When you hear or read the words “Welcome to Greece”, inadvertently, you think of Athens, Mykonos or Santorini. What if we tell you there’s an entirely magical region in southern Greece that beholds the same beauty, opulence and, most importantly, magic? Peloponnese is part of the bigger peninsula with the same name and two other regions, Western Greece and Attica. This incredible region boasts wondrous landmarks that predate history, magnificent natural sites and spell-binding beaches with golden sand and inviting sunshine.
Come with us as we trot around the Peloponnese, sighting all the magnificent things to do there, before hopping quickly to Western Greece and Attica to give you a glimpse of what you can enjoy there as well.
Brief History of Peloponnese
As we’ve mentioned, the Peloponnese is one of three parts of the Peloponnese Peninsula in southern Greece and represents the majority of the peninsula. The subregion, Corinthia, has the Isthmus of Corinth, a bridge that connects the peninsula to the remainder of the country. This bridge crosses the Corinth Canal, a magnificent spot to sail through and admire its natural beauty.
History of Peloponnese the region is an integral part of the peninsula’s ancient times. Humans inhabited the peninsula from prehistory, and the Mycenaean civilization was the predominant civilisation through the Bronze Age, later collapsing at the end of the 2nd Millennium BC. During the time known as Classical Antiquity, Peloponnese played a major role in the Greek political, social and cultural life.
In the following centuries, Peloponnese’s significance in world politics rose and fell due to the changing political scene, with invaders taking turns razing the country. Perpetrators included the Roman Republic, the Byzantine Empire, the Slavic Invasion, the Frankish Rule, the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Empire. These trials also saw many peaceful alliances, bloodshed, treaties, wars between dominant powers in the continent and siege after another of the peninsula.
The first quarter of the 19th century marked the beginning of Greek independence, when, again, Peloponnese played a vital role against Ottoman Rule. In a few months, UK forces, alongside French, Russian and Ottoman-Egyptian forces, escalated violence until the violent war ended by 1828. For the following two centuries, the peninsula and the entire country suffered from poor life conditions, immigration of large numbers of citizens and the two World Wars. Prosperity found its way to Greece after joining the European Union in 1981.
Peloponnese, the region consists of five sub-regions, which complete the peninsula’s ten sub-regions to bring the total to ten regions. Those five regions are Arcadia, Corinthia, Argolis, Laconia and Messenia. The region’s capital, Tripoli, is one of Arcadia’s sub-regions.
The Best Time to Visit Peloponnese
Peloponnese’s Mediterranean climate means the summers are warm and dry while winters are cold and mild. Your visit and enjoyment will depend on whichever weather you prefer. The highest temperature in summer can reach 32° while the lowest temperature in winter can reach 6°. August is the hottest month, and January is the coldest.
Things to Do in Peloponnese: Exploring a Hidden Greek Gem
Peloponnese is rich in ancient landmarks and ruins that date back to all its political and social eras. These landmarks testify to the Peloponnesians’ bravery and their struggle to build and reinforce the Hellenistic way of life in the region and the entire peninsula. Before we discover the best places to visit and things to do in the Peloponnesian Peninsula, we will first bring you what you can see in the Peloponnese region.
Mycenae and Tiryns, Nafplion, Argolis
This UNESCO World Heritage Site stood against time to show the world how Greek civilisation had roots extending to the second millennium BC. The Mycenaen Period in Greek history represents the time between the 1600s BC to the 1100s BC, which reflects the citadel’s and area’s importance. The archaeological site of Mycenae is often paired with Tiryns, both known as the Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, both making it to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 1999.
Mycenae was built atop a hill with a strategic view of the town and surrounding area. It also facilitated keeping a watchful eye on the Isthmus of Corinth and the roads leading to it. Power thrived in the citadel for its centre location and the vast farmland around it, allowing its occupants to easily grow and harvest their crops. Despite the site’s occupation since the 5000s BC, archaeological finds only date back to the 2000s BC.
Some of the ruins visible at the partially buried site are in the Cyclopean architectural style. There are royal tombs, known as tholoi, such as that of Clytemnestra and ancient gates, the most famous of which is the Lion Gate and the Treasury of Atreus. Some of these ruins remain untouched today, which deepens our curiosity about them. The Mycenae Citadel is part of the bigger Mycenae Acropolis, which encompasses the area around the citadel as well.
Temple of Asclepius, Epidaurus, Argolis
The Greek god Asclepius was the ancient Greek deity of medicine, and his temple in Epidaurus was incredibly crafted that it mirrored that of Zeus at Olympia. The Temple, or Sanctuary, of Asclepius is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 4th century BC and shows a life-size statue of Asclepius holding the famous medical slogan of a serpent wrapped around a staff.
The Greek venerated Asclepius that Isyllus wrote a hymn to celebrate the ancient god and unscripted it inside another temple to the east of this one, called the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas. Isyllus chose this location for the claim that it was where Asclepius was born.
The Sanctuary of Asclepius served different purposes under changing political leadership and dominant power. It served as a stronghold during the Achaean War and hosted a garrison under Roman rule. After that, the sanctuary was damaged and plundered.
It wasn’t until the 2nd century AD that the governing families, the Statilius and Claudius-Cornelius, supervised the reconstruction and reformation of the sanctuary and funded the Asclepieia Games. Roman Emperor Hadrian reorganised the games, moved their date, and introduced several religious reforms. With the introduction of Christianity and after much resistance, the sanctuary earned the reputation of being a healing centre for Christians.
Fortress of Akronauplia, Nafplion, Argolis
The Fortress of Akronauplia is one of the main fortresses in Nafplion; with its town, it represents the oldest part of the city, built around the 3rd century. It wasn’t until the 13th century that Akronauplia was integrated as part of Nafplion’s fortifications. When the Venetians and the Franks took turns occupying the Peloponnese, they fortified the town and included it in Nafplion’s fortifications. These fortifications remain intact until today and are magnificent to witness. You can get a full view from the nearby Palamidi Fortress of Akronauplia with the sea on the horizon.
In modern history, the fortress served the Greek government as a prison until about 80 years ago. At the time, the government admired the fortress’s view of the town and sea and sponsored the building of a tourist resort. Today, this resort attracts thousands every year who love to visit the fortress and admire its fortifications, witness an incredible Greek sunset and enjoy the surrounding restaurants and bars.
Ancient Theatre at the Asclepieion, Epidaurus, Argolis
Southeast of the Temple of Asclepius is a Greek theatre from the late 4th century BC. The ideal Greek theatre could hold nearly 14,000 spectators who enjoyed musical shows, religious games and singing. Since it’s dubbed the perfect Greek theatre, acoustics-wise, it was used in Ancient Greece to present dramatic shows that would help in the curing of the sick. The locals believed in the power of energy and how the theatre heightened this energy.
The theatre’s artistic journey continued in the 20th and 21st centuries. Numerous musical and drama shows took place at the theatre, with the first one taking place in the 1930s. After a period of stoppage due to WWII, the theatre went back to hosting drama plays in the 1950s. This return contributed to establishing the Epidaurus Festival, which still takes place every summer today.
Fortress of Palamidi, Nafplion, Argolis
Palamidi, a Venetian fortress that overlooks Acronauplia, is a stone fort from the 1710s. The mighty fort took only three years to build from 1711 to 1714, but the Venetians couldn’t hold it much longer before the Ottomans captured it in 1715 and remained under their rule well over a century before the Greeks took control of it back. The Fortress of Palamidi gives an incredible view of the city ahead and the Argolic Gulf.
There are eight bastions of the fortress, of which two only remain today. After building it, the Venetians named those bastions after Venetian overseers or provveditori. The bastions had Turkish names under Ottoman rule, which changed to Greek warrior names when the Greeks regained control of the region. If you’re an adventurer who wishes to reach the top of the fortress, you’ll have to climb over 1000 steps, while the winding staircase is rumoured to have just 913.
Archeological Site of Mystra, Laconia
On Mountain Taygetus stands the ancient town and fortress of Mystra. This town once played a vital role in the political scene in the Peloponnese when the region was under Byzantine rule. Due to its prosperity and being the centre of decision-making, the town attracted highly qualified and skilled artists and architects. Since the 14th century, Mystra was the capital of the Byzantium ruler in the area.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most prominent examples of Byzantine and post-Byzantine styles of life and architecture. There are various monuments on the site that are incredibly breathtaking, such as the St Demetrius, the Metropolis of Mystras, the Monastery of Peribleptos, Hodigitria Church and Agia Sofia. The intricate architecture of these landmarks and more led many to mistake Mystra for Sparta, which wasn’t far from this site, but its glory times were over long before Mystra rose to power.
Kastania Cave, Kastania, Laconia
In the southernmost village of Kastania is a marvellous cave that dates back to the Jurassic Age. The nearly 200-million-year-old cave showcases some of nature’s unparalleled work in using limestone, soil and chemicals to create stalagmites. he colourful shapes at Kastania Cave vary from curtain-like structures hanging from the ceiling to waterfalls, coral nests, beehives, discs and mushroom-like formations.
The crystal formations inside Kastania Cave earned it the position as the second-top cave of this kind in Europe. There are two levels of the cave, accessible by stairs, and you can enjoy something to drink at the café, which operates just outside the cave.
Acrocorinth means the Acropolis of Corinth, where an old fortress stood to defend the land since the Archaic times. Acrocointh was one of the three fortresses fortified by the Macedonians to secure their rule. Since the acropolis stands on a high hill in the town, it facilitated fending off any attacks and when the Byzantines added further fortifications, the fortress became invincible. The Franks, the Venetians and the Turks all settled in Acrocointh when they invaded the peninsula.
If you stand at Apollo’s Temple in Corinth, you can see Acrocorinth in the background as it stands high on the hill. You can get a full view of the fortification walls the Venetians built when they invaded the Peloponnese. The top hill embraces the Temple of Aphrodite.
With continuous changes of political powers, the temple later served as a church and then a mosque. Acrocorinth, the Acropolis of Corinth and the Castle of Corinth is one of the country’s most preserved and important medieval archaeological sites.
Church of Agia Theodora, Vastas, Arcadia
The small mountainside village of Vastas borders Messenia and is home to the Miracle Church of Agia Theodora. When you see this church today, you will find 17 trees sprouting out of a small church that has no roots anywhere. Legend tells us that Theodora, a Byzantine villager, wanted to defend her village from bandits in the 11th century, so she disguised herself as a man and began to fight.
Before Theodora’s soul ascended, she asked the locals to build a church over her body and prayed her hair became trees, and her blood flowed like a river. After the locals built a church over her grave, they noticed the trees sprouting from the grave and through the windows, with no visible roots.
Mycenean Palace of Nestor at Pylos, Messenia
There’s no greater witness to the magnificence of Mycenaen civilisation than the Palace of Nestor. The region’s best-preserved monument is the heart of an ancient settlement that likely had fortifications before. Homer described the palace in his most renowned works, Odyssey and Iliad, as he was retelling the story of the Trojan War. Like many palaces at the time, this one had storage rooms, reception rooms, baths, workshops and even a sewer system.
The first excavation works at the site took place in the 1910s, with the majority of excavated items dating back to the 1300s BC. More than ten years later, another excavation took place, and even more than a decade later, one of the largest excavation expeditions was formed. This expedition represented the beginning of unearthing this magnificent site, with another expedition continuing the work after WWII in 1952. In 1966, the expedition uncovered nearly all of the palace’s secrets. Nearly 50 years later, excavators discovered the Tomb of the Griffin Warrior, which contained priceless artefacts of Minoan and Mycenaen cultures.
Foneas Beach, Kardamili, Messenia
We know the perfect beaches have silky golden sand and turquoise transparent waters, but we promise you that Foneas Beach will capture your heart. In a secluded tree-lined area, the beach with the infamous name gives you a natural wonder like no other. Legend says a pirate who shipwrecked in the area, hid in a cave and robbed anyone who dared pass by is the reason why the beach is called Foneas. Whatever the reason behind its name, Foneas Beach promises you an ash-white pebbly beach, crystal-clear blue waters, and rock formations to climb, explore and, perhaps, jump from into the sea.
Our journey through the Peloponnese Region has ended, and the wondrous landmarks, beaches and atmosphere in this magnificent Greek region await you.