Peloponnese self drive vacations

The Peloponnese is steeped in history and home to some of Greece’s most infamous legends. Even the most arbitrary of Ancient Greek aficionados will instantly recognise the names of Sparta, Olympia and Mycenae. And let’s not forget Arcadia – that poetically perfect heaven which in the Peloponnese really is a place on earth.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that ancient history is the only thing that rules the roost on Greece’s largest ‘island’, linked to the mainland by the slender Isthmus of Corinth. Peloponnese self-drive vacations will also take you hiking, cycling and swimming, to beaches and mountains, and to the tasting tables of some of Greece’s finest local producers. All linked by easily navigable and – for the most part – smooth roads.

What does a Peloponnese self drive vacation entail?

Driving distances in the Peloponnese are relatively short – the Isthmus of Corinth, for example, is under 90 minutes from Athens airport – so you can expect to spend much more time out enjoying ancient sites and Arcadian mountains than tucked behind the wheel of your car. Which is ideal, because the Peloponnese packs a lot into its pristine peninsulas.

Usually you’ll start and finish your trip at Athens International Airport (you can add a few days in the city if you prefer), but where you spend the days in between is up to you. Your local vacation company will have some suggested routes based on their intricate knowledge of the region but will work with you to create an itinerary that is right up your street. Ancient history buff? Then Olympia, Mycanae and Nestor’s Palace are all tempting treats. Or you can choose to include more hiking or more beach time. Or more wine – which the Greeks have been making in the Peloponnese for over 4,000 years. Whatever works for your very own Greek odyssey.
As well as your route and activities, your tour operator will organise your hire car, provide you with detailed maps and route notes, and backup assistance if required. They’ll also arrange all your accommodation, usually three-star or so, family run, local guesthouses chosen for their friendly hospitality and comfortable rooms. You might move on each night, or you spend two or three nights in each place if you prefer.

A Peloponnese self drive vacation gives you the freedom of independent travel, with the ease of having someone organise all the logistics for you. So, once you’re on the road, you’re in charge – choose to hire a local guide to show you around Olympia or spend that extra hour on the beach without worrying about holding anyone else up.

What is it like driving in the Peloponnese?

There’s no need to brush up on your Greek letters to tackle a self-drive vacation in the Peloponnese; signs in even the tiniest of villages will display the Latin alphabet equivalent of Greek place names making it easy to navigate.

However, don’t be tempted to pack too many stops into each day. Journeys inevitably take longer than you expect as the scenery, beaches, ancient sites and the run wine, honey and olive-oil producers that dot this region will tempt you into irresistible stops along the way.

The main roads through the Peloponnese are well maintained, smooth and easy to navigate, and for the most part they are fairly quiet outside the main towns. The motorway runs from Athens through Corinth to Tripoli and onto Kalamata, and the inland main roads linking Kalamata, Sparta and Nafplion, for example, are all in good shape.

More rural roads – both inland up into the mountains in Arcadia and down into the far reaches of the Mani Peninsula – are sealed, but can in places be dusty, windy and narrow. However, as these generally see little traffic, particularly out of the height of the summer, they shouldn’t pose any problems to careful drivers who are happy to take their time while exploring.

Our top Peloponnese Vacation

Peloponnese self drive vacation in Greece

Peloponnese self drive vacation in Greece

Cultural highlights and hidden treasures in Southern Greece

From 614 to710 11 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Peloponnese or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Can I take the kids?

A resounding yes. Greek myths permeate every corner of the Peloponnese – six of Hercules’ infamous 12 labours took place here – and children will be captivated by the stories which are tied to the rocks and ruins they explore. They’ll also love the chance to go hiking or cycling, or splash in the warm Mediterranean Sea off some of the Peloponnese’s gorgeous stretches of sandy beach.

Self drive vacations give families the freedom to stop for lunch breaks or loo breaks whenever they want, and the short distances between the Peloponnese’s best bits means there’ll barely be time for an ‘are we nearly there yet?’ before the kids are out of the car and exploring once again.

Peloponnese distances &
rough driving times

    Athens Airport to Isthmus of Corinth: 112km – 1hr 15 mins Isthmus of Corinth to Arcadia (e.g. Dimitsana): 130km – 1hr 40 mins Isthmus of Corinth to Nafplion : 67km – 1hr Nafplion to Sparta: 120km – 1hr 40 mins Sparta to Gytheion: 43km – 40 mins Dimitsana (Arcadia) to Ancient Olympia: 85km – 1hr 50 mins Ancient Olympia to Pylos: 134km – 2hrs 15 mins Pylos to Kalamata: 54km – 1hr Kalamata to Sparta: 58km – 1hr 20 mins
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Robbie Shade] [Intro: Andy Hay] [What does it entail?: kkirsanov] [Distances and travel times: Nicolás Boullosa]
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