Greece’s idyllic Peloponnese region gets overshadowed by Instagram stars Mykonos and Santorini, but this tranquil hideaway has lots to offer, including ancient castles, ruins, caves and mythological sites. The largest peninsula in Greece, the Peloponnese region is steeped in Greek mythology and tradition. After drinking from Zeus’s favorite fountain and stepping into the stunning acoustics of the Epidaurus Theatre (built circa 330-20 AD), you’ll feel closer to the gods than any posed Instagram scene would ever get you.
Theatre of Epidaurus
Carved into the side of a mountain and boasting acoustics so stunning that spectators in the back row can hear a pin drop, Epidaurus Theatre is the best preserved ancient theater in Greece. Built in 330 BC, with seating for 13,000 spectators, a walk through the circular structure reveals the architectural genius of ancient Greece. Part of a healing complex dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine (and son of Apollo), there are also hydrotherapy baths, concert halls and exercise arenas for an ancient version of holistic health. Visit from May to October to attend the Epidarus Festival, Greece’s answer to SXSW.
Journey to a tiny island on the Southeastern Coast of the Peloponnese to experience the fairy tale wonders of Monemvasia. Strolling through the winding, cobblestone paths of this medieval castle town is like re-living ancient history. You’ll spot horses delivering supplies early in the morning, and courtyards accented with fig trees make this an Instagrammer’s dream. A limestone fortress wraps around the Myrtoan Sea and medieval mansions and a castle established in 582 AD all makes Monemvasia a must see. Although the town holds only 15 permanent residents, this is Europe’s only castle that has never stopped being inhabited.
Dive into the lush beauty of the emerald hills and old stone streets of the walled city of Mystras. A UNESCO archaeological site, this is where the last emperor of Byzantium was crowned. Perched on a hill surrounded by orange and olive trees, a sprawling citadel unfolds along lower and upper levels of the town. Roam through palaces, monasteries, painted churches and the ruins of a castle. In the courtyard of Agios Demetrios, a small archaeological museum displays the site’s artifacts and history.
One of the most important natural sites in Greece and rivaling the caldera of Santorini for beauty and archaeological significance, Diros Caves supplies a spectacular glimpse into the Neolithic period. Hop a boat and float on an underground lake through caverns to view glistening stalactites and stalagmites dating back to 3,000-4,000 BC. The entrance to the caves is on a beach, but the temps are much cooler underground so remember to take a jacket.
Step into the world of Greek mythology in the ancient city of Messene. Perhaps the most under-the-radar of all of Greece’s classical sites, Messene is also a UNESCO archaeological site and one of the most expansive and best preserved. Founded in 569 BC, this 2,000-year-old city boasts the Clepsydra spring where Zeus reportedly drank and showered, as well as a Temple of Artemis, a stadium, theater and a large shopping arena.
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