The Peloponnese has long been one of our favourite lesser-known areas of one of our all-time favourite destinations, Greece. Combining the best of some stunning beaches with bucketloads of ancient cultural delights is enough to sate the most demanding of adventure-seeking newlyweds.
Begin your journey by taking an international flight to Athens. We have arranged for a private driver to pick you up and take you the relatively short distance into Athens to your hotel. Athens' infamous traffic might have a part to play in this, but expect the journey to take around 45 minutes.
Check in to your hotel which will be your base for the next two nights in Greece's capital city. There is plenty to explore here of course, but more of that to come. The Athenian restaurant scene is thriving with everything from traditional and basic tavernas to multi-Michelin starred fine dining eateries. For now, we have booked you dinner in one of the city's more modern interpretations of Grecian cuisine, and our detailed destination Dossier recommends others.
Today, you will have a three-hour private walking tour focussing on the Acropolis and its role in the city. Your English-speaking guide will pick you up at your hotel in the morning. You will visit the ancient ruins including the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia, and, of course, the Parthenon , as well as the fantastic New Acropolis Museum, in the company of a trained archaeologist.
During this tour, you will explore the story of the Acropolis' archaeological history, from construction to ruin, rediscovery to reconstruction, and learn how this site grew and evolved along with the city of Athens. The Acropolis offers wonderful views over Athens, and you will look at how the rock of the Acropolis itself serves as a reference point for the modern development of Athens. At the end of your tour, your guide will return you to your hotel, with a recommendation for where to have lunch, Athenian style.
This afternoon we suggest that you take the time to explore the area around Syntagma Square. From here, it is a short walk past the Hellenic government building to the peace and tranquillity of the 38-acre National Gardens park. Tonight, you can delve into the Dossier for another of our favourite culinary hotspots in the city.
After breakfast you will pick up your rental car; we have pre-requested a GPS system to make sure that you aren't foxed by the Peloponnese's winding roads as you wend your way to your next port of call.
We highly recommend breaking up the approximately four-hour driving time with a couple of stops, first at the stunning bronze age citadel of Mycenae, purported in Greek mythology to be the capital of Agamemnon's kingdom. This is one of the most ancient citadel's in mainland Europe and well worth a couple of hours' exploration before you head on to the pretty port town of Nafplio. The waterfront here is a lovely array of great restaurants and tavernas specialising in fresh seafood. A simple lunch of some grilled catch of the day with Greek salad (of course), fresh lemon and a glass of excellent Greek white wine for the designated co-driver on a sun-drenched terrace is just the ticket. After lunch, take the short but steep hike up to the top of the citadel which overlooks the harbour for a great way to stretch legs and remind yourself of just how stunningly beautiful the coastline here can be.
Press on to make it to the Mani - your next port of call, and a region beloved of travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor - in time for an evening drink by the pool and dinner at the excellent restaurant on the deck overlooking the crystal clear bay in front of the Kyrimai Hotel, your home for the next few nights.
This gorgeous yet simple stone former fisherman's warehouse is a real boutique delight. We're proud of the fact that we have been working with this perennial favourite since it opened and we love how much our guests enjoy their time in this peaceful corner of the Pelops. Spend your days grazing over the excellent breakfast of local fruit, honey, cheeses and pastries and planning your day ahead.
We recommend that on one of the days you head to the Diros Caves. Once thought to be an entrance to the Underworld, these vast caves were one of the earliest inhabited areas of Greece. You can board a wooden boat for a thirty-minute guided journey through this rare environment and explore the museum where Stone Age artefacts, discovered here over the last century, are on display.
You might also like to visit Kardamyli which is about an hour's drive away. The village of Kardamyli is one of the most beautiful places imaginable, with the dense green hill reclining into a dazzling sea. Although still enchanting, it has been thoroughly discovered, yet the development here has been stylishly done, and legend has it that this was the spot given to Achilles by Agamemnon to convince him to re-join the Trojan War.
This morning after breakfast, it is time to check out and bid a fond farewell to the Kyrimai as you head towards the former medieval manor house of Kinsterna. The drive around the Mani peninsula to the neighbouring Cape Maleas peninsula should take two hours or so and again, you'll be passing through some beautiful areas of countryside which run deep with ancient Grecian history with such evocative names as Metamorfosi. You might like to stop off at the Glyfada Beach Bar and Restaurant for a spot of lunch which has views across the beach to the wreck of the smuggler ship Dimitros.
Arriving at the beautifully restored Kinsterna Hotel, the first thing you'll be likely to notice will be the jaw-dropping views. Thereafter, the precipitously-positioned infinity pool will draw you in further. The quiet hum of Mediterranean life is all around - cicadas, breeze through the olive and almond trees, that's about it.
The hotel's restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for excellent modern interpretations of local Peloponnese dishes. Fish obviously has a big part to play but so too do the excellent vegetables that accompany everything. Perhaps our finest ever version of the classic Greek Salad was sampled here.
You will have the next few of days at your leisure to spend exploring the area and relaxing in the hotel's beautiful grounds.
We recommend you make time to visit the citadel of Monemvasia which is nicknamed the 'Gibraltar of Greece'. Separated from the mainland by an earthquake in 375 AD, this huge rock is reached by a causeway and is divided into a charming lower and upper Byzantine town. Park the car outside the city walls and explore the winding cobbled streets lined with pretty shops and cafes. You'll need stamina to make the steep climb up the paved stair-street to the upper town, now totally deserted, the last inhabitant having left in 1911. But you will be rewarded with absolutely breath-taking views. For a slight change of pace, drive to Elafonisos which is a small island about an hour away. The beaches are utterly stunning and it is also the site of the sunken city of Pavlopetri which dates back to the third millennium BC.
Of course, you may just want to lounge around the hotel's pool or indulge in a treatment or two in the spa!
Today will sadly be your last before you head back to reality. The drive to Athens Airport takes approximately four hours, where you will return your rental car (having clocked up some impressive miles) and check in for the flight back to London, which takes four hours, arriving afternoon or evening depending on which we've booked for you.
If you would like to book the itinerary mentioned above, with economy flights, during mid-season and staying in our preferred room category at our preferred hotels.
If you would like to pare back the above itinerary by travelling at non-peak times, staying in a standard room and removing some or all of the guided activities.
If you are looking for something extra special, we can discuss with you upgrading your accommodation, flights or activities.