A foodie guide to the Peloponnese
It’s also somewhere you’ll eat like a god – especially if you love extra-virgin olive oil and seasonal produce (citrus fruit, tomatoes, aubergines, artichokes, watermelons, strawberries…). Goats and sheep roam the hillsides, inspiring mouth-watering meat dishes (lots of them!) and dairy products. And the locals have ingenious ways to preserve their bounty, with marmalades, spoon sweets and cured meats.
Starting with Messinia and Laconia (which share the Mani peninsula) in the south, you’ll head north to the land of the Corinthian raisin and the wine-rich Nemea Valley (there are wineries in every region), before exploring the regions of Argolida, Arcadia and Achaia and ending in Ilia in the northwest.
Each region contains iconic destinations - Kalamata, Monemvasia, Corinth, Nafplio, Ancient Epidaurus, Mycenae, Mountainous Arcadia, Patras, Ancient Olympia – and there are signature traditional dishes and local products of the Peloponnese that can be enjoyed wherever you visit:
- Gourounopoula (roast pork)
- Pasto / synglino (cured pork with aromatics and smoked with olive wood)
- Handmade pasta (eg hylopites)
- Kagianas (scrambled eggs with tomato and sausage)
- Diples (twists of fried dough, drizzled with honey)
- Honey & mountain herbs
We introduce you to all of these and shine the light on local products and dishes that are specialities of each region. So whatever your taste and holiday plans, welcome to the ultimate foodie guide to the Peloponnese.
Kalamata, Mani (Kardamyli), Koroni, Methoni, Ancient Messene, Gialova & Voidokilia, Pylos
What to eat in Messinia: The local products
You’ll guess Messinia’s most famous product from the acres of olive groves that greet you with shimmering leaves. Visiting an olive press, you’ll learn that 95% of Messinia’s PDO-protected olive oil is extra-virgin and, more importantly, tastes delicious. You’ll also see livestock grazing in the foothills of Mt Taygetos, contributing to cheeses like feta, PDO-protected Sfela (spicier and saltier than feta) and creamy myzithra. Local meat products include pasto (or synglino) – pork with salt and smoked with olive wood and sausages scented with orange, originally from Laconia.
Depending on the season, markets and shops will be selling aubergines, figs, prickly pears, artichokes and chestnuts – along with spoon sweets, fir-tree honey and fragrant herbs from Mt Taygetos all year round.
The regional capital of Messinia is Kalamata, which has an international airport. Its food scene is legendary in Greece, combining the best of mountain and sea, as well as markets and delicatessens filled with products like pasteli (sesame bars), balsamic vinegar, mustard, petimezi (grape molasses) and lots of Kalamata (or Kalamon) olives – all sourced locally. As with everywhere you visit in the Peloponnese, if you’re a true foodie, consider taking a cookery lesson to pick up all those local tips.
What to eat in Messinia: The local dishes
Top of the list of meat dishes is gourounopoula (roast pork), followed by dishes such as pork with celery, lamb riganato (with oregano) and cockerel with hylopites (small, square-cut pasta that are an ever-present local product in the Peloponnese). Classic vegetable-based dishes include courgette flowers fried with fresh tomatoes, black-eyed beans with spinach and greens, and trahanas (frumenty) with tomato.
Other specialities include tsouchti (thick spaghetti pan-fried with myzithra cheese and topped with a fried egg), kagianas (scrambled eggs with tomato and sausage) and cod tsiladia (salted cod in red sauce with onions and Corinthian raisins) and lalangia (twisted hoops of fried dough, traditionally snacked on at festivals). Diples (spirals of thinly rolled-out dough, fried and topped with honey and chopped nuts) are also celebration treats (you'll find them in bakeries and pastry shops). And for dessert or a sneaky bite in the middle of the day, you can’t go wrong with a galatopita or galaktoboureko (milk-based pies).
What to drink in Messinia: The local wines and spirits
Wine-making in Messinia began 3,000 years ago (with Homer mentioning the wines of Pylia) and the tradition survives in vineyards with local grape varieties such as Roditis, Fileri, Mandilaria, Malagouzia and Agiorgitiko (as well as European classics like Chardonnay, Merlot and Tempranillo). A vineyard and wine-tasting tour can be enjoyed around Pylos and Trifylia. There are also distilleries you can visit, producing ouzo, raki, liqueur and local cognac.
Sparta, Mani (Areopoli, Itylo, Limeni), Monemvasia
What to eat in Laconia: The local products
Spring and autumn are especially beautiful in the fertile valleys of Laconia, with olive trees in bloom and presses producing extra-virgin olive oil (there’s an Olive Museum in Sparta). The fruit trees here bear Greece’s greatest quantity of citrus fruit (including tangerines, lemons, grapefruit and, above all, oranges) and tomatoes are also produced in such quantities that they are turned into passata. The local rock salt is also highly sought after, as is pasto (synglino) and local sausages scented with orange. Meanwhile, the hills around Mt Taygetos provide herbs (sage, oregano, thyme etc), mountain tea, chestnuts and walnuts and fir trees for honey bees to feed on, just as they do in Messinia. Loupina (round yellow pulses, similar to fava) are eaten in salads or preserved in brine. Finally, you have to try the almond sweets (amygdalota) of Monemvasia, famous for more than two centuries.
What to eat in Laconia: The local dishes
Laconia shares much of its heritage (including local dishes and products) with Messinia. So as well as many of the local products and dishes found there, dishes that represent Laconia include paspalas (a kind of pork confit) and kouzouni (a wedding dish from Mani, with homemade filo pastry and a filling of quail, onion, tomato, herbs and spices). Tsaitia are irresistible little fried pies, with herbs and local cheese. Other pies are known as traviktes (pulled) pites. And synglino is added to gigantes (giant beans) and cooked in the oven with tomato sauce. Thankfully, you don’t need to attend a wedding to enjoy honey-dripping diples and milk-based galopita or galatopita.
What to drink in Laconia: The local wines
As well as producing wine in antiquity, Laconia was one of the most important viticulture regions of Greece in the Middle Ages. The most famous wines were from Monemvasia, which enjoyed centuries of exports of sweet Malvasia, which has been revived and given PDO status. Other varieties in the region include Mandilaria, Roditis, Agiorgitiko, Kydonitsa, Mavroudi and Malagouzia. There are wineries to visit around Monemvasia and in the foothills of Mt Taygetos.
Ancient Corinth, Nemea, the villages of Mountainous Corinth, Lake Doxa, Lake Stymfalia
What to eat in Corinth: The local products
Heading north, our foodie guide to the Peloponnese explores the region of Corinth (or Corinthia), just beyond the canal separating the Peloponnese from the rest of the mainland. Two products dominate here: the wines of the Nemea Valley and the Corinthian raisin – Greece’s ‘black gold’ of the 19th century. The PDO-protected Vostitsa raisin is considered the highest quality and touring the mountainous and semi-mountainous areas in August, you’ll see raisins drying on the threshing floors. You’ll also find plenty of sultanas, if they are more to your taste.
Olive groves (and extra-virgin olive oil) also abound, as do orange, lemon, apricot, chestnut, walnut and fig trees. Their produce is sold fresh in season and in preserves and spoon sweets throughout the year. Corinth is also known for its wild asparagus, pulses (PGI-protected Feneou Vanilies beans, lentils, chickpeas and fava or split peas), wild greens and cheeses (including PDO feta from Zireia). Especially on the coast, there is plenty of fresh fish and seafood.
What to eat in Corinth: The local dishes
Local specialities in Corinth include wild boar with quince and cod plaki (a dish with salted cod, potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes, given a local twist with Corinthian raisins). Nemean tagliatelle are served in a variety of ways, such as with kalkani (turbot) fried with a splash of red wine. Meat dishes include braised mutton (vergadi) and lamb (zigouri), and pork salmi (with olive oil, garlic, wine and tomato puree and finished with chopped walnuts). Try the cuttlefish stuffed with rice and dill and slow-cooked with red wine and the local leek pie is made with raisins and kefalotyri (a hard, spicy cheese). And for dessert, there’s walnut pie or baklava made with – you guessed it – raisins.
What to drink in Corinth: The local wines
The wineries of the Nemea valley are, for many foodies, the No.1 reason to visit the Peloponnese. The gently undulating valley, rich in water and greenery, produces international heavyweights like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, as well as Greek varieties such as Savvatiano, Roditis, Alepou and Asprouda. But the star of the show in Nemea is, without doubt, PDO Agiorgitiko, which produces luscious, velvety reds that frequently win international awards. Amongst the white varieties, Soultanina ripens in late July to August and produces very good table wine. There’s a wide selection of wineries to visit so take your time and enjoy every minute.
Nafplio, Ancient Epidaurus, Mycenae, Porto Heli, Ermioni
What to eat in Argolida: The local products
Close enough for a day trip from Athens (but with plenty to justify staying longer), Argolida (or Argolis) is filled with orange and olive groves (including the PDO olive oil from Kranidi and giant damaskinoelies, translating as ‘prune olives’). Depending on the season, you’ll also find PDO pomegranates from Ermioni, melons from Argos and artichokes from Iria. Apricots, wild cherries, prunes, watermelons, chestnuts, lemons, tangerines, aubergines, apples and pergamon … all are eaten fresh or made into spoon sweets or marmalades.
Dairy products include PDO feta from Argos and myzithra, as well as inventive cheeses such as graviera with cardamom, dittany, dill or sun-dried tomatoes. The local butter is also excellent. Argolida is also famous for its pasta products, including gogges (flour and water made into dough and rolled into tubes before being cut and shaped with the thumb) and hylopites, as well as thyme and blossom honey. You’ll find plenty of fresh fish in the coastal tavernas.
What to eat in Argolida: The local dishes
Ever-popular in Argolida are 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 the most-ordered local dish anywhere in the Peloponnese – gourounopoula (roast pork). Gogges are tossed in olive oil or butter and sprinkled with plenty of myzithra cheese… simple but delicious. And the variety of ways in which artichoke is served is breathtaking: raw, boiled, roasted, stuffed with meat or vegetables, or made into soups, pies or preserved as a marmalade. Also of interest is local ice cream made from goat’s milk.
What to drink in Argolida: The local wines & spirits
The best way to be introduced to the region’s ouzo, tsipouro and mastiha liqueurs is to visit a distillery, where you will find the distillation process in copper stills virtually unchanged from the past. As for the wineries, you’ll find reds made from Agiorgitiko & Moschofilero grapes and whites from Assyrtiko & Malagouzia. Other varieties include Roditis, Alepou and Moschofilero, as well as Mavrostifo of Argos, a previously almost extinct variety producing sweet reds.
Tripoli, the villages of Mountainous Arcadia (Dimitsana, Stemnitsa, Vytina etc), Lousios River
What to eat in Arcadia: The local products
Arcadia is a favourite escape for Athenians, especially the villages below Mt Menalon. In terms of local products, the PDO-protected apples produced near Tripoli are known as Delicious Pilafa for good reason. And equally famous are the cherries and sour cherries of Makri, golden potatoes of the Tegea plane, tsakoniki aubergines from Leonidio and chestnuts of Skyridas (so sweet and tender they can be eaten raw). The PDO feta and pasta from Vytina and graviera cheese from Tripoli are also popular, as is the fir tree honey from hives on the slopes of Mt Menalon.
What to eat in Arcadia: The local dishes
Rustic, mountain food takes precedence, especially gourounopoula and lamb and goat cooked in a typical Arcadian style (eg with rice, yogurt or baked artichokes). Lagoto is a traditional recipe found all over the region (especially in mountain villages), with pork, olive oil, tomato, garlic, crushed walnuts and breadcrumbs. Other local specialities are kagianas, baked aubergines (tsakonikes melitzanes) with feta, pasto pork, slow-cooked cockerel with thick pasta or hylopites, bazina (sweet trahanas with butter and myzithra cheese) and deep-fried tsigarista wild greens with red sauce. For something sweet, try galaktoboureko (a custard pie), galatopita (milk pie) and moustalevria (grape must).
What to drink in Arcadia: The local wines
Wine-making in Arcadia is centred around the PDO Mantinia zone, on the planes and foothills of Mt Menalon to the west and Mt Parnonas to the east. Moschofilero accounts for 85% of the grapes and the combination of continental climate and clay soil means the harvest comes late, in October. The wait is worth it, with dry whites that are aromatic and lively on the palate. Other grapes produced in the region include Assyrtiko and European favourites such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Patras, Kalavryta, Planitero, Strofilias Forest
What to eat in Achaia: The local products
The foodie highlights of the Peloponnese feature strongly in Achaia, which includes Patras, Greece’s third-largest city. Koutsourelia (also known as patrini) olive trees dominate the landscape and the Corinthian raisin (Vostitsa PDO) is grown in Aigialia. Traditional cuisine is based on local meat and fresh fish, handmade pasta (especially hylopites) and, of course, extra-virgin olive oil. And all those sheep and goats you’ll see in the countryside account for the excellent dairy products – yogurt and cheeses (formaela, anthotyro, graviera, kefalotyri … and crowning them all, Kalavryta’s PDO feta, which matures for 2-3 months in beech barrels). To end your taverna meal, you may be given rodozahari (a rose-scented spoon sweet), especially if you’re visiting Aigio.
What to eat in Achaia: The local dishes
If you’re an enthusiastic meat-eater, you’re in for a treat. Slow-cooked meat is king here – especially lamb and goat cooked in a gastra (a covered put) or riganato (stewed with oregano), rabbit stew or beef youvetsi (with orzo). Other favourites include kagianas and, if you are looking for fish and seafood, it’s not just the anchovies, sardines, sea bream etc in the fishing villages that will catch your eye. In Planitero, trout is sourced from nearby fish farms and served grilled, with vegetables and almonds. Meanwhile, the anchovies marinated in olive oil in Alykes are considered unmatched.
What to drink in Achaia: The local wines & spirits
Achaia is one of Greece’s largest viticulture zones in terms of volume and includes the gently undulating Aigialia region (protected by the Gulf of Corinth) and the vineyards of Patras, slightly lower at 450-500m. Both are well suited to growing Roditis grapes, which ripen earlier near Patras (PDO-protected) to produce fuller-bodied whites. Vineyards even nearer Patras produce Mavrodafni (a popular dessert wine) and Muscat grapes. Meanwhile, Tentoura is a local liqueur dating from the 15th century based on an Italian recipe including cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.
Ancient Olympia, Katakolo port, Loutra Killinis beach, Kourouta, Lake Kaiafa (and beach), Andritsaina, Neda Waterfalls, Foloi Forest
What to eat in Ilia: The local products
Ilia is one of Greece’s most productive regions, with agricultural land dedicated to olives, cereals and vegetables and healthy fishing and livestock industries. The extra-virgin olive oil is one of the least acidic in Greece and citrus fruit production (oranges, tangerines and lemons) here exceeds 65,000 tonnes a year. It is also the biggest producer of watermelons in Greece and dairy products include anthotyro (a white, low-fat cheese), yogurt and a unique rice pudding. The seafood is fantastic (the 130km of coastline help but there are also the trout of Lake Pinios) as are the pasta products, including tagliatelle, papardelles, cochylaki and kritharaki). Special mention goes to the fir-tree honey and strawberries, considered the best in Greece.
What to eat in Ilia: The local dishes
Look out for hondromenoudelo (coarse vermicelli-style noodles), with oil, sautéed onion and grated tomato, slow-cooked and served with freshly ground pepper and feta) and tabakali (beans cooked with courgettes). Kagianas and tsigarida (cured pork with egg and tomato) are also favourites, as is stroto (the local version of baklava), served at festivals and weddings – although you don’t need an excuse to try it.
What to drink in Ilia: The local wines & spirits
The thousands of acres of agricultural land in Ilia extend to vineyards, where European and Greek grape varietals (such as Roditis and Mavrodafni) are cultivated in large quantities. The ideal experience is to tag a winery tour onto a visit to Ancient Olympia or one of the beaches of the Olympian Riviera. You’ll also find distilleries in the region producing spirits such as ouzo and tsipouro.
FAQs about the Peloponnese, Greece
The local products of the Peloponnese are famous all over Greece. Around 65% by volume of the country’s olive oil comes from its olive trees, and its fruit orchards are amongst the most productive – from citrus fruit, watermelons and strawberries to prickly pears and artichokes. It is also one of Greece’s most important wine-producing regions, with vineyards in every region. The Nemea Valley (which specialises in the red Agiorgitiko grape) is a famous wine-producing region.
The Peloponnese is dominated by a mountainous and hilly interior (including the ski resort in Kalavryta) and has an extensive coastline, with some of the most iconic beaches in Greece (eg Voidokilia and Elafonisos), making it a popular holiday destination all year round. It played an important role in Greece’s uprising against the Ottomans and contains numerous world-famous ancient sites (such as Ancient Olympia, Mycenae and Epidaurus). It is also the site of numerous classic myths, such as the 12 tasks of Hercules.
The Peloponnese has a good road network from Athens to key destinations such as Corinth (83km), Patras (210km), Kalamata (239km), Ancient Olympia (300km), Nafplio (139km) and Sparta (213km). Roads to smaller destinations in or across the interior can be hilly and windy. There is a small international airport in Kalamata, a ferry port in Patras and a cruise terminal in Katakolo. There is also a train line from Athens to Patras. However, most locals drive or take the public bus (KTEL), reaching all major destinations.
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