Things to see & do in the Peloponnese
History and mythology run deep in the Peloponnese. It’s here that Helen of Troy and the Argonauts got their legendary starts and goat-like god of the wild, Pan, made his home in the scented Arcadian hills. Over time, the Mycenaeans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Venetians have all left their mark on this landscape, too – and what a landscape it is. Under two hours from Athens, spread across a four-fingered peninsula around the size of Wales, you’ll find lofty mountains dotted with traditional villages, vast gorges thick with pines, and sandy beaches kissed by startling blue waters.
All you need to decide is how you’re going to get around. On small group and tailor made tours you’ll have a guide to introduce you to the local way of life and show you both the well known archaeological treasures and off radar gems; with baggage transferred between stops if you’re on a walking or cycling trip. Or, take it self guided and you can drive, bike or walk at your own pace, safe in the knowledge that there’s support if you need it. Read on to discover our top Peloponnese highlights.
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Tours on two wheelsPedalling the peaks and pathways is a typically Peloponnese passtime, and there’s a healthy clutch of cycling vacations that allow you to explore the countryside, taking it easy with time to stop for a dip in the sea, enjoy a glass of retsina in a fishing village and drink your fill of history and culture. You could take in the ancient sites or make the seaside the focus of your touring, skirting the coastline in the southeastern Peloponnese region known as Laconia where you can spend time in sandy Mediterranean idylls such as Monemvasia and the island of Elafonisos. Or, you could make for the Messinia region, where you’ll find fishing harbours, ancient towns, Medieval castles and beaches, including Voidokilia, known to be one of the country’s finest.
Cycling tours are either guided or self guided. In case of the latter, you’ll receive comprehensive maps, 24-hour support and convenient luggage transfers between (small, locally owned) hotels, to ensure that you can relax and enjoy the ride.
Ambling with the ancients
Myth and legend abound in this archaeologically endowed corner of Greece, with treasures at every turn. Discover the legendary cities of Mycenae and Messene, the historic theatre at Epidaurus and the most celebrated site of ancient Greece, Olympia, a former center for the worship of the god Zeus, where the famous games got their start. Or make things medieval with a visit to the old castle towns of Kyparissia or Monemvasia.
You could opt to travel in a small group, with an expert in Greek history and mythology to help bring it all to life. Or you could arrange a tailor made, self guided journey. You’ll take things at your own pace, but you’ll have accommodation booked for you in advance and will be provided with plenty of information, both to help you design your daily activities and to provide background on the region’s history and culture.
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To combine your mythological meanderings with some high adrenalin hijinks, opt for an activity break. Families can try a multi activity vacation, windsurfing or kayaking along the coast around Kalamata, white water rafting on the Lousios River, or gorge walking and mountain biking in Arcadia. Alternatively, those with some solid hiking experience under their belts could go for a more intense walking vacation, involving long days of trekking in the mountains as well as visiting the top archaeological sites.
CruisingYour Peloponnese odyssey doesn’t have to take place on dry land. You could join a group of up to 50 fellow travelers on a chic motor yacht for a small ship cruise, to explore the glorious historic sites dotted along Peloponnese shores. Hop off the boat at Palaia to visit Epidaurus, stop at Katakolon for an excursion inland to Olympia, and visit Pylos, the ancient town and eponymous palace ruins. The boat will also take you to lesser known beauties such as the magnificent Diros Caves and the Mani Peninsula, a wild region of underground lakes and rivers.
Small ship cruises are usually sociable affairs. You’ll spend a lot of time with your fellow passengers, star gazing, swimming and dining on deck or on the beach together, though there’s always an option to retire to your ensuite cabin for a snooze, too.
More about Greece
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From idyllic island-hopping to hiking between fascinating archaeological sites and sublime cycling, find your perfect vacation, and stacks of information on what to see and do, with all our Greece guides in one place.