Peloponnese: A Greek Peninsula Rich In Nature And More
An unmissable journey is aboard the vintage rack-and-pinion Diakofto-Kalavryta railway. It takes travellers on a scenic one-hour ride through dramatic Vouraikos Gorge, with its reddish cliffs and rushing rapids below. The energetic can ask to be dropped off at one of the tiny stations en route and walk back. It’s a 14-mile, five-hour hike from Kalavryta to Diakofto.
THE MENALON TRAIL
This well signposted, 45-mile trail stretches from Stem nits a to Lagkadia, passing through the dramatic scenery of the Lousios Gorge, the western slopes of Mt Menalon, the Mylaon River valley and the Gortynian Mountains. Completed in May 2015 by volunteers, the trail is divided into eight sections of varying difficulty. You can download the excellent Menalon Trail topo Guide app for detailed maps.
These extraordinary caves were in habited since Neolithic times, but abandoned in 4 BC after an earthquake and not rediscovered until around 1895. Visitors can explore via a half-hour eerie glide by boat through the cave’s many passages, giving you time to admire the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, before walking the remaining 300m. The site is seven miles south of Areopoli.
The Olympic Games took place here for at least 1,000 years, until their abolition by Theodosius I in 393 AD. Little remains of the magnificent temples and athletic facilities, but enough exists to give you a hint of this sanctuary’s former glory. Visit the Museum of Olympia beforehand. The site is a five-minute walk from the village of Olympia.
Spread over a steep mountainside of the Taygetos range, this former provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire stands as Greece’s most compelling set of medieval ruins. A classic fortified city, Mystras is surrounded by olive and orange trees. Treading cobblestones worn smooth by centuries of footsteps, you can walk with the ghosts, ducking into palace ruins, monasteries and churches, most dating from between 1271 and 1460.
In the barren foothills of Mt Agios Ilias and Mt Zara, the sombre, mighty ruins of Mycenae were the home of the mythical King Agamemnon and the most powerful kingdom in Greece for 400 years, from 1600 BC. Six miles to the north, and close enough to combine with Mycenae as a day trip, Ancient Nemea was once the venue for the biennial Nemean Games, held in honour of Zeus.
This town occupies a knockout location on a small port beneath the towering Palamidi fortress, bursting with boutique hotels, quayside cafe and museums, and flanked by a couple of beaches. Arvantia Beach is a small pebble shoreline a five-minute walk south of town; from its car park, a pine lined, two-mile path runs to long, sandy, Karathona Beach. Nafplio can get seriously crowded during peak season, but it’s a great spot.
This former fishing village has excellent beaches with wonderfully clean, cold water, courtesy of underground springs and there’s good hiking in the hills above. Celebrated author Nikos Kazantzakis lived here for a while and based the protagonist of his 1946 novel, Zorba the Creek, on a local man. The resort is now popular with British and German tourists, but less hot and busy during the shoulder seasons.
This lovely Venetian port town on Messinia Bay has streets lined with medieval mansions and churches leading to a castle-topped promontory. Its main attraction, though, is Zaga Beach – a mile-long sweep of golden sand just south of town, near which loggerhead turtles regularly come to lay their eggs. You can cut through the castle to get there if walking, or go by road.