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The Peloponnese: a breathtaking place of contrasts 

Peloponnese

A short distance from Athens lies one of the most varied destinations in Greece. A perfect combination of mountain and sea, lush vegetation and dry, woody landscapes, the ancient and the modern. With places like Epidaurus, Mycenae, Mystras and Ancient Olympia in the foreground, the Peloponnese can’t fail to impress. Since 1893, it has been considered an island since the construction of the Corinth Canal separated it from mainland Greece to which it is now connected by a bridge, since 2005 it is also connected to the mainland by the bridge Rio-Antirio.

 

 

The landmark of our historyCastle at Peloponnese

The history of the Peloponnese constitutes a milestone in the nation’s history, already flourishing during the Pre-Helladic period (2500 BC) largely in Messinia, while the Mycenean civilization was also at its peak. (1500 BC) It was also a landmark of Ancient Greece being the home of Ancient Sparta, which together with Ancient Athens were the two most important city states in antiquity. It is also the home of modern Greece sine Nafplio was the original capital of the modern Greek state, housing some of the most important buildings and  playing a central role in the first steps of the new state. For this reason, the Peloponnese is perhaps the best destination for visitors who want to take a historical trip which covers the whole spectrum of Greek history and culture all in one place.

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus: acoustic and aesthetic perfection

The ancient theatre of EpidaurusOne sight definitely worth visiting is the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. It was built in the sanctuary of Asclepios at Epidaurus in 4th Century BC, completed in 2nd Century BC and is considered the most perfect ancient Greek theatre as well as being one of the biggest with a capacity for 13000-14000 spectators. If you visit during the summer, make sure to attend one of the performances staged at the Athens and Epidaurus Festival.

 

Ancient Olympia: the birthplace of the Olympic GamesAncient Olympia: the birthplace of the Olympic Games

Apart from its national importance, the Peloponnese is also a source of international cultural heritage since Ancient Olympia, where the first Olympic Games took place, is situated in the region of Ilia. You can visit the ancient stadium, built in the 5th century BC where the Olympic and the Herea games were held until they were suppressed in 393 AD. It is also worth visiting the archaeological site, the temple of Zeus, the Olympic Games Museum with exhibits mostly from the Sanctuary of Zeus and the Archaeological Museum of Olympia where you can see the famous Hermes by Praxiteles. For those who love ancient Greece, a visit to Ancient Olympia shouldn’t be missed.

Byzantine Mystras

Byzantine MystrasSituated a few kilometres northwest of Sparta is the small village of Mystras, a fortified town and one of the most well-preserved Byzantine states in the whole of Greece. Mystras was built in 1249 by the Franks but swiftly came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. Composed of several small churches and monasteries along with five palaces of the Despots, this fortified town will take you on a journey through Byzantine history. If you travel in May, make sure you find out about the “Paleologia”, the town’s most important celebration, which takes place every year and includes sporting, cultural and religious events in honour of the last emperor Constantine Paleologos, Despot of Mystras.

Monemvasia: Gibraltar of the EastMonemvasia

The small, historical town of Monemvasia in the municipality of Laconia is most famous for the medieval fortress built on the rock of the same name. It is a small island often likened to the rock of Gibraltar and is linked to the mainland by a short causeway. The history of Monemvasia starts in 588 AD with the appearance of the first residents and the first fortifications in the upper town, while in around 1000 the lower town began to form and the fortifications were completed. “Kalderimi” (cobbled streets), churches, a museum, a place full of history, Monemvasia will astound you. All you need is to be prepared to walk since vehicles are not permitted in the narrow streets of the town.

Aegean and Ionian

Apart from being a place of endless historical interest, the Peloponnese is also a place of incomparable natural beauty. From Elafonisos with its azure waters and white sands and the “double” beach of Simos to Voidokilia beach in Pylos, the Peloponnese resembles a tropical island rather than Greece’s largest peninsula. A unique combination of extremes; in the Peloponnese you will find beaches which remind you of the Sporades with greenery that reaches down to the water’s edge, such as the one at Trapeza; Pounta, to the complete opposite of a Cycladic like landscape characterized by beaches like Karathonas, superbly organized beaches in Pylos with hotel accommodation, watersports and beach bars, but also beaches like Gialova home to hundreds of campers every year.

Sea and Mountain Activities

Watersports at Lousios riverJust as the Peloponnese should be valued for its history, it can also be appreciated for the activities it offers.  Water sports on the beaches of Foinikounta, sailing from the Patraikos Straits to the Gulf of Corinth, mountain trails and their corresponding activities; mountain biking, trekking, climbing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, “enduro” on Mount Taygetus, Mount Zireia, the Parnonas mountains and Chelmos with its famous Vouraikos Gorge.

 

 

A romantic meal or something more adventurous…

The multidimensional character of the Peloponnese is also evident in its nightlife. There are a variety of options in which visitors can also enjoy local cuisine. Based on extra virgin olive oil and delicious dairy products these local recipes are cooked using local produce and Peloponnesian wine. Whether you choose a romantic tavern next to the sea in Nafplio or Monemvasia or a mountain resort with a view like Dimitsana or Vytina, you won’t be disappointed. There are of course more adventurous choices; a drink in one of the bars in an area such as Nafplio, Kyparissia, Kalamata or Pylos. The latter two offer especially lively nightlife, in some clubs the fun goes on until the early hours of the morning.

 

Recommended places not to miss

  • The fortress of Palamidi and the small island of Bourtzi in Nafplio
  • Polymnio Gorge with its natural lakes, pools and waterfalls.
  • The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, one of the world’s most famous ancient sites.
  • The picturesque traditional villages such as Dimitsana, Vytina, Kastanitsa, Kardamyli and Stoupa in both coastal and mountainous regions.
  • The imposing temple of Epicurean Apollo in Figaleia, one of the most well-preserved monuments in Greece.
  • The impressive fortified towns of Mystras and Monemvasia for an unprecedented journey through time.
  • Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.
  • The archaeological site of Mycenae with its vaulted tombs of Atreus and Clytaemnestra.
  • The area of Kalavrita with the Rack Railway “Odontotos”, the ski centre and the monastery of St. Lavra.
  • The wetland of Lake Stymphalia and the Environment Museum located in a lush green landscape.
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