Please sign in to post.

favorite guidebook to the Peloponnese?

I identify (or should I say empathize ? : ) with Rick's guidebook phrase, 'travel information junkie.' I tend to buy at least 3 guidebooks for any trip. I have Rick's Greece Book, and The Rough Guide To Greece, and Rough Guide to Crete is coming in the mail. Do you have any other favorite guidebooks on the Peloponnese? I tend to use Rick's itineraries as a starting point and then tailor to our interests. I'm looking for a book that helps bake some variety into the trip, such as cultural experiences, great 1/2 day hikes, non-resort/non-beach things to do. I'm a little afraid we'll overload on ruins, views and sunsets if we're not careful. I love those things but need to vary the itinerary.

BTW looking at the Peloponnese and Crete in early June 2018 for 2 weeks. We will have a car and have driven in many countries in Europe. First time in Greece. We enjoy a good walk on the beach, sampling local restaurants, bracing 1/2 day hikes, history and antiquities, experiencing local culture, music and dance. I'm an ancient history nerd. We tend to take active vacations as opposed to relaxing in one location.

Posted by
2934 posts

You are going to Greece at the perfect time -- everything's "open" nothing's crowded, the rains have ceased but everything is still Green. What a joy to hear from another "Ancient History Nerd"!! You already have touched on 2 of the most useful ... Rick's is good for those with no background at all, who want a efficient way to approach an ancient site D-I-Y, and Rough Guide has the history for those who want to dig deeper. Nice thing about RG is that you don't have to carry the big heavy book -- it's set up so each section is separate: carefully pull it off the backing, put ONE staple midway between top/bottom, then use duct tape to create a spine. Presto! Instant pocket-size guide-ettes! In yr 1st Greece trip you'll want sections on Pelops, Crete, Athens & Around, Greek History & Archeology (succinct AND excellent), Food & Drink, Music & Culture AND "Greek" (basics and good short phrase-list). So useful & totable... you'll thank me!

Since u have the gift of time, I suggest going to the library & checking out some things for winter reading & musing: The BLUE GUIDE to GREECE (Mainland) and the BLUE GUIDE to CRETE. These are super-good on ancient sites & also good on early-modern (the long struggle against the turks). CADOGAN GUIDE to CRETE and CADOGAN GUIDE to PELOPONNESE & Athens --altho not updated for some years -- are a joy simply to read, supple prose by writer Dana Facaros. Note: background can make SO much difference in how a site resonates w. you. Beside the ruins of Castle Frangokastello in Crete are busts with Greek-only legends. Only from Cadogan Guide did I know of the heroism and cruel deaths of Daskaloyannis & Dalianiis rising up against Turks in 18th & 19th C. Also, on my 1st Crete visit, we took the "Old Road" inland from big north highway... stopping for herds of goats, going thru tiny villages (I highly recommend this). In one town at high noon, we stopped in a silent, unpeopled, town center. In an island there was a cenotaph with carving of figures surrounded by flames. Next to it was a gold metal wreath. We felt something awful was being commemorated. Only later did I learn of the fate of Cretan villages who resisted the Nazis. In this one, ALL the men were executed & most of the buildings torched.

If you enjoy authentic history conveyed thru fiction you will devour the Mary Renault novels (they're good enough that, after reading her trilogy on Alexander, I scored 100% on tests in a U of Penn Alexander-era course without even buying the textbook). Some titles & topics: "The King Must Die" (Crete- the Theseus myths), "Last of the Wine" (Athens during key Golden=Age period at start of Pelop. War), "The Praise Singer" (early poets in post-HOmer era, just pre-democracy in the city-states). Spoiler alert: in appendix to each she gives historic materials/personages she based each book on. These all available in paperback in new/used bookstores & online.

Here are my 2 favorite online Maps for planning in your 2 areas: click & each will get huuuuge; shows not only roads, also terrain -- http://euro-map.com/karty-grecii/peloponnes/podrobnaya-turisticheskaya-karta-peloponnesa.jpg and http://www.explorecrete.com/crete-maps/images/Crete-eot.png Roads in Pelops are not totally updated. Nearer the date, if you use http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Routes you can see best routes for your interests. PELOPONNESE - the Argolid is the most landmark-dense area & Nafplio is ideal base for exploring. It used to be that counter-clockwise around the rim was best... but with road upgrades, one can go to Tripoli then S.W. thru mountains to Olympia, then down coast to Pylos, (I can suggest super place/s to stay) then hit Messine then go East.. stopping at Mystras/Monemvasia if medievalism floats your boat. CRETE -- Frankly Eastern Crete doesn't lure me much; in 6 trips have not gotten beyond Palace of Malia. Western & S. have SO much not only ancient but dramatic landscapes. Happy planning!

Posted by
396 posts

Thank you so much for all the fantastic information!! I'll definitely obtain those guidebooks and the great fiction recommendations, and follow up on the other references as well. When we went to Wales this year I listened to a many-hour history of Wales on podcast during my drive time. It really does add to the enjoyment of the trip and frankly the armchair travel and associated research is fun too.

When I realized that Crete could possibly be our island hop it was like a moth to a flame. The idea that I could see Knossos and the national museum close by is really exciting. I think otherwise western Crete seems more our style. (C)hania sounds amazing. We'd like to walk Samaria or another gorge, visit a fortress, see great Byzantine frescos in the churches. Right now I'm thinking 5 days in Crete and the rest in Athens & Peloponnese. We'll be able to take 2 full weeks and the 3 weekends they bookend. I realize we may not be able to see all of the big sites on the Peloponnese if we allocate time this way, but I can hope we'll return someday.

Posted by
1316 posts

Janet - A second thank you for your reading recommendations. We have been to Greece twice and will visit Crete for 3 weeks in September. I have recently read The Island by Victoria Hislop, which I can recommend, and now it looks like I have a lot more reading to do. Will try to read The King Must Die before we go but it looks like I have months of enjoyable reading to come! This is one reason why we participate in this forum; we get an added dimension to our travels. Thanks, again!

Posted by
2934 posts

I longed to visit Greece since my teens but Life Got in the Way ... it was many decades before I could take my first trip. This left lots of time for reading (and dreaming). On of the little gems I discovered in Cadogan Guide to Crete concerned "around (C)hora Sfakion, the main town on the s. Coast. Just a couple miles east, en route to Frangokastello, theres a TINY village right on the road, Komitades. There was supposed to be a little church there dating to 1314, St. Georges, with frescos surviving. Off we went, but the little church just at edge of town didn't seem to be it. Next to it was a taverna. We asked an old guy with a handlebar mustache, "Pou (where) Ay Yiorgos??" and he jerked his thumb downhill. We followed a path by a fence, then through an olive grove and a flock of goats, then along a ravine. We were about to give up when hey! a weathered board tacked to a wire fence was hand-lettered Ag G with an arrow. We pressed on and suddenly - there it was! On a hillside, a wee stone "hut" the size of a 1920s ModelT garage... roofless and totally covered with flowering vines. Inside, amazingly preserved, probably due to dry weather, faded painting of St. George & the dragon. All about us, blossoms, silence, a breeze, a dark blue sea below. Unforgettable.

Posted by
396 posts

It's amazing when you're somewhere you've never been before but you just get a sort of resonance from the moment and it feels like you're in exactly the right place.

Also thank you so much for the book references. I read a lot of non-fiction, but after that realistic historical fiction is a favorite genre. I always feel like 'so many books, so little time' so I appreciate an enthusiastic recommendation.

Posted by
3374 posts

Be sure to visit Kritsa, near Agios Nikolaus to see the 13th c. fresco cycle in the Kera Panagia. Another outstanding example of a Byzantine church is that of the monastery of Osios Loukas. Very close to Delphi.

Being an ancient history nerd, I'm sure you are planning to visit the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, but the Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine Museum are very good, also.

Posted by
993 posts

I agree with Janet about CADOGAN GUIDE to PELOPONNESE . . . it's one of the best. I'm not sure if there is an updated version but almost any version will be helpful.

In addition check out Matt's Peloponnese Guide: https://www.greecetravel.com/peloponnesos/ which is really good and in-depth.

The Peloponnese is a wonderful part of Greece that most people don't think about when planning a Greek Holiday, it's usually the islands, but you'll miss out on a classic area that goes back 2,000+ years with wonderful world-class archeological sites, mountains, forest, beaches, Byzantine Churches/Villages, excellent food, wonderful people and a lot less touristy than the islands.

Posted by
396 posts

Thanks very much for your help and info, everyone.

Posted by
769 posts

I usually always add either the Rough Guide or Lonley Planet of the destination (which ever is newest and freshest edition) in addition to the RS Guide. For greece I just got the famous "Blue Guides" for Greece (they have Mainland, Islands or Crete version) - these are heavy history/architecture guides for real history junkies and academics! I just got one for my upcoming greece trip. I would also recommend checking out the DK Eyewitness guides (a bit heavy) to check before you go - they have great visual maps and 3/D bldg & city plans of famous locations that you could photo copy a few pages to augment your books you take with you. Maybe check the library but they often have some off the beaten path items of interest.

If you like WIne - check out the Hugh Johnson Wine Altas chapter on Greece so you know a bit more about the wines in the regions (to go with your bistro/taverna adventures!) Check the Library as its not cheap too.

If you like Hiking/Trekking - the CICERO GUIDES from UK are great but may be more for full day treks. But you can check for short hikes. That said there are plenty of "Hiking in Greece" type guides you can probably finde used on Amazon for normal and 1/2 day locations. Have fun!

Posted by
714 posts

Another book to consider is Anthony Beevor's Crete: the Battle and The Resistance, the story of the battle for Crete in May 1941, and of the resistance by the local population and the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Germans. The Maritime Museum in Chania has an excelllent display relating to WWII. You might also be interested in the British and Commonwealth Cemetry overlooking Souda Bay. The majority of the troops in Crete were Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans but the British Navy lost a large part of their fleet in Souda Bay. The German cemetry at Maleme is also worth a visit - it overlooks the airfield that the Germans paratroopers took.

There was an epic journey across the mountains from the north to the south shores of Crete from where most of the surviving Allied troops who had not been taken prisoner were evacuated by the Royal Navy.

Posted by
993 posts

I have to agree that the Blue Guide Books are some of the best I've seen. I have the one on the Aegean Islands and it is indeed full of history, facts, archeological/sites (even little known ones) small, unheard of villages, places to eat and so much more. One of the best guides on Greece.

I may invest on the ones for the mainland & Crete!

Posted by
396 posts

Thanks everyone! I'll definitely check out these additional guidebooks. DH and I were just talking about Crete and WWII last night, so thank you for the details about the history and Chania museum. Chania is solidly in our plans so far..

Posted by
396 posts

An update on Crete trip planning and guidebooks. I frequently favor RS and Rough Guide as my two favorite trip planning guidebooks, but in this case there is no RS Crete and Rough Guide on Crete left me puzzled. It's relatively easy to plan a trip around big sights but I want to include some of the 'soft' sights and activities that are part of making Crete so captivating like beautiful countryside, lovely villages, great walks, old forests and ancient trees, seaside tavernas and unspoiled beaches. I purchased used copies of Michelin Green Guide Greece, Lonely Planet Crete, Cadogan Guides Crete, and Rough Guide to Crete. I'm finding Lonely Planet Crete to be by far the best in terms of building an itinerary for a first-time visit. (The 2016 version is even better than the 2012 version.) One of the difficulties I've had with planning a trip to Crete is that some guidebooks provide a huge amount of information but not so much evaluative content, leaving me with a bewildering amount of choice. Lonely Planet Crete is a fairly slim volume and at first I thought I'd wasted my money, but on the contrary it has helped me narrow down our options more quickly. It has more sample itineraries and highlight call outs than the other books. While we won't follow any of the suggested itineraries to the letter Lonely Planet Crete provides the structure I needed to start filling in details. 'Your mileage may vary' probably applies here because the Green Guide and Cadogan take a more detailed approach that I might find useful as I hone the schedule.