Of every region on the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese is the most popular to visit for tourists, apart from Attica (where Athens is located). This region of southern Greece is not far from Athens and features beautiful resorts, historic monuments, UNESCO Heritage Sites, Byzantine churches and monasteries, temples to the ancient Greek gods, and the incredible cities of Olympia, Epidaurus, Mycenae and Tiryns. The Peloponnese connects to the rest of mainland Greece at two points: the Corinth Canal and the Bridge of Rio Antirio.
Beaches in the Peloponnese
One of the best parts of the Peloponnese is its beautiful beaches. The center of the region has mountains that are ideal for winter holidays, but the coast of the Peloponnese is best for the summer because of its seaside villages and long golden beaches.
The most exotic beaches in the Peloponnese are Elafonissos, a tiny island south of Laconia, with sandy beaches and pristine water. Mavrovouni beach in Gythio is also popular because of its long coastline and extensive facilities. In the south of the Peloponnese you will find beaches that are some of the best in all of Greece. Voidokilia in Pylos, Methoni, Koroni and the beautiful coves in Messenia (Messinia) are just a few examples.
UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Peloponnese
Due to its rich history, the Peloponnese is full of ancient, historic monuments. Five of these have UNESCO World Heritage status.
Some of the most important places to see in the Peloponnese include Mycenae, Olympia, Epidaurus, Corinth, Nemea, Messene, Mystras, Monemvasia, Kalamata, Patras, Methoni and Koroni castles, and Nestor’s palace. More about these important places can be found in our complete UNESCO Greece guide.
Regions in the Peloponnese
The capital of the Laconia region is Sparta, the legendary town with a history closely related to ancient Athens. Sparta today has a few different monuments that you can visit – the remains of Ancient Sparta, the Ancient Acropolis, parts of an Ancient Theater, the Agora, and the Temple of Artemis. A visit to the Archaeological Museum of Sparta is also worth it when in Sparta.
Only five kilometers from Sparta is Mystras, one of the best places to see Greece’s past in the Peloponnese. This small village is mostly unknown to tourists but it was the most important Byzantine capital in Greece in the past. Many different cultures and civilizations ruled Mystras, including the Franks, the Venetians, and the Turks. It has a rich history and offers incredible views of the Peloponnese landscape.
Elafonisos is a tiny island in the southern Peloponnese known for its complete relaxation. The name means “island of the deer.” It has Carribean-like beaches with gold sand and clear waters. Simos and Lefki beach are well-known as the top beaches of the island. The evening time is a great time to head to town for a taverna dinner and a drink as you watch the sunset. The island should not be confused with Elafonisi, which is an even smaller island off the west coast of Crete.
Arcadia is a mountainous region in the Peloponnese, with the Lousios River, ancient temples, and old monasteries. The region is famous for its historical villages and local architecture. Stemnitsa, Dimitsana, Karytaina, and Ancient Gortyna are just a few of the options. Each village has its own unique beauty. For example, Dimitsana is known for its impressive library and the Water-Power Museum. In Stemnitsa, you can visit St George’s Orthodox Church and the Bournazos mansion. In Karytaina, you can visit the castle known as the Greek Toledo.
The capital of the Arcadia region is the hub of Tripoli. The city was founded at the beginning of the 14th century and it is a crossroads of the Peloponnese. Tripoli is full of neoclassical buildings and Orthodox churches,squares, and parks. A few places worth visiting in the city of Tripoli are the War Museum, Cultural Centre, Matzouneio Public Library, and the Archaeological Museum. The museum was built by Ernst Ziller, an architect who loved Greece so much that he got Greek nationality.
Prodromos and Philosophos Monasteries
The tradition for visitors to these monasteries in the Peloponnese is that the monks treat you to a Turkish delight when you visit. The monasteries are both built on either end of a gorge and feature a 10th-century Catholic church. The view from the monasteries of the Peloponnese countryside is breathtaking.
The Argolis region is an underrated region of Greece, and it is only two hours drive from Athens. Argolis has many historical sights and cultural events for tourists.
Argos is the largest city in this region of the Peloponnese and is said to be the longest continually inhabited city in Europe. Argos is full of ancient ruins and theaters which show that Argos was the base of the Mycenaean civilization which ruled over Greece for 500 years. Further south from Argos, you will find Porto Heli, one of the most popular resort towns in southern Greece.
The Sanctuary of Asklepius is found in Epidaurus in the eastern Peloponnese. This was a place of healing during times of antiquity because Epidaurus was thought to be the birthplace of the god Asklepius. Pilgrims came to Epidaurus to ask for a cure for their illnesses, and the answer was given to them in their dreams. The next day, they told their dream to the priest, who would tell them the best way to be healed. A large theater with excellent acoustics is located nearby, which was used to honor the god and is today called the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. Today, concerts and festivals are held here, and it holds 14,000 people.
We will cover Nafplio in more detail later in the article. Nafplio is one of the most pretty towns in southern Greece, and it was the first capital of modern Greece. It is known for its old town, narrow alleyways, delicious Greek food, and its seafront promenade. One of the best sights in town is the Palamidi Castle on the hill overlooking the old town. It takes 999 stairs to reach the top of the Palamidi castle.
The Corinth Canal is definitely the most impressive sight in Corinthia. It is worth visiting the Bridge of Isthmia. There are even some tables and chairs nearby with a view of the canal where it is nice to sit. This is a famous shipping passage in Greece and one of the key passages from Athens into the Peloponnese.
Vineyards of Nemea
Nemea in the Corinthia region is one of the most incredible wine regions of Greece. The cellars here are one of the most important regions in Greece for winemaking. The Agiorgitiko variety is the best-known grape in the area, and the Nemea PDO wine is the most famous from the area. Finally travel into the countryside through the vineyards to see the mountain ranges of Zireia, Oligyrtos, Mavrovouni, and Gravias.
Patra is the capital of the Peloponnese and it is the largest city in the Peloponnese – also the second busiest port in Greece, second only to Piraeus in Athens. Patra is a main hub for travelers in mainland Greece and connects not just to all of the Peloponnese, but also to other areas of mainland Greece and to Italy. Patra has several interesting museums and sights in town, and also several parks and squares where you can relax. For a day trip, you can visit the Achaia Clauss Factory – a Bavarian-style castle that is the headquarters of the oldest winery in Greece.
The historic town of Kalavryta is especially significant for Greeks because it is where Archbishop Germanos signaled the beginning of the War of Independence in 1821. The Monastery of Ayia Lavra is nearby and also was a place of political rebellion during the Second World War. It was burnt down by the Nazis because they thought it held resistance fighters. The monastery now has an impressive historical museum.
November is the time for picking olives in Kalamata. At this time, the olives are picked and the oil is pressed. If you plan on making a visit, keep in mind that some olive groves do not produce olives every year. So be prepared to visit the next town over if you were hoping to join the harvest!
The town of Methoni is one of the most incredible sights in the Peloponnese, with a 13th century fortress and entire medieval town where you can spend hours wandering around. The small castle in Methoni is called the Bourtzi and it protected Methoni in the past. Methoni is also a family-friendly town with plenty of beaches with shallow waters and nice tavernas around several city squares.
North of Pylos is the famous Voidokilia beach, which is a heaven on earth. It is unique because it is shaped like the Greek letter Omega and features white sand, warm blue water, and some green vegetation. This is a wildlife area and also historically is the location of Nestor’s cave. Voidokilia is a popular beach for families because unlique some of the beaches of the Greek islands, Voidokilia is quieter.
Towns to Visit in the Peloponnese
Nafplio is one of the most beautiful towns in southern Greece, known for its great nearby beaches and idyllic scenery. It is only a few hours’ drive from Athens and is found in the Argolis area. Much unline the more crowded islands like Santorini and Mykonos, the Argolida area will feel like your personal paradise.
Nearby is history, culture, and tradition, with several UNESCO sites within driving distance. Nafplio was the first capital of Greece, and it is known for its old town, narrow alleyways, delicious Greek food, and its seafront promenade. One of the must-visit sights in Nafplio town is the medieval castle on the hill overlooking the old town. It takes 999 stairs to reach the top of the Palamidi Castle.
Nearby to Nafplio are a range of beaches, both with pebbles and with sand. The Argolic Gulf waters are pristine and clear and are easily explored if you have a rental car. Many of them are unknown to some tourists and offer a serene escape. The further down the coast you go, the closer you get to the Porto Heli development, which is becoming increasingly popular for international tourists.
The Castle Town of Monemvasia is one of the most incredible places in all of Greece, and few visitors to Greece make it this far south. Monemvasia is in the southwest of the Peloponnese on a sea rock. Back in those times, the city was built there because it was not visible to enemies on the mainland. The only way to visit at the time was by boat. The name of Monemvasia for this reason translates to “single passage.”
The town of Monemvasia is one of the most romantic places in all of Greece. Some of the old mansions in the town have been converted into guesthouses and boutique hotels. Antique churches are scattered around the town, like the Agia Sofia from the 12th century and the Panagia Chrissafitissa, which combines Byzantine and Venetian elements.
You probably have heard of this Peloponnese city for its olives. And it’s true – the olives and olive oil from this area are world-renowned. However, the Messinia region around Kalamata has much more to offer than just great Greek food. Kalamata is about 240 km from Athens – a comfortable drive of roughly 2.5 hours. Direct flights connect Kalamata International Airport with most European cities, with the number of links growing year by year.
An impressively large central square is the vibrant heart of the city where open-air concerts and events are held, while just down the road is the Old Town which is located under the city’s imposing 13th-century castle. Down by the beach, palm trees stretch down a pedestrian and biking path that runs for more than 2 kilometers along the water. The landscape in Messinia is among the most breathtaking in the Mediterranean. Voidokilia Beach, for example, is located to the west and is considered by many to be among the best beaches in Greece.
How to Get to the Peloponnese
You will need a car to get around the Peloponnese. Many of the beaches in southern Greece and the UNESCO heritage sites in the Peloponnese require a car. Plus you will have more flexibility. For more tips on renting a car in Greece, see our complete guide. The Peloponnese region has great highways that were built recently, just note that some of them have tolls.
There are two airports in the Peloponnese, and they are found in Patra and Kalamata. These small airports work almost exclusively in the summer. Athens is another good airport to fly to for visiting the Peloponnese, because it is so close.
The Peloponnese region has many ports. The largest port in the Peloponnese is Patra, and it serves the ports in Bari, Brindisi, and Venice in Italy. It also takes you to Corfu, Kefalonia, and Ithaca. The port of Killini in the western Peloponnese also has ferries to Kefalonia and Zakynthos.
The port of Neapolis in southern Peloponnese has ferries to Elafonissos and Kythira, and the town of Gythio has ferries to Kythira and Kissamos in Crete. The small villages of Ermioni and Porto Heli in the eastern Peloponnese also have ports that connect to Athens.
Food in the Peloponnese
The food in the Peloponnese in Greece is naturally delicious because it uses local ingredients and of course plenty of Greek extra virgin olive oil. We select just a few of the best options.
Olives and Olive Oil
The Peloponnese is known for the Koroneiki olive. The top producing areas are Mani, Messinia, and Lygorio. Mani in the south is known for its aromatic oils, Messinia in the west is known for its citrus-flavored oils, and Lygorio in the east is known for oils with a subtle apple flavor. Eat the olives by themselves in a taverna or enjoy a tour of some of the local olive groves.
Trahanas is a favorite comfort food for Greeks, and it has been part of the Peloponnese diet for many years. It’s an economic, quick, and healthy meal for any time of day. It is like a porridge that is a mix of milk and flour. Traditionally, in days past, women helped each other to make trachanas in the summer, in preparation for the winter.
Aubergines (eggplants) are one of the local products in Arcadia, a region of the Peloponnese. They are baked often with feta cheese and basil. This is called imam bayaldi. In another local variation, this vegetable is cooked with octopus on August 15th during the celebration of the Virgin Mary.
Desserts in the Peloponnese
These Greek cookies are just what they sound like. They are are made with two famous Greek drinks: ouzo and mastic. Ouzo usually is made on the island of Lesvos, and mastic is from the island of Chios. Adding olive oil, sugar, and the flavorings to the dough, these cookies gain a pleasant flavor that is perfect when paired with a Greek coffee. It is a local favorite in Corinth in the Peloponnese.
Diples are one of the most delicious Greek deserts. They get their name from the Greek work “fold.” True to their name, these shin sheets of dough are folded and then fried until crispy. Then, you add honey and cinnamon, or in some cases, ground walnuts.
Buy a House in the Peloponnese
The Peloponnese is one of the most popular regions for tourism on the mainland of Greece. It is close to Athens, which in itself offers a wide range of attractions, but also good accessibility. Furthermore, the Peloponnese has been the center of action and events since ancient times, so with a home in the Peloponnese, you get easy access to important archaeological sites, such as Olympia, Epidaurus, and Mycenae. You also get to enjoy some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches and waters near the villages of Nafplion, Gythio, Monemvasia, and Pylos.
Do you want to buy a house in a specific location in the Peloponnese? Please feel free to contact us for a non-binding consultation. Our properties in the Peloponnese, ranging from seaside villas to village houses, can be found here.