Touring around the Peloponese

Trish Griffiths on 30 June 2013
Past visits to Greece have taken us to Athens, Corfu, Kefalonia, Zante, Samos, Kos, Thassos, Santorini, Lesbos, Lefkas, Rhodes, Crete & Mykonos. On our recent visit, this time we wanted more culture along with a more authentic experience.

We flew into Athens for our trip to the far side of the Pelopponese. On the way we stopped off at the magnificent Corinth canal. It really is amazing to consider the work that went into creating this feat of engineering in the late 1870's. We found a small cafe overlooking the canal that served the best Souvlaki we have ever tasted!!

We continued across to Kyparissia and our base for the next few days. Initially we spent a day exploring the town and its hilltop castle before enjoying dinner near the quiet harbour. Kyparisia is also an excellent base for several great trips. One of our favourites was Ancient Olympia, which is just an hour drive away. It was amazing to see the stadium site which held 45,000 in its day! From here we also visited Ancient Mithoni with its magnificent amphitheatre and also visited the lovely coastal towns of Pilos, Marathopolis and Finikounda.

After Kyparissia we moved into the middle leg of the Pelopponese and headed towards the area known as the Mani. Here we had a Luxury Private Villa with a pool, perched on the side of the mountains overlooking the villages of Stoupa and Aghios Nikolaos. We enjoyed the laid back vibe of Ag Nik and its waterfront tavernas. Stoupa also had a good selection of beachfront eateries and bars although this was more like the normal Greek seaside resort that is popular with Brits.

One of the main trips from here is to the Viros Gorge with its views of the Tarygetus mountains. Overall the Mani is blessed with magnificent scenery that reminded us of Madeira and has some lovely villages both on the coast and in the mountains. Be warned though, it is definitely a relaxing place and you'll find it hard to leave. We certainly did.

From here we drove across to the Attica region on our way back towards Athens. We stopped off in Sparta, mostly to say hello to King Leonidas, of "300 Spartans" fame. We also found the town to be a nice place for a cold frappe.

After Sparta we visited Greece's first capital, Navplion. This has a fantastic Venetian castle and lovely waterfront. We only stopped off briefly but wish we could have stayed longer to explore properly. We'll definitely come back here next time.

We actually stayed in Porto Heli for a couple of nights. This is a very popular resort with the Athenians and many of them bring their boats for the weekend. This gives the resort a lively vibe and gave us a nice look at all the swish yachts!

From here it is also possible to visit the little Island of Spetse. This is another upmarket resort for the Greeks and is easily reached by a 10 minute ferry from the nearby town of Kosta. It costs all of €2 each way, and the ferries (water taxi really) goes every 20 minutes or so. On the way back to the hotel we found a lovely secluded beach and had some relaxing beach time.

Rather than drive back on the day of our flight home we came back to the Athens area the day before and spent a night in the affluent Vouliagmeni. It was a public holiday when we were there so the beaches were packed with locals but the nearby beach club was still worth a visit. That night our hotel pool area transformed itself into an Arabian Nights style lounge so we finished the holiday off with a well-earned cocktail or two (you must try the "Bounty" ....mmm).

We found the variety between the rural solitude of the Mani and the local holiday flavours of Porto Heli to be an interesting and different experience from our previous Greek experiences. We have definitely had an insight into Greek life that you don't normally get from a Greek Island package.