Ideal tour for those looking to visit some amazing sites without wasting time driving in & out of Athens, but instead overnight & enjoy beautiful, authentic “Greek” locations like Sparta & Mystras, Monemvasia, Nafplio town and Dimitsana village. All with great accommodation that you can’t experience in the big cities. For up to 8 (related only) people but we can do bigger groups too.
DAY 1: Corinth Canal – Mycenae – Nafplio – Epidaurus
At your hotel, meet your private driver/tour leader for your 8:00 a.m. departure. On a short trip of no more than 1 hour, you enter the Mythical Peloponnese through the Corinth Canal for this “real Greece” experience.
The Corinth canal is the first stop and then on to MYCENAE home to some of Greece’s most famous ancient ruins. Wander around the site & museum before hopping back in the vehicle and exploring the “old town” of NAFPLIO, the famous Venetian fortress of Palamidi with its 999 steps. Then head to EPIDAURUS, home to an ancient, beautifully preserved theater.
Overnight at probably the most beautiful Greek town, Nafplio.
DAY 2: Monemvasia Castletown via the Coastline & Parnon’s Mountain Range of East Peloponnese
Starting from Nafplio, our destination is Monemvasia but -should you agree too- taking not the fast/shorter motorway route but exploring the glorious coastline of the East Peloponnese before climbing up the mountain range with several stops and lunch on the way.
Late afternoon and the evening is dedicated to the Monemvasia castle where you will spend the night (if you book early enough to secure one of the great guesthouses) enjoying the magic atmosphere, the views of the castle, and the water, plus food & drink. MONEMVASIA town/castle is located on a small island linked to the mainland by a short causeway. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.
If you don’t make a last-minute booking overnight will be inside the atmospheric Monemvasia castle-town.
DAY 3: The Mani Peninsula plus Mystras & Sparta
Leaving behind Monemvasia, there will be a long great day in the MANI Peninsula, one of the wildest and most beautiful areas of Greece. A dramatic coastline of sleepy fishing coves and fortified villages like the beautiful Oitilo, Gerolimenas & Limeni. The amazing DIROS caves that you will optionally explore with a guide and a boat. Alternatively, you can skip the caves and opt for more exploring of the Mani landscape as far as Vatheia; a small settlement of stone towers and abandoned houses that became a ghost village, but in recent years, it has become one of the must-see destinations in the Mani Peninsula. Next is lunch in one of the stone-built villages where Pirates were a permanent threat.
Next is SPARTA, the ancient rival of Athens known for the fierce warriors! Wandering around the byzantine castle-town of MYSTRAS is probably the highlight of the day. Wandering around the byzantine castle-town of MYSTRAS is probably the highlight of the day. Mystras, the best-preserved example of a medieval walled town in the Greek region, is today a standing ghost city that fascinates the visitor with its castle, churches, and the palatial complex of the ruling Byzantine dynasty, bearing witness to its bygone greatness.
Overnight at lively Sparta or Mystras.
Option 1: Ancient Olympia and finish at the mountain villages of Arcadia
Breakfast and a morning visit to Sparta for the statue of King Leonidas and his famous 300 warriors. Then a 1h.30′ drive to ancient OLYMPIA to walk through the impressive ruins of the area where athletes trained and ran in the old stadium, just as ancient Olympians did after victory 3,000 years ago. See the temple of Hera and some unbelievable sculptures such as the statue of Zeus and Hermes of Praxiteles. The city has the rare advantage of not having been destroyed or covered by later settlements. Ruins that have withstood the test of time and remain standing for travelers to marvel at.
Next, we carry on towards the Arcadia mountain range past Lagadia, the hometown of the best stone builders in Greece to end up in the mountain air and the view of Lousios gorge from DIMITSANA & STEMNITSA villages at 3,000 ft altitude. We overnight in a great stone-built guesthouse and explore the beautiful village before or after dinner.
Option 2: Ancient Messene (not Mycenae!) and finish at the mountain villages of Arcadia
In size, form, and preservation, Messene is one of the most important cities of antiquity, and one which still has a great deal to offer. It boasts not only religious and public buildings, but also imposing fortifications, houses, and funerary monuments.
From the spectacular remains uncovered through excavation – mostly in the last thirty years or so – it has become clear that Messene prospered and thrived until well into the Roman period.
The city has the rare advantage of not having been destroyed or covered by later settlements and of being situated in an untouched Mediterranean natural environment par excellence. This landscape combines the mountainous majesty of Delphi and the lowland riverine tranquillity of Olympia,
Yes, we can all agree that the alternative (option 1) is “Ancient Olympia” and a must-visit. However, for some, Ancient Messene is -maybe- only second best to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. But still even better for the visitor because of the size and the numerous findings! It is simply not so well-known and visited because of its remote location which is not an issue for this multi-day tour!
Option 1: Arcadia mountain villages & cliff-hanging monasteries
We start with breakfast! Dimitsana is one of the most beautiful stone-built villages of the central Peloponnese. Firstly, we will be visiting the Open-Air Water Power Museum which highlights the importance of water power in traditional society. Focusing on the main pre-industrial techniques that take advantage of water to produce a variety of goods, links them to the history and daily life of the local society over the ages.
Then, the first monastery we visit is Moni Amayalon and then we continue to St. John Bastist’s which is the most amazing cliff-hanging monastery of Lousios gorge. A short hike through the forest is easy to manage by anybody in order to experience this site!
Next is another very popular mountain village for a great lunch; Stemnitsa. Just like Dimitsana, this is also a very popular village for the Greeks! Famous for its jewelry making. Lunch and we head back to Athens closing the loop around the Peloponnese to pass the Corinth canal and drop you off at your Athens hotel or even airport.
Option 2: Cave of Lakes & Odontotos Rack railway
We will start with breakfast in the mountain air and the view of the Lousios gorge before driving and crossing the mountains to visit the Cave of Lakes. The Mythical Cave of Lakes has something exclusively unique that does not exist in other well-known caves. A rare creation of nature with mysterious galleries and strange stalactite formations.
We drive on to climb the mountain range towards the top and the ski center of this area to enjoy one of our best lunches at the mountain village of Kalavrita. After exploring the village you will be boarding the ODONTOTOS rack railway to take you from the top of the mountain, through the Vouraikos Gorge to the coastline and the Corinthian Gulf. This is considered one of the most scenic routes in Greece.
Back in the car for a great ride next to the coastline to arrive back in Athens in less than 2 hours. You also have the option for a small diversion to visit Ancient Corinth.