How is driving in the Peloponnese?

Old Jan 21st, 2014, 02:56 AM
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How is driving in the Peloponnese?

We are going in the first week of October and finalizing our itinerary. We have 15 days in Greece and considering renting a car in Napflio where we will base ourselves for 4 nights.
Our planned destinations from Napflio are Edipavros, Mycenae, Nemea and Olympia. We also plan to visit Delphi ( Meteora too if we have time ) but will probably day trip there from Athens. We plan to take the bus from Athens to Napflio but we are also open to the idea of renting from and returning the car in Athens.

Is driving in the Peloponnese not too challenging in terms of navigating and dealing with aggressive drivers or unmarked roads and highways and Greek alphabet with no Roman alphabet translations? the scenery along the way to the places we plan to visit, are they interesting for car drivers? We have driven in Germany, Croatia, Provence, Tuscany and enjoyed the sightseeing along the way, with no untoward incident.

Any advice and tips for the Geeece experts on here is much appreciated. Thanks.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 03:56 AM
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We found driving in that area fine. Roads were not crowded. Drivers could be aggressive but just let them pass you. Parking can be interesting.

We used a sat nav with no issues
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 05:12 AM
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Roads in Peloponnese are good, safe, and all roads are marked with Latin Alphabet, even in the tiniest village (Why don't you learn the Greek Alphabet, its easy). Ofcourse there are some roads which are not quite good but these roads are mostly in very remote places. The Peloponnese has gorgeous sceneries for car drivers, like Messenia region, Mani region, Arcadia region, and some beautiful towns like Monemvasia, Gytheio, Pylos, and some beautiful sites like Olympia, Nemea, Mikines, and Sparta.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 06:12 AM
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WE drove that route and had no problems--light traffic.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 07:15 AM
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Ditto to the above. We did drive to and from Athens airport and found it easy -- with the help of our GPS. (However, we hadn't just arrived after a long, overnight flight.)

That said, a day trip from Nafplio to Olympia would be very difficult. Twisting mountainous roads, taking upwards of 3 hours each way, plus lots to see in Olympia.

Another option would be a boat trip to the island of Hydra. Sometimes ferries leave from Nafplio. You can also catch them at Porto Heli/Portocheli or Ermioni. Hydra is a car-free, scooter-free island; they use donkeys instead. It's a very scenic place to visit, much pleasanter than the nearer Spetses, which is vespa-infested.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 08:02 AM
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This area is spectacular with ancient sites and beautiful scenery. It is mountainous and the roads can get somewhat narrow with no shoulders. Greek drivers can be aggressive and expect you to move over to the right side so they can pass you. No need to be intimidated do move over to the right when it is safe if not then just keep going until it is safe. Even more interesting is their habit of driving in the middle of the road particularly on blind curves. This all sounds rather risky however in the countryside on smaller roads the speeds are quite low so everyone has time to react to the situation. By the end of our trip I was driving in the middle on curves. Somehow it just seemed more efficient.
One thing to be aware of while distances are small the drive will take much longer than you anticipated. The roads, scenery and historical sites impel you to stop and look around. I recall one day going from Nafplion to Monemvassia we averaged 23 Kilometers an hour. It was a great day.
Here are some images of that trip.
Nafplio and Peloponnese http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr5...7632094108982/

Just reread your post. We always rent the car from the airport which gives us a straight run to Corinth. If you do that then you can visit Nemia and ancient Corinth on the way to Nafplion. Both take no more than an hours or so.
This will buy you some extra time where you could then consider visiting Mystras the last home of the Byzantine empire and perhaps Monemvassia a 15th century town where you can stay in period rooms within the city walls. A truly memorable experience.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 08:24 AM
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Our experience was the same--no problems. But reread Mimar's and Stanbr's post which accurately reflect conditions: mountainous roads in the interior and three lanes of traffic on a highway planned for two on the coasts.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 08:32 AM
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The roads are marked well in Latin Alphabet. The spelling can be letter to letter translation instead of Anglicized names. They are close enough.

The traffic is stunningly light. This was the case throughout Greece including to the North.

No one mentions about speed? There are speed limit signs, but I thought they were just decorations except for the tourists. On E94 to Corinth, I was passed by many cars going over 160km/h. One car was doing at least 180km and he passed on my right. In country roads in Peloponnese, it did not matter that they were undivided two lane roads. I was passed by many driving past 130km/h on 80km/h roads.

The double yellow lines are just another decorations. People pass anywhere including curves.

Parking interesting? In Nafplio, I didn't think there was a parking restriction. You dodge double and triple parked cars.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 11:40 AM
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Greg in the post above mentions something I always tell people about driving in Greece... stay alert on curves and stay to the far right in your own lane in case you meet someone passing. The same applies to the crests of hills as well.

On 2 lanes roads with a paved shoulder you will be expected to put 2 wheels onto the shoulder to let a faster car pass.

All in all, aside from paying extra attention as above, I love driving in Greece.

If you are coming from North America take the bus to Nafplion... don't drive right off the plane. Much better to pick up a car once you are well rested. If you absolutely must have an automatic car renting at the airport may be the only option... A day trip from Athens to Meteora isn't a good plan... see if you can work it in before staying in Athens.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 12:08 PM
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Are you from the US?
Difference in driving in Greece vs. Italy is that in Greece, you can drive the way you are comfortable... to most degree due to low traffic. You don't have to drive like locals. The North Europeans, such as Scandinavians, seem to keep speed limits even in Greece.

I think one item that is different touched by ParisAmsterdam is the sense of "lane ownership." In the US, at least where I live, the drivers assume they own the lane. When a side of a two lane road is blocked by service truck, the car on the blocked side patiently waits until the oncoming traffic is clear irrespective of the width of the road.

This is not the case at places I have visited in Europe and certainly not in Greece. If sufficient space exists, a new 2-lane road is formed around the parked service truck. The oncoming vehicle assumes this and so should you.

In the same manner, you do not "own" your lane including going around curves. As ParisAmsterdam indicated, if the road is wide enough, the oncoming traffic will take physically available space to go around the curve perhaps passing other cars. The center line is just a "decoration." They will leave you enough "physical" space they feel sufficient for you at curves.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 02:20 PM
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Thanks to all of your great advice.

Greg, yes we are from California, so somewhat familiar with aggressive driving although in a different way, mostly overspeeding and the occasional illegal turns. You mentioned "interesting parking" - can you tell me a little bit more regarding your experience with this?

ParisAmsterdam, we might take the bus from Athens to Nafplion and rent the car from Nafplion. We have not finalized our land itinerary. The flights in and out of ATH have been booked. We are flying in to ATH then taking a connecting flight to Santorini on Aegean Air with a 2 hour layover in ATH. We are scheduled to arrive in Santorini at around 8 pm. United Airlines agent assured me that we will be doing the immigration formalities in Frankfurt so 2 hours should be sufficient to catch the connecting flight barring severe delays due to unforeseen issues. I haven't finalized our itinerary from Santorini onwards. For now, I'm looking at flying from Santorini back to Athens and maybe take the bus from ATH airport to Nafplio. Another option I'm looking at is to take the boat from Pireus in Athens to Hydra, then spend 1 night in Hydra. Then use Hydra as a jump off point for exploring Peloponnese. We can perhaps rent the car from Metochi or Ermioni OR take the bus from Ermioni to Nafplio and rent the car from Napfplio the next day. Your input is appreciated if this itinerary makes sense. I am allocating a full day for any mode of transfer from Santorini to Hydra and also a full day to transfer from Hydra to Nafplio.

Petros, we will try to learn and gain some proficiency of the Greek alphabet before we leave. I will probably need to print a large cheat sheet and have it handy all the time. I know a few letters, the ones I recognize way back from the college frat and sorority names, which is a long time ago, lol. I don't think my mastery of 6 Greek letters will get me far, and btw, they also all caps. The only small cap Greek letters I know is phi and lambda from the basic calculus class I took in college ( oh well, maybe algebra in high school, can't even remember which class it was ).
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 02:30 PM
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Mimar, I'm thinking the same thing looking at driving distances and length of drive time. Olympia looks a bit isolated from the cluster of cities we want to visit on the east side of Peloponnese. If we are going to take the bus to Olympia, is there another interesting, somewhat large enough city that will have decent connections to say, Delphi or Athens? I looked at the air options, there's no flight around that area that we can take to get us back to Athens. Should I just save Olympia for next time and just head back to Athens en route to Delphi? We would have seen quite a few ruins by then, so not sure if I would regret not going to Olympia.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 02:40 PM
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Stan, thanks for sharing your lovely pictures. I like your compositions. What camera did you use? The iconic picture of the Corinth canal, was there a turn off area where you can take pictures? Please share some of the places you stayed at that you can recommend. I'm thinking off season hotel rates in the Peloponnese will be around $80-120/night for a double with private bath and maybe a modest breakfast included.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 02:43 PM
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Meteora seems to be the other "must-see" but it does involve a 3-4hr trip from Athens and back. We're trying to work out how best to add it in to our visit to Peloponnese in May
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 02:54 PM
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Tommmo, I'm with you. If we skip Olympia, I would like to see Meteora as a trade off. Let's see what our Fodors friends say...
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 03:04 PM
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If you are flying into Athens from Santorini by all means pickup your car at the airport. You have an easy drive on a broad, modern toll road.

You can't stop at the canal at Corinth on the main highway. You'll have to get there from the old road. Look at your map and take the small side road from the bridge down to Isthmia. You'll find another bridge there that is amazing... it sinks. I took a friend who didn't know what we were going to see and he almost fell over in amazement. Here's a look (not my video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJihG6QgK8Y

Consider dropping Olympia and getting to Delphi via Corinth, Elefsina and Thebes (Thive). Then onward to Meteora. Shoot back to Athens via the National Road and stop at Thermopylae... it's not what it once was but a stop is worth it.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 04:33 PM
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Paris, that was cool. I'd like to see that. I'm willing to skip Olympia to see Meteora. Like I said earlier, we would have seen a few ( or might be one too many ) ancient ruins by the time we make it to Olympia. Hopefully we won't be "ancient ruined out" by the time he reach Athens for the Acropolis and the museum because that's out last stop before we head back to the US.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 05:49 PM
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Not sure if I am adding much, but just to say we also picked up a car at Athens airport and drove to Nafplio, then around the Peloponnese without any problems (well, we might have gotten a tiny bit lost trying to find the theater at Epidaurus, but I like to think of it as a chance to see the town of Epidaurus ).

We then drove north, and you can get to Delphi that way either by ferry or by crossing an impressive bridge. That was a pretty drive, but slightly more harrowing than driving around the Peloponnese (although perhaps that is partly because we were originally trying to make the ferry). I seem to recall the drive between Delphi and Athens around the other side of the Gulf of Corinth is shorter, with more lanes, but not as scenic.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 05:53 PM
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Hi takemewith you. I used a canon powershot sx 30 but am now using the upgraded sx50. It is essentially a sophisticated point and shoot but with huge zoom capability. Fits in a belly pack.
For hotels while on the road we generally get to where we want to go and find a nice area and start to visit hotels. We don't book ahead because we never quite know where we are going to end up. In the shoulder season there is a very good chance you will get a pretty good price reduction from the rack rate doing it this way.
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Old Jan 21st, 2014, 07:08 PM
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We had no problem driving in the Peloponnese. The only oddity we encountered was on some of the larger roads. Although the road was clearly a two-lane road, other drivers would create a third lane in the middle in order to pass slower vehicles. This seemed shocking at first, but we quickly learned to head for the shoulder to make room!
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