Lonely Planet suggests a road trip in the Peloponnese
No other part of Greece combines stupendous mountain scenery and scenic hikes with deserted, pristine beaches and an incredible wealth of ancient sites like the Peloponnese, according to Lonely Planet. After all, this is where gods and heroes were said to walk the earth and the world’s greatest sporting event was born.
Add to that terrific winery-hopping, boutique accommodation in historic stone towers and the unfailing hospitality of the locals, and you have the recipe for a memorable road trip.
1.Tour the Nemean Wine Route
The ideal place to start your Peloponnese road trip is the picturesque Venetian seaside town of Nafplio, set against the backdrop of a steep mountain topped with a fortress. An easy 45km drive north takes you to Nemea, one of the best places in Greece to get acquainted with local grape varieties. The Nemean Wine Route takes you past a cluster of excellent wineries nestled in the rolling hills southwest of Corinth. Half a dozen of these organise wine tastings for visitors – many free, some by appointment.
2.Hike the Lousios Gorge
East of Tripoli and the E65, a narrow mountain road snakes its way past medieval villages, high above Mt Menalon’s most precipitous ravine – the Lousios Gorge. The Mylaon River runs through the lush valley at the bottom of the gorge, paralleling the most popular section of the 72.5km Menalon Trail (menalontrail.eu) which connects the villages of Stemnitsa and Dimitsana. You can descend into the gorge near Stemnitsa, to admire the Prodomou Monastery which clings to the rock face, and ascend on the opposite side, taking in the ruins of the Old Philosophou Monastery. Or begin your hike from Dimitsana, walking a mixture of footpaths, wooded trails and dirt roads through forests, past Byzantine fortress ruins and stone houses, over a mountain pass and through open countryside.
3.Explore the historic Mani
From Tripoli the E961 speeds south, past the Taÿgetos mountain range and through Sparta, before cutting west across the Mani – a wild, rugged region whose inhabitants were known for their fierce independence and murderous feuds for centuries. Take the serpentine road south of Areopoli, and you pass by the foothills of barren, forbidding-looking mountains and through silent villages bristling with stone towers – each a fortified family residence. The most impressive towers stand in Kita and Nomia on the west coast, in Vathia, perched on a rocky spur, and in Mountanistika, reachable via an impossibly narrow road with a sheer drop to one side that requires nerves of steel to drive.