Most people are baffled when we utter the words 'The Peloponnese'. Frequently the response to our suggesting it goes as follows - "Where's that? Greece? I've not heard of that island!?" and that's precisely it; it's not an island. The Peloponnese is a beautiful green section of the mainland which tumbles south from Athens all the way to the Aegean, packed full of history, hidden treasures and Eureka moments for those looking for real Greece.
Amanzoe - Kranidi
I was feeling particularly smug as I set off from Athens airport, zipping along the highways around the city before heading south towards the Corinth canal. I had every stop of my journey planned on the sat nav, so what could go wrong?
The countryside of the Peloponnese is a mixture of Tuscany and something a bit more rugged and mountainous. Its winding, and sometimes switchback, roads cut through the hillsides delicately creating gorgeous views of the countryside. My first stop was the stunning Amanzoe. The hotel sits high on a largely uninterrupted hillside (barring the few wealthy Athenian mansions sporadically dotted around) with fabulous views out over the glistening sea. This tranquil hideaway with its own beach club and sense of serenity epitomises much of the region's humble personality of authentic Greece blended with fantastic hidden towns and villages oozing history. Eureka moment number one? The view from the fire pit at sunset and realising this was just the beginning of my trip.
Poseidonian - Spetses
One such place with this aforementioned character is the car free island of Spetses accessible by water taxi in around 7 minutes from the mainland. As you approach the charmingly buzzy waterfront you can't help but feel like you are about to disembark into something pretty unique, yet strangely normal as the locals go about their daily life.
The Poseidonian sits grandly on the waterfront with its belle époque style. This is the perfect place to be amidst the hubbub, or to escape said hubbub by taking a Kaika (a small boat) and exploring the islands beaches and coves. Lovely local Taveras and small bars line the cobbled streets and waterfront which is the perfect place to sample fresh fish and traditional Greek souvlaki, all washed down with obligatory Ouzo. Europe moment number two? Local loveliness and vibrancy, it's not all tranquil and off the grid!
The Mountains / What Could go Wrong?
From here I headed south passing through the charming seaside town of Naflpio, which is home to the Bourtzi Castle and was Greece's first capital from 1821 to 1834. Whilst here it's well worth making a stop off for coffee at Hellas in the main revolution square.
Do you remember earlier when I asked the loaded question 'what could go wrong?' (of course you do, you're probably only hanging around to find out the answer), well it was after this very pleasant coffee that it inevitably did all go wrong. I wiggled up into the mountains for over two hours on pot-holed roads through very, very, remote villages. Locals looked keenly on at my misplaced shiny VW Polo confused entirely by my presence. Eventually the roads finally ran out despite my sat nav promising me that there was a road over the mountains on the other side. When I finally managed to track down a local who had a road map (and knew the Roman alphabet) they didn't hasten to inform me that the road had stopped being built as they couldn't find a suitable way down! Although a little frustrated (ok, a lot) and after a little bit of face frowning (induced by the 4 hours remaining of my drive) I realised that this experience totally summed up the region, intense kindness, generosity and authenticity as well as some gorgeous scenery along the way.
Kinsterna - Laconia
Upon arrival at the Kinsterna, I was greeted again by genuine kindness and concern in the warmth of a stunning setting. Even in the dark I knew that this was a really special place and after a good night's sleep I woke up to sunshine and that exciting feeling when you don't quite know what the new day brings. The rewards were fantastic with a farm to table sort of mentality, glorious views and a real sense of destination - Eureka moment number three and certainly not my last in Greece.