Exploring the South Peloponnese
Wild, authentic and drop-dead beautiful, the Peloponnese is the perfect place to get away from the crowds and experience a real taste of Greece. This eight-day trip around the South Peloponnese seriously delivers when it comes to breathtaking beaches, ancient culture and heavenly food. What more could you want?
Itinerary At a Glance:
- Sail past ancient stalactites on a tour of the other-wordly Diros Caves
- Hike around the picturesque coastal village of Kardamili
- Explore the picture-perfect beaches of Elafonissos Island
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Day 1: Flight to Greece
Once you arrive in Kalamata, pick up your hire car, which will be ready and waiting for you. It's time to hit the road, for your first taste of the inimitable, rugged beauty of the South Peloponnese, on the two-hour drive to the Mani region and your hotel.
Once you've checked in, there's time to relax in the hotel - your base for the next three nights - before indulging in a delicious al-fresco Greek feast, with a knock-out sea view. Not a bad way to kick off your holiday.
Day 2: Hiking in Kardamili
Fill up on a hearty breakfast before jumping in your hire car and driving north to Kardamilii, taking just under an hour-and-a-half.
This charming Greek coastal village on the edge of the Mani region is as picturesque as they come - think beautiful, traditional stone houses nestled into a lush green hill, overlooking the Aegean Sea. There's no better way to explore the area than on foot.
Hike along one of the well-trodden routes that take in the many churches, chapels, monasteries and fortresses scattered around Kardamili, as well as secluded coves and incredible views of the Taygetos mountains. Dine at one of the authentic village tavernas, before making the journey back to your hotel.
Day 3: Exploring the Caves of Diros
This morning you'll jump in your hire car to the Diros Caves where your guide will meet you to take you on an unforgettable tour.
Located at the top of the Mani, between the towns of Pirgos Dirou and Areopolis, and formed millions of years ago, these vast caves (thought to be around 14km long) are believed to be one of the earliest inhabitant places in Greece. Board your boat, along with your guide, for an hour's journey gliding past ancient, multicoloured stalactites and stalagmites, through the passages and caverns that make up this eerie, subterranean world.
Once you're back above ground, there's enough time to grab some lunch at Kardamili again, or jump straight back in the car and visit one of the pretty coastal towns such as Areopoli or Limeni for a bite to eat before heading back to the comfort of your hotel for one last night.
Day 4: Onwards to Monemvasia
Indulge in a leisurely breakfast of Greek yoghurt, local honey and fresh fruit, before checking out of your hotel and hitting the road for the second part of your Peloponnese adventure.
After a scenic, two-hour drive east, you'll arrive at the beautiful medieval town of Monemvasia. Sat on its own small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese, this uniquely preserved castle town can be reached by car from the mainland, along a 200m causeway - Monemvasia certainly knows how to make a dramatic first impression.
Enjoy a slow pace of life surrounded by idyllic vineyards, scented olive groves and fruit orchards. Unpack, freshen up and relax by the pool after your long drive.
Day 5: Kicking Back at Kinsterna
Waking up in luxury, enjoy your breakfast under the Greek sunshine, soaking up the sea view from the terrace.
Today is yours to relax and make the most of this outstanding place - there's absolutely heaps of things to see and do here you really won't want to venture much further. Take a walk around the island, exploring the vast gardens and orchards, with ancient olive trees, fragrant orange groves and heaving beds of vegetables and herbs, which the local restaurant chefs make good use of, before enjoying a tour of the private vineyards and sampling some for yourself, of course.
There's the option to explore by bicycle or on horseback, or even try your hand at some traditional weaving, but if you're craving some serious downtime, book into the dreamy spa for an indulgent massage, before collapsing by the pool with a good book and an ice-cold drink.
In the evening, get dressed up for a night of culinary treats, with a meal at a fine-dining restaurant.
Day 6: Exploring Monemvasia
After a day making the most of your beautiful hotel, it's time to see what else this enchanting island has to offer. You'll be met at Kinsterna by your local guide, who will take you on a relaxing two-hour private walking tour around Monemvasia.
Wander along the winding narrow streets, past fortress walls and explore the town's beautiful churches, as you soak up the magical atmosphere of this medieval gem. Your guide will regale you with fascinating tales of local legends, stories about Monemvasia's history, architecture and culture and poems inspired by the beauty of the place.
Before you return to your hotel, there's time to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Myrtoo Sea and grab a quick snack - try the local saitia, a delicious fried cheese pie with fresh herbs.
Day 7: Island Life
It's your last full day in the Peloponnese, so what better way to spend it than exploring the local beaches.
Elafonissos Island - one of Greece's best kept secrets - is a great option for a day trip. Around a forty-five-minute drive from your hotel, then a short ten-minute ferry trip, it's relatively straight forward to reach and, once you're there, you can really relax.
Elafonissos is a tiny island sat between the Peloponnese and the island of Kythira. Perhaps its biggest draw is that it's not packed with must-sees or 'things to do', rather, Elafonissos is all about heavenly, sandy beaches and traditional, fresh Greek food. Simos beach has to be the jewel in the crown, recently voted 11th best beach in Europe in TripAdvisor's Traveller's Choice Awards 2018. Crystal clear waters and a golden sandy beach are sheltered by undulating sand dunes and a cedar forest - a real piece of Greek paradise.
If you are looking for something a bit closer to Kinsterna, head to Pori beach - a great spot for swimming in the sea while enjoying amazing views of the castle and Monemvasia old town.
Day 8: Heading Home
Sadly, it's time to say goodbye to Greece as your self-drive adventure around the South Peloponnese comes to an end.
Enjoy a final breakfast at Kinsterna, before making the two-and-a-half drive to Kalamata airport. Drop off your hire car, check in, then board your flight home.
Ella T, Arran and Kate L are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.