A road trip around the Peloponnese is the ideal way to experience the place!
Greece, is full of amazing places and this time I am writing about a special one, the Western part of the Peloponnese. I have been waiting to share my love for this land with you because that’s where my parents come from and I have spent many of my childhood and adulthood holidays over here. My experience on road trips around the Peloponnese, some times with family, others with groups of friends, has convinced me that this is the perfect place for a summer road trip. Let’s find out why shall we?
I will start with the city of Patras.
It’s the third-largest city of Greece and the largest in the Peloponnese. Only a two and a half-hour drive from the capital, Athens, Patra waits to be discovered. Although, Patra is really famous for the local carnival (not to miss if you are in Greece during this period- it varies from January to March), is also the best place to start your Peloponnese road trip. The most spectacular element of this city is the Rion-Antirion bridge. It is the connection of the Peloponnese with mainland Greece and has also become the emblem of the city.
The quarter of Rion is also the ideal place for a summer night out. All the bars, cafes and restaurants are spread across the shore, where the gentle breeze travels from the sea. Another option, if you do not want to leave the city centre, is the Riga Ferraiou pedestrian area. A huge variety of options is available there. DO NOT forget to try the local wine, its name is Mavrodaphne and it is one of the best Greek wines with a unique taste due to the ageing and maturation process. If you can, pick a bottle that has been aged for a while, to experience the truly decadent and complex flavours that come about.
Want to see more the next day? Visit the archaeological museum, with its impressive architectural style. The exhibits come from the city itself and the Western Achaea region. Afterwards, you can go to Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, the biggest one in the Balkans.
Patra, as a big city, has a lot of things to do, but we are going to move on with this road trip and head southwest. On our way to Ilia region, we stop at the sandy beach of Kalogria. It is, by far, the best place to swim in the whole Achaea region. Many kilometres of golden sand and turquoise water are found next to a paradise, Strofilia forest; a strip that separates the Ionian sea from lake Prokopos. The forest of Strofilia is a natural reserve of 22 km2 in a tiny peninsula and is part of the Natura 2000 network. This combination of nature and deep blue water will take your breath away!!
Small Villages & Swimming
The next place to visit is located on the north-western edge of the Peloponnese. Killini is a small fishermen village that became famous due to the port that connects Zakynthos and Cephalonia to the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. The nearby area is the perfect place to spend a few days. I suggest the following:
- Swimming! Killini has a beach of its own. But if you are up for a bit of adventure, choose Kafkalida beach; a beach that has not been changed at all by human activity. In the open sea, by the shore that houses the lighthouse, without the noise and crowds, you will enjoy the tranquillity of Kafkalida. If you are super lucky, you might see dolphins too! Another one is Analipsi beach; it has the soft golden sand that the region is known for being covered with.
- Visit Chlemoutsi castle! Only 6km away, this well preserved Frankish castle is totally worth the climbing. Get ready to be amazed by the view! (More Castles You Need To Discover In The Peloponnese)
- For lunch or dinner, eat in Sou-Mou restaurant, which serves traditional Greek plates, with emphasis on seafood.
Now, its time to move towards the south. The coast of Ilia is well-known for its really long sandy beaches. One of them is the beach at Loutra Killinis. Words cannot describe this exotic place. The beach extends around a huge area, with parts that are organized and offer amenities and water sports facilities, and more isolated ones, ideal for relaxing. The name, Loutra beach, comes from the thermal baths of the area. The area is wonderful, full of trees, like cedars, eucalyptuses, pine trees and tamarisk. Many come at Loutra to try inhalation therapy, mud therapy or balneotherapy. Even if you are not suffering from any problems, give it a try, you will feel much better afterwards.
Really close to Loutra is a village called Arkoudi. You can spend your day in the village’s beach or go to the neighbouring Glifa beach. Both are very nice with many facilities. Arkoudi is also famous for its cocktail bars. Thalassa café-bar combines tasty flavours with a spectacular sea view.
Kourouta, the next stop, is another famous summer spot in the Peloponnese .In a few words, we could say that this is the ultimate summer destination. Once more, kilometres of sandy beach, with sports facilities and many bars and restaurants to choose from. A word on safety though, this one has some dangerous water; it gets really deep really fast and due to the position (in the open sea), it has big waves quite often. Due to that there is always a lifeguard, to make sure you have the best experience. Kourouta, is also famous among the Greeks, for its nightlife So, if you decide to spend your night over there, you need to also go out for a drink!
The last place to visit before going to Ancient Olympia, is Katakolo. A popular cruise ship port, Katakolo offers access to Ancient Olympia for those who travel by sea. Apart from being the point of entry into the Peloponnese, Katakolo is a cute, seaside village, perfect for a quick visit. What to see? The Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, which exhibits inventions and mechanisms of the antiquity, and Pontikokastro, a Byzantine fortress built on the ruins of Ancient Pheia.
Now, it’s time to leave the coast, and for good reason!
It’s time for the “star” of the Peloponnese and Greece in general, Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. During ancient times, the most important event of the whole world used to take place here. Every four years, every Greek city, send the best athletes to participate in the games to honour Zeus, the father of gods and men. The games were of such importance, that every war or conflict ceased for the duration of the games. The prize? An olive wreath and eternal glory. A walk through the ruins of the ancient temples and stadiums will make you feel like you have stepped back in time, among the athletes and the ancient kings!
Today, Ancient Olympia is still the center and starting point of the modern Olympic Games. In front of the temple of Hera, the lighting of the Olympic Flame takes place. Afterwards, it travels the whole world, until it arrives at the host country. The ceremony is similar to what it would have been during ancient times, with the priestesses lighting up the torch with the help of a parabolic mirror.
The last goodbye in Ilia comes from lake Kaiafas and Zacharo. The lake is a natural beauty, positioned in between the Ionian sea and the Lapithas Mountains. The beach next to the lake, along with the Zacharo beach are of great beauty. I recommend you visit them both. Last but not least, take some time to visit the local thermal springs. The combination of sea, lake, forest and baths are something extraordinary and as a result, the area is listed in the National Natura 2000 network.
As we move towards the borders of Ilia and Messinia, changing region for the last time in our Peloponnese road trip, we come across a hidden sanctuary, the Neda waterfalls.
Leave the car in the parking lot, and start descending the dirt road. After a few minutes of walking, you will be at the entrance. Then, an amazing scenery awaits you. The gorge that houses the Neda river, offers an unforgettable hiking experience. The path is not extremely difficult, but you should still come prepared (shoes, water, hat, swimming suit etc). You can then choose in which one of the waterfalls you want to cool down in. Relax and enjoy it!
This Peloponnese road trip continues, as we enter Messinia, one of the most beautiful prefectures in the Peloponnese and in Greece. Elea is the first village that we meet on our way. The beach is dreamy and is really famous for camping. An organized camping facility is located on the beach, but if you are a true nature lover, Elea hosts many who choose to live closer to nature for a few days.
Just a few kilometres away,as we drive the E09 route, the small picturesque town of Kyparissia peeks out. Climb up the windy roads and take yourself to the old town. Tiny, paved alleys, cute souvenir shops, traditional Greek restaurants, café-bars with stunning views and a looming medieval castle, compose a must-visit destination! Kyparissia offers more options regarding accommodation, food, shops and entertainment.
After leaving behind Kyparissia, we head towards Voidokilia beach. It is certainly one of the most impressive places I’ve ever been to. The beach forms a circle around the sea and makes you lose all sense of direction. I for one also lost my sense of depth because of the unfamiliar circle shape. Voidokilia is located on the edge of Gialova lagoon, a wetland of paramount importance. It is the southernmost station in the Balkans for the birds which migrate to and from Africa. A Natura 2000 area, it hosts numerous species of birds as well as an observatory. The beauty of the landscape is insane!
The nearby village of Gialova, is a nice place to have a bite or a coffee.
Moving on to Pylos, another pretty small city, which was once known by another name. The name Navarino came as a result of the battle of Navarino, that took place in those waters during the Greek War of Independence almost 200 years ago. Built in an amphitheatrical shape, with a cosy small harbour, Pylos invites you to walk by the sea during sunset and enjoy your coffee in one of the traditional kafenia!
Methoni comes next. For one more time, another small city by the sea. What makes it unique? The castle that occupies the end of the city. After walking around a little bit, take the boat from the harbour, to visit the uninhabited island of Sapientza; a paradise on earth, with a heavenly, white-sand beach. Except for a few visitors during the summer months, Sapientza only hosts a number of friendly goats that love to come really close to humans!
Foinikounta is one of the last stops of our Peloponnese road trip. A village ready to accommodate the needs of everybody who visits it. With 4 camping spots, it has kind of become a favourite camping destination. Actually, those who camp in Foinikounta once, always come back. I am one of them, and have so far spend 3 of my summer holidays over there!
After a quick stop in the charming town of Koroni (it has an amazing shore for swimming and an enchanting city centre), we are close to our journey’s end. Polylimnio waterfalls are a little bit to the north of Koroni, in the mainland Peloponnese. The waterfalls are spread across different levels. The first one is easily accessible. While moving further inside, the hike gets more and more difficult. It’s up to you, to which waterfall you are willing to get. However, the scenery will be worth it.
Putting It All Together
- Loutra Killinis
- Neda Waterfalls
- Voidokilia Beach
- Polylimnio Waterfalls
Cities/Villages To Stop At
- Strofilia Forest
- Ancient Olympia
- Lake Kaifas/Zacharo