Planning Your Time

The remains of the ancient world are what draw many visitors to the Peloponnese—Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Olympia certainly top the list of must-see sights of anyone with an interest in archaeology. Nafplion, a delightful city with Byzantine, Venetian, and Turkish roots, makes an ideal base from which to explore these well-preserved ruins of ancient Greece. After Nafplion, Ancient Olympia, a don't-miss destination, beckons the Peloponnesian traveler. Continuing southward, one enters Laconia. The rewards here include exploring the stark Mani Peninsula and ancient splendors at Messene and elsewhere, and the trip down there is easy: Highway E65 allows travelers to speed from Athens to Kalamata or Sparta and Gythion in a few hours. If driving, don't discount the much slower Route 82 between Kalamata and Sparta, which crosses the Taygettus mountain range. It has some of the hairiest mountaintop switchbacks you'll find anywhere and is prone to rockfalls (do not attempt in winter), but if you're looking for a scenic drive, the views here rival any of those found in Greece, especially at the 5,000-foot Langada Pass. Resort life is relatively low-key in the southern Peloponnese. Monemvasia, however, is a popular weekend destination for Greeks, and the narrow lanes can seem jammed; the town is much less crowded and more pleasant to visit during the week, when the medieval atmosphere regains a hold. The Mani, another favorite "remote" seaside getaway for Athenians and hikers, is rarely crowded, except on August weekends.

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