The Southern region of Greece, also known as Peloponnese, is not only beautiful, but also rich in culture and history. Technically an island, Peloponnese is teaming with ancient sites, Greek theatres, medieval remains, battle towers, well preserved Byzantine enclaves, and much more. The beaches are among the finest in the country, while the forests, mountains, valleys and gorges are breathtaking.
If you’re going to Greece, this is where you will find everything Greek, including the friendly locals!
One of Greece’s most beautiful and romantic settings is the town of Nafplio, located on a small seaport and expanding up the hillsides in the Peloponnese region. Once the capital of the First Hellenic Republic, Venetian houses and neoclassical buildings and mansions line the narrow cobblestone alleys of the town, taking visitors back through history. Popular with both locals and tourists, Nafplio must-sees include the medieval Old Town, the Italianate Syntagma Square and Palamidi Castle. And a visit to Nafplio would also not be complete without heading to the most photographed spot, Bourtzi – a small fortress on the rocky islet of Agioi Theodoroi.
The Isthmus of Corinth is the gateway between the mainland and the Peloponnese, divided by the Corinth Canal. The city of Corinth itself is quite new, after the original city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1858. Corinth was developed at the site of ancient Corinth - one of the largest and most prominent cities of Greece, with a population reaching 90,000 people back in 400 BC. Luxury holiday destinations are a must-see, including Nafplio, Porto Cheli and Kranidi.
The Mani is the southernmost peninsula of Greece and it has been traditionally divided into three regions, with Mesa Mani (or Inner Mani) to the south-west. Mesa Mani starts in Verga and its main region is Laconia, with the capital of Sparta. It also includes Cape Malea, Cape Tainaron and a large part of the Mani Peninsula.
The Mani is the southernmost peninsula of Greece and it has been traditionally divided into three regions, with Exo Mani (Outer Mani) to the north-west. Exo Mani is a plateau between the coast and the Taygetos mountains, where you can experience a number of small villages, including the popular Avia, Lefktron and Kitries in the north.
In Arcadia you will find some of Greece’s most breathtaking landscapes, from the dramatic hills to the medieval towns. It is here around Stemnítsa and Dhimitsána where you can experience the astounding Loúsios Gorge; and you might also want to take time to visit the beautiful hill towns of Karítena and Andhrítsena – located near the Temple of Bassae.
Olympia is one of the best known and most visited places in Greece. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times and it is a sanctuary which was the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.
Argolid is dominated by the city of Árgos and is home to the largest number of ancient sites in Greece, from Agamemnon’s fortress at Mycenae, to the great theatre of Epidaurus, and other sites Tiryns and Árgos. Argos itself was founded in the Bronze Age and was one of the most powerful cities of Greece until the rise of Sparta.
Sparti is located in the Lakonian Evrótas valley and played a dominant role in the development of ancient Greece, with Ancient Sparta being a military city-state. The people living here thought the only way of life was that of a soldier and the bravest way to die was in the battlefield. Tourism is limited in Sparti, but the site of Ancient Sparta is well worth the visit.
Often overlooked by travelers, Messinia is a luxurious land, with green mountainsides, endless beaches and historical castles. The town of Kalamanta is famous for its olives and is watched over by an impressive 13th century castle that survived an earthquake in 1986. The beaches of Methóni and Finikoúnda are popular, as are archeological sites such as ancient Messene west of Kalamáta and Nestor’s Palace.
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
If you have even more time to spare, consider visiting these stunning natural destinations:
Alepotrypa Cave was in use from 5300 BC for a period of around 2000 years. It is 280 metres long and includes large chambers and a lake with potable water, around 14 metres deep. To top things off, a Neolithic town and burial site was discovered in March 2015, outside the entrance to cave.
Karítena is an old hillside village located in Arcadia that is full of history and beautiful sights.
Vatika – is an isolated part of the Peloponnese dominated by inaccessible and inhospitable mountains and poor, dry, rocky soil. Aside from the Byzantine enclave of Monemvasiá and the area around Neapoli, the area is relatively unexplored by tourists and it is the gateway to Elafonisos and Kythira.
Kastro is a medieval town where you will find yourself immersed in narrow cobbled streets, winding staircases, walled gardens and stone houses. Visit the Cathedral of Christ in Chains, Church of Myrtidiotissa and the 16th-century Church of Panagia Hrysafitissa.
Vouraikós Gorge is a highlight amongst Greek natural attractions, and a great way to see it is from a train – a 22 kilometre ride from Diakofto to Kalavryta. The journey will take you past cascading waterfalls, caves with stalactites and stalagmites, dense forests and lush vegetation.
GOT TIME TO SPARE
Glimpse at some other inspiring places well worth visiting while in Corinth
Temple of Apollo
Archaeological Museum of Corinth
Glimpse at some other inspiring places well worth visiting while in Olympia