Day 1: Corinth Canal – Ancient Corinth – Odontotos Rack Railway – Cave of Lakes – Arcadia Mountain Villages
Starting from Athens we head toward the Mythical Peloponnese region through the Corinth Canal. The canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland, arguably making the peninsula an island.
☼ ANCIENT CORINTH
The first main stop will be Ancient Corinth (Korinthos) which was inhabited in the Neolithic period (6500-3250 BC) but the big prosperity begins in the 8th century BC. Corinth was a city-state on the Isthmus (canal) of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta.
Bible’s Acts 18 says that Apostle Paul lived and worked in Corinth for 18 months as a tent-maker while preaching and establishing a congregation of believers before the three of them continued on to Ephesus.
☼ OPTIONAL: Wine tasting
☼ ODONTOTOS RACK RAILWAY
About 120 years ago Odontotos rack railway started from the seaside town of Diakopto parallel to the river and climbed to Kalavrita through bridges and tunnels. Since then, the Vouraikos River and Odontotos go together.
The Vouraikos Gorge forms a deep and incredibly beautiful gorge. It starts between Helmos and Panachaikos mountains and it reaches the Diakopto seaside town. Vouraikos River springs from the mountains in Kalavrita and exits at the Corinthian Gulf next to the beach of Diakopto. The gorge is rich in flora and fauna and it is part of the network Natura 2000. The little train incorporated so well into the natural environment that it seems that it had always been there. The way it was constructed did not put a strain on the ecosystem of the gorge. Using stone and wood from the area the technicians’ work is so perfect that someone may think that nature worked on its own.
Odontotos is not just a train. Vouraikos gorge and Odontotos rack railway from Diakopto to Kalavrita is a unique attraction in Greece. In an area full of towns, villages, hospitable inhabitants, a unique environment, and the scent of Greek life. In order to write the history of this place, we need volumes of books but a trip on the train will give you a real taste. Odontotos is waiting for you.
You will board the train in Kalavrita or Zachlorou village and enjoy a great 55 minutes experience going down the mountain following an amazing route.
Your driver/guide will be waiting for you at the other end of the train route to continue the tour.
☼ KALAVRITA MOUNTAIN VILLAGE
This is a very popular ski center during the winter months.
☼ LUNCH: This will be your first food & drink experience with more to follow.
☼ CAVE OF LAKES
In the rhythm of the music of water small and larger lakes follow one another. The Cave of Lakes, at an altitude of 827 meters, combines in an admirable way, ageless natural beauty, with the remains of habitation and myth. The myth says that Lysippe, Ifinoe, and Ifianassa, the daughters of the king of Tiryns, found refuge in the cave when they were obsessed with madness. The Cave of the Lakes is a rare creation of nature with mysterious galleries and stalactite formations.
In the caves, there are archaeological findings like fossilized human and animal bones, including a hippopotamus. The site is a stone forest full of surprises. It has something exclusively unique that does not exist in other well-known caves.
We will be overnighting in a beautiful guesthouse at one of the stone-built villages of Arcadia.
☼ DINNER/optional: Another great location and a food & drink experience to enjoy on your own but still under our guidance at a pre-arranged restaurant. The evening walk to explore the amazing location/village is a must!
Day 2: Cliff-Hanging Monasteries (2), Water Power Museum, Arcadian Villages, Ancient Gortys & Lousios River
☼ THE WATER POWER MUSEUM
This open-air museum 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, it links them to the history and daily life of the local society over the ages.
☼ AIMYALON MONASTERY
Not far from the Water Power Museum, we approach the first cliff-hanging monastery. Aimyalon or Philosophou monastery.
☼ PRODROMOU MONASTERY
The highlight will be the Monastery of St John Prodromou or Baptist. The most amazing cliff-hanging monastery! The Menalon Trail grows to a length of 75 km. We will walk and follow one small part of the trail signs to one St. John Baptist monastery.
We will take a short walk to spend a few moments at Ancient Gortys. It is among the most important Arcadian cities of the ancient world. The city is situated next to River Lousios, at an altitude of 350 meters in mountainous Arcadia. It was one of the stops on the route followed by Spartan athletes when traveling to compete in the Olympic Games, as the ancient road of Olympia – Megalopolis – Mycenae – Corinth Canal – Athens passed through here.
☼ LUNCH: We then visit and explore on foot Stemnitsa village. The jewelers’ village! Beautiful, authentic, stone built! Our lunch place is at a different location and at a different taverna with more local food to taste.
We deliberately do not mention our carefully selected dining places!
Finally, we leave the Arcadia mountains to reach and overnight in Nafplio town and enjoy a great romantic evening exploring the Old Town. We will guide you to the best place to enjoy a romantic dinner.
Day 3: Mycenae, Nafplio, Wine Tasting, Palamidi Fortress & 999 Steps, Epidaurus Ancient Theater
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to some of Greece’s most famous ancient ruins. Wander around the archaeological site and accompanying museum.
☼ WINE TASTING OPTION: Wine tasting at one of the many wineries of the Nemea area in Corinth; the Greek Napa Valley!
☼ NAFPLIO’S PALAMIDI FORTRESS & 999 STEPS.
Nafplio, the first capital of Greece, is famous for its Old Town with its narrow streets, beautiful alleyways, neoclassical mansions, and stunning Venetian houses. An all-year-round destination for visiting the famous Venetian fortress of Palamidi in Nafplio and optionally, walking down the 999 steps enjoying the most amazing views.
☼ OUZO (OPTIONAL): The Greeks’ pre-lunch aperitif. Not at any time of the day but at the right time of the day and the right location.
☼ LUNCH: One of our favorite food & drink places on this tour.
☼ ANCIENT THEATER OF EPIDAURUS
Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to an ancient, beautifully preserved theater. Discover the landmark at your leisure.
Day 4: Hydra Island
After breakfast, we head for the Cosmopolitan Hydra Island. Hydra is a very short boat ride (20-30 minutes) from the mainland. There are no cars on Hydra Island but many donkeys which we suggest you do not ride them. They do enough work carrying the goods for the locals and the shops!
Hydra is a trendy and cosmopolitan island that at the same time maintains its magic and peacefulness due to the all-year-round presence of the locals and the absence of any kind of vehicle! We love the island because Hydra is also one of our three bases, so we consider it as “home” to our agency.
☼ LUNCH: Food & drink in Hydra – Not included since you are on your own to privately explore the island. We will still make suggestions and provide all the information you need to feel safe and relaxed. The boat ride is short (30 min) and very pleasant (see the above video).
After enjoying lunch on Hydra island you will get the boat to cross back to the mainland. Depending on the available time and before departing for Athens we visit the beautiful Ermioni village for a quick coffee/drink next to the water.
We head back to Athens to optionally head for dinner at one of our very best food places.
☼ DINNER (optional): Although Athens is not the place for authentic Greek food this restaurant is an exception!
Finally, drop off at your Athens hotel/accommodation. We can even plan so that you are dropped off at the airport to pick up your flight without wasting your time in checking in/out of an Athens hotel.