Peloponnese map & highlights

Peloponnese landscapes are linked to myths, storytelling and poetry but with the exception of historic heavy hitters such as Olympia, you’ll find plenty of breathing space and just as many domestic as foreign visitors. In other words you’ll feel less like you’re in a tourist theme park and more like you’re exploring an authentic slice of Greece – with plenty of opportunity to meet and chat to the people that live here, as well as to folks visiting from other parts of the country.

What’s more, you’ll be able to do so in some pretty incredible surroundings, with plenty of opportunity to relax, take stock and rejuvenate. Take in the myriad beaches of Messina, learn the ways of ancient Greece at the amphitheatre at Epidaurus, enjoy silent spaces in Arcadia’s Lousios Gorge or just let the sound of the gushing river and bells of ancient monasteries soothe your soul.

1. Arcadia

Few places give their name to dream visions but this mountain-ringed enclave inspired the poetic term ‘arcadia’, meaning unspoiled wilderness. You still find plenty of wilderness in this region, whether you are hiking in the foothills of Mt. Mainalo, or gorge walking through Lousios, where ancient monasteries cling to the cliff walls. And the coast always beckons, with 100km of exquisite beaches and bays.

2. Epidaurus

If you can catch a production in this 2,300-year-old theatre, your vacation will be complete. In its day, it could seat 14,000 audience members, all in search not only of artistic therapy but also natural therapy. Because in ancient times, theatre was considered a real tonic and, indeed, Epidaurus is said to be the birthplace of medicine. The coastal town of the same name is pretty much a cure all as well.

3. Laconia

The Laconia region has Sparta as its heritage hub. A town with famed Spartan military history and an acropolis should be enough really, but it is also overlooked by Mount Taygetus, the Peloponnese’s highest peak at 2,404m. After absorbing the Byzantine beauties Mystras and Monemvasia, the latter on its own island, go cycling to fishing towns such as Gytheio and Elia or swim over the sunken city of Pavlopetri.

4. Messinia

Messina is the name given to the southwest region, which includes the main seaside hub of Kalamata, from where you can head out along the coast. By bike ideally, to stunning beaches such as the sandy one at Petalidi, or the ridiculously beautiful ones in and around the ancient town of Pylos. Castles such as Methoni and Koroni are musts. You can even stay in a cottage within the grounds of Koroni castle.

5. Mycenae

The 3,500-year-old citadel ruins at Mycenae are said to be the home of Greek mythological King Agamemnon, who led the way in the Trojan War in Homer’s famous poem, The Iliad. Myth or no myth, these are ruins of epic proportions. Walk through the famous Lion Gate dating back to 13 BC, see ancient tombs and palace remains, and enjoy superb views across the orange and olive groves of Argolis and beyond to the Aegean.

6. Nafplion

This stunning seaside town was once a port that fired on all cylinders, fighting off everyone from the French crusaders to the Venetians and Ottomans. Their influences can still be seen, such as the Venetian Palamidi fortress. Nafplio is a great base for cycling vacations, with beach bliss such as Karathona or Agios Nikolas, or the nearby town of Tolo where you can get a small boat out to the uninhabited island of Koronissi.
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Travel times in the Peloponnese

The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times by car between the main attractions in the Peloponnese.

Kalamata – Athens: 2.5 hours Kalamata – Olympia: 2 hours Kalamata – Sparta: 1 hour Olympia – Mycenae: 2.5 hours Mycenae – Nafplio: 25 minutes
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: dinosmichail] [Arcadia: Roman Klementschitz] [Epidaurus: Andy Hay] [Laconia: Pavel69] [Messinia: Miltos Gikas] [Mycenae: Andreas Trepte] [Nafplion: Mtale]