Trek Notes - Greece

Classic and Ancient Greece

General Information
This relaxed walking tour allows you to explore the best of Peloponnese. Travelling with a knowledgeable local guide in an air-conditioned minibus, you get to visit all the region's highlights - Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia and Athens itself - as well uncovering some of its more hidden treasures which few foreign tourists see.

Our first stop is Venetian Nafplio, known as the Naples of Greece because of its attractive bay. We follow a coastal path from this Italianate little fishing town to discover its Venetian fortress and enjoy the stunning panorama of the Central Peloponnese mountain chain across the harbour. From here we head West into the fir-clad high mountains and broad valleys of Arcadia. The sheer rural isolation here makes the silence almost palpable. This is never more true than when we walk down to the ancient city of Gortys, forgotten in the heart of the lush Louisos gorge. And on our walks through high mountain pastures dotted with hawthorn trees and yellow broom we are unlikely to meet anyone except the local shepherd. We are privileged to gain a real insight into mountain village life whilst we stay as guests of Fanny in her friendly pension in diminutive Dimitsana.

You'll enjoy exchanging cheery hellos with the locals when we buy freshly baked bread, ripe tomatoes and local cheeses for our picnic. On other days we might savour the local cuisine in a wayside taverna. Later on in the week we exchange mountain pastures for orange groves when we walk in the foothills to Olympia, on paths lined with pink oleander and mimosa. We'll finish our tour in Pylos, a pretty coastal town dominated by two medieval castles which enjoys a glorious vista over the Navarone Bay, one of the most beautiful natural harbours in Greece. This is a great base to explore the fascinating wetlands here as well as visiting Nestor's palace, and is the perfect end to our tour of this fascinating region.  


DAY 1 
You are met by our guide and taken to our hotel in the Plaka district. Free time to visit the Acropolis before dinner.

DAY 2 
To Piraeus by metro (30 mins), then hydrofoil to Poros (1hr). A fisherman rows us across the 350m strait to Galatas on the mainland. A stroll along the harbour, then an easy climb through lemon groves, (30,000 trees at least!) to the chatter of pine martins, takes us to hilltop taverna and lunch washed down with a glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice. From here it's a beautiful drive through olive trees and white-washed hamlets to Epidaurus. Time to admire its remarkable theatre (you really can hear a pin drop!) before leaving for Nafplio. Our pension here is in the old town underneath the fortress. Our hosts, Petros and his brothers, cook us a meal on their terrace, jutting out over the bay.

DAY 3  
Today we explore Nafplio - a medieval fishing village colonised by the Venetians. The Lion of St Mark decorates the city gate and the bougainvillaea strewn, chic pastel houses have a palazzo feel. Down through the cobbled streets to the Venetian castle, then we follow a coastal path to Karathona bay. Lunch in a fish taverna, and on to Mycenae. A collection of cyclopean walls on the edge of a ravine, it's easy to imagine the might of the ancient kingdom. We pass through the Lion Gate to explore the Royal Palaces, then visit Agamemnon's honeycomb tomb before returning to Nafplio for dinner in a taverna by the sea.

DAY 4 
A last look over Nafplio's Bay from the fortress (857 steps or a lift in the minibus!) then to the broad valleys and high mountains of Arcadia from where Spartans once marched to Athens. We start our walk in the Louisos valley at Langadia. A path lined with cherry and walnut trees leads to a lush pasture dotted with wild peppermint and thyme. Here we meet Panos the goatherd, and picnic by a bubbling spring. Fantastic views over the fir-clad Helmes and Menelaos mountains. We arrive at our pension in Dimitsana in time for dinner in a local taverna.

DAY 5 
Picnic shopping in the village then we follow a stony path lined with oleander down to diminutive Palechori nestling above the gorge. We walk through olive groves fenced in by dry stone walls up to an outdoor museum of country crafts - tanning, raki distilling, even gunpowder making! After picnicking by the water mill, we visit ancient Gortys - fallen capitals nestle amongst sweet smelling meadows by the greeny-blue Louisos river. A forest mule track takes us over the riverbed to the Prodhomou monastery deep in the gorge. We drink in the stillness before returning to Gortys and our lift back.

We leave the mountains for the lush valleys of Olympia. According to legend Oxlyus, the founder of the Olympic Games led Dorian invaders away from this beautiful valley to keep it for himself. You can see why: pine clad hills, orange groves, mimosa decked streets. We take a walk in the foothills before descending to the site. Along with the gymnasium and stadium, we visit the museum for the statues of Nike, and Hermes The Messenger. Time for a swim as we take the coastal road to Pylos bordered by olive groves, before arriving at our small family run pension with views over the famous Navarino bay.

DAY 7 
This narrow bay, landlocked on three sides, was once the scene of the famous sea battle in 1827. Hulls of Turkish vessels are still visible in clear seas. We climb to the Frankish castle then walk across the dunes to the adjacent fresh water lake, now a nature reserve attracting migrating birds from Europe and Africa. Lunch in a fish taverna before visiting Nestor's Palace. Nestor's kingdom ranked no.2 after Agamemnon's and the palace certainly stood up to that of his rivals. A honeycomb tomb was also found here. Later a swim perhaps or shopping in Pylos before dinner in a local taverna.

DAY 8 
We depart after breakfast to Athens (41/2 hours).

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