Few, if any, destinations have had as significant an impact on the Western psyche and vocabulary as the Peloponnese peninsula in south-western Greece. The place names themselves – Arcadia, Olympia, Argos (OK, maybe not the last one) – and the adjectives that stem from others – spartan, corinthian, laconic – are so deeply entrenched in our culture that we've plain forgotten that they stem from an actual physical location. And what a location it is. The Peloponnese runs the full gamut of landscapes from soaring mountain ranges and alpine forests to vineyard-coated rolling hill country and perfectly
symmetrical horseshoe bays and white sand beaches. Dotted around the peninsula are also a staggering number of ancient architectural sites and historic cities. To be honest, we're not quite sure why we haven't been singing the praises of Peloponnese holidays for years.
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An international obsession with the Olympics, which seem to come around alarmingly often, means that a (thankfully lycra-free) trip to where it all began 3,000 years ago should prove all the more fascinating.
Other highlights include the fortified citadel of Mycenae, visiting the monasteries clinging to the cliff faces in Lousios Gorge, the lively islands of Spetses and Hydra, and the historic city of Nafplion. That's just a handful of the potential day trips on offer, but the Greek weather being what it is, and the Peloponnese hotels being as nice as they are, you might well be tempted to lounge by the pool instead, day-dreaming of Arcadia.
Off the southern coast of the Peloponnese lies Spetses Island, otherwise known as 'the island of fragrances', and a popular haunt for discerning Athenians as a weekend or holiday destination. Spetses itself is a beautiful car-free island that retains a very individual character thanks to its long maritime heritage. There is a hugely picturesque harbour and re-enactments of naval battles take place during September. Explore cobbled streets lined with intimate little cafes and restaurants or the many sandy beaches which are great for swimming and lounging around.
And as if all that wasn't enough, the food is also spectacular. Enjoy a mouth-watering selection of fresh fish with vegetables that tasted of the sun, olives (Kalamata being the capital of Peloponnese), olive oil, yoghurt, fruit and honey.