. Located at each end of the Canal, they must be lowered into the water every time a boat crosses. It’s quite unique to watch.
• The Cyclopean Walls: according to Greek legends, these huge stone walls were built by a Cyclope. • The Lion Gate, the main entrance to the fortress. • The Grave Circles and its 6 tombs. The Golden Mask (wrongly attributed to King Agamemnon) was found here. • The Royal Palace (or Agamemnon Palace), where you will have a splendid panoramic view of the plain. • The tomb of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife. • The tomb of Agamemnon
It was the former capital of Greece, before Athens became a major city. You’ll love its picturesque alleys with elegant houses and lots of shops and cafés. •Palamidi Fortress: this site overlooking the city offers a splendid panorama of the gulf and coast. Inside this castle, you can visit the 8 bastions and go all around the fortress. You can get there by car or climbing the 800 steps stairs starting in Nafplio. •Bourtzi Castle, a fortress built at the entrance of the port to prevent invasions. •Acronafplia fortress, where you’ll admire a great view of the city, the Bourtzi and Palamidi fortress! •Arvanitia Beach, a nice pebble beach with a beach club. •The Archaeological Museum, if you want to learn more about Nafplio’s History. •The old town, where you should take a stroll.
Famous for its ancient theatre. Built in the 4th century B.C, the theatre hosted plays to entertain the sick people coming for miracles. • the Gymnasium, • the Stadium, • the Tholos and • the Temple of Asclepios.
This village is located on an island on the East Coast of Laconia, in the South of Peloponnese. It’s only connected to the mainland by a dike. • In the lower town, you will enjoy a walk on the paved alleys and discover many houses, hotels and small shops. If you follow the main street, you will reach the central square, with its church and cathedral. • From there, you can follow one of the walking trails to reach the upper city and the castle (the Kastro). The splendid view of the roofs and the sea is really worth this little effort.
This paradise island, located south of Peloponnese, is a real postcard landscape. You will be amazed by its numerous sand beaches with turquoise waters. Simos Beach, the most famous of the island, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and in all the Mediterranean Sea. • Go sunbathing • Swimming all day long • Go scuba diving
This ancient fortified city was once the cultural capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today, during your visit of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will enjoy the remains of the Castle, many churches, monasteries and palaces. The first fortress was built in 1249. • Pantanassa Monastery • Peribleptos Monastery • Metropolitan Church of Hagios Demetrios • Brontochion Monastery • The Church of Agios Teodoros • Church of Agia Sofia • The Small Palace and • The Despots Palace.
Like Mycenae, Epidaurus and Mystras, Olympia is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Between 776 B.C and 393 A.D, the Olympic Games were organized here every 4 years. The athletes were competing in track and field, wrestling, discus and javelin throw, and even chariot racing! Only men could participate. Women and slave couldn’t even watch the competition from the bleachers. The winners were considered as heroes and received an Olive wreath, symbolizing strength and wisdom. • Temple of Zeus • Temple of Hera • The Stadium • Gymnasium • The Leonidaion, a hotel for the special guests.
The train goes from Diakopto to Kalavrita. This 22-km long ride takes around 1 hour. The journey is really nice, and you will have plenty of time to admire the landscape. • The Municipal Museum of the Kalavritan Holocaust
THE VOURAIKOS GORGE
8 different walks, these 72 kilometers long trail explores the Lousios Gorge, the Mount Menalon, the Gortynian Mountains and the Mylaon River Valley.
MENALON TRAIL & LOUSIOS GORGE
This quaint sea-side town features whitewashed homes, stately cypress trees, historic buildings like the atmospheric church of Saint Spyridon and pretty, pebble-strew beaches. Homer wrote of this city in the Iliad, bearing witness to the city’s millennia-old past. Frescoes in the Byzantine Church of Eisodia and the ruins of Mourtzinos Castle are a draw for visitors, though simply strolling through town, sampling the area’s delicious cuisine and enjoying the spectacular sea views offer visitors a feel for what drew people to this delightful place so long ago.
One of three caves at Diros in the southern region of Laconia, a visit to the Vlychada Cave is like a trip to Hades, in the best possible sense. The journey begins on a slow-moving subterranean river 1,600 metres long and where stalactites formed over hundreds of thousands of years drop down to just a metre or so above the water.You’ll don a lifejacket and traverse the river on a guided trip in a rowboat for half an hour having to duck occasionally to avoid the pink and red formations.The second half of the visit is on foot, through 300 metres of chambers festooned with yet more otherworldly concretions.At peak time in summer you’ll be given a slot and may have to wait for 90 minutes, but this isn’t such a problem as there’s a dreamy beach a few steps from the entrance.
The ruins of this sanctuary by a beach on the Perachora Peninsula were also mentioned by Pausanias 1,900 years ago. This dramatic spot had been venerated since the 9th century BC, while the temple dates from 6th century and was destroyed about 200 years later. The Heraion of Perachora is in a glorious setting, at the base of scrub-flecked bluffs a short way from the lighthouse on the cape. Allow a moment or two to peruse fragments of columns and the cistern, before clambering up to the lighthouse for a spectacular view and bathing in the light blue waters at the beach in front.
HERAION OF PERACHORA
Pays homage to Greece’s most important crop, offering an informative take on the cultural and economic importance of olives. Learn about the production of olive oil, soap, and other by-products and choose from a selection of local olive oils in the shop.
MUSEUM OF OLIVE AND GREEK OLIVE OIL
There are a few small villages throughout the mountain range that are worth checking out if you’re up for a road trip. The drive through the gorge is absolutely stunning and the villages are tiny and quiet, but quite unique. Alagonia is the smallest, with less than 200 inhabitants. Nedousa is unique because it is covered in a lot of greenery and recognized by a bridge and an old-plane tree. Artemisia is one of the largest villages with some historical monuments, including the Monastery of St. John. • Hike through the forest in Alagonia, passing by Nika’s fountain and reaching a small waterfall • Check out the old-plane tree in Nedousa, which can apparently fit up to ten people inside its trunk • Get lost through the streets of Artemisia and explore some of the village’s historical monuments
Pylos is a small historic coastal town in the region of Messenia. It’s the largest natural harbor in the Peloponnese region and was built amphitheatrically – meaning half circular and built into a mountainside. The city is packed with history, including the Neokastro (or New Fortress) that overlooks the entire bay of Navarino. On the other hand, Voidokilia Beach is ideal for a remote adventure. The beach is in the shape of the Greek letter omega, with the sand forming a semicircular strip of dunes. • Visit the Neokastro Fortress for some history with a view • Spend the afternoon in Gialova Beach and enjoy the sunset at one of the many cafes • Hike from Voidokilia Beach to the top of Old Navarino Castle
KALAMATA, KARDAMYLI VILLAGE, KORONI, METHONI, ANCIENT MESSENE, GIALOVA & VOIDOKILIA, PYLOS Read less • Sfela (spicier and saltier than feta cheese) • Synglino – pork with salt and smoked with olive wood and sausages scented with orange • Gourounopoula (roast pork) • Cockerel with hylopites • Tsouchti (thick spaghetti pan-fried with myzithra cheese and topped with a fried egg) • Kagianas (scrambled eggs with tomato and sausage • Cod tsiladia (salted cod in red sauce with onions and Corinthian raisins) • Lalangia (twisted hoops of fried dough, traditionally snacked on at festivals • Galatopita or galaktoboureko (milk-based pies)
SPARTA, MANI (AEROPOLI, ITYLO, LIMENI), MONEMVASIA Read less • Paspalas (a kind of pork confit) • kouzouni (a wedding dish from Mani, with homemade filo pastry and a filling of quail, onion, tomato, herbs and spices) • Saitia are irresistible little fried pies, with herbs and local cheese.
ANCIENT CORINTH, NEMEA, THE VILLAGES OF MOUNTAINOUS CORINTH, LAKE DOXA, LAKE STYMFALIA Read less • Cod plaki (a dish with salted cod, potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes • Kalkani (turbot) fried with a splash of red wine. • Mutton (vergadi) and lamb (zigouri)
NAFPLIO, ANCIENT EPIDAURUS, MYCENAE, PORTO HELI, ERMIONI Read less • Lamb Bogana (cooked in an earthen pot with potatoes, tomatoes and herbs) • Giosa (mature goat, gently cooked until it falls off the bone and served in baking parchment) and – possibly • Gogges are tossed in olive oil or butter and sprinkled with plenty of myzithra cheese
TRIPOLI, THE VILLAGES OF MOUNTAINOUS ARCADIA (DIMITSANA, STEMNITSA, VYTINA ETC), LOUSIOS RIVER Read less • Lagoto is a traditional recipe found all over the region (especially in mountain villages), with pork, olive oil, tomato, garlic, crushed walnuts and breadcrumbs • Tsigarista wild greens with red sauce. • Moustalevria (grape must)
PATRAS, KALAVRYTA Read less • Lamb and goat cooked in a gastra (a covered put) or riganato (stewed with oregano) • Rabbit stew or beef youvetsi (with orzo) • The anchovies marinated in olive oil
ANCIENT OLYMPIA, KATAKOLO PORT, LOUTRA KILLINIS BEACH, KOUROUTA, LAKE KAIAFA (AND BEACH), ANDRITSAINA, NEDA WATERFALLS, FOLOI FOREST Read less • Hondromenoudelo (coarse vermicelli-style noodles), with oil, sautéed onion and grated tomato, slow-cooked and served with freshly ground pepper and feta • Tabakali (beans cooked with courgettes) • Stroto (the local version of baklava)
Two agricultural products that represent the Peloponnese would undoubtedly be olive oil and oranges. Kitchens here produce omelets with homemade cured meats, simple, bite-sized pies and different types of fried dough, such as lalangia (unsweetened fried “ropes” of dough, similar to churros), diples (fried sheets of dough served topped with walnuts and honey), and fluffy pancakes.
In their cooking, Peloponnesians use a great variety of aromatic plants, especially fennel and dill, and they cook wild greens together with pulses or meat. The region is also home to many interesting casserole dishes that are finished with an egg-and-lemon sauce (avgolemono) in combination with a tomato-based sauce, a very interesting local novelty.
Τhe Peloponnese is the largest grape-growing area in Greece, accounting for approximately 30 percent of the country’s vine-planted land. It features an incredible array of fascinating terroirs, numerous indigenous varieties and quality-minded producers who are raising Greek wine to new heights.
The Food and Wine
The Ease of Travel and World-Class Resorts
The Ancient History (This is truly a land where myths were born and legends were forged.)
The Medieval History (The Byzantines, Venetians, Franks, Ottomans and others sought to control its ports and cities which were key stopping points along vital trade routes linking East and West.) This has left a legacy of remarkable castle towns across the Peloponnese: Nafplio, Monemvasia and Mystras along the eastern coasts and Pylos, Koroni and Methoni to the west.
The Peloponnese Peninsula has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece (Foneas Beach, Kardamili - Mavrovouni Beach, Gytheio - Simos Beach, Elafonissos - Voidokilia Beach, Petrochori - Arvanitia Beach, Nafplio etc.)
The Boundless Nature (few places on Earth have such a diversity of landscapes and ecosystems in such a small space. Forests of fir and pine meet plane and oak trees at lower elevations. Where the mountains give way to rolling foothills, valleys and plains, countless acres of age-old olive and citrus groves provide bountiful fruit. And further down on the coast, lakes and wetlands offer food and shelter to dozens upon dozens of species of native and migratory birds and myriad other wildlife.)
The Outdoor Activities (casual hiker, adventurous mountain biker or dedicated mountaineer, there are innumerable trails to follow – some leading to mountain peaks, others to trout rich springs and creeks.