Greek summers are epitomized by lazy days on the Aegean, usually on tourist-laden beaches and club-thumping nights of the islands. I too, have had my fair share of tan lines and ouzo, but my roots always bring me back to the Peloponnese—a rugged peninsula and the southernmost part of Greece—to a small village, Arxaies Kleones, whose name translates to Ancient Kingdom, where my father was born. A village of far more olive trees than the 800 residents. It is here, in the Peloponnese where gods were said to have walked the earth and where Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks have all left their mark.
Here's what to include in your itinerary during a road trip through this stunning peninsula.
Days 1-2: Athens–Epidaurus–Porto Heli
After a lesson in history visiting Epidaurus, head to Amanzoe for a dose of luxury. Stay two nights to counter the effects of jetlag and catch a live performance at the ancient theater of Epidaurus during the summer festival.
Days 3-4: Porto Heli–Nafplio–Mystras
Meander the day in the romantic, Venetian port town of Nafplio, also once the former capital of Greece, followed by a drive down to mystical Mystras for a 2 night stay at Euphoria Retreat.
Day 5: Mystras–Monemvasia
"The Gibraltar of the East" Monemvasia is a medieval world all its own, with fortresses and cobblestone streets. Stay at the restored 13th-century Byzantine manor, Kinsterna.
Day 6: Elafonisos
Hop on a ferry to Elafonisos, an under-the-radar island that boasts some of the best, sandy beaches and pristine waters of Greece for the day.
Day 7: Monemvasia–Gouves
Reconnect with the land at the organic farm, Eumelia. Lay your head under the stars after spending a day olive oil tasting and participating in a yoga or cooking class with freshly-picked produce.
Day 8: Gouves–Kardamili
En route to Kardamili, stop for a lunch-break at the traditional fishing village of Gytheio for seafood and continue on to an overnight stay at the recently restored home of Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Day 9: Kardamili–Ancient Olympia–Amaliada
Visit the archeological site of Ancient Olympia—part of the Panhellenic games and the first to be established in 776 b.c.—and head 30 min west to the seaside for beach and sun at the newly opened, Dexamenes Resort.
Day 10: Amaliada–Nemea–Athens
En route to Athens, stop in Nemea and the surrounding villages that collectively create the largest vineyard zone of Greece. With over 45 wineries, stock up on local varieties to take back home.
Rub shoulders with the country’s elite and globetrotters in Porto Heli, the Peloponnese’s Riviera. Amanzoe, toting the title of best, luxury resort in Greece doesn’t come without a matching price tag. A food-lovers-paradise with calm, warm waters and a laid-back vibe is why there happens to be such a concentration of wealth here.
Counteract the effects of jetlag and soak in the mystical energy of Mystras with a stay at Euphoria Retreat, a member of Healing Hotels of the World. Nestled in the olive groves, overlooking the Taygetos mountains, Euphoria offers a personalized and holistic approach deeply rooted within the philosophy of Ef Zin—or living well according to the Ancient Greeks—at its very core.
Ease slowly back into reality with a stay at Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm. As the name suggests, this is a truly immersive experience with olive harvesting, oil and wine tasting with a sommelier and cooking classes. Guests stay in their own private house with verandas that overlook the surrounding olive groves.
Housed in a 13th-century manor and the surrounding Byzantine cistern, Hotel Kinsterna has been thoughtfully restored to respect its long history. This 5-star resort is set amidst the vineyards and fruit orchards with expansive views of the Aegean Sea. Explore the estate horseback, indulge in a spa service and dine at Sterna for a fresh spin on Mediterranean dishes.
For design-aficionados and the perfect end to the road trip, Dexamenes is a reimagined boutique hotel in former 1920’s wine tanks, set directly on the sea. With occasional art experiences in collaboration with wine tastings and sunset yoga on the beach, the stay itself is the destination.
Points of Interest
The Theatre of Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s best preserved, ancient theater, hosts a Summer festival every year of live performances for the arts.
The undeniable Venetian influence of the port town, Nafplio, makes it incredibly charming. Narrow streets, overgrown with bouganvilla beckon you to explore. Make a stop at the Archeological Museum which is said to house one of the best collections in Greece.
Monemvasia’s name translates as “single entrance” and it comes as no surprise as the Medieval city sits hidden behind its fortress. Explore the cobbled streets, taste local Malvasia wine and visit the 6th-century Christos Elkomenos Church.
Left to the Benaki Museum, the recently restored home of travel writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor, once drew a bohemian crowd of artists and intellectuals in the 1970s and is once again, available for overnight stays to the public.