Peloponnese is a large peninsula occupying the south part of Greece, and its southernmost point is also the southernmost point of the European continent as well. With its great diversity in nature, genuine Greek cuisine and plenty of sightseeing, it is always a good choice for a holiday.
Peloponnese is the richest in history region of Greece - many of the legendary towns and heroes from Greek mythology are all related to places in this peninsula. There are many castles and fortifications bespeaking of the past and reminding of Roman, Ottoman and Venetian rule, ruins of ancient sanctuaries and preserved old towns in which you can take a walk in history. Among the most famous and world known sights of the region are Mycenae, Epidaurus, Ancient Olympia, Ancient Corinth, Monemvasia, etc. The castles of Nafplio, Pylos, Mystras and Methoni are well preserved in their original look and Mani, a small peninsula in the south, reveals extraordinary landscapes and experience.
General information about Peloponnese
As it comes to geography, Peloponnese is very diverse and boast with high mountains, rivers, lakes, fertile valleys and long sandy beaches. The east coast of the peninsula is more indented and rocky, the beaches are usually pebbly (of course, there are exceptions). The long sandy beaches with sand dunes are in the west, including Elea which is the longest beach of Greece with uninterrupted beach strip of more than 35 km. The architecture also varies according to the region, jumping from traditional Greek style to Venetian and Medieval buildings.
The northeast part of the peninsula is connected to mainland Greece by the Corinth isthmus but after the completion of the Corinth canal in 1893 it can be considered an island, since now Peloponnese is accessible only via bridges. The Corinth canal aimed to facilitate and shorten the route of sea vessels but due to its narrowness, large modern ships cannot pass and the canal is not much of use but it attracts tourists. The northwest part of Peloponnese is also connected to mainland via the Rio-Antirio bridge (completed in 2004), allowing you to choose the access depending on your location.
Administratively the peninsula is divided into 7 regions - Argolis, Arcadia, Achaia, Corinthia, Elis (Ilia), Laconia and Messinia. The island of Elafonisos also belongs to Peloponnese because it is very close to mainland. Below is a list of interesting sights and places you can consider for your trip to this part of Greece:
Highlights in Argolis region:
- The town of Nafplio with its strongholds, Palamidi and Bourtzi fortresses and the narrow pedestrian streets full of flowers
- The historical site of Mycenae near the village of Mykines
- The historical site of Argos and Larissa Castle in the town of Argos
- The historical site of Epidaurus with its legendary Ancient Theater
The Saronic islands of Hydra, Spetses and Poros are scattered close to the shores of this region and are very convenient to visit, although administratively they belong to Athens.
Arcadia is predominantly mountainous and hard to explore, note that even short distances take much time. The beaches at the seaside are pebbly. Highlights in Arcadia include:
- Stemnitsa and Dimitsana, beautiful old villages high in the mountains
- Leonidio, a small town listed as traditional settlement
- The monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos carved in a large rock, close to Stemnitsa
- The castle of Karytaina in the village of Karytaina
Achaia occupies the northwest part of Peloponnese and includes a large mountainous area with many waterfalls. Highlights:
- The fortress of Patra
- The mountainous village of Kalavryta
- The Cave of the Lakes with cascading lakes on three levels, near the town of Kalavryta
- The monastery of Mega Mega Spilaio
As the name suggests, this region occupies an area in the Corinthian gulf. The seaside also includes the peninsula with lake Vouliagmeni and plenty of blue pebbled beaches. Highlights:
- The Corinth Canal
- The historical site of Ancient Corinth and the castle of Acrocorinth
- Limni Vouliagmeni, a salt lake
- The Heraion of Perachora, ruins of a sanctuary of Hera by the sea
- Ancient Nemea
- Seal`s Cave, a rock formation
Elis Region is mostly known for its endless sandy beaches. The port of Kyllini in this region provides regular ferry connections to the Ionian islands of Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Ithaca. Highlights:
- The historical site of Ancient Olympia
- The Crusader fortress of Chlemoutsi near Kastro village
- The mountainous village of Andritsaina with old stone mansions and panoramic views
Laconia is the most distinctive region of Peloponnese because a large part of it is represented by the Mani peninsula, a place with peculiar architecture and villages like fortresses. Highlights:
- The Ancient town and castle of Monemvasia
- Mystras, a fortified town near Sparta
- The town of Gythio which reminds of Corfu town with its architecture
- Mani peninsula (Mani Region)
- The Diros Caves near Areopoli, Mani
- Cape Tenaro, the southernmost point of continental Europe where you can also see an ancient sanctuary of Poseidon
Messinia occupies the southwest part of Peloponnese which is characterized by soft sandy beaches and Venetian castles. Highlights:
- The town of Pylos with its Venetian architecture, the castle above the town and the big rock Sfaktiria in the sea
- The Methoni Castle
- The castle of Koroni
- Voidokillia, a beach with peculiar shape
- The old Navarino Castle above Voidokillia beach
- Nestor`s Palace
- Ancient Messinia near Kalamata
Small Elafonisos island is located just off the shore of south Peloponnese. It is popular with its scenic sandy beaches and the amazing blue color of the sea. Elafonisos is inhabited and ferries carry both cars and passengers, so you can go for a day trip or for a longer stay.