The Perfect Greek Peninsula
Peloponnese at a glance
Important monuments and archaeological sites, unique settlements, picturesque towns and charming castles, as well as natural beauties such as mountains and forests, rivers and caves, beautiful beaches with rocky and lacy coast make the Peloponnese an ideal holiday destination.
Peloponnese is the largest peninsula in Greece. It is located south of the continental part of the country and is connected to Central Greece through a narrow strip of land, the Corinth Canal.
In addition, since 2004 the Rio-Antirrio Bridge connects the Peloponnese with Central Greece and the rest of the mainland. It is a historic cradle of Hellenism and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was the theater of most of the war conflicts that took place in the Greek world with top examples of the Peloponnesian War and the Greek Revolution, and experienced various conquerors such as Romans, Franks, Ottomans and others.
Monuments from every period of its rich history, great archaeological sites such as ancient Olympia, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Tiryns, Byzantine churches, unique settlements and charming castles, along with natural beauties, magnetize a number of tourists from all over the world by any means to make an excursion around the Peloponnese peninsula.
Let’s make a lightning trip to the most interesting parts of the magnificent coastline of the Peloponnese…
How to get to Peloponnese
- From Athens, by car or bus; having a car allows occasional stops that are worth along the way to most parts of Peloponnese. Nafplio is a 2hr ride, Sparta about 4hrs, Patras about 2,5, Kalamata about 3 hr 45 mins (3 hrs on the nonstop express bus).
- From Athens, by train, using a suburban train, running from Athens International Airport all along the north route to Kiato and even Patras through a local train correspondence.
- From Piraeus port, through a ferry, to the Saronic islands of Poros or Hydra or Spetses. For accesing the mainland using the same ferry one can get off at the port of Methana or Galatas(through Poros town) or Costa. There are car rental agencies also there.
- From Athens International Airport, by plane, to Kalamata. Aegean Airlines operate a daily service.
- From Western Greece / Ipeiros to Patras through the Trikoupis bridge (Rio – Antirio).
- From / To the port of Patras there many ferries daily from / to Italy.
If you are looking for airline tickets and flights to Peloponnese enter the dates of arrival and departure in the box, and the online reservation program will show you suggestions and prices for your flight where you can make your reservation directly and securely.
Usually car or KTEL bus. If timetable is convenient, the train can sometimes offer a comfortable and cheaper alternative. Presently cancelled for all lines, except for the north line Athens to Kiato to Patras.
Whilst travelling the National Road from Athens, you will come across toll-booth’s, the road toll charges will range from 1.46 Euro to 2.93 Euro. When you take the highway out of Athens the first prefecture you come to in the Peloponnese is Corinth. Make sure to pull over at the lay-bye, take your camera and look down at the Corinth Canal…… What a view! You will no doubt recognise it from the many postcards published.
The Corinthian’s were the first people to come up with the idea of a canal but were unable to complete it, so they turned to building a paved slip-way in order to haul their boats over the isthmus. It was not until 1893 that the Corinth Canal was eventually completed, in fact by the French.
As time passed Athens was to become such a powerful force that Corinth’s power declined, then the Roman’s under Nero completely destroyed the city in 146BC.
Today Corinth is one of Greece’s major cities it has a large waterfront with lots of tavernas, bars etc, it is lively in both summer and winter.
Many ancient ruins are at the base of the huge rock of Acrocorinth, most of these however are Roman. The views here are quite stunning!
Amongst the many ancient buildings can be found the Temple of Aphrodite. The goddess of love!
Further along the National Road between Corinth and Patras you will come across lots of smaller villages which are well worth a visit, time permitting of course.
You can start the tour from Loutraki. The cosmopolitan spa town attracts a lot of visitors from all over Greece due to the famous springs, but also for its beautiful beaches and nightlife.
In Corinth, admire the famous canal that was built between 1880-1893 and which connects the Saronic with the Corinthian Gulf and visit Akrokorinthos with the impressive castle, the temple of Aphrodite and the magnificent view.
Head west to Patras, you will pass from beautiful small villages and towns with clean beaches such as Vrachati, Derveni, Kiato, and Xylokastro, which are some of the most popular holiday resorts in the Peloponnese.
Achaia is one of the most historic places in the Peloponnese and the coastal gate of Greece to Europe, with a history that dates back to ancient times. Entering in the prefecture, you will reach Akrata, Diakopto and Aigio, the second largest urban center in Achaia. It is a beautiful city with a long history, built amphitheatrically and with a stunning location to the Corinthian bay. Just before you reach Patras, you will see the great cable bridge connecting the Peloponnese with Central Greece, which was designed with impressive endurance and was completed in 2004.
Now, this is a must! a quite amazing amount of history and ancient ruins to behold. Park your car and head towards the Acropolis, pick up a book/map from the kiosk. You enter the Acropolis through the Lion Gate, a good photo opportunity, (it has a second entrance on the opposite side.) Inside are the palace ruins, a walk to the top will provide great views. On your way back down you will come across some footpaths, follow these to some incredible tombs built like cones. To this day they are not sure how these were actually built.
The coastline of Messinia is an endless succession of wonderful beaches, larger or smaller, especially on the west by the Ionian Sea, where it continues to the prefecture of Ilia lined with many seaside villages and resorts. Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games is found here in Ilia.
Most of Arcadia is continental and includes mountainous and other Peloponnesian beauties. Very close to the coast of the prefecture lies Leonidio, on the shores of Myrtoos sea and in the shade of Parnon. Its characteristic feature is the imposing red rock that stands above the traditional settlement.
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The capital of the prefecture of Laconia is the famous historic city of Sparta, or Sparti, the principal town of the Spartan state in ancient Greece. At a distance of 95 km from it, on a small peninsula off the east coast, is one of the most beautiful spots in Greece, the massive rock of Monemvasia, with a medieval castle perched on it, as well as a centuries-old settlement inside the fortification. This unique place, nicknamed the Gibraltar of the East, boasts also a number of Byzantine churches scattered around its rugged landscape.
Here you will see Roman baths, ancient Odeum, and the Agora, Argos also has a modern town, which can be quite busy, however, it is virtually free of tourist’s. Also, you will see hundreds of orange orchards, Argos is famous for this.
Another world-famous archaeological site of Argolis is Mycenae, one of the major centers of Greek civilization and a military kingdom so strong in antiquity, that the period of Greek history from about 1700 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean.
The Mani Peninsula forms a continuation of the massive ridge of Mt.Taygetos, the highest in Peloponnese. It’s an arid and mountainous area, yet famous for some exquisite local products such as extra virgin olive oil, superior quality honey, thyme and oregano, and syglino, a kind of smoked pork. Mani boasts a wonderful coastline juxtaposed to its rocky landscape, which is embellished by the impressive stone-built settlements and ‘tower-mansions’ in the local architectural style.
The first capital of Greece, Nafplion is an amazing place, there is a great Venetian fortress in the middle of Nafplion Bay. Look up and you will see the restored castle of Palamide, if you are prepared to climb the 1000 steps it will provide worthwhile. Once again a view to being admired, another great camera moment! Here would be a great base from which to explore the surrounding sites. Its waterfront is filled with tavernas, bars, and cafes, and for the ladies, the main square has lots of small boutiques.
In the prefecture of Messinia, the town of Pylos, spread amphitheatrically around a pretty harbor, has a rich historical past, as many famous naval battles have taken place here ever since the Classical Age, due to the strategic importance of its bay. Methoni and Koroni are two other historical towns of the prefecture that were fortified with impressive castles, the remains of which one can visit today.
According to ancient legend, Epidaurus was the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asklepios, the famous healer of antiquity, and was known for his sanctuary situated nearby (this Asclepieion was the most respected healing center of the Classical world), as well as its theater, which is once again in use today to host mainly performances of ancient drama, since it is considered a miracle of both architecture and acoustics.
The prefecture of Arkadia occupies to its largest part the central mainland region of Peloponnese. Its mountainous scenery offers a variety of winter destinations since a number of picturesque villages of a special folkloric character are scattered on the forested slopes of its landscape where one can stay at traditional guest houses and enjoy the local cuisine. Peloponnese’s second ski center is located on Mt.Maenalon.
The Panhellenic sanctuary of Classical times, known as the Altis and devoted to ‘Olympus Dias’ (Zeus of Mt. Olympus), consisted of a group of various buildings including the temple to Zeus, the stadium and the Hippodrome. Today the visitor is stunned at the beauty and serenity of the archaeological site and the invaluable treasures of the Museum nearby.