Greece's first major civilizations dominated the Peloponnese during the Bronze Age from the northeast stronghold at Mycenae. The Peloponnese is a place where every town has its own history and walking trips are highly recommended combined with car hire in order to see the whole peninsula. Mycenae and Argos, the cradles of Mycenean civilization, along with the military powers of Corinth and Sparta, were some of the mightiest city states in Greece’s long history. Patras today is the third largest city in Greece and one of the main gateways to Western Europe.
The Peloponnese has a mountainous interior with Mount Taygetus its highest point. It possesses four south-pointing peninsulas, Messenia, the Mani Peninsula, Cape Malea and the Argolid in the far northeast. The centre of the region is dominated by the mountains of Helmos and Taygetus, creating some of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in the country. The coastline is rugged in the south and east, and dotted with long sandy or pebbly beaches in the north and west.
The Western Peloponnese is a wonderful, less discovered region with a beautiful, unspoiled landscape of rolling green hills. Its shoreline of fine, sandy beaches is dotted with picturesque fishing towns and villages. Reminders of the region’s fascinating past are always nearby, from the atmospheric ruins of Ancient Messene and Nestor’s Palace, to the pretty harbour towns of Koroni and Methoni, legacies of the medieval Venetians. Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games, is halfway along the Peloponnese west coast.
The Mani is the middle finger of the three peninsulas that point down into the Aegean. The southernmost areas or Inner Mani, are rugged and untamed, a region full of myths and ancient history, known for its medieval stone villages dotting the hillsides. In contrast, the northern part of the peninsula, the Outer Mani, is renowned for its rocky peaks where towering mountain ridges give way to hidden gorges, and wooded slopes meet a stunning coastline of sand and pebble beaches. Mountain villages with tiny Byzantine churches pepper the landscape and groupings of the classic Maniot fortified stone houses are reminders of the region’s past.
Recommended sites of the Peloponnese include the archaeological sites of Argolis: Mycenae and Epidavros, ancient Olympia, the medieval city of Mystras, the caves of Diros in Lakonia, the beaches of Elafonissos, the island of Kythera, and not least, the settlements and ancient castles along the coast of Mani.
If your taste is more toward amusements and a lively nightlife, explore the larger towns of the Peloponnese including Patras, Tripolis, Argos, Kalamata and Sparti. The Peloponnese offers a spectacular cultural and natural environment, side by side with the entertainment facilities enjoyed in the larger hotels and resorts.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Patras harbour is the main connection harbour for Italy, Igoumenitsa and Corfu. There is an overnight ferry from Venice to Patras. The Patras harbour is also connected by ship to Kefallonia and Ithaki. From Athens (Pireas or Rafina) you can take Flying Dolphins (hydrofoils and catamarans) to Monemvasia, Poros, Hydra and Spetses (just off the Peloponnese east coast). Note availability may be seasonal. Other ferry connections are available, so we recommend checking for the port closest to your final destination.
The drive from Athens takes about three hours.
For direct flights to Kalamata airport, try Thomas Cook Airlines and other charter airlines from London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and other UK and major European cities. The flight time is approximately 4 hours.
For regularly scheduled airlines, take connecting flights from Athens to Kalamata and Kithira airports.