Our Peloponnesian Odyssey

Greece, located on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is a mountainous land of many peninsulas jutting out into the sea and a large number of islands which makes its coastline the 11th longest coastline in the world at 8,498 miles in length.

The Peloponnese Peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Its modern name derives from the legend of the hero Pelops, who was said to have conquered the entire region. The name Peloponnesos means “Island of Pelops”.

Technically it could be considered an island since the 1893 construction of the Corinth Canal separated the Peloponnese peninsula from the mainland by a man-made canal at the Isthmus of Corinth.

The Corinth Canal is too narrow for modern ships.

We set out to explore the Peloponnese Peninsula by bus without itinerary or reservations. We were told availability would be wide open and we could negotiate a good price. (Ha! Lots of availability. Not so much negotiation. And not a huge bargain.) We took a bus from Athens to Kalamata, a large city on the southern coast.

I felt that Rick Steves misled me. There was no welcoming committee, no Greek women meeting the coach to invite us to stay in their home – or come to dinner. There wasn’t even a Tourist Information desk.

We huddled in a corner of the bus station looking at my iPad. We were obviously confused and no one bothered us neither offered help. We used technology and our wits to find a place to stay. I remember why I really don’t like winging it like that.

Before leaving the station I wanted to plan our next destination and asked about bus schedules to Nafplio and Gythio. Apparently in the winter they only operate on days that don’t have a P or a T in them and when the moon is full.

The Kalamata promenade. We were grounded by three days of thunderstorms and heavy rain, sitting in crowded smoky coffee shops which really put a damper on our enthusiasm. The weather, the language barrier and the bus connections nearly caused us to give up.

Kalamata promenade.

But then the sun came out showing fresh snow-covered mountains and a sparkling sea.

The next morning found us at Hertz. And we were off on our Peloponnese road trip.

We didn’t expect to see so many snow covered mountains. Mount Taygetus is the highest mountain in the Peloponnese at 7,897 ft and the range is 65 miles long.

The Peloponnese

The peninsula has a mountainous interior and deeply indented coasts with four south-pointing peninsulas: (from west to east) the Messenian, the Mani, the Cape Malea and the Argolid. We visited them all taking the red-line route on a counter-clockwise trip around the Peloponnese.

Starting at Kalamata we drove south to Areopoli near Diros Caves on the Mani Peninsula and stayed one night. The next day we drove to Monemvasia and stayed one night. We then drove to Nafplio where we stayed 3 nights. The next day we visited Ancient Corinth and the Corinth Canal and drove along the north coast and stayed one night outside Aegio (large blue dot on map.) Continuing the next day, we skirted Patra and went through Pirgos to Ancient Olympia and stayed the night. Our final day we drove the western shore south to Pylos and Methoni on the Messinian Peninsula and continuing to Kalamata, returned our rental car, and caught a late bus to Athens.

We used a driving app to avoid toll roads which made travel slow, but more interesting.

Coastline and beaches.

Olive trees, orange trees, farmlands and mountain villages. The Peloponnese has more olive trees than people!

The Peloponnese possesses many important archaeological sites dating from the Bronze Age through to the Middle Ages, including the Mycenaean, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Ottoman and Venetian eras.


Gytheio is a cute town on the Mani Peninsula.

Ship wreck on the beach.


The causeway out to the Gibraltar of the East. There is a town called Monemvasia on the rock and a fortress atop the rock.

The stone gateway of Monemvasia looking out. The name means “one entry” and from this point cars must park. Only pedestrians and donkeys are permitted to enter .

The fortified wall of Monemvasia.

Lower town of Monemvasia. In case of siege, the town would move to the fortified castle atop the rock.


Photo of Nafplio, Greece’s first capital city was taken from the Palamidi Fortress overlooking the city. We climbed the 999 steps up. The last 300 were the hardest!

The Palamidi Fortress of the Venetian era is atop the rock in the background and overlooks Nafplio.

Fishing boats in Nafplio harbor.

We loved Nafplio.

Bourtzi: a Venetian fort in the Nafplio harbor.

Need more archeological sites? Ancient Mycenae, Tiryns, and Epidavros are close to Nafplio.

Ancient Corinth

The agora and bema (speakers podium) of Ancient Corinth.

One of the best preserved temples remaining from the 6th century BC is the Temple to Apollo at Corinth. Along with the rest of Greece, the Peloponnese fell to the expanding Roman Republic in 146 BC, when the Romans razed the city of Corinth and massacred its inhabitants.

The Rio–Antirrio Bridge is one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type. It crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras. It is 1.8 miles long and is widely considered to be an engineering masterpiece, owing to several solutions applied to span the difficult site. These difficulties include deep water, insecure materials for foundations, seismic activity, the probability of tsunamis, and the expansion of the Gulf of Corinth due to plate tectonics.

The bridge was inaugurated on 7 August 2004, a week before the opening of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Olympic torchbearers were the first to officially cross it.

Pilos to Methoni

Taking a coffee break to sit in the sun and book accommodations in Athens. With rain in the forecast, we decided to return the car and bus back to Athens. We put 615 miles on the car.

Another fortress from the late Venetian era at Methoni.

The pictures portray beauty: sea, sand, sun, beaches, fertile fields, and idyllic towns. And that would be true, but only one perspective. Days were wonderful with 58-61 degrees for a high; the nights – not so much! Blogs were full of warnings that proved true. Hotel rooms were frigid! Tile floors, high-ceilinged-plaster-covered-stone-walls were nearly impossible to warm with the a/c-turned-to-heat units mounted high on the walls.

Having fun! I’ll Meet You in the Morning – ready to race – in Ancient Olympia!

5 responses to “Our Peloponnesian Odyssey

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