Exploring the Peloponnese
The Peloponnese conjures up images of ancient glories, epic struggles, valiant heroes and majestic vistas. The mere mention of names like Arcadia or Corinth, Sparta or Olympia, Nemea or Mycenae awakens our imagination, reminding us of fascinating legends and dramatic historical scenes reaching far across the ages.
The fame of this large peninsula that forms the southern part of the Greek Mainland rests on its long and often spectacular history, making it a veritable heartland of European and Western culture. From the first farmers of the Neolithic to the Bronze Age Mycenaeans, via the glories of Classical Greece and Rome and the splendours of the Byzantine Empire, all the way up to the Ottoman Empire and the Greek War of Independence, the Peloponnese has often been centre-stage to key historical events. The region is also central in Greek myth - home to the heroes of Homer’s Iliad like King Agamemnon and Nestor, the deeds of Herakles (Hercules) and a place often frequented by the Gods themselves, be it in love or wrath.
Join us in bringing these fascinating places and their history to life. You’ll journey through stunningly beautiful scenery, from small fertile plains to rough and rugged mountains and rocky peninsulas jutting out into the blue waters of the Mediterranean. You’ll discover many of the area’s most famous highlights, including no less than six UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the gargantuan Bronze Age fortifications of Tiryns and Mycenae, the Classical splendours of Olympia, famous for the games that still bear its name, Epidaurus with its beautiful theatre and beautiful Byzantine Mystras.
You’ll also discover wonders off the beaten track, like mountainous Arcadia with its perched villages and gorge-side monasteries and the majestic Mani Peninsula, where a romantically wild landscape is perfectly matched by its traditional architecture. Naturally you’ll savour some of the region’s best traditional cuisine, sample many of the fine wines that have been cultivated here for millennia and stay in delightful accommodations and locations.
Led by Heinrich Hall, an archaeologist guide with many years’ knowledge and experience of the region, this tour will introduce you to the splendours of one of the ancient Mediterranean’s most significant regions. As you explore its historical and cultural majesty as well as its natural beauty and living traditions you’ll gain a true and unforgettable sense and understanding of what the Peloponnese was and is.
Day 1: Arrival in Athens. Transfer from airport, about 40 minutes away, to our hotel in the centre of the city. Welcome dinner
Day 2: We set out, passing the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow strip of land that connects the Peloponnese to the mainland and separates the Corinthian and Saronic Gulfs. After a glance at the mighty Corinth Canal, we visit Nemea, a famed sanctuary of Zeus that was a bone of contention between Corinth and the Argolid. Its informative museum, impressive temple and splendid stadium entered by a long vaulted tunnel full of graffiti left by ancient athletes, are set in the fertile hills of Greece’s best-known wine regions. At a winery lunch, we sample the region’s signature Agiorgitiko wine. We spend our first Peloponnesian night in Nafplio, one of Greece’s most attractive towns.
Day 3: A morning visit to Nafplio’s superb Archaeological Museum to admire its important prehistoric collections, including the Dendra Panoply, one of the world’s oldest surviving suits of full body armour. We then travel southwards along the coast, crossing beautiful mountain landscapes into Laconia; the ancient land of the Spartans. We stop at the beautiful village of Kosmas, its main square shaded by venerable plane trees, before reaching our destination, the extraordinarily beautiful medieval walled town of Monemvasia, set on a rocky island that juts into the Aegean Sea.
Day 4: We explore the history and architecture of Monemvasia in detail, starting with the picturesque Venetian Lower Town before ascending the heavily fortified plateau above, crowned by the 12th century Byzantine church of Agia Sophia, perched precipitously on a clifftop. As Monemvasia gave its name to Malmsey Wine, exported all over Europe in Venetian times, we visit an excellent local winery after lunch to taste the region’s produce, followed by an easy-going free afternoon to enjoy the serenity of the place or go for a swim.
Day 5: Westwards into the heart of Laconia: legendary Sparta, to visit the very interesting archaeological museum. In the afternoon we explore Mystras, the capital of the medieval Despotate of the Morea, among the most important of all Byzantine sites, comprising a castle, city walls, churches and monasteries. We finish the day in the Mani peninsula.
Day 6: A day devoted to exploring the legendary Mani Peninsula, the wild and rugged southern tip of Mainland Greece, with its rugged villages of tower houses and its hidden-away medieval churches. Our tour includes a boat-ride in the breathtaking cave of Diros and a visit to the Oracle of the Dead at cape Tainaron.
Day 7: We travel along Mani's western shore into Messenia, the Peloponnese's lushly fertile southwestern region. At Kardamyli, we visit the picturesque Old Town and the Moutzinos Tower, offering insights into the area's chequered history. On reaching Kalamata, we stroll through the lovely old town and visit the wonderfully diverse archaeological museum.
Day 8: An excursion into western Messenia, the homeland of Homer’s King Nestor, stretching alongside the Ionian Sea. Here, we visit the Mycenaean “Palace of Nestor” and the museum presenting its contents at nearby Chora. We explore the enormous and well-preserved Venetian castle of Methoni, built on the tip of a peninsula. Before our return to Kalamata, we stop at Pylos to take in the charming town and its grand views over the Bay of Navarino, where a Turkish fleet was destroyed by the Greek’s allies in 1827, a pivotal event in the Greek War of Independence, and the island of Sphakteria, where Sparta suffered its first major defeat to Athens during the Peloponnesian War in 425 BC.
Day 9: We leave Kalamata for ancient Messene, the stunning capital built for the Messenians in the 4th century BC, after centuries of submission to Sparta. Ongoing excavations are revealing the unusually well-preserved remains of the city, set on a plateau overlooking the sea far below, surrounded by an astonishing system of walls, towers and gates, and containing a theatre, agora, public fountains, sanctuaries and one of the finest ancient stadiums in Greece. Later, we traverse the lush countryside of Northern Messenia to enter the territory of ancient Elis, spending the night at Ancient Olympia.
Day 10: We tour the superlative site of Olympia in depth. The great sanctuary of Zeus, famous for the sacred quadrennial festival and athletic contests was first established in 776 BC. The vast site, set amongst olive trees and between two rivers, includes temples and sanctuaries, but also the training grounds and gymnasia used by athletes and the venerable stadium, according to legend founded by the hero Herakles (Hercules) himself. The excellent site museum contains a vast collection of ancient Greek weaponry and armour, the wonderful sculptures from the Temple of Zeus and the Hermes of Praxiteles, one of the very few surviving works by one of antiquity’s greatest sculptors. In the afternoon, we enter scenic Arcadia to spend the night in the striking mountain village of Dimitsana.
Day 11: Today is given over to exploring the wild and mountainous beauty of Arcadia, famed for its out-of-this-world remoteness since antiquity. In the morning, we visit the mysterious Sanctuary of Apollo at Bassai, with one of the best-preserved Classical Temples in Greece. After lunch in one of the characteristic mountain villages, we make our way to the monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos, hanging from a cliff face high above the Lousos Gorge.
Day 12: Leaving the mountains behind, we continue eastwards to Tegea, where we visit the recently reopened archaeological museum, its superb exhibits throwing light on the history of a medium-sized city-state in the Central Peloponnese. Another wine tasting, focusing on the famous produce of the Mantineia region, is followed by a drive to the vast Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, King Agamemnon’s capital in Greek myth, with its Cyclopean walls and the emblematic Lion Gate. We explore the site and its museum thoroughly before continuing to Nafplio.
Day 13: In the morning, we discover the unbelievably massive Bronze Age fortification of Tiryns, before setting out for the eastern Argolid, stopping to cross the world’s oldest standing bridge before reaching the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros. The site, set in peaceful scenery, features the best-preserved ancient theatre in Greece renowned for its perfect proportions. After lunch we return to Nafplio for a free afternoon.
Day 14: Before leaving the Peloponnese, we stop at Corinth. We ascend the mighty rock of Acrocorinth, the ancient city’s citadel, now crowned by a huge medieval castle, to view the Isthmus, and then wander through the remains of the fabulously wealthy ancient city, including the grand Archaic Temple of Apollo, and the marble-paved Roman high street, lined by colonnades. We return to Athens, where we visit the National Archaeological Museum to see the fabled gold treasures from Mycenae, including the so-called Mask of Agamemnon.
Day 15: Transfers for Athens airport, about 40 minutes away.
Arrival and Departure Information for our Exploring the Peloponnese tour
Arrival Airport - Athens
Departure Airport - Athens
Check in time at your hotel in Athens is after 14:00 so we recommend choosing a flight that arrives in the afternoon/early evening in time for the welcome dinner. Check out time on the final day is 12:00pm. We will arrange local transfers from the airport at the start of the tour and to the airport at the end of the tour.
The cheapest way to book flights for our Exploring Athens tour is directly with the airline online.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
Travel insurance is a requirement of our booking conditions and we recommend you investigate the options thoroughly to make sure that your trip is properly covered. Please be advised some insurers may require you to take out a policy within 15-20 days of booking your holiday to receive all of their insurance benefits. If you would prefer not to take out travel insurance please let us know. We would require you to complete and return to us a travel insurance waiver form.
Citizens of European Union member states, the United States, Canada and Australia do not need to apply for a visa to visit Greece for trips of less than 90 days duration.
If you are planning to stay in Athens before or after your tour we have included below links to more information and things to see and do.