Peloponnesos is more than just Greece’s biggest peninsula – in many ways, it is where the heart of the Hellenic world has been beating for millennia, something we are reminded this year when we celebrate the Bicentennial of the start of the Greek revolution in 1821, which began in … Peloponnesos.
When the conversation begins with visitors about Greece being more than just her islands, again, we begin in Peloponessos. The regional governor Panagiotis Nikas shared his thoughts and feelings about his homeland with our readers.
Panagiotis Nikas: The Peloponnese, also known as Morias – the Morea – was known as the land of heroes and gods, while in our time it is the place where one can live unique experiences that cannot be described in words because the Peloponnese takes you on a journey into the world of the senses.
It is a paradise, a special magical path to history, monuments, the ancient gods, the heroes, high mountains, rivers, forests, as well as the deep blue sea – there are picturesque islands and amazing beaches.
In the Peloponnese, life tastes great. Its guests can enjoy the delicious dishes of Mediterranean cuisine and the exquisite wine of the vineyards of the land of Pelops as they get to know the ‘typical Peloponnesian’ expression of the sacred institution of ‘hospitality’.
The land of the Peloponnese, as well as its people, is special in every aspect and characteristic. History and culture, sea and sun, greet visitors who observe nature and partake of outdoor activities, gastronomy, and local products. Those are just some of the elements that make the Peloponnese unforgettable to every visitor.
TNH: Is the Peloponnese suitable for visitors during all seasons or is it primarily a summer destination?
PN: The Peloponnese Region welcomes its visitors with a warm and open embrace throughout the year, in a multitude of destinations of authentic beauty. Each of them seduces with its special features, and a fantastic combination of mountains and sea is a given.
Wonderful sandy beaches with crystal clear waters and small picturesque bays along its shores are waiting for the visitor to discover. The exotic Elafonisos, the picturesque Port of Laconia, the beach of Voidokilia, Kardamili in Messinia, Old Epidavros and Porto Heli, the popular beaches of Corinth attract every year a large number of visitors from around the world. The Peloponnese is truly inexhaustible. One can visit it again and again and each time discover new unexplored corners of it.
In the south of the Peloponnese, as in its plains, winters are mild, and roads are always open. They are waiting for every visitor to come and create unforgettable travel memories, like the dazzling white peaks of Ziria and Mainalo which contrast with the green that covers their slopes. For those who love thrills, it is enough to try their hand at skiing, at the ski resort of Mainalo, at 1,600 meters altitude, a favorite destination of thousands of people every winter.
A romantic walk in the ornamental alleys of the old town of Nafplio, flooded with people and life in the weeks before Christmas, testifies to the fact that the Peloponnese is recommended for all seasons. Autumn and spring are the ideal time periods for visits to the many ancient monuments such as Epidaurus, ancient Mycenae, Ancient Messina, and the Byzantine castle city of Mystras.
The pulse of modern life also captivates the visitor of major urban centers, such as Kalamata and Corinth, and unforgettable experiences await those who experience the magical view of the stormy sea from the cobblestone streets of Monemvasia or from the Venetian castle of Methoni.
TNH: Has Greece as a country invested adequately in the local infrastructure to support the surge of tourists during the high seasons?
PN: As a major tourist destination, Greece has developed infrastructure for hosting its millions of visitors every summer, however some of its areas still remain tourist ‘virgins’, even though they offer myriad opportunities for authentic experiences to the visitor.
The Peloponnese Region does not lack high-level hotel facilities, especially in the areas of Messinia, such as the world-famous Costa Navarino – and a similar complex is being built in Argolida.
The Corinth-Tripoli-Sparta-Kalamata highway gives direct access to the main areas, while the rest of the road network – in which interventions are often made to upgrade its safety – offers unique and pleasant driving experiences through uniquely beautiful landscapes.
TNH: What are three things visitors should know about the region prior to arrival that they wouldn’t find out from a simple Google search?
PN: Adrenaline lovers can, for sure, make the most of the adventure. The purity of the seas of Laconia and the richness of its seabed offer many thrills to divers seeking the magic of underwater exploration. In the area of Lagada, on the highest mountain of the Peloponnese, the legendary Taygetos, a climbing sports park has been created with more than 50 routes. In the Peloponnese there is Parnonas, where several clubs organize activities such as descents, hiking, and cave exploration.
Among other things, the rivers of Arcadia are an ideal destination for fans of ‘extreme’ sport. Impressive landscapes and enchanting routes, combined with steep and rapid waters offer at the same time a unique spectacle to be discovered on two wheels. Around Tripoli, as well as in the villages of Arcadia, there are many beautiful routes for relaxing bike rides.
Unique landscapes of natural beauty await the visitor, such as the gorges of Neda on the borders of Messinia and Ilia, Ridomo in Mani, and Polylimnio in Messinia, but there is also the magic of the many paths of Taygetos. The peninsula of Mani at the southern ‘tip of Tainaron’ with the ‘harsh,’ wild beauty and the unique light that dominates the area and conveys a special temperament, was loved by Kazantzakis – its transports you into the land of ‘Zorba’.
There is a special offshore sailing race that takes place every year in Nea Epidavros, in the Saronic Gulf with the name ‘Epidavros’. The Argolid contains an exceptional monument of human anthropology: the Franghthi cave, on the stony wild mountain, opposite the valley, which can be explored. Thousands of finds and the ancient human skeletons that are found here shed light on an important particular period of human life.
The area of the Isthmus, with the world-famous canal, cosmopolitan Corinth, and the famous Loutraki area attract visitors, who can enjoy uniquely beautiful landscapes or explore the magical mountainous environs of Corinth, a destination ideal for all seasons.
TNH: How has the COVID pandemic changed the way the region and its inhabitants view tourism?
PN: It is a fact that the pandemic significantly affected the tourism sector, however the Greek State and the Peloponnese Region supported the industry as much as possible.
Now, through continuous trainings and seminars, the staff of the tourist entities have been fully trained and certified by official bodies in knowledge regarding the issues related to the protection of the health of visitors, in the context of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
At the same time, with the vaccination program moving ahead at a very good pace, it is certain that this summer – without ever, of course, forgetting the protection measures – visitors to the Peloponnese will have a beautiful experience.
TNH: Is there one thing that the Peloponnese is best known for, and how is the region going about diversifying what they’re known for?
PN: The Peloponnese is not known for just one thing, so there is no need for the Peloponnese Region to ‘invent’ something extra in order to offer visitors variety.
Let's start with the famous olive oil and Kalamata olives, the excellent wines of Nemea and mountainous Arcadia, which are also world famous.
As richly historical place that that emerges from the depths times, the Peloponnese is dotted with monuments of antiquity, the most famous of which are located in Epidaurus, Mycenae, Sparta, and Corinth.
It also has impressive castles, beautiful Byzantine churches and monasteries, picturesque villages – some perched in its green mountains, others next to beautiful beaches.
In short, the Peloponnese is a microcosm of Greece. Discovering the Peloponnese, you discover Greece…