Trying to plan our recent Peloponnese Road Trip was no easy task. We only had two weeks to play with, there was a wedding we were invited to, the Peloponnese in Greece is bigger than it looks, and there is an endless amount of things to see and do. Oh, capital controls had been introduced in Greece just before we left as well, reducing the amount of money people could withdraw a day to just 50 euros. Easy stuff then!
Our Peloponnese Road Trip
We had previously travelled through parts of the Peloponnese only a few weeks before. On that occasion, it was mainly in the centre of the region, and you can read about it here – A 2 Day Peloponnese Tour. On this holiday though, our Peloponnese road trip was focused in the south of the region.
The aim, was to spend the first few days at a friend's wedding, and after that drive along coastal routes to check out some beaches, see some local attractions, and make the occasional detour to visit notable archaeological sites. The Mrs has made a map of the route we covered which she shared over at her blog – Vanidio. Because it looks quite good, and I am too lazy to make one of my own, I have posted it below.
I hope this article serves a couple of purposes. Firstly, if you are planning a south Peloponnese road trip in Greece of your own, it might prove to be useful. We visited a good mix of well known places, but also a number of interesting places that most people, including locals, have never heard of. Secondly, it's to help me remember where we went – We squeezed a lot into two weeks!
Our South Peloponnese Road Trip Itinerary
We spent the first three nights of our road trip in the coastal town of Neapoli Vion. This is one of the southernmost towns in mainland Greece, and was a pleasant enough place to stay. The reason for being here, was that a couple of friends were getting married. It was my first Greek wedding, and despite the uncertainty of the referendum in Greece looming in the background, was a great day.
There were a couple of strange customs, such as the grooms friends taking it in turns to shave him, and then slapping him. Yes, I did have a go, and was gentle both with my shaving and the slap! Most notably on a personal level though, this wedding was the first time I had worn a suit in 20 years since my grandmother got married (long story!). What's your verdict?
The wedding was on the Saturday, and on the Sunday, we took a day trip over to Elafonisos island. The stretch of sand out on Simos beach was one of the best I have seen in all my travels. It's an easy day trip to make, although taking the car on the ferry as well costs 10 euro extra.
So, the Peloponnese road trip resumed proper again on the Monday. Leaving Neapoli, we drove to some nearby caves at Kastania. These were really quite spectacular, but spoiled by the fact that the guide was clearly bored with her job, and that no photos were allowed. A real shame, because otherwise it is a little gem of a place to visit, quite off the normal tourist trail. Never mind. Onward after that to Monemvasia, where we spent two nights.
Monemvasia is a small town housed in a medieval fortress on an island, connected to the mainland by a bridge. Strolling around the lower town area, there are now all manner of shops and bars catering for the many tourists that visit each year. For my tastes, it was a little ‘too' touristy, but beautiful nonetheless.
Unfortunately for us, the upper town and fortress were closed for repairs, so we didn't get to climb to the top. Not to worry though, as we went to a couple of beaches in the area instead! Our favourite, was Pori beach, so if you are staying in the area, just ask someone how to get there.
On the Wednesday, we drove out of Monemvasia and to the lagoon at Limenas Ieraka. This was a another really pretty location, but it got overshadowed somewhat later on, when we discovered a shipwreck!
We genuinely didn't know anything about this shipwreck at all, before glimpsing it out of the corner of our eyes as we drove by the coast. Stopping to have a look, it is a vast, rusting hulk, washed up on the shoreline of Valtaki beach, near Gythio. There are a lot of urban legends surrounding this ship. The main one, seems to be that this was a cigarette smuggling ship, which was at one point impounded, and then broke free in a storm to end up stranded on the shore. Whatever the actual truth is, the shipwreck is a must see when driving along this section of the coast on a Peloponnese road trip!
We stayed just the one night in Gythio (by the way, the spelling of this name varies a lot!). After a bit of sight-seeing the next day, we drove on to Mavrovounio Beach, where we had the first night camping together at Camping Kronos. After having spent literally years camping alone in tents during my various trips around the world, I wondered how this would go, but it worked out just fine!
I would describe Camping Kronos as a ‘rustic' camp site. It does have all the facilities, but they are not particularly well cared for. The upside though, is that the place does have a nice, laid-back vibe to it, and that it is right on the beach. Excellent! We based ourselves here for two nights, and the next day visited the Diros Caves. These are perhaps the most famous caves in Greece, made all the more memorable because a tour there is taken on a small boat, which is paddled through the caves by a guide. Sorry, no photos as they didn't turn out too great. I do have some video footage which I may put on YouTube at some point though.
Our drive away from the caves and back towards the coast, took us through the town of Vathia, which is famed for its stone houses which look like castle towers. In fact, many of the villages in this area of Mani have houses built in a similar fashion.
We also checked out a few beaches before heading back to the camp site. Gerolimenas, Marmari, and Skoutari. Many people rate Skoutari quite highly, but we weren't super impressed with it. That's not to say it was a bad beach though – There is a lot of competition when it comes to the best beaches in Greece!
The Saturday saw us break camp, and resume our Peloponnese road trip as we drove to Kalamata. This would be another two night stay at a camp site, and the next day, we visited Mystras.
Mystras is a Byzantine hill fortress, spread out over three levels. There will be a full blog post coming over the next couple of weeks, but suffice to say, it is a major place of interest which should be visited when on a Peloponnese road trip in Greece.
Monday we left Kalamata, and drove to Ancient Messine. Surprisingly, this ancient site is little visited, even among Greeks. It is a real shame, as I feel that it is one of the best archaeological sites I have seen in Greece. I've written a fuller travel blog post, which you can read about here >> Ancient Messene. It took between 3 and 4 hours to see the site, and when done, we drove on to Foinikounta beach, where we camped for 3 nights.
Camping Thines was my favourite camp site of our entire Peloponnese road trip, and I could quite easily have stayed there a week. Or a month. The site was well set up, and the beach was right on the doorstep. It was a nice beach as well, with some lovely natural shade under some trees.
Tuesday was a bit of a chill day, although I did work from the beach on my tablet computer. Nice to see that this is actually possible to do! I don't want to use the term digital nomad, but, well I was for one day! The following day, we visited Koroni Castle. This is one of a pair of castles known as the Eyes of Venice, and I will be writing more about them in a few weeks time.
Methoni castle is the other ‘eye' of the pair, and we visited this after packing up from the campsite. Of the two castles, I found this to be far more impressive. In a way, it felt like a scaled down version of Gondor from the Lord of the Rings films. I will just include the one photo here, because as I mentioned, it will get its own write up a few weeks from now.
At night, we stayed in Pylos, where the next morning we briefly visited the castle. This had two museums in dedicated to underwater archaeology. Then it was on to an area called Terpsithea, just outside of Kyparissia. Here, we stayed in what was easily the best accommodation of the entire Peloponnese road trip. The accommodation was called Terpsi Apartments, and we got an incredibly well maintained, clean and immaculate apartment which included washing machine and kitchen for just 30 euros for the night. Highly recommended! After checking in, there was still a little beach time, so we spent a few hours on Elaia beach before catching an awesome sunset.
On leaving the great apartment, Saturday turned into a very strange day in terms of buildings. It seemed that we discovered every weird looking building in Greece all in one day.
Perhaps this Fairy Tale castle was more creepy than weird though! I have written a full blog post about the buildings we saw, and you can read that here >> Weird looking buildings in Greece. Even the hotel we stayed at in Xiropigado that night was a little strange. The owner was really nice and friendly though.
On to Sunday, and the last day of our Peloponnese road trip. It was an initial short drive to Mycenae, which is arguably one of the more important archaeological sites in Greece. Between 1600BC and 1100BC, Mycenae was a military stronghold, and influential centre of ancient Greek civilisation. I have always wanted to visit here, and it was a great feeling to finally wander around the site. Again, I will write a fuller blog post later, but for now, here is a photo teaser.
And that brings our Peloponnese Road trip in Greece to an end. It would have been nice to have 3 weeks. Or 4. Or 5. It's all there for next time however!
I've written several other Greek road trip articles, but this one is the best of them all – The best places to see on a Greek road trip. It details 4 Greek road trip itineraries, and has tonnes of useful information. Finally, if you would like some additional info, or think we drove right by something we should have seen, then leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!