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First time to the Peloponnese with 2-3 weeks

I am in the very early stages of planning a trip to Greece for next May/June (or Sept/Oct). My last trip to Greece was 20 years ago, focused on the Cyclades, and I loved Naxos and Folegandros.

I'd like to experience a different part of Greece on this trip. Hiking, natural beauty, beaches/water, tavernas/food and "slowing down" to absorb the local pace and culture are my priorities.

I expect I'd rent a car in Athens to explore the peninsula. But I definitely don't want to always be driving from one town to the next. (I'm thinking about visiting Delphi first from Athens, but maybe that's too far out of the way and I should save it for another time and go straight from Athens to Peloponnese?)

Kardamyli, Monemvasia, and Nafplio seem like obvious choices and shouldn't be overly crowded during the shoulder season.

Among the Ionian islands, I'd pick one or at most two: Kythira, Lefkadha, Zakynthos, Kefalonia?

I'd greatly appreciate any suggestions/tips on an itinerary like this for 2-3 weeks.

Thanks!

Posted by
4560 posts

The Bradt books is great for the region. We visited Nafplio, Kardamyli, and Zatouna (near Stemnitsa/Dimitsana) in about 11 days. With more time, I would have stayed longer in each and/or added in the west coast (Pylos area) and gone deeper into the Mani.
This was late May 2019, and we practically had some places to ourselves.
I think you could add Delphi easily, but maybe make your must list first and see.

Posted by
1964 posts

Just like you, we hate spending our time in a car driving from one town to the next and from site to site.
It's with this philosophy that we traveled to the Peloponese last spring at the end of May for 15 days + 4 days in Athens.

Despite the impossibility of seeing everything in 15 days, we still saw some inevitable "basics" like Nafplio, Monemvasia, Mani region, Stoupa, Kalamata, Messini, Olympia...

But actually the best times for us were those outside the main tourist sites.

As Greek island lovers that we have been visiting regularly for quite a few years, I also wanted, like you, to include an island in the itinerary but above all avoiding touristy islands like Zakynthos or Corfu. The solution was obvious: Kythira.

The island is easy to include in a Peloponnese itinerary if you go to Monemvasia.

From Monemvasia you are 1 hour from Neapoli where you can take a ferry to Kythira with your rental car (Triton Ferries). The crossing costs €12.50 per passenger and €45 for the car and takes 1 hour 15 minutes.

https://tritonferries.gr/en/

We stayed 5 days in Khytira and we are ready to go back tomorrow if necessary. :-))

Photos of Kythira:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ez7wWiY52shNsBNP8

Peloponnese:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/WpaJ1w9gWZhq1CjK6

Posted by
266 posts

This past April, we traveled to Greece staying 5 nights in Gythio, 3 in Nafplio, 3 on Naxos and 3 in Athens. We rented a car from Sixt at the airport (ATH) and drove to Gythio (Pantheon City Hotel) that afternoon. Day trips to Monemvasia and nearby countryside; Diros Caves; and Kalamata. Stopped at Sparta and Mystras on way to Nafplio (Hotel Marianna - a favorite). As we had been to Nafplio and area before, we just visited nearby. Headed for Athens early (stopping at Corinth Canal of course), returning car and getting on a flight to Naxos (Infinity Apts. on the beach) This was also a second visit so used buses to visit some remote areas. Flight back to Athens, staying in an apt. in Plaka. We have barely touched the Peloponnese and Cyclades in two visits and will have to return.

Posted by
2565 posts

JoLui-how did you divide your nights among the places you stayed?

And Kythira looks so lovely! I had never even heard of it!

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions! Keep 'em coming. I will likely get the Bradt book too. Thanks for sharing your great photos JoLui!

In terms of islands, I think I have narrowed it down to Kythira and/or Lefkadha.

Lefkadha is connected to the western Greece mainland by a bridge, so I could drive there, say after visiting Delphi -- it looks like a 4-5 hour drive.

But Kythira is the best located to the Peleponnese, as JoLui said, and a quick ferry ride that I could take my rental car on. So I am leaning strongly in that direction to minimize driving days and constantly moving from one place to the next. And Kythira looks plenty awesome for a multi-day island visit.

Posted by
1964 posts

jd & BetFL

Here is the first part of our itinerary:

Picking up a rental car at Athens airport

  • Day 1: Athens→Nafplio (2 hours driving)

  • Day 2 Nafplio

  • Day 3 Nafplio → Tyros (1h30 driving via the coast)

  • Day 4 Tyros → Monemvasia (2h30 driving)

  • Day 5 Monemvasia → Neapoli→Ferry to Kythira (1h driving + 1h15 ferry)

  • Day 6 to 10 Kythira

  • Day 10 Kythira → Ferry to Neapoli → Stoupa (1h15 ferry + 3h driving)

  • Day 11 Stoupa → Messini via Kalamata and Kakóvatos (2h30 driving)

We always minimize driving hours so that we can stop along the route if we like some places to have a coffee or a drink or lunch or just to enjoy the scenery.

Seeing a country only through a car windshield is not our thing

Posted by
2565 posts

JoLui,

Thanks for the details. The Peloponnese is on my list of places I would like to go so am very interested in what others have done.

Posted by
1964 posts

What I would advise when considering an itinerary and before planning to go from place A to place B, it is to study the topography in this region by consulting a road map with the relief.

The area is very mountainous and it may be necessary to drive for hours to get between two places that seem close to each other as the crow flies.

An example with an Openstreet map (sorry if the names are in Greek)

https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=8/37.337/22.412&layers=P

Also be wary of the journey times calculated by Google Maps, they are often very optimistic and Google Maps ignores that you will want to stop in lots of places during the journey.

Posted by
31 posts

Narrowing things down with some more research... I am curious to hear others' thoughts on either of these potential itineraries:

Athens (0 or 1 night depending on arrival time) rent car and drive to Nafplio (4 nights?) to Monemvasia (1 night) to Kythira (6 nights?) to Kardamyli (3 nights?) - back to Athens (drop off rental car, couple nights and depart home).

Or: Athens - ferry to Hydra (3 nights?) ferry to Ermoni (rent car there) to Nafplio (4 nights?) to Monemvasia (1 night) to Kythira (4-5 nights?) to Kardamyli (3 nights?) - back to Athens (drop off rental car, couple nights and depart home).

Thanks!

Posted by
1964 posts

Both of your options are "technically" possible

But do you have a specific reason for going to Hydra? (and Ermioni)

Hydra is an island recommended by R Steves for people who stay in Athens and don't have enough time to stay several days on a Greek island (although in my opinion it is not the best option).
If you plan to stay several nights in Kythira, you don't need a "taste of a Greek island" like Hydra

Also you will be very limited in choice to find a rental car in Ermioni with a drop off in Athens than if you pick it up / drop off in Athens. (not including the additional cost for drop off at a different location from the pickup)

So, if you don't have a specific reason, 3 nights in Hydra is a waste of time. These 3 nights could be used in other places in the Peloponnese and/or in Athens).

Also note that when arriving from a transatlantic flight it may not be recommended to take the road immediately upon arriving in Athens.

But it's up to you

Posted by
31 posts

I guess the main reason I thought of Hydra is it sounds like a very nice island I could get to pretty easily soon after arriving in Athens -- to settle down, chill out and get over jet lag. (As you say, driving after a long flight isn't a good idea and I like the idea of hitting an island for a few days right off the bat before I start exploring via car.) Also, I like walking/hiking, which seems to be a good thing to do on Hydra. I imagine it would also be a different island experience from Kythira. I have no reason to go to Ermioni other than it is the closest Peloponnese port to Hydra and to pick up a rental car, but renting a car there and dropping it off in Athens may indeed be a non-starter or too expensive. (I've emailed a rental company to ask.)

Anyway, it was an idea that came to me after further research and looking at maps, but I hadn't heard of anyone doing it before. So I thought I'd ask and get others' opinions. Clearly, some people really love Hydra and others.. not so much. : ) Thanks again for sharing your thoughts JoLui. I appreciate it.

Posted by
1964 posts

Going to Hydra to rest for a few days and reach the Peloponnese by ferry, yes why not.

If your flight arrives early enough you can even go to Piraeus on the day of your arrival and take a ferry (there are ferries until around 6 p.m./7 p.m.)

Note that you can also do this via Aegina Island (followed by a ferry to Methana). Aegina is closer to Piraeus than Hydra, larger, and offers a lot of activity possibilities.

https://www.aegina.com.gr/?lang=en

The determining factor in my opinion being the possibility (and price) to picking up a car once on the mainland and returning it to Athens.

For information, in May 2023 I paid €392 for 11 days of rental of an SUV type car with ferry insurance and 2nd driver, pickup Athens airport / drop off Athens downtown.

Since you emailed to inquire about rental cars, I forgot to inform you that you need to tell the car rental company that you are going to take the car on the ferry. This is essential for insurance reasons. Some rental companies do not allow this, others charge extra.

Another clarification regarding booking a ferry ticket for the car.
During the reservation process you will be asked for the car's license plate number. As you will not know it in advance, enter "RENT123".

You will also be asked for the car category. With Triton ferries it's the ferry "Porfyrousa" that you will take to go to Kythira, you should normally indicate the first category: <4.25m / 1m80 max height, unless you have decided to rent a minibus or a truck :-))

Regarding ferry schedules, since those for May/June 2024 will not be published until around mid-March you can check on the website: http://www.openseas.gr/ which allows you to go back in time and see the schedules in May/June 2023.

These schedules do not change much from one year to the next.

Posted by
1172 posts

I spent 13 days in the Peloponnese last October (2022) and was based in three locations:

Nafplio (3 days)

Gythio (5 days)

Petalidi (5 days)

An alternative to Petalidi would be Koroni a bit further south but with more options for services but Petalidi was fine for me.

I would highly recommend finding a copy of the Cadogan's Guide to the Peloponnese. While it was last published in 2010 it's still very relevant and offers more info than any other guide I've seen. Full of details on everything regarding the Peloponnese, all areas, out of the way and more traditional Greece, archeological/historic sites and so much more. Good color maps of roads and black and white maps of various areas.

https://www.facarospauls.com/guidebooks/greece/peloponnese-and-athens/

Bradt is current, more color and would be OK if you can't find Cadogan's which is usually on used book sites like good reads or abe books. Ebay may have it at a much lower price.

If interested you can read my trip report along with photos I posted on another travel forum.

It may help you with where to stay and other decisions regarding the Peloponnese:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189483-i1277-k14200587-Peloponnese_Trip_Report_Sept_25_Oct_12-Peloponnese.html

FYI: I just returned from 6 days on Kythira and I can highly recommend it as it's overlooked by many but offers a bit more of the "real" Greece than a lot of other islands.

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks tommyk5! Appreciate your info and suggestions. I've ordered both the Bradt and Cadogan guidebooks from eBay and looking forward to learning more in-depth about the area.

Did you split your time on Kythira between north and south or sleep in one spot for the full 6 days?

Posted by
1172 posts

I stayed in Potamos in the north of the island as it was a better fit for me.

Good base to explore the entire island and a very nice working class town with enough services to keep me happy.

Small town square ringed with shops, markets and tavernas and a nice Sunday morning Farmer's Market.

If you are looking for accommodations check out Pyrgos House as they have a wide range of accommodations all over the island and in a range of budgets.

None of the accommodations are on third party sites or have web sites and the manager of the site is wonderful and will help you tremendously.

They are restored and/or traditional houses and definitely the best place to find accommodations

I stayed at Guest House Lanos on the ground floor and it was excellent and at 40 euros a night for a solo traveler.

Here's the web site:

https://www.pyrgoshouse.com/

Posted by
31 posts

As I've researched some more, I have narrowed down to the following (still very general and subject to change!) route/itinerary:

  • Athens to Nafplio (depending on arrival time in Athens may or may not spend first night in Athens airport vicinity before renting car from the airport).
  • Nafplio for 3 nights to explore the town, Mycenae and area.
  • Monemvasia (1 or 2 nights). Visit Kyparissi?
    • Question: Should I stop and spend the night somewhere in between Monemvasia and Nafplio or drive directly there? Looks like a 3-ish hour drive?
  • Drive to Neapoli and take ferry to Kythira. Spend 5-6 nights on Kythira, probably in one spot (beach area) or split into two locations.
  • Gythio and/or Kardamyli for 4 nights to hang out and explore the Mani and Mystra
    • Question: Should I stop and spend a night in between Neapolis and Kardamyli? Looks like a fairly long drive to Kardamyli, so maybe I'd spend the first night or two at Gythio and then Kardamyli for the last 2-3 nights. Spend a night in Gerolimenas?
  • Drive from Kardamyli to Athens and spend last couple nights in Athens.

Appreciate any thoughts/suggestions on this itinerary. Thanks!

Posted by
1964 posts

Should I stop and spend the night somewhere in between Monemvasia and
Nafplio or drive directly there? Looks like a 3-ish hour drive?

Monemvasia (1 or 2 nights). Visit Kyparissi?

If you arrive in Monemvasia early enough you will have time to visit it and will not need to stay in Monemvasia more than one night.

For us, Monemvasia, even if you can take beautiful photos there, was a big disappointment because of its "theme park" atmosphere where there is zero local life apart from that dedicated to tourists with its hotels, restaurants and souvenirs shops, so for us a 3 hour stop would have been enough.

A 3rd option would be to drive from Nafplio to Monemvasia via the coast and stop at Kiparissi but this involves around 5 hours of driving on scenic winding roads

Regarding Kythira..

"Spend 5-6 nights on Kythira, probably in one spot (beach area) or
split into two locations."

You don't need to change location during your stay in Kythira. By car it only takes an hour to go from one end of the island to the other.. If you choose an accommodation that you like, why go to another, waste time checking out - checking in, just to go only a few kilometers further?

By choosing relatively central accommodation like Potamos (pretty village) like tommyk5 or a little further south like us in the area of ​​the villages of Arionadika, Frilingiánika, Pitsinades (even prettier!), you will be very well located, even to go to The beaches

In about 30 minutes of driving you will be, for example, on Diakofti beach:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/dN28JNUxeYXrJsak9

Or in Avlemonas:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/jDvdmhfHcuDvRHSg7

Some other (short) videos taken this year

The roads in the center of the island (towards Pitsinades where we had an Airbnb)

https://photos.app.goo.gl/W3rwhfPYEko8Cghe8

Easy hike in the center of the island:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/HyjEDKoaayBi7SodA

See how the Neapoli→Kythira ferry trip is done (with the car on the ferry).

https://photos.app.goo.gl/utwn7vepfS7qv1t18

Another hike from Chora, the capital:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/NKMELz161YiAWpua8

Posted by
31 posts

Very helpful, thanks! Given the small size of Kythira, I will pick one spot to stay. I definitely want that spot to be near the water though, as I love ocean/sea views from a balcony and early evening/sunset by the water/beach.

Posted by
1172 posts

If you want a village on the beach then you have three choices:

Kapsali
Platia Ammos
Agia Pelagia
Avlemonas

Kapsali is the largest beach town with good options for services. Nice beach, long waterfront lined with shops, markets and tavernas.

Platia Ammos is at the far north of the island, small, tidy, neat, lovely white sand beach but not a lot of options for services and off the beaten track.

Agia Pelagia has a large white sand beach but the town lacks character and I thought looked messy

Avelomonas is a resort but may be the pearl of the beach towns. No real beach to speak of but has a unique stone platform and rocks for diving into the sea. According to mythology it was where Aphrodite took her baths.

Very well maintained, clean, orderly with several tavernas and markets. But it is a resort so take that into account.

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks tommyk! I'm leaning towards Kapsali since it is a larger town than Avlemonas with more shops/tavernas/etc. and has a big beach. Since I'm going solo and in early June, I don't want things to be too quiet where I stay on the island.

Posted by
1964 posts

"Should I stop and spend a night in between Neapolis and Kardamyli?
Looks like a fairly long drive to Kardamyli, so maybe I'd spend the
first night or two at Gythio and then Kardamyli for the last 2-3
nights. Spend a night in Gerolimenas?”

From Kythira, we took the 2 p.m. ferry to Neapoli and stopped at Stoupa which is a little closer than Kardamyli.
Stoupa is quite pretty (and touristy), you will find a lot of accommodation and services there. The car journey Neapoli → Stoupa takes approximately 3 hours.

Also note that from Kythira you can possibly take a ferry to Gythio (instead of returning to Neapoli). In May/June this year there were two per week with the Seajets "Aqua Jewel".
Provided that the ferry timetables suit you, this will bring you closer to your next destinations by saving around 1.5 hours of driving time.

Regarding the southern part with Gerolimenas, it is a place that other travelers had recommended to us, as well as Vathia and Aeropoli, but it was incompatible with our timing.

For you it could be a good option if you still have places to find and nights to book.

Posted by
1172 posts

When I was on Kythira early October I went to Kapsali and checked it out.

It was early in the day so appeared very quiet but it probably livened up later.

Nice beach, very long waterfront lined with enough services to keep most anyone happy.

It's also just a short ride from Chora if you need more options.

If I had to pick a beach village to stay at it would be Kapsali as it's large enough and close to other towns for more options.

Ammos and Avlemonas are very nice but a bit out of the way except if you want a more quiet stay.

Posted by
31 posts

If I have a few extra nights to spend in the Peloponnese before driving back to Athens, I'm curious if folks think it makes sense to move from Kardamyli (after 2 or 3 nights there) to Pylos for another couple nights and use Pylos as my base to visit ancient Messene for a daytrip. (I'm looking at the Karalis Beach Hotel and it looks great for views, swimming, walking into town, etc.)

Or, I could just extend my nights in Kardamyli and do day trips to the southern Messinia region and ancient Messene.

Posted by
1964 posts

It's up to you to choose and decide based on your preferences. Pylos is about 2 hours from ancient Messene. There are options closer but if you want to stay close to the sea you won't get much better.

Messene is definitely worth the visit.

We went there from Kakovatos a little further north, 1 hour away. Staying one night at Ostria Hotel. It's a hotel without any particular charm but faces the beach and the sea. There are 3 or 4 restaurants nearby. If it's for a one-night stopover it could be a choice

https://maps.app.goo.gl/c9VTz7R5yTjRkPgh8

Anyway if you want to avoid long days of driving you will have to optimize your last night(s) in the Peloponnese for an easy return trip to Athens

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks again JL for your response and the suggestion of Ostria hotel. I appreciate the ideas from travelers like you who have visited the area, while knowing that we all have our own preferences!

Posted by
31 posts

Just to follow-up (in case of interest or helpful to others planning), I've settled on my itinerary and main bases for my May/June 2024 Peloponnese road trip:

Arrive Athens late afternoon and spend first night near airport (likely Peri's Hotel); pick up rental car next morning.
Nafplio: 3 nights
Monemvasia: 1 night
Kythira (Kapsali beach): 5 nights (Neopoli ferry to Kythira, and (hopefully) Sunday departure ferry to Gythio)
Kardamyli: 5 nights
Pylos: 3 nights
Drive back to Athens airport area to return car: 1 night at Peri's, before flying home next day

Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions!

Posted by
20 posts

We just returned from 5 weeks in Greece, including 10 days in the Peloponnese peninsula. Pylos, on the southwest coast, was probably our favorite place to stay. A lovely, small town, we had an apt. 2-3 blocks to the town square, markets, bakeries, waterfront, restaurants, etc. We were 3 nights in Pylos, 1 night in Kitries (north of Kardamyli), 2 nights in Gytheio and 3 nights in Nafplion. I highly recommend seeing Ancient Messinia (Messine) as one of the best preserved and most complete ruins in the country. Also the 'castle' of Methoni, south between Pylos and Messinia/Kalamata. Enjoy!!

Posted by
31 posts

That's great to hear - thanks Mary! I'm counting down the months...

Posted by
1 posts

Great ideas. We have 12 days in Greece and will do 2 days in Athens and then head to the Peloponnese peninsula. Considering Kythira but not sure on whether we can ferry our rental car or if we are better off renting a second car on the island. Any details on this regarding which rental company people have used would be appreciated.

Posted by
1964 posts

No rental company will allow you to pick up the car for example in Athens (city or airport) and drop-off in Neapoli or Gythio where the ferries leave for Kythira.
Therefore the only option is to take the car on the ferry.

Ask the rental company if you can take the car on the ferry, many accept it, sometimes with an extra charge due to insurance, sometimes without an extra charge. Some companies do not allow it.
This can also be specified on the Terms & Conditions page on the website.

The process of boarding the ferry with the car is not difficult, you will be guided by the ferry staff, thousands of passengers do this every month.
The only requirement is to book well in advance, especially in high season as car capacity is limited.

Also plan to be at the port at least 45 minutes before the ferry departure time and get in the queue of boarding cars and trucks.
If the driver is obviously in the car to board it, the other passengers can board as pedestrians.

As already explained, when you buy a ferry ticket for the car you are asked to enter the license plate number. Enter RENT123 (or RENTAL, or something like that)

Posted by
3258 posts

Lots of great info here!

Just a quick post to say that we really enjoyed our stay at Karalis Beach Hotel in Pylos for all of the reasons that you've listed. It's a good base for visiting the region!

Posted by
69 posts

Marsle,
So pleased to read that you loved the Karalis Beach hotel as we’ll be staying there for 4 nights next month!