Peloponnese, a journey through the ancient Greece
I flew to Greece from Malta, as part of a several-month spontaneous Eurotrip in 2020. Greece is a country incredibly rich culturally, historically, gastronomically and geographically. It was here that European civilization began. Most traces of ancient cities in mainland Greece can be found on the Peloponnese peninsula.
Below is a description of the most important monuments in the Peloponnese in Greece.
The journey through the Peloponnese begins with crossing the Corinthian Canal. It was built in 1893, although the first plans were made in the VI century BC. , and its construction was to begin in the first century during the time of the Roman emperor Nero. Unfortunately, just after the start of construction, the king died, and the idea was abandoned. The canal is 6 km long and connects the Corinian Gulf and the Saronic Gulf. The width of the canal at the surface of the water is about 24m and nowadays allows you to pass mainly cruise ships or small boats.
The Corinth Canal is located in the village of Isthma, a few kilometers from the city of Corinth. In Isthma you will find the main bus and transfer station in this part of Greece, from where buses depart to the surrounding towns and tourist attractions.
Ancient Corinth is located a few kilometers inland from the city of Corinth. It can be reached by bus from the city centre. In Corinth there are ruins of one of the largest cities of ancient Greece. Unfortunately, over time, they have not been preserved in good shape, except for the remains of the temple of Apollo and the fountain of Pejrene. In the historical center we will find an interesting museum describing the history of Corinth.
The ancient city is dominated by the Acropolis (513m high), which is the highest point of ancient Greek cities. Before going to the top, it’s a good idea to check the opening hours. Unfortunately, in October it was open only until 3 p.m., which meant that I would not be able to go inside.
Mycenae and Tyryns
Heading south from Corinth, we get to Mycenae. In Mycenae there are ruins of one of the oldest cities of Greek civilization – from the Mycenaean period dated between III thousand BC and the end of II thousand BC. Among the remains of Mycenae, we can admire the Lion’s Gate and the Tomb of Agamemn (or, according to later research and other sources, the Treasury of Atreus). In the archaeological center there is also a museum dedicated to Mycenaean culture.
Further ruins from the Mycenaean period are located 20 kilometers to the south. These are the remains of the fortress, from the outside preserved a little better than those in Mycenae. On the spot, however, there is no description of individual archaeological sites and compared to the ruins in Mycenae, Tyryn is quite poor.
Nafplio and Argos
Nafplio is the capital of the Argonia region. It is a nicely located, very touristy town. There were more tourists here – mainly from Greece – than in Athens. The city is dominated by the Palamidi fortress built in the seventeenth century by the Venetians occupying the city. You will find here plenty of restaurants, museums and souvenir shops.
Argos is a small quiet town where, as in any city in Greece, you will find ancient ruins and delicious Greek food. It is a good accommodation base when you plan to visit Mycenae, Nafpio or the Theatre in Epidaurus.
Epidaurus – theatre and spa centre
The next point of the trip is the theater and the ancient spa center of Asclepius in Epidaurus. The theater built at the end of IVW is one of the best preserved Greek monuments and is still used today during summer festivals. It can accommodate up to 12 thousand spectators, and thanks to the wonderful acoustics – also proven by me – the actors can be heard even in the last rows.
The ruins of the spa are unfortunately less impressive, as almost all of them were razed to the ground during earthquakes. However, for the sake of the view of the theater, it is worth going to this region of Greece.
Sparta and Mystras
Sparta is an ancient Greek city-state located on the Eurotas River in a valley between two mountain ranges – Taygetus and Parnon. It was in the Mountains of Taygetus that the oracle was located, to which King Leonidas went to ask about the victory in the Second Persian War.
In the city, we can visit the ancient ruins of the city (theater, remains of the temple of Athena) and the monument to Leonidas available free of charge. In Sparta there is also a very interesting Museum of Olive Oil describing the multitude of olive varieties, the process of their cultivation, harvesting and oil production. A few kilometers outside the city is also the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Byzantine city of Mystras.
Sparta is a mountainous area, the highest peak Profitis Ilias rises to a height of 2404m above sea level.
Olympia is an ancient sanctuary in honor of Zeus, where the Olympic Games were born. The first took place in 776 BC. Initially, it competed in running, gradually adding disciplines such as wrestling, chariot racing, discus throw or javelin.
In Olympia there was also one of the seven wonders of the world – the statue of Zeus.
Peloponnese – transport and accommodation
I moved around the Peloponnese mainly by buses. In the autumn of 2020, it was a bit difficult, because due to the small number of tourists, a large part of the connections was canceled. It is best to ask about the current connections between cities at the bus station (it may happen that on weekends buses do not run and you have to wait until Monday – as happened in my case and the desire to get to Epidaurus – then we will have a quick change of plans or getting there on our own by taxi).
Current bus timetables can be found on individual pages:
On the Peloponnese peninsula, the most popular accommodation is hotels and private accommodation. Of the more budget options, there are no hostels, but we will find a lot of campsites.