The Peloponnese offers sun, sea, mountains, archaeological sites, castles and friendly villages with restaurants right on the water’s edge. Owning a property here feels like you have totally escaped the hustle and bustle of modern life, and there is so much to discover.
Covering over 21 thousand km2 (8108 square miles), the Peloponnese is slightly bigger than the country of Wales. While feeling like an island it has the benefit of being connected to central Greece, with flight options to both Athens airport and Kalamata airport.
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Where is the Peloponnese?
The Peloponnese, or Moreas, is a large geographic region in southern Greece. Although, its leaf shape has four very obvious peninsulas, the whole area is considered a peninsula as it is connected to the central part of Greece. Around it are the Corinth Gulf, Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas.
How is the Peloponnese connected to central Greece?
The Peloponnese is connected to the rest of the country by the Isthmus of Corinth. The Isthmus comes from the Ancient Greek word for “neck” and refers to the narrow piece of land that connects the Peloponnese to the central section of Greece.
Although this neck of land is still there, when the Corinth Canal was completed in the late 19th century, it cut a line straight through it. Today, two road bridges, two railway bridges and two submersible bridges connect the mainland side of the isthmus with the Peloponnese side. The submersible bridge is fascinating to watch when a cruise ship comes through, as is the view from the road bridge.
In 2001, the Rio-Antirio Bridge was also completed, linking the western Peloponnese to western Greece. Officially known as the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, it is one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and the longest of the fully suspended type. It crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras, linking the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirio on mainland Greece. You can pay a toll to cross the bridge by car, or park and visit the bridge and exhibition centre on foot.
The Peloponnese has an indented coastline with beautiful coves to discover. Some of which can only be reached by boat. Therefore, if you buy a small motor boat, you are likely to find a sandy cove all to yourself. The seaside towns have a Greek island feel, especially those on a narrow peninsula, such as Ermioni. There are four south-pointing peninsulas, the Messenian, the Mani, the Cape Malea (also known as Epidaurus Limera), and the Argolid. Each has it’s own character, while still being typically Greek.
The Mani peninsula is a wild and rugged landscape with stone towers, houses and castles. The fortified village of Vathia has an impressive cluster of towers, as does the fishing village of Limeni. Stoupa is more of a typical seaside village popular for holidays. Mani communities are small and close knit, demonstrating the authentic side of Greece. The coastline is full of enchanting coves and fascinating caves, such as the colourful Dirou caves.
Peloponnese Seaside villages
White washed houses with blue shutters and fishermen bringing in their catch are a common sight in the seaside villages. Old men sit outside a waterfront café, with a plastic bottle of their own wine hidden under the table. From this they top up their glasses when they think the waitress isn’t looking. This enchanting scene along with the blue skies and the clear waters, entice you to sit a while, to watch the little fish, to have a drink, and relax. No need to feel rushed to move on, this is a place to chill out.
Restaurants in the Peloponnese
So many of the seaside restaurants are literally right on the edge of the water, it’s so beautiful and I have always found the restaurant owners incredibly welcoming. Often, they will invite you into their kitchen to see their specialties of the day, or to choose a fresh fish out of the tank. Then, while you wait for your meal, you can enjoy the view as the waves gently lapping on the shore. However, my favourite thing to do is to buy a takeaway chicken gyros with tzatziki and eat it sat on a bench overlooking the sea.
Inland, you will find more meat dishes and discover fantastic restaurants miles from anywhere. We used to stop at a restaurant near Nafplio, we nick- named “Lamb chop corner”, because all they did was lamb chops and chips. But it was the best lamb chops we had ever tasted.
What are the regions within Peloponnese?
Since antiquity, the Peloponnese has been divided into seven major regions: Achaea (north), Corinthia (northeast), Argolis (east), Arcadia (centre), Laconia (southeast), Messenia (southwest), and Elis (west). Corinthian and Argolis are the nearest to Athens and its airport. While Messenia, in the south west, receives tourists through its airport at Kalamata. This makes these regions the most popular for buying a holiday home.
Large towns and cities
Each of these regions is headed by a city. The largest city in the Peloponnese is Patras (population. 195,000) in Achaia, followed by Kalamata (pop. 70,000) in Messenia, then Corinth (pop. 36,000) in Corinthia. Another big town is Tripoli (pop.31,000), which is in the centre, near the E65 motorway. Smaller towns include: Aigio (26,000) in Achaea, Pyrgos (25,000) in Elis, Argos (25,000) in Argolis, Sparta (20,000) in Laconia, Nafplio (19,000) in Argolis, and Amaliada (18,000) in Elis.
In general, the biggest hospitals will be found in the largest towns. For example, there are General Hospitals in Argos, Nafplio, Patras, Kalamata, Tripoli, and Sparta. However, small towns will have health centres that are often open around the clock, and don’t require an appointment. Pharmacists are well trained and are usually the first port of call. In fact, the first pharmacy in Greece, is thought to have been in Nafplio.
There are less medical facilities the nearer you get to the point of each peninsula and in very rural areas. Therefore, if it is important to you that there are healthcare facilities close by, this should be considered when looking at property locations.
When holidaying at the coast it is easy to forget that the Peloponnese is mainly mountainous. The mountain range of Mount Taygetos, has it’s highest peak at 2,407m. Of course, along with the mountains come beautiful rivers, valleys and lush green forests. There are even ski resorts at Ostrakis and Mainalon.
History all around
The Peloponnese has had an eventful history, that is demonstrated today in its many monuments including amazing archaeological sites, castles and historic villages. You can discover the wonders of Olympia, Epidaurus, Mycenae and Tiryns, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Byzantine churches and Monasteries.
5 UNESCO heritage sites
Apollo Epicurius is a 5th century temple and one of the better preserved in Greece. If you have visited the British museum in London, you may have seen the Bassae Frieze, which was a marble frieze that came from this temple. You can reach the temple driving through Ilia region, following a route along the banks of Neda river, or travel from Tripoli and Megalopolis.
Epidaurus is an ancient religious and healing centre, also famous for its ancient theatre. It was the most important healing centre of the entire Greek and Roman world. The ancient town is in the Argolida region, overlooking the Saronic Gulf. The mountains embrace the ancient town and protected it against strong winds, creating a mild micro-climate.
The ancient Theatre of Epidaurus was constructed at the end of the 4th century BC. If you get an opportunity to watch a production there, it is truly a unique experience. At a performance of Oedipus Rex a child walked to the centre of the theatre and rolled a marble. The acoustics are such that we could hear that tiny sound around the theatre. Tip: Take a cushion, the stone seating is still very hot from the sun at sunset.
Mystras is a medieval Byzantine fortress-town near Sparta. There are noble palaces, beautiful churches, impressive monasteries and a museum. Built by William II of Villehardouin in 1249, the citadel of Mystras was enlarged during the following centuries by the Byzantines and later the Turks.
Mycenae and Tiryns are fortified settlements built on a hill near the town of Argos in the Argolis region. The Mycenaean people that built them date back to the Late Bronze Age, between 1350 and 1200 BC. Among the most important parts of Mycenae is the Gate of Lions, built with huge stones.
Olympia is in the western Peloponnese, in the so-called “valley of the gods”. Ancient Olympia was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, the most important sports events in all antiquity. Starting in 776 B.C., all Greeks would unit every four years and all hostilities would be suspended so that everyone could take part in these games in the true spirit of sportsmanship. The archaeological site of Olympia includes the temple of Zeus and various other buildings.
Three Popular towns to buy property near
From the earliest times to the medieval period, Corinth was an important commercial centre. By the 4th century BC Corinth was one of the most important cities in ancient Greece. Although destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, and by an earthquake in the 4th century AD, each time the city was rebuilt. Artefacts recovered from numerous excavations in the area are on display in the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth. As this is the nearest Peloponnese town to Athens and its airport the coastline and villages nearby are very popular with tourists. Resort towns such as Kiato and Xylokastro are just along the coast.
At the northern end of the Argolic Gulf is the seaside port of Nafplio. A popular weekend getaway for Athenians, this picturesque town has the combination of Neoclassical houses on the waterfront, roman ruins and Ottoman architecture. Not only is it guarded in the harbour by the Venetian Bourtzi Castle, there is also a large Venetian hilltop fortress over looking the town. Nafplio has everything you need for year round living including supermarkets, restaurants and bars. The town of Argos is also only 18 minutes drive away.
Kalamata is a city in the south western region of Messenia. The airport at Kalamata is used by tourists visiting places such as Sparta, Olimpia, Mani, Monemvasia and Methoni. Cultural venues in Kalamata include museums, a theatre, and dance hall. There is also a hospital, sports facilities, marina, schools and a good selection of shops, restaurants and bars.
Flights to the Peloponnese in 2023
Small towns and villages can be very quiet in the winter months, especially those that are set up more as a tourist town. Those with a good sized year round population are more likely to be those that have a weekly market, shops, schools and fishermen. Kalamata airport generally doesn’t have winter flights from the UK. Therefore, if you need to make winter flights a location nearer to Athens airport may be better.
Easyjet have scheduled flights from London Gatwick to Kalamata airport from April 1st 2023 until 29th October, twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Also on Thursdays from 29th June – 31st August. Return flight prices vary greatly, but are from around 95.00 euros.
Ryanair have scheduled flights from Stansted to Kalamata from 6th June until 26th September on Tuesdays. A return flight in June currently is on sale for £198 with cabin bag.
Easyjet have flights scheduled from Gatwick to Athens airport daily until 30th November. Return Prices currently being offered are from £150 return in June.
Ryanair currently fly to Athens every day except Mondays until 28th October. Mondays will be added from 27th March. June flights currently on sale from £172 with cabin bag.
British airways currently have flights scheduled daily until February 8th 2024.
Ferries to Peloponnese
The ports of Gythio, Kyllini, Porto Heli, Ermioni and Methana belong to Peloponnese. As it is considered one of the most popular destinations, it is served by many ferry companies such as Blue Star Ferries, Seajets, Levante Ferries, Saronic Ferries and others.
It is possible to fly to Athens, get a bus to Pireaus port, then catch a ferry to the Peloponnese. Blue Star Ferries do thirteen sailings a week from Pireaus Port to Ermioni. If you travel by Aero Highspeed catamaran you can reach Ermioni in 1hr 50mins at a cost of about €44.50. Blue Star Ferries offer fourteen sailings a week to Porto Heli. It takes 2hrs 15mins on the flying cat 6 and costs around €56.50 euros. This makes the Argolis region a good option for a holiday home, if you don’t want to drive. There is also a ferry once a week to Methoni, on the south west coast. Ferries information can be found at Zas Ferries.
The largest port in the Peloponnese is Patras, which serves ferries to the ports of Bari, Brindisi, Ancona, Venice and Trieste in Italy and also to the Greek islands of Corfu, Kefalonia, and Ithaca. I have friends who enjoy making a holiday of the drive down through France and Italy. They make stop overs and catch a ferry from Ancona or Brindisi to Patras.
Drive times to major towns
It is very convenient to have the use of a car to explore the Peloponnese. When hiring a car from the airport, you should consider drive times to the most popular towns.
Athens airport to Corinth 1 hr 9 mins. Kalamata airport to Corinth 1hr 32mins.
Athens airport to Nafplio 1 hr 49 mins. Kalamata airport to Nafplio 1hr 31mins.
Athens airport to Ermioni 2hr 36mins.
Kalamata airport to Methoni 1hr
Athens airport to Argolis 1hr 46mins. Kalamata airport to Argolis 1hr 34mins.
Kalamata to Mani Peninsula 1hr 55mins.