Go to where olives thrive, rugged coastlines reign supreme and Mediterranean culture abounds – the Peloponnese Peninsula, a hidden gem on Greece’s southern coastline.
Like a lone mulberry leaf hanging off an already busy branch, the Peloponnese Peninsula is an often overlooked destination due to its mainland status. In truth, this landmass overflows with as many captivating marvels as any Greek isle. The region is home to ancient UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, bubbling thermal springs, luscious olive farms and opulent oceanfront resorts.
Easy to access from Kalamata Airport or just a scenic drive away from Athens, this picturesque peninsula makes for an incredible dedicated retreat or an amazing addition to an exciting island-hopping adventure.
Let the coastline be your guide as you uncover the secrets of Greece’s past and discover why the Peloponnese Peninsula should be top of your Greece itinerary.
Visit five UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites
Immerse yourself in ancient history with a trip around the Peloponnese’s various archaeological sites, mammoth-sized castles, and Byzantine churches. Drive through rugged Ilia to the impressive Temple of Apollo Epicurius dating back to the 5th century BC, examine relics from ancient medical practices at the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus, experience medieval grandeur within the hillside castle town of Mystras, and appreciate the ingenuity of the Mycenaean civilisation on a visit to the ruins of Mycenae and Tiryns. You can even visit one of the country’s most significant attractions: Olympia Archaeological Site. Originally dedicated to Zeus, it was once Greece’s most important religious and athletic centre.
Discover an archaeological wonderland
Beyond its aesthetic beauty, the Peloponnese is a culturally rich paradise, particularly for those curious as to how Greece has adapted through the centuries. Spend an afternoon wandering around Nafplio, the Victorian capital of the First Hellenic Republic, Greece’s original incarnation as a modern state. Uncover the city’s romantic charm through a collection of neoclassical buildings dotting the breathtaking coastline. To the east, sail past the isolated municipality of Monemvasia, a charming town above cliffside fortifications whose roots date back to the sixth century. Explore storied Elafonisos, known for one of the world’s most beautiful beaches with stunning pink shell-stained sands. Just off the southern coast of the peninsula, this tiny island’s history spans over 5,000 years.
See the birthplace of the Olympic Games
Grapple with the pinnacle of sports history on a trip to the place that started it all – Olympia. Located in the west amid the ‘valley of gods,’ the birthplace of the Olympic Games has become one of the most celebrated sites in all of Greece. First kicking off in 776 BC, the Games began as a tournament for Greeks to come together every four years, whether taking part or cheering from the sidelines, and to set aside differences in the name of sheer sportsmanship. Though the ancient Games ceased in 393 AD, this crumbling site continues to draw massive crowds.
Bathe in thermal springs
When you’ve had enough of touring the peninsula, wash your worries away with an invigorating soak in one of the region’s many natural water founts. Perfect for treating skin conditions and respiratory complaints, the hydrothiocorodine springs at Kyllini’s Castle in the northwest are said to be the most effective in the region. Or turn the temperature up with a visit to Methana’s baths. Naturally created by ancient rumbling volcanos, both the sulphuric and alkalic pools here have incredible healing powers.
Dine on the finest of the Mediterranean
Find some of the freshest seafood – namely octopus – and the richest olives and oil along the rough cliffs of the region. Taste piquant salads and tender lamb while overlooking the ocean in Argolid, known for its zesty crop. Then try signature sweet Malvasian wines and local produce in Laconia – the deliciousness is abundant. Perfect as an after-meal snack or afternoon pick-me-up, have a side of the country’s favourite liquor: ouzo. The Peninsula is famous for its ouzo cookies and diples (fried sheet dough with syrup, walnuts, and cinnamon) adored by locals and tourists alike.
Easily explore the rest of Greece
A stay in the Peloponnese places you in a central location from which to venture among the many other wonderful towns, incredible islands and heaving metropolises within Greece. Venture to the country’s capital on a train ride from Patras to Athens to witness the historic Acropolis and wander the Parthenon. Alternatively, jump on a ferry and tour the islands. Near the southern tip of the Peloponnese, find Kythira, the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, or sail further to hop around the famous Cyclades, encompassing Paros, Mykonos, Serifos and Santorini, for the full Greek island experience.
Rest, relax and rejuvenate at luxurious resorts
Take your sweet time getting to the hum of this magical region during a retreat at one of the Peninsula’s finest resorts or boutique hotels. Set in the manicured hillside of Pylos, Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino allows you to experience magnificent apricot sunsets in a luxurious setting. Adventure further down to the coastline of Loutra Kyllinis and find the expanse of Grecotel La Riviera & Aqua Park, a five-star paradise with direct access to the golden beaches of Ancient Olympia.
Featured image: Grecotel La Riviera & Aqua Park.
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