Greek Travels, Roadtripping In The Peloponnese

This is the second roadtrip in Greece I’ve taken, admittedly it involved much less driving than last time, but it was equally just as appealing. This trip involved driving around the Peloponnese Peninsula; an area briefly flirted with on my last visit.

Bourtzi fort in the harbour of Nafplio on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-65_nafplio

Bourtzi fort in Nafplio harbour

I also mentioned last time that while Greece may not instantly stand out as a potential road trip destination, there is a great deal to recommend it. The scenery is stunning and there’s a constant temptation to stop every few kilometres to admire the view and grab a few snaps. There is amazing variety from authentic mountain or fishing villages to small fortified seaside towns with chic bars and picturesque harbours.

Fishing boat in the harbour of Nafplio on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography  Iain Mallory-300-58_nafplio

Nafplio fishing boat

Taking the back roads is preferable to the faster motorways, which are much faster but also usually quite soulless. Although even some of these have impressive views, especially those that follow the coast. They will also work out much less expensive as the frequent toll booths can leave a hefty dent in the pocket.

The roads often wind up into mountainous terrain, and are usually narrow, with steep drops on one side and high cliffs on the other. A car with a decent engine is a good idea as smaller vehicles will struggle with some of the steep, twisting inclines. They are rarely busy however, getting stuck behind slower moving vehicles doesn’t happen often but don’t get too distracted by the views, it requires  concentration to negotiate the snaking roads. The sensible option is to stop when the scenery becomes simply too good to ignore.

Small church in Mystras on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-64_greek_church

Church in Mystras

The pebbled Karathona beach near Nafplio on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-63_Karathona_Beach

Karathona Beach

There were only a three planned stops on this shortened trip, which was welcome as it meant there would be more time in each place to explore.

My first stop was a return to Nafplio and as I drove into the old port, the familiar fortified island of Bourtzi greeted me, like an old friend. It is easy to fall in love with the attractive harbour, apart from the Venetian fort there are small fishing boats moored along the leisure boats offering day excursions to the nearby Saronic Islands. It’s not a surprise that it’s also a favourite destination with Greeks.

Flowers and byzantine monateries at Mystras on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-2-1_flowers

Monasteries and floral displays in Mystras

It was already late afternoon when I arrived, which meant there wasn’t long to wait before it was time to sit on the quayside, and watch the sun going down. After grabbing a Greek salad and a fish dinner, this seemed the perfect way to finish the first day of another great, big Greek roadtrip.

Byzantine monastery at Mystras on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-68_mystras

Byzantine Mystras

The next day took me through the hills to the Mystras, a small village which despite the nearby UNESCO recognised 13th Century Byzantine city of Mystras probably isn’t on the radar of many tourists. Surrounded by high hills, a single main road bisects the village linking nearby Sparta to Kalamata on the coast. Sparta is the closest city, only a ten minute drive away.

It’s blessed with a small olive museum and there are plenty of coffee shops available to waste an hour or more, enjoying the café culture of Greece, reading a paper, chatting to friends or people watching. I didn’t spend long here however, preferring the small taverns, stone built houses and pretty back roads of Mystras.

A visit to Byzantine Mystras involves a degree of hill climbing, actually it involves a lot of hill climbing. The entrance is located just outside the village, but the fort is at the top of the hill. There is are several monasteries, and other buildings, many are still in remarkable condition often with colourful frescos adorning the walls. The views over the nearby plain are impressive, and it offer a welcome opportunity to admire them and catch some breath.

There is also an archaeological museum, a number of informative message boards located near the main points of interest and of course a museum shop. It’s well worth the effort to visit and make the climb to the fort.

Byzantine city and views from Mystras on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-66_mystras

Views from Mystras byzantine city

There is another Greek attraction in the nearby village of Trypi. Kaiadas is a ravine where the Spartans apparently threw their weak children and criminals. It appears little more than a cleft in the rock and a little exploring didn’t reveal any piles of bones. Don’t expect a perfect deep well like the one portrayed in the film ‘300’, and calling it an attraction is stretching things a little.

After two days I was on the road again, this time passing through Kalamata on the way to the fishing port of Kardamili. It meant another winding drive up a steep mountain road but the view of Kalamata and the coast from the top was worth any drive. A further pleasant surprise was discovering a street art gallery which stretched for three miles along the road. Yes, I was late arriving in Kardamili.

Better late than never though, and as soon as I arrived in the small fishing town it was clear this would be an enjoyable couple of days. It is ideally placed, squeezed between my two favourite landscapes; mountains and the ocean. Olive trees grow in groves on the outskirts of the town and many homes are naturally decorated with colourful blooms, it’s a pleasant place to walk.

A trek along the Viros Gorge into the foothills of the nearby mountains is another good walk. The terrain is quite rough following a dried out river bed but a couple of attractive monasteries located along the way, which offer interesting diversions.

Lela's Taverna in Kardamili on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece Iain Mallory-300-30_greek_taverna

Eclectic decoration at Lela’s Taverna, Kardimili

Roadside farm at Trypi near Mystras on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece Iain Mallory-300-70

Roadside farm at Trypi, near Mystras

Two days later, I found myself driving back to Athens along an empty motorway, wishing there was time to take the smaller roads. As usual this trip had only made me hungry for more. Taking a roadtrip in Greece may not have occurred to many before, but I can thoroughly recommend it. The driving is pleasant, easy, with plenty of distractions and it’s a great way to experience the authentic Greek hospitality and culture.

St John's Harbour in  Kardamili on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece Iain Mallory-300-73_kardamili

The harbour in Kardamili

One last tip; it’s a good idea to carry some cash at all times, some of the smaller fuel stations don’t take debit or credit cards, and cash payments are the only way to pay.

Kardamili from St John's Harbour on the Peloponnese Peninisula, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-79_kardamili

Kardamili

*All images were captured on a Samsung WB250F WiFi enabled compact camera

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Comments 14

    1. Post
      Author
      Iain

      You need to visit Dani, it’s a fantastic destination, beauty, culture and such friendly people. I also agree that the lack of tourists adds to the appeal of the region.

  1. Rachel M

    You seem to be enjoying yourself in Greece. A different perspective for a country that has been in the media for its perpetual economic crisis. It’s a good thing that you show a different side from what we are bombarded with in the media. Keep up with the travels!

    1. Post
      Author
      Iain

      I always enjoy going back to Greece Rachel, it’s a stunning country with lovely people. I’ve been visiting there on and off, since the crisis began and few of the people dwell on it, at least not in public. In fact they are often embarrassingly generous.

  2. Helen Ellis

    Yes I’ve been there and just come back from two months in Greece. Absolutely love Mystras, Monemvasia, Nafplio, and all of the Mani Country. You might like to visit my website and view my photos of all these regions. And there’s my books… 🙂

    1. Post
      Author
      Iain

      I really need to spend more time in Nafplio Helen, it’s a lovely city and never seem to get enough time there. I enjoyed all these places, I’ll take a look at your site.

    1. Post
      Author
  3. PurpleTravelKate

    Nice pics, and a lovely idea. Next time you’ll have to check out Ancient Olympia (if you haven’t been before) It’s relatively close to Kyparissia. I was there in March and it was filled with wild flowers, really beautiful.

    1. Post
      Author
      Iain

      Thank you Kate, it’s definitely not your average roadtrip. I visited Olympia on my last driving adventure in Greece. It was October though so there weren’t any flowers. A little barren to be honest. but fascinating.

  4. Thomas

    Great photos of Greece! We are planning a trip to Greece in the next few years or so. Not sure we can manage a road trip with the five of us. We were thinking of visiting Santorini. This place looks great though and never even heard of it. Which doesnt say much as the more I read the less I find out a really know about half of the places that are out there to visit.

    1. Post
      Author
      Iain

      Santorini is most people’s favourite island Thomas, either there or Mykonos. I think what is great about the Peloponnese is that not too many people seem to know about it or visit. Enjoy your trip, I hope the Greek posts on my site provide some further inspiration.

  5. Heather

    “As usual this trip had only made me hungry for more.”

    I could say this for just about every trip I take! I spent three weeks in Greece and it certainly wasn’t enough.

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