An hour's drive west of Athens, the Peloponnese is the large peninsula that hangs from the rest of the Greek mainland by the narrow Isthmus of Corinth. Its wild, mountainous landscape is dotted with the ruins of Mycenaean palaces, ancient temples, frescoed churches, and countless medieval hilltop castles built by the Crusaders and the Venetians. At Mycenae, visit the hub of a civilization that dominated Greece from 1600 to 1200 BC. Hike up the stone rows of the world's best-preserved ancient theater, at Epidavros. Run a lap at Olympia, site of the first Olympic Games. To round things out, enjoy the stunning landscapes of the wild Mani Peninsula and the charming old Venetian towns of Monemvasia and Nafplio. As you hop from town to town, compare Greek salads and mountains-and-olive-grove views.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Nafplio Greece's first capital and finest midsized town, with a cozy port, an elegant Old Town, a cliff-topping fortress, and energetic street life; handy to nearby ancient sites (Mycenae and Epidavros).
▲▲ Olympia Birthplace of the Olympic Games, with stunning temple ruins, a still-functional stadium, and an intimate museum of ancient masterpieces.
▲▲ Monemvasia Greece's Gibraltar-like fortress on an imposing rock peninsula jutting out into the sea, blending Venetian and Byzantine charm, traffic-free cobbled lanes, and million-dollar views.
▲ Kardamyli Cozy, unspoiled beach town, providing a handy jumping-off point for the Mani Peninsula.
▲ Epidavros Best-preserved theater of the ancient world, with unbelievable acoustics.
▲ Mycenae Legendary mountaintop palace/fortress with iconic Lion Gate, massive beehive tomb, and mythic links to the Trojan War.
▲ Mani Peninsula Remote, rustic region with dramatic hill towns, spectacular caves (Pyrgos Dirou), and breathtaking jagged coastlines.