The Peloponnese Coast Itineraries

Wonders of the Peloponnese Coast

The Peloponnese remains generally unknown to most Americans, but for those who take the leap to explore it the rewards are great. The coastline is divine, showcasing the natural and rural beauty of Greece from rugged cliffs that meet the sparkling seas swirling in bright shades of turquoise. Peloponnese port cities also give off a special Greek island–like charm with their small village atmosphere, beautiful architecture, and expansive views of the sea. If you have time, an excursion here will be well rewarded.

1 Day: Epidavros

Epidavros has Greece's best-preserved ancient theater, which still amazes audiences with its perfect acoustics. You can literally hear a pin drop on the stage from 55 rows up. Seating 14,000 people, with a breathtaking view of the mountains and valleys directly behind its stage, the venue gets packed each summer (June through August) for the Athens Epidauros Festival, which features notable actors from all over the world. Also visit the Sanctuary of Asklepios, the supposed birthplace of Apollo's son, the world's greatest healer, which has been a major place of healing since the 4th century. Take a break by the port with an orange juice, freshly squeezed from oranges grown in the area’s famous orange groves.

Logistics:This itinerary really needs to be done by car; it's 1½ hours from Athens to Epidauros. During the festival, however, buses run to and from Nafplion especially for the performances, and that's where you should base yourself for the night.

1 Day: Nafplion

The first capital of Greece is often described as the most cultural, historic, and romantic port city in the country. Discover its Old Town, a peninsula that juts out into the Gulf of Argos and where Greek, Venetian, and Turkish architecture melds in harmony in its little streets and tree-shaded plazas. It deserves at least a day of your undivided attention, but you could certainly spend more time if you have it.

Logistics:The drive from Epidauros to Nafplion is just 40 minutes, but if you are staying the night, you'll likely want to start this itinerary in Nafplion, which is 2 hours from Athens by toll road.

1 Day: Monemvasia

From afar it’s incredible to think people live in the massive rock, towering at 1,148 feet, just ahead of you. One narrow bridge connects the Peloponnese landmass to Monemvasia, where a little walled community has thrived since AD 600. Its name translates as one entrance, and it's a perfectly preserved medieval town filled with shops, small hotels, and restaurants. Its alleyways lined with traditional homes are a delight to explore with viewing spots, including at Agia Sofia Church, that offer sweeping views of both the town and sea.

Logistics:An overnight here allows you to enjoy this strange place when the tour groups have departed. Just be aware that cars are not allowed, so you will have to carry your luggage in (have your hotel's staff meet you to help).

1 Day: Mystras and Sparta

Although not on the coast, Mystras is not to be missed. While modern Sparta may be disappointing to many because of its paucity of ruins, not so for Mystras, which has the most impressive ruins in the Peloponnese, albeit from the 14th century rather than from ancient times. The abandoned palaces, churches, and monasteries are well worth the detour.

Logistics:The Kinsterna Hotel & Spa in Agios Stefanos is one of the most distinctive hotels in Greece, but there are less expensive options near Mystras.

2 Days: Mani

Mani is one of the most unique areas of Greece. Byzantine chapels, towered houses, and stories of lawless locals are connected with a rocky, wild, dry yet strikingly handsome landscape. Walk to the mythical gate to the end of the world and the southernmost point of mainland Greece, Cape Tenaro. Then, explore seaside villages of Gerolimenas and Areopolis, trying Mani’s famous local olive oils and honey along the way.

Logistics:You can stay in a distinctive property in either Areopolis or Gerolimenas. It's a 3-hour drive back to Athens from here.

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