Are you looking for the best places to visit in the Peloponnese, Greece? How long do you need in the Peloponnese? Or where should you stay in the Peloponnese? Join us as we explore this hidden gem region of mainland Greece, discovering the history and heritage of the area, admiring the natural beauty, and trying some of the best local food we’ve ever tasted! These are our 10 Best Places to Visit in the Peloponnese...
We visited the Peloponnese region during a longer trip to Greece. We started in Athens and spent 5 days exploring the Peloponnese, before travelling north to Meteora.
Read our blogs about our visits to Athens and Meteora below, but not before you’ve found the 10 Best Places to Visit in the Peloponnese!
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras is one of the best hidden gem archaeological sites in Greece!
A 13th century Byzantine abandoned town on the side of a mountain, with ruins of palaces, monasteries and churches to explore and panoramic views to admire, it’s a must visit for all heritage lovers.
We start our visit at the Upper City, climbing up to the top of the Acropolis & Fortification Castle of Mystras.
The views from the top are worth the visit alone. We can see for miles around, looking over the lush landscape of olive and orange trees stretching all the way to the mountains in the distance.
The castle ruins are large, with a lot of the walls still intact and we climb and clamber our way along some of the fortification walls, treading the same steps as Byzantine defenders would have almost 1,000 years ago!
As we follow the narrow ancient streets down from the Acropolis, we pass beautiful churches and monasteries, some laying in ruins and some having largely been restored. The Holy Church of Agia Sophia Mystras is one of the best standing examples of the churches from the city’s heyday.
With a tower, large dome, arcades on the outside and preserved murals on the inside, the church gives a real insight into how beautiful the architecture and artwork of the time were, and it’s amazing to explore!
Another of the main buildings of the ancient city is the Palace of Byzantine Emperors, which can be seen from above from the Acropolis, and up close when passing from the path. Unfortunately, the Palace was closed for renovation when we visited so we couldn’t go inside, and our tour guide said he’s been coming to the site for 20 years and it’s been under restoration that whole time!
As we reach the Lower City the two main sites are the Pantanassa Holy Convent, a 15th century monastery, and Saint Dimitrios Mystras Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Church. As with the previous church, the architecture of both is stunning. And the interiors, although now crumbling and fading, take us to a bygone time and we can only imagine how grand they must have been.
We exit the city at the lower exit where the only toilet onsite is (so don’t miss this!), and luckily for us our coach has driven down to meet us, so we don’t need to make the hike back to the top!
TrovenTrippers Tip… how do I visit Mystras?
There are 2 entrances to the town, one at the top of the hill and one at the bottom. We recommend starting at the top and walking down, not only does this make it easier to walk the cobbled streets, but you get to enjoy the views a lot more than if you’re walking up!
Tickets & More Info: Archaeological Museums Website
Ancient Messene… the Unexplored Archaeological Site in Greece
One of the largest, best preserved, and impressive ancient cities to explore in Greece is also one of the most unknown, hidden, and therefore quietest to visit!
The Archaeological Site of Ancient Messene in the Peloponnese may not have the fame of nearby sites such as Olympia, but due to not having ever been destroyed or replaced by a more recent settlement, the sheer size and scale of the city can be fully appreciated and admired.
The city dates back to around 370BC after the area was freed from Spartan rule and became a major defensive hold in keeping the Spartans out. And, according to local legend, the god Zeus was born here!
Sitting on a plateau between the Arcadian Mountains and with far reaching views of the valley beyond, it’s clear to see why the city was built here to be able to keep a watch out for any approaching Sparta.
The views are great, but exploring the city is even better. As we enter the site and start to make our way downhill towards the theatre, we get a sense of just how big it is. The theatre, the agora, the bathhouse, the temple, and the huge stadium can all be seen, and we wonder if we have enough time to fully explore on our trip.
The theatre has been reconstructed to host performances, and today we’re being treated to a live performance of The Suppliant Women. The original play by Aeschylus dates back to 458BC, but it has been updated for this RADA performance to demonstrate today’s refugee crisis.
How often do you get the chance to see an ancient Greek play acted out in an open air ancient Greek theatre… what an experience!
After the performance we head off to explore the rest of the site, with the stadium and the temple beyond being our highlights… the temple is like a well-preserved mini-Parthenon!
There is also a small museum at the entrance to the site where some of the original statues and artifacts from the city can be seen, and not far from the site is the Arcadian Gate which is apparently not to be missed. We say apparently, as we did miss it!
We visited Messene as part of a rather unorganised tour, and most of our group missed even exploring the city ruins!
We wandered off following the live performance at the theatre, whereas the rest of the group were ushered back to the museum and missed out on exploring the site.
Needless to say, we were pleased our exploring spirit meant we got to see the city, although our tour guide was less than impressed with us when we finally made it to lunch…
TrovenTrippers Tip… how do I see live theatre at Ancient Messene?
Every year the Ancient Messene Festival brings live performances to the theatre, check out the website for further details… Ancient Messene Festival
More Info: Ancient Messene Website
The Olive Routes Tour… Learning about Olives and their Importance to Greeks
One of the must things to do in Greece is to go on an Olive grove tour… olives are not a product of Greece, they are part of the culture!
This is one of the many interesting stories we hear on the Olive Routes tour, which we highly recommend.
The family run Olive Routes has been in our guide Dimitra’s family for generations. And being a certified olive oil taster (one of the people who decides whether it’s extra virgin olive oil or not), who better to learn the history and learn the cultural importance of olives from!
Dimitra’s passion can be seen throughout the tour, as she tells us the groves we’re looking down on from above are home to over 15 million olive trees, how nearly every family in Greece has an olive tree to cultivate, and how we can look out for the best olive oil when shopping at home.
The tour is really interesting and interactive… Dimitra keeps picking out people to join in, asking questions and getting everybody involved (Paul being picked a few times!).
And after a look around the factory, we end with an olive oil tasting… we never knew olive oil was held in such a high regard similar to wine!
TrovenTrippers Tip… when to go on an olive tour?
You can go on an olive tour at any time of the year, but we would recommend in Spring. The olive trees will be covered in pretty white flowers!
Book a Tour & More Info: The Olive Routes Website
Ancient Olympia… the Birthplace of the Olympic Games
This site needs no introduction. Birthplace and home to the Olympic Games for over 1,000 years, and where the Olympic torch is still lit today, Olympia in the Western Peloponnese is one of the most famous and popular sites to visit in Greece.
With some of the ruins dating back over 4,000 years, to describe the site as ancient seems a bit inadequate!
The city is now largely in complete ruin with only a few restored structures standing, due to various earthquakes over the centuries and the destruction of the city ordered by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II in AD 420. He is not to be confused with Emperor Theodosius I, who abolished the Olympic Games 27 years earlier. Seems the Theodosius Emperors didn’t like Olympia much!
The first area of the city we reach is The Altis, or Sacred Precinct of Zeus. In the city’s heyday, this part of the city housed the immense 5th-century-BC Temple of Zeus. But today there isn’t much left to see of the temple, other than the stone steps heading up to the site, and one reconstructed column showing the size and scale of how big the temple would have been.
Our other highlights are the Temple of Hera, the oldest temple at Olympia and where the Olympic Torch is still lit today. The Fountain of Herodes Atticus, which was the water supply for the city and where you can see a large water bowl still standing. And the Tholos of Philip, a round temple finished by Alexander the Great to honour his father, and where 3 columns still stand holding up part of the roof.
But our favourite spot of the city has to be the running track and stadium. Walking through the archway and entering the huge stadium we feel like Olympians from 1,000’s of years ago!
Not much is left of the stadium today. Other than the stone start and finish lines of the sprint track and the judges’ seats, the stadium is little more than a dirt track surrounded by grassy mounds where the spectators would have stood. But as we stand at the start line and close our eyes, we can almost hear the cheering and jeering of the 45,000 spectators watching on!
And although the ancient Olympics were last held here almost 2,000 years ago… the Olympic heritage lives on, with the stadium having held the shot-put event during the 2004 Olympics.
As we leave the stadium we stop at the bathhouse in the south east corner of the site, and then walk amongst the columns of the Palaistra (wrestling grounds) on our way to the exit.
TrovenTrippers Tip… where is the Olympic torch lit?
Don't miss where the Olympic torch is still lit today! Next to the Temple of Hera towards the Stadium is a small monument where the torch gets let every 4 years before starting it's journey to the host city.
Book Tickets & More Info: Ancient Olympia Website
Nafplio… the Most Romantic Town in the Peloponnese
One of the most beautiful and romantic towns in the Peloponnese, and the first capital of the independent Greek state, Nafplio is a town often overlooked by foreign visitors, but is a favourite with locals.
With a large marina overlooked by an imposing Fortress, and with an island Castle out to sea, it’s easy to see why this small town steals so many hearts of visitors who do make the effort to come and experience it.
After stopping on the edge of town to get some photos of Palamidi Fortress and Bourtzi Castle, we park near the centre and have a walk around, before stopping for coffee at Iliostasio. The waterfront café is the perfect place to rest and relax, with views out to the castle to die for!
If you’re feeling energetic then you can walk up the 999 steps carved into the rock and visit Palamidi Castle (you can also drive), and see where the hero of the Greek War of Independence Theodoros Kolokotronis was imprisoned.
Or if taking a short boat trip is more your style, then you can hop on one at the marina and visit the recently opened Bourtzi Castle out in the harbour. With a rich history ranging from being a prison to a hotel, it now has an exhibition centre and café, and serves as a cultural centre and hosts live music events.
TrovenTrippers Tip… where is the best view of Nafplio?
Head to Nafplio pier to the north of the town… there is a patch of land where you can park off-road and the views are amazing! Looking towards the town with the Fortress of Palamidi towering over it and Bourtzi Castle out to sea, it’s a great spot to stop and take in the views!
Location of the viewpoint parking: Nafplion 211 00, Greece
Kalamata… Best Place to Stay in the Peloponnese
Kalamata is the capital of the Messenia region of the Peloponnese and is our base for our stay in the area.
Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, with a sandy beach in one direction and dramatic mountains in the other, it is one of the most beautiful locations we’ve been to.
You may know the name of the city from the famous Kalamata olives which come from the area, but there is much more to the city than just olives!
Kalamata Castle sits high on a hill overlooking the Old Town, dating back to the 13th century. Although you can now only walk around the perimeter of the walls of the castle following an earthquake in 1986, the views of the city are breath-taking and it’s well worth a visit.
The Old Town is great to explore, with the The Metropolitan church of Ypapanti being the highlight. The huge imposing cathedral, with double bell towers and a dome is quite striking from the outside, but absolutely stunning on the inside!
As we explore the narrow streets we find lots more historic buildings, street art, cafés, restaurants, and shops. Whether you want to eat, drink, buy a souvenir or just sight-see, you can easily spend an evening wandering around and enjoying the local atmosphere.
A good local deli to pick up some sweets, ice creams and alcohol is Musses (you can guess what we shopped for!), and we can recommend ΚΥΤΤΑΡΟ Rock Bar for drinks. Positioned on a very pretty street, it has a great selection of drinks, and you can party into the early hours of the morning!
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more upmarket for food and drinks, then Kastaki to the west of the city is a must visit! The café-restaurant-bar is high up in the hills, and built to replicate a Byzantine castle with turrets and ramparts. But the best part is the amphitheatre style seating around an open terrace, giving spectacular views over the sea and Kalamata below.
TrovenTrippers Tip… where to stay in Kalamata?
Look out for rooftop apartments with incredible views! We stayed on the beachfront in a converted plant room on top of an apartment block… the apartment was really cool with everything we needed, it had a huge outdoor terrace, incredible views all around, and was much cheaper than most of the hotels we saw when looking. Some friends of ours stayed in a similar apartment near the centre of the old town, so they seem to the local speciality!
Link to accommodation… Seafront Penthouse LEO
Corinth Canal… the Modern Marvel of Greece
If you’re travelling to the Peloponnese from Athens then you will cross the Corinth Canal… make sure you stop to see it!
You could quite easily drive over the innocuous looking bridge and not really notice anything apart from maybe a few people stood by the side of the road. But if you stop and explore, you’ll get to see one of the most impressive sights of modern Greece!
Described as an engineering marvel, the canal was completed in the 19th century, but plans for it started as early as the 7th century BC during Roman times. The canal is huge and needs to be seen to be believed… 6km long, 23m wide, and 90m deep!
Connecting the Ionian and Aegean Seas, the bridges crossing the canal are the only things stopping the Peloponnese being an island today. And as well as being useful for transport links, they serve as a great daredevil spot, with brave adventurers bungee jumping from it into the abyss below!
As we take photos of the canal and wonder at the effort it must have taken to cut through the surrounding rock, we can see people getting strapped in ready to make the jump! Sneha gets the camera ready to record, but Paul can barely look and has to keep pacing… even at this distance, the thought of standing on the edge at this height is making him go dizzy!
TrovenTrippers Tip… where to park for the Corinth Canal?
Park in the retail park on the Peloponnese side of the canal, there are lots of spaces, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant where you can get some refreshments if you’re on a road trip.
Location to park: Ισθμός Κορίνθου, Loutraki 201 00, Greece
Archaeological Site of Mycenae
One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, Mycenae was the centre of the Mycenaean civilization which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century BC.
Although the city was abandoned over 2,000 years ago, there are many ruins to see today, including the Lion Gate, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Passing on the way from Athens to Kalamata via many other places on this list, we unfortunately decide we don’t have enough time to explore the site and do it justice, so we make do with stopping in the car park and taking some photos from afar.
But even doing this it’s still a really impressive place… the ruined city sat atop a hill with far reaching views in both directions along a valley.
One of the unique things about this site are the Grave circles burial sites. Deep shafts were dug where high-ranking people were buried with valuable goods, and these can be seen as huge holes in the ground.
TrovenTrippers Tip… where to buy souvenirs in the Peloponnese?
Just a few minutes away from the Archaeological Site of Mycenae is a large pottery shop selling all sorts of amazing hand painted pots and at cheaper prices than you’ll find in Athens or any of the other major tourist spots. The shop owner was very helpful and willing to bargain… make sure you have some cash and you’ll get a better deal!
Tickets & More Info: Mycenae Website
Location of shop: Mykines 212 00, Greece
Best Restaurants in the Peloponnese
Food is an important part of the culture in Greece, and after having visited and tasted the local delicacies, we can definitely see why.
From souvlaki and gyros to loukaniko and roumeliotiko, all of the local dishes we tried were delicious. But it’s not just grilled meat which is the speciality here.
With seafood and salads, stuffed vegetables and cheeses, and freshly baked pita and tzatziki, there is something for everyone. Oh, and olives. How could we not mention the olives!
During our stay we couldn’t try all of the restaurants in the region (unfortunately), but these are some of our favourites…
A small family run restaurant in the mountains close to Mystras, Chromata needs to be your food stop if visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site.
With jaw-dropping views from the terrace, mouth-watering food from the kitchen, and crisp and refreshing local beers and wines from the bar, this local taverna is an experience for all of your senses.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch with a special set menu of 10 dishes, all of which were great!
Location: Chromata, Mystras 231 00, Greece
More Info: Chromata Website
In the village of Mavrommati next to Ancient Messene is Ithomi, a family run café and restaurant with great views overlooking the Ancient Messene site.
We had a special set menu tasting some of the house delicacies, including fresh salads, stuffed vegetables, pork souvlaki and loukaniko... a smoked sausage flavoured with orange peel and herbs. And all were amazing!
We make friends with a local cat as well who wants some food, but when none if forthcoming, makes do with having a nap on somebody's bag instead!
More Info: Ithomi Website
Elia Restaurant Kalamata
Elia Restaurant Kalamata is a seafront restaurant serving local Greek cuisine made with locally grown ingredients.
Being on the seafront we opted for the seafood menu, ordering grilled Octopus and King Prawns. Both were tasty, and the portion sizes were huge, so we ended up taking the leftovers away and having them the next night too!
We make friends with the local cats again at this restaurant, Paul sharing the heads from the prawns this time!
More Info: Elia Restaurant Website
Delicious food and drink served in a (replica) Byzantine fortress, on the side of a mountain, with a Greek amphitheatre seating area with amazing views of Kalamata and the Messenian Gulf. A visit to Kastraki café, bar and restaurant is quite an experience and one you should not miss!
We attended a party at the bar and it was the perfect location to dance the night away, drinking unusual and unique cocktails made by MoMix!
More Info: Kastraki Website
A landmark on the Kalamata beach is Sef, a souvalki restaurant and takeaway serving, yes you guessed it, lots of variations of souvlaki. With super low prices and good quality meat, you can’t go wrong with this restaurant for a casual meal with friends.
More Info: Sef Website
TrovenTrippers Tip… what food should I try in Greece?
If you like trying new dishes, then ask your waiter what they recommend and what the house speciality is. We struggled to understand some of the menus, but asking for the special dishes never let us down and we got to try lots of things we wouldn’t have otherwise ordered!
Driving Roads & Rion-Antirion Bridge
As a bonus to both our trip and to the recommendations of this blog, if you’re in your own car travelling through the Peloponnese, then make sure you leave the main motorways and explore the local roads and communities to get a true experience of rural Greece.
We drive through lots of small but pretty villages, between huge expanses of olive and orange trees (some so close to the road you can stop and pick the oranges!) and tackle some challenging but rewarding mountain passes.
One road not to be missed is the A7 EO Argous Tripoleos when leaving Nafplio on the way to Kalamata. Starting as a pleasant drive along the coast of the Argolic Gulf, we soon head up into the mountains and are met with the most spectacular views looking back down the valley towards the sea and where we’ve just come from.
The steep roads are a bit of a challenge for our little 1L hire car Trojan, but it’s definitely worth the effort!
We’ve already spoken about the experience of getting onto the Peloponnese island from Athens, having to cross the amazing Corinth Canal. And crossing the only other connection to the mainland is just as impressive, with the Rion-Antirion Bridge over the Gulf of Corinth.
The bridge is one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the World, and driving over it is quite an experience!
TrovenTrippers Tip… where are the best views of the Argolic Gulf?
On the way up the mountain out of Napflio there are many laybys which look like they could be good viewpoints, but on a closer look they have huge steps down from the road and many are blocked so you could do some serious damage to your car. Keep on going up to the top and there are a few paved parking laybys, much safer for your car and much better views!
Location of the mountain viewpoint parking: EO Argous Tripoleos, Argos Mykines 221 00, Greece
Location of Rion-Antirion Bridge: Gefira Charilaos Trikoupis, 300 20, Greece
Is it worth going to the Peloponnese?
In a word… YES!! Before our visit we hadn’t heard much about the region. But with a varied landscape of stunning beaches and mountains, too many ancient heritage sites to count, and some of the best local food we’ve ever tasted, we can’t recommend the Peloponnese highly enough!
These are just the 10 best places to visit in the Peloponnese which we went to, but there are many other places to visit as well!
Where should you stay in the Peloponnese?
Kalamata made the perfect base for us on our visit. With lots of hotels, bars and restaurants it’s a great town itself, and is well positioned with good access to the main roads making it easy to visit the surrounding sites.
When is the best time to visit the Peloponnese?
We went in Spring in early May and it was the perfect time to visit. The weather was great... sunny and warm, but not too hot like Greece can often get in the summer (think low to mid 20°C’s during the day, cooler at night). And it’s flowering time for the olive trees, so they are covered with lots of small and pretty white flowers.
How long do I need to visit the Peloponnese?
We stayed for 5 days and managed to see these 10 best places to visit in the Peloponnese, but could have easily stayed for longer. A full week would have been better to give us the chance to see some of the other sites we didn’t get to visit. But we guess that means we’ll just have to return!