We are planning a trip to Greece and intend to allow three days or so to visit sites on the Pelopponesian peninsula. To avoid a lot of packing and unpacking, we would like to spend three nights in the same hotel and drive to the various locations. Right now (subject to change), we are interested in Olympia, Sparta, maybe Kalamata area and ??? Any suggestions as to a location for base camp? Thanks in advance.
Sparta has the advantage of being the most central of the places you mention. If you opt for that though I wouldn't stay in the city itself. which is a pleasant but nondescript modern town, but in Mystra just outside. The site of Mystra - the last Byzantine capital - is just amazing and the village is a pleasant and relaxed place to eat in the evenings.
This is in French but has a nice picture of the site
We stayed in the Hotel Byzantion which was comfortable and friendly. If you are there in the summer it even has a small pool in the garden.
The nicest town in the Peloponnese is Nafplio. A great town in its own right and a good location for visiting Mycenae, Epidavrus, Argos and Tiryns. Not so central though for Olympia, Mystra or Monemvasia. We've written up our impressions of the town.
Wherever you stay be sure to give yourself time on the way down to visit Corinth. The site is just outside the modern town and has a very interesting lower Roman area dating from the period of Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians. Acro Corinth, the older higher site, is huge and if you walk up high enough (and it's a clear day) you can see both ends of the canal.
Have a great trip.
Nafplio is the nicest town and makes for a wonderful visit. But it is not central and would make a visit to Olympia very difficult (but not impossible). Sparta itself is definitely not worth a visit but you might enjoy the ruins at Mystras. Very scenic and the Byzantine version of Pompeii. Nearby Nafplio are Myceanae and Epidavros, which are both well worth a visit. I have not been to Kalamata but it would be a more central location and make getting to Olympia easier as a daytrip. Otherwise, just stay a night in Olympia; you might prefer that to a very long day in the car. Monemvasia is another daytrip option and could be done from a base in Nafplio.
Should you stay in Nafplio, look into the Aetoma Hotel. A very nice place with very nice people.
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I just received a copy of Rick's guidebook for Athens and the Peloponnese, which I expect to be studying. I would prefer not to move around too much and, wherever we stay, it will be the destination for our first night in Europe on that trip. This brings up one additional question. Is picking up a car at the airport and heading out past Athens to the peninsula a fairly "easy" drive? I have every intention of NOT driving into central Athens and I certainly don't want to do it while afflicted with the fog of a transatlantic flight. Can I easily bypass the central city and get out of town? It looks like I can, based on the map, but there's nothing like advice from people who have been there. Thanks again!
Yes. There is a beltway that leads around the city and towards Corinth and the Peloponnese. Traffic might be heavy on the beltway depending on time of day, but nowhere near as insane as driving in central Athens. The rest of the drive is pretty easy going. Roads are well marked in English. As a reminder, you MUST have an international drivers permit to drive in Greece. They can be had at any AAA office with two passport photos and your drivers license.
Thank you, Douglas. I have obtained an IDP four times for driving in Europe "just in case", and have never shown it for anything, including rentals. I will get one for the Greece trip. Hopefully I won't need to display it there either, but good to know how strongly it's encouraged. Thank you also for confirming the beltway arrangement.
Here's a VERY handy online map http://www.esperides.gr/images/peloponissos_esperides.jpg to study before u pick up a car at airport. When u look at it in original size, u see that it shows all roads major/minor, AND the route direct from ATH airport around city and all the way to Peloponnese … and BTW I STRONGLY recommend staying In Nafplio -- it's historic/beautiful in itself, and just a few miles in various directions to (1)Epidaurus, (2) Tiryns, (3) Mycenae and -- on the way to or from (4) Nemea and (5) Corinth. THEN -- click on the map & it gets huuuuge, and you'll see exactly the route to drive. Using Michelin site http://www.viamichelin.com and putting in the 2 sites ATH Airport and Nafplio, u will DETAILED drive directions … totally easy, last year we did it, even in pouring rain no stress, on most modern highway in Greece, no stops from airport until turnoff from main highway.
BTW, if u have 4 nights (you say "or so") and want to see Mystra/Monemvasia, I suggest staying 1 night in that area… either in Monemvasia (pricey but super-atmospheric) or the little shore town of Gefira just outside it. Do not be too super-wedded to the "base camp" idea -- that works better in Tuscany than it does in Peloponnese. In N. Italy you can do that "base" thing, and each day drive 30 miles either N-S-E- W and back each day & have 4 totally different sights; Greece aside f rom what I mentioned is more spread out. And hey! it's not such a big deal to use 2 hotels (Unless u are the sort who offloads entire suitcase contents into bureau drawers, puts up family pix on night table, shoetrees in shoes etc).