Ready to explore one of the most beautiful and unique areas of the Greek mainland? The Peloponnese region is home to ancient sites, stunning beaches, and some of the best food in Greece. We recently took a magical one week road trip through the villages of the southern Peloponnese peninsula and are excited to share our route!
Renting a Car in Athens
For most travelers heading to the Peloponnese region, your trip will likely start by renting a car in Athens. Instead of picking up your vehicle in the capital it’s much easier to get one from the airport.
You could also visit Athens first, then head to one of the off-site airport locations afterwards to start your journey to the Peloponnese. The reason for this is when you return it will be much simpler to drop your car off at the airport and fly out.
It can be a pain navigating the hectic streets of Athens, and we wouldn’t recommend it even for the most skilled of drivers. There is also an option to pick up in Athens and drop the car off at our last point in Kalamata. However, know that it usually comes with a hefty one-way fee.
If you are traveling from Europe you could also search for cheap flights into Kalamata instead. This airport has started to run more international routes with additional flights added in the busier summer months. From Athens to the first stop in the Peloponnese region will be about a 2 hour drive.
When we booked our rental car in Athens we compared companies and paid just over 100 Euros for one week. Discover Cars is the same website we used to get an insanely cheap rental deal in Croatia before traveling to Greece.
5. Tips for Your Peloponnese Greece Road Trip
1. Plan For Tolls: When leaving Athens and driving on the major highway expect to pass though many tolls. The booths take both cash and credit cards and are mostly between 2 and 3 Euros.
2. Be Patient: Despite what locals may be doing on the roads, know that it’s not a race! Drive safely, take your time, and enjoy the scenery.
3. Rent a Small Car: If you’ve ever driven in Europe before then you already know the roads can often be tight. Unless you’re traveling with a big group there’s no reason to have a big vehicle. Renting a small car will also save you some money on gas.
4. Peloponnese is Massive: This part of Greece is absolutely enormous taking up 21,549 square km (8,320 miles) of the Southern part of the country. It’s important not to overwhelm yourself if you only have a week. We’re already planning to come back and see more after our one week journey!
5. Your Route: This Itinerary is based on our own route through the Peloponnese region of Greece. Use this is a loose guide to plan your own trip, but don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path and find your own hidden gems. There are so many other beautiful places to explore in the area. We will share more tips and locations at the end of this article that you might want to check out.
Our 1 Week Peloponnese Road Trip
Day 1: Athens to Monemvasia
The first day leaving from Athens is one of the longest you’ll have in the car. The ride is just over 4 hours to Monemvasia, but it’s extremely scenic. The beginning will be on a major highway before you cut inland and start seeing the natural beauty of Greece.
If you’re passing through Sparta around lunch time make sure to stop in! You might recognize the name from the skilled warriors who battled for control of Greece. Sparta has been is an infamous part of ancient Greek history and the epic battles have been depicted in countless Hollywood movies.
15 minutes before you arrive in Monemvasia there is also a great winery not to miss. Monemvasia Winery is a family run vineyard which offers tastings and tours throughout the week. You can even just pop in and pick up a few bottles to enjoy later.
We took a guided tour of the Monemvasia Winery cellar to learn about their production process. After enjoying a wonderful tasting we couldn’t help but buy a few bottles to take with us! We ended up trying a good amount of wine in the Peloponnese region but this was definitely our favorite.
Continuing on to Monemvasia
When first approaching Monemvasia from the mainland you might be a little confused though… Where is the town?
Well, it’s actually on the back side of the massive island rock out in the sea. In ancient times, this made for the perfect concealed hiding place from enemies and pirates.
There are limited accommodations in Monemvasia as it is very small. However, many of the houses have been converted into gorgeous boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts.
We stayed at Theophano Art Hotel and it was such an authentic experience. You can also look in the new town which is just across the stone bridge from the island.
Day 2: Exploring Monemvasia
Monemvasia is one of the most special places to visit in Peloponnese Greece and totally deserves a full day! Above the lower town is the Monemvasia Castle where a major settlement was built in the 6th century.
Much like other places in the Peloponnese region, Monemvasia was conquered several times throughout the middle ages by the Franks, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. All left their mark on Monemvasia and the remnants of that can be seen in the historic fortress.
This is why you can see both beautiful churches and Turkish baths in the same place! It wouldn’t be until the Greek Revolution of 1821 that it was officially handed over.
So what are the best things to do in Monemvasia? We recommend hiking to the top of the castle, grabbing a coffee in the cute main square (we liked Volax Espresso Bar), and walking on the coastal path around the backside of the island. For a beautiful view, be sure to also grab a glass of wine at Malvasia Cafe.
Day 3: Relaxing Day in Gytheio
The next stop on our Peloponnese road trip was the fun little town of Gytheio. At first glance, we weren’t sure what to make of this small seaside town. Yet, after a full day here we grew to love it! Before you arrive in the town be sure to stop at the Dimitrios Shipwreck.
The legends may say it’s a ghost ship, but it was actually transporting cargo and then abandoned on Selinistra Beach in 1981. The graffiti gives it a unique look and it sits on one of the only sandy beaches we saw along our drive.
Arriving in Gytheio
The first thing to do when you get there is walk the harbor to the lighthouse of Gytheio. This was our favorite part of the day as we saw the colors of the town pop from the large peninsula.
Stop into 90 Moires when you get hungry for a fresh fish lunch. This was one of the best meals we had in the Peloponnese region as we enjoyed a delicious assortment of seafood. There are also the ancient ruins of a Roman theatre just a short walk away if you’re in the mood for some more history.
The modern rooms were spacious and just what we needed to relax and prepare for the next part of our Peloponnese road trip. The rooftop restaurant also had an amazing view of town and was a fun place for dinner and drinks.
Day 4: Hiking in Mani
This part of our one week itinerary truly shows how spectacular this region is. From the beautiful beaches to history and great local food, Peloponnese Greece truly has it all! Still, the star of the show is the Taygetus mountains which towers over Mani Peninsula.
Your best option is to leave Gytheio early and plan for a mid-afternoon hike. You could also take your time getting to Kardamyli and set up an outdoor adventure for the following morning.
We hiked with a great company called 2407m Outdoor Experience. They specialize in trails for all skill levels where you’re accompanied by local guides. We thought it was the perfect way to learn about the history and nature of this area as you take in the views.
Our hike began in a small mountain village high above Kardamyli with local breakfast and coffee. From there, we winded our way up and down the green hilltops and ended in the beach town.
Some highlights from our day were tasting wild asparagus, walking the royal road from Sparta, and getting epic photos of the Peloponnese Peninsula. They even offer hiking tours to top of Taygetus which is the tallest mountain in the Peloponnese.
Kardamyli is a peaceful beach town that is perfect for an afternoon swim and lunch. Some of our favorite accommodations near the water are Melitsina Village Hotel, Ipsό Kardamyli, and Ifigenia’s Rooms.
Afternoon in Kardamyli Peloponnese
After a 4 hour hike through the massive mountains of the Peloponnese we were ready for a relaxing afternoon. The first step was hitting the beach to cool off. It felt so good to dive into the Mediterranean Sea after our hike!
If you’re looking for something to eat we recommend Elies Restaurant. It’s set in a stunning outdoor garden with the sparkling sea just across the street. There are also sun beds available so you can get more beach time in after enjoying a traditional Greek meal.
Day 5 to 7: Kalamata Beach & Old Town
Our one week Peloponnese itinerary now heads to the coastal city of Kalamata. This is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, as it combines old town with epic mountains and beaches.
The best time to visit is in the peak season of summer when the waters warm and sun is out and shining. We didn’t have the best weather in early May, but still managed to get some beach time in during our stay.
It’s one of the best places to base yourself in Peloponnese Greece with its central location. To be honest, you could easily spend a week enjoying Kalamata and the nearby towns!
By the time you actually make it to Kalamata you will likely be tired from exploring Southern Greece. We took a leisurely stroll along the Kalamata Beach and grabbed dinner in the lively harbor area.
On the second day we headed to Kalamata Old Town to wander the narrow streets and colorful alleyways. Here there is the 13th century Kalamata Castle which is one of many Venetian fortresses you’ll see in the Peloponnese.
A couple other historic sites not to miss are the church of the Holy Apostles and Cathedral of Ipapanti. You’ll also find several museums where you can learn more about the fascinating history of the Peloponnese region.
There are so many great places to try the local cuisine in Kalamata Old Town, too! Whatever you do, don’t forget about the olives. This part of Peloponnese is famous for its olive oil and olive groves that surround the city.
Day Trip to Koroni in Southern Peloponnese
While we strongly suggest staying in Kalamata, there are some incredible day trips to make from here. Koroni was one of our favorite places we ventured to.
Our first stop was at the Koroni Citidel when we arrived. It’s a fantastic walk up the hill through a local neighborhood and colorful houses.
From the top you’ll have a great view of town and the beach below. We had a refreshing fredo espresso at one of the cafes before continuing on our Peloponnese day trip.
Obviously, you can stay in a hotel in Koroni if you’d rather. There is a great spot called Xenias Rooms Apartments right in town and you can have a swim at the nearby Zaga Beach.
Nevertheless, we preferred to have 2 nights in Kalamata and drive around to the different coastal towns on our last day.
Have More Time to Explore Peloponnese Greece?
As we mentioned, this one week road trip is based off our own visit to the Peloponnese region. After that, we continued on to the Meteora Monasteries and more of mainland Greece.
Remember that there is so much more to experience in the Peloponnese! If you have the time we highly recommend two weeks to explore the area. Some picturesque towns and attractions that we will plan to see on our next trip are listed below.
Mycenae: One of the most important archaeological sites in Peloponnese Greece. The Mycenaean civilization played a huge part in shaping European culture from the 15th to the 12th century B.C
Nafplio: One of the most beautiful cities to visit in the Peloponnese with incredible history and architecture.
Mystras: Known as the “Wonder of Morea” and was at one point the center of Byzantine Empire. The area around the castle developed into cultural meeting point where ideas and art flourished.
Corinth Canal: A manmade canal finished in 1893 which connects the Gulf of Corinth and the Ionian Sea.
Olympia: Birthplace of the ancient Olympic games and one of the most famous places in the Peloponnese.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for visiting Peloponnese Greece? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Greece Travel Planning
For island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies. The fast ferries like Sea Jets will cost more but often takes half the time of slower ferries like Blue Star.
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