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Peloponnese

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Description

This southernmost part of mainland Greece is technically an island that was created by the construction of the Corinth Canal, built in 1893 to join the Gulf of Corinth and the Ionian Sea in the West to the Aegean Sea. The North East part can be reached by car in approximately 2 hours from Athens.

In total the Peloponnese is 21,550 square kilometres – an enormous area with a huge amount to offer. It is known for being one of the most traditionalist and conservative regions of Greece and riddled with history, myths and adventure. The landscape is beautifully serene in places and totally dramatic in others and the coasts boast some of the best beaches in the country.

It was the birth place of the Olympic Games and home to many great civilizations. You’ll find every type of accommodation from great resorts to simple rooms to rent. You can go on a vineyard tour, soak up the culture of numerous historical sites, enjoy the snow and some winter sports, climb mountains or even have a nice relaxing vacation on the beach!

History

The Peloponnese has been inhabited since prehistoric times. However its most notable and best documented history begins with the incredible civilization of Mycenae, which ruled the Peloponnese from the Bronze Age until the 2nd Century BC. The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC and mark the beginning of the Classical Era in Greece. The Peloponnese was the centre of a lot of historic events in Greece and many famous battles took place including some battles of the Peloponnesian War. It had some fabulously rich cities such as Corinth and some famous and feared for their might like Sparta. It lost its influential position when the Roman Empire took over in 146 BC.

Since then the politics of the area has been rather like a game of chess. First the Byzantine Empire took over in 395 AD and the Peloponnese continued to grow under various invaders' rule. However things slowed down significantly after the devastation caused by several incursions, which divided it and left only a small part in the east under Byzantine rule. It wasn't until the 9th Century that the Peloponnese returned to Greek rule after a persistant campaign by the Byzantine emperors. The area again faced troubles in the 820s when the Arabs began raids after capturing the Island of Crete. By 961 the peninsula ended up under Byzantine rule again and this time the region flourished commercially and agriculturally.

After the Byzantine Empire was dissolved by the crusaders around 1200 AD, the Franks (forces of the 4th Crusade) founded the area of Achaea. However, the Venetians took over a number of ports that had strategic advantages, Monemvasia, Koroni and Pylos. The Franks were eventually pushed out of the area in 1430 but the Venetians remained until mid-15th Century.

Once the Franks left there was a succession of Ottoman and Venetian rule until 1715 when the Ottoman Empire once again moved in and remained until the liberation of Greece in 1827. The Peloponnesians played a major role in the Greek War of Independence and Nafplion was made the capital of the finally independent Greek State.

Sightseeing

Being such a large chunk of land the Peloponnese is best divided in its seven regions Achaia, Corinthia, Argolis, Arcadia, Laconia, Messinia and Elis, for descriptive purposes. So let’s start our descriptive journey in the north.

Achaia

The capital of Achaia is Patras, the third largest city in Greece, is located on the sea with a port that provides ferries to the Ionian Islands and Italy. When looking out into the sea that lies in front of Patras to the right you have the Gulf of Corinth and to the left the Gulf of Patras. Achaia has a long coastline as well as a number of mountains that stand within its borders, including the ski and historic resort of Kalavryta

Things to do

After visiting the Port of Patras there are a number of other places that are worth seeing. The picturesque village of Kalavrita is a great place to visit all year round. Sitting amongst the mountains it has a ski resort. It also has significant historical value for the Greeks because it played an important role in the revolution that took place in 1821.

Whilst you are there you need to go to the famous narrow gauge railway that runs to Diakofto which is on the Gulf of Corinth. It travels through mountain gorges and passes beautiful and dramatic landscapes.

On the shoreline you’ll come across a number of quaint seaside towns and villages like the village of Akrata, built on the Ancient Site of Aigai.

Beaches

Akrata, Platanos, Trapeza, Diakopto, Kalogria, Vracheika, Aegio.

Corinthia

Heading east we come to the prefecture of Corinthia, the first place you get to in the Peloponnese if you are driving from Athens. The capital is Corinth, located only 5km from the eponymous canal.

Ancient Corinth has an abundance of ancient ruins. The ancient city that flourished from the 5th Century BC to the 3rd Century AD sits below the dramatic backdrop of the Acrocorinth rock (Corinth's Acropolis) which has a Byzantine fortress on top. Ancient Corinth is one of the most visited Ancient Sites in Greece.

Things to do

You should definitely take the time to visit Ancient Corinth (Acrocorinth), which was a major city of antiquity with a very busy trading port that became wealthy as it dominated the trade in the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. It was comprised of three parts, the port, the city and the acropolis that still has a fortress on the top of it. The agora (the gathering place) is still pretty much intact and gives visitors a proper idea of what the classical "agora" looked like. You can also see the Temple of Apollo, considered to be one of the best examples of early Doric buildings.

Another interesting place to visit is Nemea which has a number of small monuments but also a number of Vineyards. There are a number of wine tours available in the area that are both interesting and fun.

Beaches

Ancient Corinth, Agioi Theodori, Loutraki, Kalamia, Vrahati, Xylokastro, Derveni, Korfos, Lechaeo, Likoporia.

Argolis

The east of the Peloponnese is historically one of the most important areas of Greece, home to one of the most known civilisations of all time, the Mycenaeans. The area is scattered with evidence of spectacular history and the archaeological sites are known worldwide and visited by millions of people.

The region's charm is expressed in its natural beauty, its quaint little villages and wonderful towns both on the coast and up in the mountains.

Things to do

Nafplio

We suggest you stay a night or two in the wonderful seaside town of Nafplio which has maintained its period character with neoclassical architecture style buildings, lovely quaint streets, incredible views of the sea and a gorgeous castle to walk around. Nafplio is a great place to visit all year round.

This pretty and romantic town is an all year round destination and a perfect base for exploring the area of Argolis with its beautiful scenery, great beaches and archaeological treasures. A refreshing change from the touristy islands, this lovely town is filled with charm, culture, history and tradition.Ancient walls, medieval castles, monuments and statues, Ottoman fountains and Venetian and neoclassical buildings dazzle the visitor with their unique beauty. The city of Nafplio is like a living museum.

Nafplio is bustling with restaurants, cafes and bars, many of them concentrated along the waterfront or lining the attractive cobbled streets and shaded squares of the Old Town. This is the place for trying fresh fish and seafood at its best with many local and regional dishes on offer. There are bars that play Greek Rembetika music, jazz, blues or rock and quieter places for a romantic cocktail or a sunset drink.

Epidavros

Ancient Epidavros is another ‘must see’ in this area. One of the most influential towns in ancient Greece with a famous theatre, built back in the 3rd Century BC, which had the honour to display the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles and Aesyphlus. The ancient theatre is still used for summer festivals.

Mycenae is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the whole for Greece. The centre of the Mycenaean World, the site is huge and has maintained a lot of its original structure. Places not to miss are the Tomb of Atreus, the Atreus Treasury, the magnificent Lion's Gate and the Palace of Agamemnon. The best time to visit this site is in the winter/spring so that it is surrounded by greenery and not too hot. The summer it is equally as nice but make sure to keep hydrated and wear a hat.

For a seaside stay visit Porto Heli. Used by a number of Athenians as a weekend getaway this lovely place is situated in a beautiful, natural harbour with a number of things to keep visitors entertained. It is a great place to relax, swim and soak up the sun. You can also jump on a little boat and go across to the island of Spetses.

Beaches

Saladi, Karathona, Nea Kios, Kiveri, Myli, Nea Epidavros, Epidavros, Petrothalassa, Tolo, Vivari, Porto Heli.

Arcadia

Right in the heart of the Peloponnese this area is known as one of the most beautiful areas in Greece as well as being home to the oldest inhabitants of the Peloponnese. The region is full of great landscapes, flourishing nature, winding rivers, high mountains and it has some wonderfully clean beaches along its coastline.

Time has not caught up with this area leaving it pretty much unchanged. Its capital is Tripoli which is a commercial and agricultural centre.

Things to do

Arcadia is wonderful and people return time after time to explore the whole area – the natural beauty is simply astounding. There are villages surrounding Tripoli that are worth a visit and, whilst in the area, don’t miss the two archaeological sites of Tegea and Mantineia.

In Tegea you can see what remains of the beautiful Hellenistic Theatre, the old Market (Agora), the ancient Sanctuary Alea Athena, and take in the Museum which exhibits artefacts found in the area. You will also come across two Christian Basilicas which are in amazing condition.

In Mantineia the relics that remain are from the Hellenistic and Roman Period and the bath complexes and Parliaments still stand. Another place you should try and get to is the hilltop village of Karitenea with its medieval village and wonderful Byzantine bridge.

As you can imagine there are numerous traditional villages in the region untouched by time and two that may be worth visiting are Dhimitsana and Stemnitsa. Both villages are inland and overlook the spectacular gorge of Loussios.

Beaches

Plaka, Lakos, Atsigganos, Agios Andreas, Coves in Ksiropigado.

Laconia

To the south east of the Peloponnese, is the stunning area of Laconia. It has a long history and a number of Byzantine Castles and Churches of places significance but is equally famous amongst foreigners and Greeks alike for its beauty.

Things to do

Laconia is full of things to do and places to visit. Start with Sparta, the capital town that was Athens' archrival.

Situated on the banks of the river Evrotas it is now agricultural town in the middle of orange and olive groves surrounded by traditional villages. The Spartans believed in simplicity and so there are no extravagant sites. However you could still visit the Ancient Acropolis, the Tomb of Leonidas and the Sanctuary of Thermopyleae.

Mystras, a mere 4 km from Sparta, was a central town of the Peloponnese until the Turks took over in the 15th Century and is now a wonderful archaeological site. Within the remaining surrounding walls stand the Palace and a number of Byzantine Churches. The site sits at the bottom of Mount Taygetos. The Church of Agios Demetrios is one of great importance – it has incredible frescoes and was where the last Byzantine Emperor was crowned.

At the end of the eastern prong of Laconia lies Monemvasia, a medieval citadel town that sits on a large rock on a small peninsula. This is a beautiful Venetian town that maintains its architecture and original charm with a collection of Byzantine churches scattered all over it.

In the middle prong of Peloponnese is Mani, a unique area for many reasons, the major one being that it has never been occupied by foreign armies, a rare phenomenon in Greece! The people of Mani stood their ground against many an intruder but they are known for their incredibly warm hospitality.

The traditional houses are small fortresses that tower up from their surroundings blending in with the unforgiving Maniot landscape. Whilst travelling around keep your eyes open for signs to the Diros Caves some of the most spectacular lake caves with incredible stalagmites and stalactites.

Beaches

Pera Kakavos, Pori, Nomia, Agios Stefanos, Xifias, Kalogeras, Vathi, Kalyvia, Paganea, Agia Paraskevi, Skoutari.

Messinia

Messinia is an absolutely stunning region to the south west of the Peloponnese and has been a favourite with Greeks and tourists alike. The area is full of small quaint villages, old fortresses, castles, incredible beaches and beautiful natural streams and waterfalls.

Things to do

Messinia is an area that is being rediscovered. Apart from important sites you can enjoy a number of sports in the region including golf (at the Costa Navarino Resort), climbing, hiking, cycling, diving and swimming.

Make sure you visit the area around Pylos and the village of Pylos itself – there are a number of sites such as Tombs which you can look at. When in Pylos you can walk up to the old fortress and admire the breath-taking views of the surrounding area from a height.

Methoni Castle is a vast complex that spreads across a large area and is one of the area's most important historical sites. Within the ruins you will be able to see evidence of aristocratic residences, as well as Venetian and Ottoman architecture.

To cool off go to Gialova Lagoon, an absolutely stunning stretch of water where over 271 species of bird live. The lagoon is surrounded by the beautiful bay of Voidokilia, a great place to swim.

There are also 7 EU “Natura Sites” in the area, including the Polyliminio Lakes and Waterfalls. These lakes sit in a rugged canyon. The pools of water are serene and an incredible turquoise colour. You can even jump in after trekking down to see them.

Another ‘must visit’ is Ancient Messene. The old town is surrounded by massive limestone blocks which date back to 369 BC and has wonderful views of the valleys of Stenyklaros and Makaria. You will be able to wander around the excavations of the stadium, gymnasium, agora, temples, and amphitheatre.

The area is full of traditional villages with stone houses that have not been altered in centuries.

Beaches

Gialova, Hrysi Ammos, Mati, Vromoreri, Methoni, Peroulia, Kalamaki, Bouka.

Elis

Located in the east Elis is known as the the birthplace of the Olympic Games. It is also a very fertile region with wonderful olive groves, rows and rows of fields, vines and lush fruit. It is one of the most quiet areas and has some great beaches.

Things to do

The Olympic Games started at Ancient Olympia and you simply mustn’t miss the opportunity to wander around the vast site and explore where it all began in 776BC.

This UNESCO site includes the Old Stadium, the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hera, the Philippaeum, the Phidias Workshop, the Palaestra, the Leonideum and the Archaeological Museum. The Museum, which is opposite the site, includes finds, statues, and artefacts from the Neothlic period.

The site has existed since prehistoric times and became a place of worship for the God of Zeus in the 10th Century BC.It is situated on a plain surrounded by lush green vegetation that is irrigated by two rivers. Excavations of the site began in the 19th Century and are still ongoing. The area was a sanctuary of worship to the Olympian Gods and was never a town as some may think. The sanctuary was also used as a place for athletes' to train for the Games.

In the modern town you can visit the Historical Museum of the Olympic Games and the Art Museum.

Beaches

Glyfa, Pyrgi, Agios Nikolaos, Loutra Kyllinis, Neochoron

 

 

 

Nightlife

Always consult your hotel and the locals for the specialities of the area – there may be a local pie, cheese, sweet or dish that are specific to the area.

We always suggest you try the local wine and local spirits if available.

Each area has its own character and its own type of nightlife. In the bigger towns you will find more variety of places to dance, sing and stay out until the early hours of the morning. In the smaller villages you will find local bars and cafes that will have cocktails and other drinks for you to relax in the evenings. Ask the locals for the best places to go as they may change from year to year.

PORTO HELLI PELLOPONESE VILLA

A magnificent Holiday Villa, with a beautifully decorated garden, facing the island of Spetses.

PORTO HELLI PELLOPONESE VILLA

Zerveas Villas Stoupa

Zerveas Villas are a complex of five villas, all independent, with private pools (some of them infinity), at the luxury end of the scale. They are perfectly located on a hillside near shops and facilities, above picturesque Stoupa village, offering panoramic views of the sea and sunset.

Large verandas make outdoor living and al fresco eating a pleasure while taking in the views. All villas are crafted out of local stone with a lot attention devoted to detail in the interior so that it makes each one of them feel homely and familiar.

Zerveas Villas Stoupa

MANDOLA ROSA SUITES & VILLAS WEST PELOPONNESE, KYLLINI

Mandola Rosa is a boutique hotel occupying a 7 mile stretch of thick sandy beach. The Hotel lies at the centre of its own private estate within the Olympia Riviera Resort and comprises just 54 suites and villas, an excellent choice for your luxury holidays in Greece.

MANDOLA ROSA SUITES & VILLAS WEST PELOPONNESE, KYLLINI

THE ROMANOS, A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT

The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, is an exceptional award winning property stretching along the prime destination of Mediterranean, Navarino Dunes at Costa Navarino. It features extensive grounds with olive groves, indigenous trees and lush vegetation as well as golf courses beside the sea at Dunes Beach. This is the perfect location for relaxation with its sunset backdrops of the Ionian Sea.

THE ROMANOS, A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT

THE WESTIN RESORT, COSTA NAVARINO

If you are after relaxation, recharging your batteries and getting away “from it all”, or having a wonderful family experience, the Westin Costa Navarino is your destination.

A sustainable exquisite resort by the dunes of the Ionian Sea, inspired by the traditional Messinian mansions, which includes a large Spa, Golf and sporting activities in a tranquil environment. Here every detail of your daily needs are taken care of, and all that remains is to immerse yourself in the pure enjoyment of the environment and the hospitality provided.

7 nights from £1049 per person incl flights

THE WESTIN RESORT, COSTA NAVARINO

STAVROS TOU NOTOU GYTHEION

Stavros Tou Notou is a traditional boutique hotel, boasting a beautiful location in Gythio Laconia, only a few metres away from the village and long sandy beach of Mavrovouni. Perfect holiday location for all seasons.

STAVROS TOU NOTOU GYTHEION