During my 10-days trip to Athens and the Peloponnese I have travelled 2850 km by car, 85 km by foot and have visited 11 towns. I have tried to cover primarily the unpopular, but still beautiful places, so I have gathered invaluable insights about how to get there, planning your visit, places to eat and sleep, best time for photos, safety tips, useful resources from the web.
Feel free to explore them below and ask me anything, which you think I might know about these locations, in the comment section below.
For any of the visited places there is a short travelogue with my personal experience at the place and a photo gallery, so you are welcome to explore them as well through the supplied links.
Enjoy the trip!
In order to get to Peloponnese, you can enter the peninsula either through Corinth from Athens or through the bridge Rio-Antirio in Patra. For me the better approach was to travel from East to West but of course the reverse route is also applicable.
Best way to get there and around the Peloponnese is by car, either your own (if you come from neighboring countries or ferry) or rental. The roads in Peloponnese are excellent, with small exceptions. In order to be able to reach more interesting locations, such as wild beaches or panorama site along the road, you will need preferably something better, than the cheapest possible rent a car solution.
Because of a malfunction of my own car on the 2nd day of my trip I was forced to continue with rent a car and this was unplanned change of budget. Therefore I rented the cheapest possible option – Fiat Panda. You can reach most of the destinations with such a car, but be prepared for prolonged and not so pleasant driving experience, especially in Mani peninsula. You can read more about it in my arguments against renting a small car and against driving a small car in Mani.
I recommend following the speed limits EVEN though most local drivers don’t. There are a lot of speed cameras in Greece and the law is quite strict, penalties are big. The rent-a-car company will also charge you the so called “processing fee” in case they receive your speeding ticket and need to inform you about it.
There are a lot of discussions online which rent-a-car companies to avoid, and this is basically all, except for the big names such as Herz, Avis and Sixt. Yes, they are more expensive, BUT dealing with the international companies can save you a lot of trouble and expenses later. And go for the full insurance coverage, because even the big international company can treat you badly in case you are not covered.
The fuel price is not always logical in Greece – sometimes in some small towns and cryptic gas stations the price is much higher than on the highway or in the big cities, which is quite counter intuitive. Gas stations are quite frequent, and you need to be seriously out of luck to become left in the middle of nowhere without any fuel in the car.
Regarding parking – with rent-a-car is always safer to use a paid private parking, but in Peloponnese this is not always an option. In Nafplio and Gytheio the parking near the marina is free and relatively safe. In Patras again there is free parking near the seafront and close to old city landmarks.
There are numerous opportunities for beach going in Peloponnese – from vast sandy areas to small, private rocky bays. You can cover different locations in one day or spend hours on end at the same spot, sipping ice cold frappe and munching fruits. Here are some advices for beach going in Greece and especially in Peloponnese, followed by a list of my favourite spots.
Tip 1 – The Sun. If you are in Peloponnese in July or August, be warned that from 11:00 till 16:00 often the temperatures at the beach are unbearable and can reach up to 42ºC as it was this year. Without a strong sunscreen and an umbrella or other type of shade, you will almost certainly get yourself a sunburn. The sand becomes very hot and I wondered many times how sea turtle eggs survive at all in such conditions. See my first hand experience at Valtaki beach near Gytheio.
Some beaches in Peloponnese have wonderful natural caves in the adjasent sea rocks, where you can find a cool and even romantic place to stay in the most heated part of the day. You can find such caves at Paralia Viles near Naflio and also at Karakatsanis Beach.
Tip 2 – The Wind. Yes, there is strong wind in most of Peloponnese beaches and even if you bring your own umbrella, you need to apply extra effort to keep it stuck in the sand and not free flying around. Just digging deep in the sand and putting rocks around the base of the stem is often not enough. What you need is to fasten parachute ropes around the circumference of the umbrella, and when the ubrella is errected to anchor the free ends with stones in at least four different directions.
Tip 3 – The Water. Be aware that the water in Peloponnese is quite salty. This can affect negatively your eyes, mouth and nose in case they stay too long in contact with it. On the other side due to the increased amount of salt you can enjoy crystall clear view even at several meters and also float and relax on the surface for prolonged periods without too much effort.
There are not that many dangerous marine animals in Peloponnese. You need to be aware of sea urchins, jellyfish (rarely) and occasionally weeverfish, which has posionous spines on its back. In recent years there are a number of reports of other poisonous alien to Greece species, such as the lionfish and puffer fish, and of course there is the native scorpion fish, but to encounter those you should be doing snorkeling, spearfishing or regular fishing, and not just swimming near the beach.
My advice is to wear aqua shoes at all times. You can find them at any beachwear store, they are not expensive and can save you a lot of trouble.
I recommend planning at least 14 days if you prefer a more leisurely trip, with sufficient time to visit the most significant historic places and enough time for beach going. We covered most of the spots in 10 days, but my travel partner was unhappy with the amount of time we spent on the beach. Some of the days we travelled > 200 km/day just for sightseeing and when you do it for 10 days in a row it is a bit exhausting. We have also skipped some of the more touristy spots to cover others.
If you want to combine sightseeing with sunbathing, maybe the best months are June or September. I would recommend September. In June the weather in the last years in Greece was rather poor with heavy rains and floods. If you are going only for sightseeing, April, May and October are viable options, too.
To cover more spots be ready to start your sightseeing early, around 8:00 and finish late, around 21:00. In July and August, the time between 11:00 and 17:00 is not very productive due to the heat. And if you are a photographer like me, you will go for the golden hour, which for me means planning the best places for the sunset, but if you are an early bird, you can also utilize the sunrise (which in the summer is too early for me). I have always brought my tripod with me, but didn’t have time to use it, for example for time lapses or slow speed sea waves shootings. But it never hurts to have one in the car just in case. All of my photos were taken with a 24-70 mm lens on full frame Sony Alpha 7R III. The wide 10-18 mm lens stayed in the bag.
Generally, you are safe in Greece, but it is better to be vigilant about your photo gear and in general try not to look too touristy and especially in Athens (but this advice applies all around the world). During my night walks and photo shoots I always left my photo backpack in the hotel and went around with just the camera over my shoulder. You need to protect your gear from sea salt, sand and dust. Regularly clean the lense with a soft cloth and brush as there is constant formation of an extra layer of dust speckles and sea water drops, which are quite annoying to clear later in Lightroom.
When shooting from sea cliffs along the road, always be extra careful as they might crumble down in the sea quite easily and you will take a long fall. Extra care is needed in the Upper town of Monemvasia.
Be aware that some of the tourist spots have strange working hours sometimes and they stick to them adamantly (check my experience in Acrocorinth and Athens Acropolis). Some places may be closed and others appear to be open, despite the misleading information in Google Maps. On average most places’ entrance fee is around 10 EUR per person, with discounts for students, children, and the elderly.
I strongly recommend planning your daily routes in Google maps as the timing and directions are very accurate for Greece and you can always add some additional side attractions at the last moment. Most reviews and details are also very helpful, especially when you need to choose a place to eat or sleep. Most of the beaches, even the small and wild ones are well marked on the maps as well.
An excellent book on travelling around Athens and Peloponnese which I readily recommend is Rick Steves “Greece: Athens & The Peloponese”. I personally used it for planning my trip. The book is very informative on the history, geography, cuisine, attractions of each of the places, as well as full of recommendations for hotels and taverns, written in a very engaging and entertaining style. The author offers also free audio guides for most of the places, which can be downloaded from his website or used via the dedicated Rick Steves Audio Europe Travel App.
If you are a photographer like me, I recommend the Phototime app in case you are not familiar with it. The application is quite accurate at showing you the sun position for any given location on the map according to the time of the day and the date, as well as hours of the sunrise, sunset, golden and blue hours. I however do NOT recommend the paid photo app Locationscout, which seems nice and perhaps works great for some parts of the world, but doesn’t offer any interesting locations in Greece. You can check the galleries of the locations I have visited.
If you are also into drone photography, you should use the official app of the Hellenic CAA (HCAA). Unfortunately, most Greek historic landmarks are a big NO NO for drone flights, but you can find some nice coastal areas which are OK, including Napflio, Monemvasia and parts of Mani peninsula at least for the time of writing of this post. Be advised that the sea wind gets quite strong in the evening and there is also the danger of sea birds not liking your drone and pushing it down into the sea.
There are also some other landmarks such as Olympia, Epidavros and Sparta, but I haven’t visited the first 2 and Sparta is not worth the time. According to me, it is better to stay more in Mystras.
Greek cuisine is mostly relevant to the Mediterranean diet, but there are also dishes, which are remnants of the Ottoman Empire. I strongly recommend you try the following