The Peloponnese (pel-o-pon-ih-sos) is the stuff that legends are made of. Numerous myths were born and borne out here – it is where many a Greek god or hero strutted their stuff (and aired their bodies). Today this region is far from a fable. It boasts historical sites, with classical temples, Mycenaean palaces, Byzantine cities, and Frankish and Venetian fortresses. You can rub shoulders with the ghost of Agamemnon at Mycenae, mighty redoubt of a once great civilisation, or flex your muscles at ancient Olympia, spiritual home of the Olympics. You can cite Oedipus in the Theatre of Epidavros or be entranced by Mystras, where the Byzantine civilisation died in the 14th century. Greece’s first capital, Nafplio, is today a cosmopolitan and romantic city; captivating, too, is the Venetian stronghold of Monemvasia.
The region’s natural playground truly mesmerises, with lofty, snowcapped mountains, lush gorges, valleys of citrus groves and vineyards, cypress trees, streams and sun-specked beaches. Spring is the perfect time for DIY explorations. Hike in the wildflower-covered mountains of Arkadia, or in the rugged Mani, which bristle with fortified tower houses. Summer is a beach bum’s delight: the beaches of Messinia are among Greece’s finest. Winter brings snow to the higher ground and a chance to launch yourself down Mt Helmos on skis.
For centuries Greeks have fought hard against invaders of their Peloponnese paradise; today foreigners are far from repelled (ask the permanent influx of Brits). Filoxenia (hospitality) is as strong here as anywhere in the country. The locals claim to have the best of everything to give. And that’s no myth.