About Peloponnese

Sunrise light on the Messenian gulf as seen from Peroulia village. Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece

The spirit of a place is more or less what the observer effect reflects upon it. This is especially true for the Peloponnese, where an uninterrupted human activity for millenia, has left the marks of man’s eternal struggle for survival and for understanding the world. Quite often in vain!

Introducing the Peloponnese (also Peloponnesos)

Peloponnesos means “Island of Pelops”. The name is derived from ancient Greek mythology, the legend of the hero Pelops who conquered the entire area. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the Peloponnese is home to Europe’s first major civilization (Mycenaean), the first Olympic Games (776 BC), six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, hundreds of archaeological sites, preserved traditional settlements and residential monasteries.
High mountains, gorges, rivers, valleys, peninsulas, plains, forests, shrublands, brushwood and olive groves make up an immense botanical paradise of unparalleled biodiversity.

A long and turbulent history

Peloponnesos was at the heart of ancient and classical Greek affairs and possessed some of its most powerful city-states. With endless mythical and historical references, every corner is connected with a story or myth.

Here was the setting for half of  Hercules’ (Herakles’) labors and here occurred the events that precipitated the start of the Trojan war. The Peloponnesian War was the turning point towards decline of ancient Greek civilization.

The Peloponnese fell to the Romans in 146 BC, which evolved into the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire after 336 A.D.  After the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the fourth crusade, Mystras near Sparta, became a cultural center of the Byzantine remnants until its final conquest in the 1460s by the Ottoman Turks.

The Ottomans held onto the region for four centuries, with the exception of a small portion, Mani. In 1821 the Peloponnese became the cradle of the Greek War of Independence which ultimately led to the creation of the modern state of Greece.

The ancient theatre of Mantineia, 370 BC. Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece
The ancient theatre of Mantineia, 370 BC. Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece

Landscape diversity

Peloponnese’s rugged and steep, mountainous terrain, makes its size much larger than it looks on the map. This varied terrain creates microclimates within short distances. You can spend a hot day at the beach during summer at 35°C (95°F) and then head up to a mountain village and sleep at a comfortable 15°C (59°F). And that’s about half an hour to 40 minutes drive!

Girls diving into Kadi lake. Polylimnion, Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece
Girls diving into Kadi lake. Polylimnion, Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece

Unique Architecture

This variation in landscape and climate affects every aspect of peoples’ lives. People adapted to their local microenvironment and external influences creating distinct customs and striking differences in architecture.

The romantique neoclassical buildings of Nafplion city, versus the rugged and threatening towers of Mani. The rich mansions of Leonidio, versus the minimalistic gortynian buildings.

You can also see the different layers of architecture blending together. Medieval walls on archaic basement, byzantine churches on top of Roman theaters.

Tower houses are found everywhere in Mani. They were used for defence against other families during vendettas. The height of the tower was an open display of the clan power. Powerfull families would not allow other families to build heigher towers. Flomochori, Mani, Laconia, Peloponnese
Tower houses are found everywhere in Mani. They were used for defence against other families during vendettas. The height of the tower was an open display of the clan power. Powerfull families would not allow other families to build heigher towers. Flomochori, Mani, Laconia, Peloponnese
A large clay jar at the yard of a traditional house at Kyparissi, Laconia, Peloponnisos
A large clay jar at the yard of a traditional house at Kyparissi, Laconia, Peloponnisos

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Peloponnese

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

This famous temple to the god of healing and the sun was built towards the middle of the 5th century B.C. in the lonely heights of the Arcadian mountains. The temple, which has the oldest Corinthian capital yet found, combines the Archaic style and the serenity of the Doric style with some daring architectural features.

One of the most important and most imposing temples of antiquity, dedicated to Epicurean Apollo. Designed by Iktinos, one of the two architects of Parthenon, who combined many archaic features imposed by the conservative religious tradition of the Arcadians, with the novel features of classical Greece. 400 BC. Vasses, Peloponnese
One of the most important and most imposing temples of antiquity, dedicated to Epicurean Apollo. Designed by Iktinos, one of the two architects of Parthenon, who combined many archaic features imposed by the conservative religious tradition of the Arcadians, with the novel features of classical Greece. 400 BC. Vasses, Peloponnese
Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus

In a small valley in the Peloponnesus, the shrine of Asklepios, the god of medicine, developed out of a much earlier cult of Apollo (Maleatas), during the 6th century BC at the latest, as the official cult of the city state of Epidaurus. Its principal monuments, particularly the temple of Asklepios, the Tholos and the Theatre – considered one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture – date from the 4th century. The vast site, with its temples and hospital buildings devoted to its healing gods, provides valuable insight into the healing cults of Greek and Roman times.

Built in the most important healing center of the Greek and Roman world, the theater of Epidaurus, the finest and most famous monument of its kind, combining the perfect acoustics, elegance and symmetrical proportions. 340 BC and still in use! Argolis, Epidaurus, Peloponnese, Greece
Built in the most important healing center of the Greek and Roman world, the theater of Epidaurus, the finest and most famous monument of its kind, combining the perfect acoustics, elegance and symmetrical proportions. 340 BC and still in use! Argolis, Epidaurus, Peloponnese, Greece
Archaeological Site of Mystras

Mystras, the ‘wonder of the Morea’, was built as an amphitheatre around the fortress erected in 1249 by the prince of Achaia, William of Villehardouin. Reconquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks and the Venetians, the city was abandoned in 1832, leaving only the breathtaking medieval ruins, standing in a beautiful landscape.

Mystras is the best preserved Byzantine city in Greece. Inside the complex of the Cathedral with the church of St. Demetrios. 1270 AC. Mystras, Peloponnese
Mystras is the best preserved Byzantine city in Greece. Inside the complex of the Cathedral with the church of St. Demetrios. 1270 AC. Mystras, Peloponnese
Archaeological Site of Olympia

The site of Olympia, in a valley in the Peloponnesus, has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In the 10th century B.C., Olympia became a centre for the worship of Zeus. The Altis – the sanctuary to the gods – has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces from the ancient Greek world. In addition to temples, there are the remains of all the sports structures erected for the Olympic Games, which were held in Olympia every four years beginning in 776 B.C.

Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns

The archaeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are the imposing ruins of the two greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century B.C. and played a vital role in the development of classical Greek culture. These two cities are indissolubly linked to the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey , which have influenced European art and literature for more than three millennia.

"Rich Mycenae," the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon, first sung by Homer in his epics, is the most important and richest palatial center of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. The Lion Gate in the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae. It was erected during the 13th century BC and named after the relief sculpture of two lionesses in a heraldic pose that stands above the entrance. Part of the cyclopean wall around the citadel. Mycenae, Peloponnese, Greece.
"Rich Mycenae," the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon, first sung by Homer in his epics, is the most important and richest palatial center of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. The Lion Gate in the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae. It was erected during the 13th century BC and named after the relief sculpture of two lionesses in a heraldic pose that stands above the entrance. Part of the cyclopean wall around the citadel. Mycenae, Peloponnese

Quality experiences for the discerning traveler

Peloponnese is not an overly touristic place. In fact you can visit extremely beautiful areas without any tourists at all! With an average population density of 37 people per square km it is fairly underpopulated.

Only a few places attract foreign tourism. For the most part Peloponnesos attracts local tourism. The current economic crisis had an effect on this though. However, this may be good news for foreigner visitors since lodging prices went down.

Food is delicious, fresh and cheap. Tip: Just eat where the locals do!

Peloponnesus, produces a great variety of agricultural products and a number of protected designation of origin (PDO) products.

It’s close to Athens and all you need to explore it, is a car or a motorcycle. You can travel with a bicycle too, just be warned that there are too many long and steep uphills. There is a well developed asphalt road network with access to every little village. There is also a large network of dirt roads of varying conditions giving access to remote areas on the mountains and by the sea.

Walking, Trekking, Trails

There’s an ever growing network of mapped and signed paths of particular natural beauty and historical importance. Menalon Trail, a long mountain trail in Arcadia, conforms to the standards set by the  European Ramblers Association for the certification of walking networks.

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Swallows on power lines at Yannitsochori, Eleia, Peloponnese
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