When in Greece, the vast majority of tourists head straight for the islands, with a short stop in the capital city, maybe. However, the most rewarding and bewitching parts of the country can be found on the mainland actually, and there’s nowhere more magnificent and more thrilling than the Peloponnese, a large peninsula that’s an hour’s drive west of Athens.
This area is the heart of Ancient Greece and boasts some of the most interesting monuments and attractions, as well as numerous awesomely entertaining things to do. Let’s check them out!
1. Go Ruin-Hopping
You can’t say you’ve seen the Peloponnese if you don’t visit at least some of the many spectacular World Heritage ancient ruins that dot the area.
Did you know the birthplace of the Olympic games lies in Ancient Olympia, located in the west of the peninsula? Make sure not to miss the site, with its huge stadium and ruins of the game complex. While here, stop by the Archaeological Museum too and admire its monumental sculptures and relics. Next, check out the fortified citadel at Mycenae, and then walk with the ghosts in the ruins of Mystras.
2. Join the Patras Carnival
Patras, a bustling port-city worth seeing even without any celebrations going on, is home to Greece’s most renowned Carnival. During the Greek Orthodox Easter, the city hosts a carnival quite similar to the well-known Mardi Gras festivities, with parades, balls, hidden treasure hunts, and the ritual burning of the Carnival King. Certainly an event worth planning your trip around!
3. Go Shipwreck Diving in the Bay of Navarino
If you’re the more adventurous type and have good European travel insurance, you will absolutely want to venture into the waters of Navarino Bay and feel like un underwater Indiana Jones hunting for lost treasures. You can find remains of ancient ships in and near the bay, including cool artefacts, as well as more recent wrecks, such as the 1978 remains of the tanker Irene Serenade, one of the biggest accessible shipwrecks in the whole world!
4. Go Bird Watching at the Lush Gialova Lagoon
From September to March, over 20,000 birds, including herons, ibises and flamingos, lodge in this protected area before migrating to other lands. If you’re a nature enthusiast, you’ll love the opportunity to admire the 271 species that stop by the lagoon – and it won’t cost you a thing!
5. Travel Back in History at the Theatre of Epidavros
The Theatre of Epidavros is a World Heritage site and one of Greece’s most beloved wonders. The enormous ancient construction is incredibly well preserved and seats 14,000 people, and it still hosts performances even today. Watching a show here is an incomparable experience that will take you back to 2000 years ago, when classical Greek plays were flourishing.
6. Taste the Most Delicious Olives
The Kalamata region in the Peloponnese peninsula is famous worldwide for its tasty olives and high quality olive oil. Learn about the history and cultivation of this Greek trademark and don’t forget to taste some of the local delicacies in the markets and restaurants of Kalamata!
The Peloponnese is certainly a magical land with lots in store for you. The above are just a few of the treasures it has to offer, so if you’re planning a trip to Greece, forget about the islands and head for the peninsula, as there’s so much more just waiting to be discovered!