The Peloponnese is like Greece’s aloof older sister: still and beautiful to look at, but often overlooked in favour of more naughty, fun little islands.
But it would be a great mistake to gloss over the wild Peloponnese, a rugged swathe of mainland Greece that juts out into the Gulf of Argolis in four feathery fronds. It’s here, away from the crowds, that you’re likely to find a region encased by local customs, peppered with ancient ruins and in tune with a slow, authentic rhythm. Its calm simplicity is enthralling from its clifftop villages, Byzantine churches to its pebbly coves, lapped by the clearest, aquamarine water. Coming from Athens, you may well stop at Venetian beauty, Nafplio - one of the Peloponnese’s prettiest towns, made more so by its absence of tourists. Wander cobbled streets and enjoy the view of its fortified islet Borutzi. In the hills above, discover the ancient citadel of Mycenae, a World Heritage Site where you can imagine life in the Bronze Age as seen in the well-preserved fortifications, houses and tombs.
Turn back to the coast to wonder at mega monolith Monemvasia, an island rock fortress which holds a medieval village at its heart. Wander the sliver-like streets and labyrinth of alleys. Around Monemvasia you’ll find some of the Peloponnese’s nicest beaches. Cool off here, feast on grilled octopus and join the locals in regular ouzo drinking.
The Mani Peninsula is characterised by rust-red rocks, rolling olive groves, clifftop villages and tiny coves that reveal translucent water. Once you’ve drunk in the ocean panorama from a whitewashed beachside taverna, you’ll understand why famed travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor decided to settle here once he had travelled the globe. Make time to stop in the luminescent Diros Caves and soak up the slow-lane pleasures at family-run restaurants famous for meze and locally produced wine.
The pine-scented Peloponnese way of life is not to be underestimated. Its simple pleasures and sparse beauty will stay with you long after you leave.