Peloponnese travel guide

The Peloponnese is known as a peninsula but over time it has almost separated from mainland Greece. Although only an hour and a half by road from Athens, once you cross the vast bridge you enter a different world. This is the ancient heartland of the Athenians' rivals, Sparta, where some of Greece’s most atmospheric ruins stand alongside impressive natural wonders: the Taygetus Mountains offer gorges, peaks and spring flowers; some of Greece’s finest beaches can be found around Pilos; and the region around Kalavrita conceals historic monasteries, fir forests and lakes.
Get away from the island crowds and head for the Peloponnese, where you’ll find wonderful examples of community-based tourism wrapped up in stunning countryside and coastline.
All this comes without the swarms of visitors that descend on the country’s more popular islands come summertime. This is a region where beautifully restored small hotels and cosy guesthouses rule the roost and the passion for producing and celebrating regional produce is strong. So, one of the most important things you can do here is to support the local economy. Shop at the markets, eat out, hire local guides, stay in locally owned accommodation and tip well.
Read our Peloponnese travel guide for more details.

The Peloponnese is…

Hellenic, heavenly, historic and an adventurer’s Arcadia.

The Peloponnese isn’t…

just about archaeology. Go rafting, mountain biking, gorge walking and swimming if ruins don’t rock your boat. Or, just go on a boat.

What we rate and what we don’t

Underrated

Cycling holidays

Pedalling is very Peloponnese with plenty of cycling holidays that explore different regions. Cycle around Laconia to bask in beach bliss at places like Monemvasia and by Elafonisos, staying in small locally owned hotels in a region that is very easy to navigate independently. Same goes for Messinia, where you can cycle from one sumptuous seaside sleep to another, having your bags transported for you.

Small ship cruises

Another way to enjoy the ancient sites of the Peloponnese but also the marvels of the Med is to go on a small ship cruise, with a maximum of 50 passengers. Disembark at places like Palaia to visit Epidaurus or Pylos to visit the ancient town and eponymous palace ruins. You’ll also get to rare spots such as the Mani Peninsula, a wild region of underground lakes, rivers and the magnificent Diros Caves.

Self drive holidays

The Peloponnese is a great destination for a self drive holiday, its small size keeping journey times down. Set off with a carefully designed itinerary that includes maps, plus all accommodation and activities booked for you. There are excellent roads and driving here is pretty straightforward, so you can putter between national parks, ancient sites and beaches, stopping at hillside villages or viewpoints when you like.
Rated

Archeological delights

From the theatrical prowess of Epidaurus to the mythical proportions of Mycenae, there are archaeological delights at every turn on the Peloponnese, many of them little-known and uncrowded. Discover the ancient cities of Mantinea and Tegea, the literally Herculean hometown of Argos, the coastal castles at Methoni and Koroni, and even the sunken city of Pavlopetri.

Local produce

The Kalamata region in the Peloponnese is well known for olives and olive oil, which is some of the finest in the world, but that’s not the only foodie highlight. Hit up the local tavernas for fresh, home grown treats such as stuffed tsakoniki aubergines, wild greens, roasted piglet and seafood pulled fresh from the sea.

Beaches

You don’t have to go to the islands for a perfect slice of beach. The Peloponnese coastline has plenty on offer, from the wild coves of the Mani Peninsula to the Caribbean-style horseshoe bay of Voidokilia, which you’ll find plastered all over the local tourist brochures. For the most part these stretches of sand are laid-back, low-key and devoid of swanky beach clubs.
Overrated

Peak summer

This is the Peloponnese at its most crowded and although it’s no match for, say, Crete, in terms of tourist muscle, sights such as Olympia get very busy. You’ll also be fighting the sweat as well as the crowds – temperatures can hit the high 40s in summer. If hiking in the mountains go early and take a long, shady siesta. Take plenty of water, hydration backpacks are particularly useful.

All inclusives

The Peloponnese managed to keep all inclusive resorts on the other side of the Corinth Strait for a long time, but now they are creeping in. Keep this side of the isthmus as idyllic as you can by supporting locally owned businesses at every turn – staying with them, hiring bikes locally and eating in family owned tavernas.

Athens

Athens is only 90 minutes away, but don’t panic about including it on a Peloponnese holiday. The peninsula is a world of its own, so just get there and immerse yourself. Athens is packed and grimy and if it’s archaeology you’re after, the Peloponnese is packed with treats. If you are driving, avoid the Athens weekend exodus across the Corinth Strait.

Our top Peloponnese Holiday

Peloponnese holiday in Greece, Mani & Laconia

Peloponnese holiday in Greece, Mani & Laconia

An unconventional destination for alternative travelers!

From €1490 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 27 Mar, 3 Apr, 24 Apr, 8 May, 15 May, 22 May, 29 May, 12 Jun, 19 Jun, 26 Jun, 3 Jul
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Peloponnese or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Food, shopping & people

Eating and drinking

International chains and ‘destination’ restaurants are in short supply here and the Peloponnese is all the better for it. There’s plenty of slow grown farm-to-fork food here and eating out – at seaside tavernas, in mountain villages or even picnicking on the trails – is sure to be a highlight. The hills and plains are covered in citrus and olive groves so olive oil puts on a strong showing in most dishes. Also in abundance are herbs, including sage, dill and thyme, and vegetables such as wild greens, which are often served sauteed with lemon or cheese.

Sfela, the most popular regional cheese is similar to feta, but harder, while mizithra is a sharp white cheese made of sheep and goat’s milk. Both are wonderful grated over pasta – including the local goges (a bit like a Greek gnocchi).

The Peloponnese has its own local wine – the rich red Agiorgitiko, as well as the aromatic white Mantineia.

Pork is more popular here than both beef and lamb, and roast piglet is a particular speciality. It goes without saying that fresh fish is on the menu throughout the coastal regions.
The Peloponnese is the birthplace of the Olympics – the first games took place at Olympia in 776 BC

People & language

The Greek alphabet may bamboozle many visitors, appearing like a no-holds-barred fight between a few ‘normal’ letters and the sort of symbols you had nightmares about in science classes. Thankfully, speaking it is easier, and knowing a few words will be appreciated.
‘Hello’ is pronounced ya-sas
‘please’ is para-kalo
‘thank you’ is ef-ha-risto
‘Yes’, confusingly, sounds like ‘no’ – neh
‘No’ is o-hi
‘Do you speak English?’ is mi-lah-te an-gli-ka?

Gifts & shopping

You’ll see wild honey for sale everywhere in the Peloponnese. Particularly good is the thick, pale and richly scented vanilla pine honey.

Olive oil made by small producers throughout the region is an excellent foodie gift. As are Kalamata olives.

Traditional weaving is still practiced by local women and textiles, including rugs and cloth bags are sold throughout the region.

Greeks have a long tradition of ceramics and there are some beautiful examples to buy – including jugs, vases and plates.
The name Peter Pan comes from the Greek god of nature and the wild, who is said to have lived on the Peloponnese

How much does it cost?

Meal for one in a local restaurant: £8
Bottle of local wine: £7
Cup of coffee: £2

History of the Peloponnese

Inhabited since Neolithic times, the Peloponnese gets its name from the mythical King Pelops, one of Zeus’s grandchildren. The region’s fertile plains led to the growth of large Iron Age settlements including Mycenae, which was known for its artwork and architecture and was influential for hundreds of years before its decline around 1200 BC – thought to have been caused by foreign invaders or a natural disaster. Read more
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: dinosmichail] [Is/Isn't: elgreko] [Arcadia: Roman Klementschitz] [Epidaurus: Andy Hay] [Laconia: Pavel69] [Messinia: Miltos Gikas] [Mycenae: Andreas Trepte]
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