Cool Coastal Peloponnese
Locals say the Peloponnese offers the best of all Greece has to offer, just without the crowds.
- Touring the ancient Acropolis and its iconic crown, the Parthenon
- Standing atop the steps of the theatre at Epidaurus, one of the best preserved classical Greek theatres in existence
- Exploring the pristine coves and hidden villages of the Mani, the southernmost promontory of mainland Europe
- Relaxing on the beach at Costa Navarino
This self-drive itinerary takes you from the bustle of the Greek capital to the furthest corners of the rugged Peloponnese peninsula, uncovering ancient sites steeped in myth and legend, picturesque towns, forested mountains, deserted beaches and colourful, time-honoured traditions.
A 13-day self-drive itinerary around the coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, one of the most beautiful and history-soaked regions of mainland Greece, topped and tailed by private tours in Athens and a relaxing beach break at Costa Navarino.
The trip is perfect for either families or couples who like having their own car to explore at leisure. That said, if you'd rather not drive yourself, we can easily arrange for a private car and driver to accompany you throughout the trip.
When to go:
April to June is ideal beach weather and perfect for hiking, and lacks the crowds of summer.
Days 1-2: Athens
Upon arriving in Athens you’ll be met at the airport and transferred in private to the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Set right in the bustling heart of Athens, this Victorian mansion offers large and elegant rooms, impeccable service and a rooftop restaurant with views of no less a landmark than the Acropolis itself.
The following morning you’ll be met at the hotel for a private tour of the city. Besides the Acropolis and its iconic crown the Parthenon, highlights include the Temple of Athena Nike, the fascinating Acropolis Museum, and a walking tour around Plaka, an historic neighbourhood clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis.
Day 3: Nafplio
Collect your hire car and drive south-west to one of Greece’s prettiest towns, Nafplio, where narrow cobbled streets give way to elegant Venetian houses, neoclassical mansions and charming seafront cafes.
Check in for two nights at Nafplia Palace Hotel & Villas, set high upon the walls of the old fortified city of Acronafplia, with spectacular views across the Bay of Argolis to the deep blue Aegean.
Day 4: Mycenae & Epidaurus
Today a private guide will help you unearth the history of the Mycenaean civilisation, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century BC.
Start the day in Mycenae, whose ruins include the Tomb of Agamemnon, commander of the Greeks during the Trojan War. Then continue to Epidaurus, once famed as a place of miraculous healing but now better known for its remarkably well-preserved classical Greek theatre.
Days 5-7: Monemvasia
Continue south to Monemvasia and check in for three nights at the spectacular Kinsterna Hotel. Set up on the hillside surrounded by terraces of olive, lemon and eucalyptus trees, this former Byzantine mansion offers breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards and sparkling blue Aegean. Rooms effortlessly combine original features with modern comforts, the stylish spa complex offers a huge array of treatments, and the hotel’s restaurant gets consistently great feedback.
Spend the next few days exploring the local area. Monemvasia is a must, a Gibraltar-sized rock moored off the coast, with sheer cliffs rising hundreds of metres from the sea, linked to the mainland by a single causeway. The wider region offers stunning small beaches just waiting to be discovered, while historic Sparta and UNESCO-listed Mystras are within easy reach too.
Days 8-9: The Mani
The Mani is Europe’s southernmost promontory and one of the wildest and most isolated regions in Greece, cut off from the rest of the country by the towering range of the Taygetus and hemmed in by the Aegean and Ionian seas. Kyrimai, the Mani’s foremost historic hotel, provides the perfect base from which to explore the region.
And there’s plenty to explore, from pristine coastal coves to tiny villages hidden amid the olive groves and connected by walking trails; keep an eye out as you walk for the abandoned stone towers that once protected families engaged in bitter blood feuds.
Day 10: Kardamyli
Heading north from Kyrimai, be sure to stop at bohemian Kardamyli on your way to the west coast. The tiny village is one of the prettiest in the Peloponnese, and has long been a place of pilgrimage for fans of legendary travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, who lived in nearby Kalamitsi Bay.
Leigh Fermor, known to everyone as Paddy, is perhaps best known for his exploits fighting with the Greek Resistance in Crete during World War II, when he daringly abducted a German general right from under the Nazis’ noses. But his heart really lay in the Mani, where he lived for half a century until his death in 2011, aged 96. His novel Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese is still considered to be the definitive book on the region.
From Kardamyli, continue on to The Romanos at Costa Navarino for a few well-earned days relaxing by the beach.
Days 11-13: The Romanos at Costa Navarino
Stand-out service and attention to detail are hallmarks at The Romanos, which is as good for families as it is for couples. Airy, sea-facing rooms feature marble and dark wood, and there are more dining options than you can get through in a fortnight, plus a wealth of water sports, a 4,000-square-metre spa and a renowned Explorers kids’ club.
From Costa Navarino it’s an easy 31-mile drive to Kalamata airport, where you’ll return your hire car before boarding your flight home.
If you've more time...
There is plenty to ponder in the Peloponnese, but should you wish to spread your wings, you could easily continue up the west coast – past the sanctuary of Ancient Olympia – to the port at Kyllini. From here it’s a short ferry ride to Kefalonia and the enchanting Ionian Islands. Like a chain down the west coast of Greece, the Ionians offer something for everyone. Explore the colourful harbour towns of tiny Paxos, walk in the footsteps of Homer’s Odysseus on sheltered Ithaca, or admire French and Venetian architecture on colourful Corfu.
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