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About Greece Self Drive 2 - Treasures of the Peloponnese
Visit sites of antiquity in the Argolis region; Monemvasia [the Gibraltar of Greece]; the towered villages of the remote Mani and ancient Sparta.
Activity code: GRFDPEL02
Duration: 9 Days
This region of Greece has some of the most ancient sites in the country as well as some incredibly wild scenery, particularly in the Mani. The itinerary covers pretty much the whole of the Peloponnese, focusing on the beautiful countryside as well as the famous sights.
This recommended and very popular route is a tried and trusted itinerary which allows plenty of time to enjoy the countryside as you travel; however if you are looking for a modification of any kind then we can also offer a completely tailor made itinerary.
All our fly-drive customers receive a welcome pack on arrival in Athens which contains maps, hotel vouchers and a detailed programme with hotel information and confirmation of emergency contact details.
If you would like to visit these wonderful places without driving then we can supply a private driver for the duration of the tour.
Please contact us if you would like a completely tailor made fly drive itinerary. All we would need to know are approximate dates of travel, what standard of hotel you would prefer, and if there are any particular areas or classical sites which you would like us to include (or to exclude!) in your itinerary . Your fly drive can be as active or leisurely as you please. Staying one night at each stop allows the maximum amount of sightseeing; two or more nights will allow you to do side trips, whilst staying in one place will give you the opportunity to relax and explore the local area.
Why not extend your stay in Greece with a relaxing few days on one of the islands or on the mainland. Please ask us for further details or suggestions!
Arrive at Athens Airport and collect rental car; drive to your hotel in Athens.
In the morning leave for the Peloponnese. Drive along the coastal road of the Saronic Gulf to the Corinth Canal which connects the Ionian with the Aegean. This is a good place to stop for some excellent photos of the canal - if you are fortunate there even may be a ship passing through! Then drive on to Mycenae, the Homeric city of the Atreidae - the city "rich in gold" of the ancient poets. Here you will see the famous Lion's Gate, the Royal Tombs and the Cyclopean Walls before moving on to Nafplion. This small picturesque town nestles at the foot of a cliff crowned by the mighty ramparts of the Palamidi Fortress. In the afternoon you can visit Epidavros, the ancient centre of worship to Asclepios, god of Medicine. Don't miss the theatre here which seated 14,000 people in its heyday and its acoustics are so perfect that the merest whisper can be heard in the last row.
In the morning drive to Southern Laconia to the former Byzantine-Venetian fortress-state of Monemvassia. It stands on a rocky promontory and from afar it looks as if it could be an island. In Greek, Monemvassia means "one entrance" - the long causeway joining it to the mainland was, and still is, the only access to the rock. Time stopped here in the Middle Ages and you will see castles and ramparts, old mansions, little houses, narrow lanes paved with stone slabs, churches with crumbling facades, old low archways and semi destroyed stairways. Every little detail conjures up memories of Byzantium and the Venetians. After absorbing the intense history at Monemvassia continue your journey to Gythion.
In the morning drive down to Mani - a barren land of rocks and stones, walls and prickly pears, hard stones, bare hillsides, bays and coves torn by the sea and the wind. Every so often at the edge of the sea a small hamlet sprouts up with a series of mountain villages higher up. The towers of the Mani are well-known and are in abundance. There are also plenty of beautiful deserted beaches in this area. Your journey will take you down to Vathia, packed with grey towers and full of tradition. Driving up to Areopolis you will pass the typical small villages of Gerolimena, Alika and Mezapos. The courage of the Maniots is legendary and ancestral glory echoes through the cobbled alleys of the city.
In the morning start your journey with a visit to the Diros Caves with their abundance of stalactites and stalagmites. Drive on to Kalamata, capital of the Messinia district, dominated by its 13th century castle. On the way you might like to stop in Kastania, Stoupa and Kardamili - all small typical villages of the area.
Today your drive takes you through the province of Messinia. First to Koroni which has mediaeval atmosphere imprinted in its old mansions, churches and castles; opposite is the little island of Venetiko with its enchanting beaches. From here you drive to Methoni passing by little villages such as Finikounda. Homer called Methoni "rich in vines" and tradition maintains that the town is so called because the donkeys (onoi) carrying its wine used to get drunk (methoun), from the heady aroma. Your journey today ends in Pylos, a pretty little town built on a hill on the south coast of the bay of Navarino.
In the morning drive first to Nestor's Palace. Nestor took part in the Trojan War and his town was the second largest in the Mycenaean world. Built in the 13th century BC, the palace was destroyed by fire a century later. Excavations have revealed the remains of a luxurious two-storey central building and two other auxiliary buildings. The buildings were divided into formal apartments, storage areas for wine and oil, toolsheds and workshops. The central apartments, the throne room with stuccoed-clay ceremonial hearth and the queen's quarters were richly decorated with frescoes.
Archaeologists discovered thousands of clay pots, a bathroom with a terracotta bathtub and 1250 clay tablets with inscriptions in Linear B. Several beehive tombs also have been discovered in the area surrounding the palace. In the afternoon you drive up to the lovely countryside of Laconia - via Kalamata - to Mystra. As you approach you feel as though you are making a pilgrimage to Byzantine Greece. Going up the hill you will enter through the castle gate which welcomes you to wander for a while through the narrow lanes of this once invincible fortress. The castle of Mystra was built by the Franks in 1249 and later on de Villehardouin erected bastions for his knights. As time went by, houses were built on the hillside under the Frankish castle, and a town was born whose fate was to become the centre of civilization and the cradle of the last dynasty of the Byzantine Emperor.
During the two centuries of Mystra's existence as the Byzantine capital of Peloponnese many churches and monasteries with domes and chapels were erected, representing all the painting trends of the capital. The most important monument you meet on your way up is the cathedral of Aghios Dimitrios. Also on the northern corner stand the two most impressive churches, Aghii Theodori and Panaghia Odigitria. Near the highest gate you can see the 15th century Monastery of Pantanassa with its impressive church. Pantanassa today is a hospitable convent looked after by nuns, the only living beings in Mystra. See also the Monastery Perivlepto, leading down to the dead city with its winding stairways, arcades, courtyards and crumbling facades. Your journey ends in Sparti, a simple town built in the middle of the Evrotas river valley, on the same site where the ancient city stood.
In the morning take the national highway back to Athens via the towns of Tripolis, Nemea and Corinth.
Leisure time depending on flight departure time; drive to Athens Airport and drop off rental car.
"Just back from our great greek adventure!! Thanks for the brilliant arrangements - everything was just perfect. A special mention should be made to the excellent taxi driver from Argonaut - unfortunately we didn't get his name - but he was such a lovely polite lad and his timekeeping was spot on from meeting us at the airport to meeting us off the hydrofoil. We loved the route you gave us - first we managed the climb to the Acropolis (despite the 35% heat!!) which was unbelievable - the visit to monomvassia was well worth the detour, lovely little coastal village of guthion - the mani was so different - sometimes quite barren sometimes lush green, the Diros caves were stunning and loved the atmosphere in areopolis - great tavernas. The Messini Bay hotel was perfect - picturesque setting and so peaceful. The little villages of Finikounda, Koroni and others along the way were so unspoilt and people very friendly. Pylos was very pretty (despite a thunderstorm!!) and we were recommended to a great fish restaurant there by the hotel - loved the Mystras - so well preserved and plenty to interest us. Then to Sparti and on to lovely Nafplion where we did the climb to the castle for the magnificent views - also spent some time on the lovely quiet beach. Back to Athens where we loved the Plaka hotel with its rooftop bar - and one of the staff even supported Leicester City FC!!! Off to Aegina island where we witnessed a Greek wedding in the hotel on Saturday night!! We even hired a scooter to get round the island - its fifty years since I rode pillion - our daughter wants to know when we are going to grow up!!! Thanks again for the fantastic planning - our first time to Greece will certainly not be the last"
P Robinson, Sept 2016