The southernmost geographic section of mainland Greece. Originally it was an island, but intense geological upheavals in the region united and separated it from the mainland twice. Later, a new retreat by the sea formed the Isthmus of Corinth. This land bridge was cut in the late 19th century to make the Corinth canal, making the Peloponnese an island yet again.
The Peloponnese (Peloponnesos) is a rugged land and in its interior is highlands. The climate is purely Mediterranean along the coasts, unlike the center which has a relatively continental climate.
A mythical land whose every corner brings to mind some Greek myth, the Peloponnese is composed of images and music, the scents of the sea, of the mountains, of grapes, olives, and citrus. The cities, towns, and spas of the region were important centers in antiquity, and remain so today. Villages seem to grow out of the grey rock, the wild stones next to the hostile furze. Other villages lie by the vast open sea, but everywhere the people are vital, hospitable, haughty, and proud.
Three main road networks lead to places with abundant physical beauty, important archaeological sites, land and stones testifying of other eras.
Just before we arrive at the Isthmus we have our first view of the Peloponnese, coming to Loutraki with its famous spas and many hotels.
Truly ancient Egio has a special attraction, the monastery of Panagia Tripiti, which is built into the living rock. Pretty pebbled beaches can be found nearby.
Patras, on the west coast, is Greece's window to the Ionian islands and Italy. Its attractive squares, neoclassical buildings, and the ruins of a castle on top of a hill, add charm to this working harbour-city, which is the fourth largest in Greece. Enchanting shores drowning in eucalyptus and acorn bushes, indigo waters and a vast sandy beach at Kilini, known since antiquity for its spas.
Further south, we encounter Pirgos, an attractive town with two jewels; the neoclassical buildings designed by Chiller.
Peaceful, serene, verdant, is Ancient Olympia with the grandiose temple foundations, the colonnades, the altars, the numerous interesting archaeological finds crowned by that masterpiece of sculpture, the Hermes of Praxiteles.
Kaitafas is the next spa, also known since antiquity, set amidst a thick pine forest. The soil here is fertile, ideal for vineyards, olive groves and citrus orchards. The roads that lead to Byzantine monasteries, Frankish towers, ancient temples, such as the temple of Apollo Epikourios at Vasses, and famous palaces such as Nestor's palace in Pylos, begin here.
Roads lead to Kalamata, the capital of Messinia, with the castle of Geoffrey Villehardouin, the waterfront lined with taverns and pastry shops, and Mt. Taygetos proudly rearing up, while between its foothills pretty beaches can be found.
From Kalamata, the road sweeps up to Tripoli in the heart of the Peloponnese, a perfect base for enchanting excursions to Vitina, Dimitsana, and Stemnitsa, picturesque villages clinging to the Arcadian mountains, and to Mantineia and Lykossoura with significant ancient ruins.
Entering into Lakonia, we reach its capital, Sparti. To the west is the Byzantine castle-state of Mystra with its incredible churches, monasteries, palaces, and mansions.
Crossing the plain of Lakonia, we come to Gytheion and from there to Areopoli, the Diros caves, the traditional settlement of Vathia, and passing through virgin landscapes, steep mountaintops and deep gorges which end up in the clear blue sea, at pristine golden beaches or pebbled shores, we arrive at unique Monemvassia. From up high on its castle one can see the moon rising among the waves.
The northeastern Peloponnese welcomes us at Argos, the ancient strong-point, today a point of departure for Nafplion -the first capital of free Greece - with the Bourtzi, an islet topped by a miniature fort, and the Palamidi rock. Ancient Tiryns and Mycenae, the ruins of the two power centers of the ancient Mycenean world, can also be reached from Argos.
We get to Epidaurus (Epidavros) passing through pine forests. Here in the summer, during the Epidaurus Festival one can appreciate the incredible acoustics of the ancient theatre, which is next to the sanctuary of Asclepius.
Apart from Epidaurus, the Eastern Peloponnese has much physical beauty on offer, at Ermionida, at Porto Heli, at Kosta and Galatas, from where one easily crosses to Poros or Methana with its famous spas.
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