Few people know that the seaside town of Nafplio used to be the first capital Modern Greece but everyone who has been there agrees this place emits special charm of its own. It looks like a bigger version of the famous Athenian neighborhood Plаka, and the big marble square with the narrow alleys full of Bougainvillea give a hint of Ermoupoli, the capital of Syros island which also used to be a Greek capital in the past. If you skip the beach, Nafplio can turned out to be a great destination for spring and autumn, too - not too hot, not too crowded and yet sunny and pleasant for walks around. And to give you a general idea for what the town offers, lets start with:
The colorful old town center
Like in all seaside towns, the center of Nafplio is next to the port. This is also the oldest area of the town and the liveliest place, with numerous small alleys, cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and very colorful environment. The large Syntagma square, where kids run freely in the evenings, is home to two of the most significant buildings of Nafplio - the First Greek Parliament and the Archeological museum. And of course, there are cafeterias where both locals and tourists drink coffee or enjoy desserts like loukoumades with ice cream (loukoumades are the small round donuts, known as Greek honey donuts).
The restaurants are scattered around Syntagma and the promenade, or hidden in the small alleys where you stumble upon during you walks. The town center is almost closed for cars but there is a giant parking lot next to port. As soon as you reach the port, you will notice the small islet in the middle of it, with a preserved castle - it is part of the Venetian and Frankish heritage of Nafplio, along with Acronafplia and Palamidi, the two fortresses above the old town.
Tip: For calm evening walks after dinner, take the coastal path which starts near the Pende Adelfia bastion at the promenade. It is pedestrian only and runs just below the rock on the top of which are the ruins of Acronafplia castle.
The Palamidi fortress
The impressive fortress rises up on the hill with the same name and it is visible from the old town and the center. It was built in the beginning of 18 century by Venetian engineers and in the coarse of years it served as a military base and as a prison. The fortress has eight very well preserved bastions (which you can safely enter) and spectacular panoramic views over the town, Bourtzi islet and the gulf of Nafplio. Palamidi can be reached by car via a road from the back side of the hill, or on foot from the old town. The pedestrian route is famous for the number of steps you need to climb - around 930.
The ancient sites nearby
It is more correct to say "plenty of ancient sites" because there is lots of history around Nafplio. The world-known Epidaurus and Mycenae are 26 km and 24 km away from the center of the town, and if you have more time you can also visit the imposing Acrocorinth castle in 1 hour drive. Ancient Nemea, one of the four places in Ancient Greece where Olympic games were held, is also easily reachable in 35 km. And if you are not willing to spend your day in the car, the ruins of Ancient Tyrins are just outside Nafplio.
The day trips to Hydra and Spetses
Another advantage of Nafplio location is its proximity to the harbors of Porto Heli, Kosta, Ermioni and Metochi - they provide ferry services to the islands of Hydra and Spetses and the trip is short (from 10 to 25 min). Provided that cars are forbidden on both islands, both are suitable for one-day visit, as there are frequent boats from early morning till late evening.
Tip: There are organized cruises from the harbor of Tolo (10 km away) which combine a visit to Hydra and Spetses in one day.
The variety of beaches to discover
The only beach of Nafplio, called Arvanitia, is located bellow Palamidi, easy to reach both by car or on foot. It is pebbly, blue and picturesque but really small and often crowded. Fortunately, the seaside around Nafplio has more to offer - the large and sandy Karathona beach is 5 km away, and the shallow but more populated beach of Tolo is 10 km away. And if you follow the road going south towards Paralio Astros and Leonidio, you will find many secluded coves or larger beaches, some with pebbles and rocks, others entirely sandy.
And some more random photos of Nafplio:
Part of the promenade
Megalos Dromos street in the evening
Bourtzi islet at dusk
The town square
Inside the Palamidi fortress
Arvanitia, the only beach inside the town
If you do no have time for a long stay but you have planned a holiday somewhere in the east or south part of Peloponnese, try to include it in your program even for a few hours and take a stroll around the center - you will definitely like it!