The Peloponnese is a destination for all seasons, with a rich history and a rich landscape. Destinations of authentic natural beauty, each with its own distinctive characteristics, eager to welcome you all year long: Messinia, Elafonisos, Monemvasia, Mani, Porto Heli, Kalavryta, Nafplio. It’s the land of ancient Sparta, home of the holy olive grove and the birthplace of the Olympic Games. War, peace and culture saturate the cities and countryside of one of the most beautiful destinations of mainland Greece, the Peloponnese. Here, ancient monuments and impressive attractions are scattered throughout.
You’ll visit the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, and next to it the Asclepius (a Unesco World Heritage Site). The Peloponnese is a celebration of contrasts: majestic mountains embraced by a dramatic, golden coastline of endless beaches and exotic coves. Pure, unspoilt landscapes, technicolour water and fertile valleys are all just a short car-ride away. Road-trippers and landlubbers never tire of its winding roads that disappear into the horizon, where sea and sky become one. Its villages, both seaside and alpine, will enchant you with their age-old traditions and exceptional food. You’ll be transported to another time wandering through ancient monuments and resplendent mediaeval Venetian and Byzantine castles. Then rest-up for the big days ahead at traditional guest villas in stone-built hamlets and modern luxurious resorts, with their 5-star service and modern day amenities.
A gilded coastline: exotic beaches and picture-perfect bays
The coastline of the Peloponnese hides spectacular sandy beaches with crystal-clear water. Award-worthy are exotic Elafonisos and Voidokoilia in Messinia. Other notable beaches are those in the Gulf of Messinia, Kardamyli, as well as, Old Epidaurus and Porto Heli.
A journey through history and ancient civilisations
In the Peloponnese you’ll experience the grandeur of Ancient Greece. You’ll stand awestruck in Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, tour Homer’s ‘gold-rich Mycenae’. You’ll catch a sensational performance at the famous ancient theatre of Epidaurus and visit the Asclepius. You’ll discover the temple of Apollo Epikourios at Basses (Bassae) created by the same architect that built the Parthenon, Iktinos (another Unesco World Heritage Site). The Peloponnese is a living lesson in mediaeval and Byzantine architecture, particularly the well-preserved castle of Mystra in Sparta, the castles in Methoni and Pylos.
Peloponnese: paradise for activities in nature
The Peloponnese is a paradise for thrill seekers and adventure-lovers. Off-road driving, hiking and rock climbing in the Taygetos Mountains. The European long-distance hiking trail, E4, passes through here, and there are dozens of other signposted paths in every area. The more courageous will want to head to Lagada, that has a rock climbing park.
Home of the olive grove and so much more
The Peloponnese is world-famous for its olive oil and Kalamata olives, but the sweet fragrance of the orange groves in Sparta and Argos, and their tasty, juicy fruit, will also stay with you forever. You’ll imbibe the wines of Nemea and Mantineia, as well as, Monemvasia’s famous Malvasia, the regional sweet wine, dubbed ‘the nectar of the nobles’. Pair it with the local homemade pasta called goges (like gnocchi, but flour-based), Mani’s eliotyropita (olivecheesepie), or Neapolis’ tyropsomo (cheese-bread).
Arcadia is known for its handmade hilopites (a type of noodle) and trahana (rustic pasta), sold in shops along with other traditional products, like the region’s honey, chestnuts and seedless, delicious Tsakonian eggplants. Don’t leave Mani without trying its cured meats and sausages, and the various recipes with artichokes, a vegetable produced here in large quantities, as are beans and wild greens. You’ll finish off your meals with local Peloponnese sweets like diples (thin sheets of fried dough), pastelia(sesame with honey) and rafiolia (pastry filled with walnuts). In Corinth, try the syrupy sweet made with rose petals and the famous Corinthian raisins and currants.
Sights and attractions in the Peloponnese: Romantic castles, picturesque villages and nature of exceptional beauty
1. The Castles: The castles of Monemvasia and of Nafplio (Bourtzi, Akronafplia and Palamidi) are the most famous romantic destinations in Greece, ideal for two-day getaways.
2. Alpine villages: Scenic alpine villages like Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Karytaina, Vytina and Trikala are all stunningly beautiful for either a winter or spring holiday. Throughout the peninsula, you’ll find stone-built villas and traditional tavernas serving tried-and-tested Greek recipes.
3. Kalavryta: Experience Kalavryta’s ski resort. You’ll explore the jagged Vouraikos canyon and visit religious sights such as the Mega Spilaion and Agia Lavra monasteries.
4. Nature: Nature in all its glory: don’t miss the fairy tale Foli forest, the Gialovas Wetland, the Dirou caves, hiking the Lousios Gorge and Lake Tsivlos.
5. The Rio-Antirrio Bridge: Finished in 2004, is the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. Lit up at night, it’s a magnificent sight.
6. Ancient Olympia: One of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece. Visit the stadium, temples and settlements of the original Olympic venue. Don’t forget to visit the Temple of Zeus, which once housed the legendary golden Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and destroyed in the 5th century AD.
7. Ancient Messene: Just 30km north of Kalamata, the city of Messene, founded in the 4th century BC, is noteworthy for its outstanding circuit-walls erected in the 3rd century BC, and its massive Arcadian gate and eight surviving towers.
8. Ancient Epidaurus: The famous theatre of Epidaurus is one of the most important monuments of ancient Greece. Built around 340-33 BC, it combines perfect acoustics, elegance and symmetrical proportions.
9. Temple of Apollo Epicurius: Like the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century BC, you too will be impressed by the isolated Τemple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, which means ‘little valley in the mountains’. The first ancient monument in Greece to be listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, in 1986, it’s certain to engrave itself into your memory.