Forget island-hopping through Greece: if it’s culture, natural beauty, beaches and a sense of discovery you’re after, it’s time to hire a car for a mainland Greece road trip into the Peloponnnese. If it was good enough for the ancient gods and the Olympians, it’s good enough for you. It’s time to discover your own Peloponnese road trip itinerary.
Planning Your Peloponnese Road Trip Itinerary
There’s a reason those ancient gods chose this olive and sun-soaked land for their sweeping adventures and mediterranean marauding. It is simply beautiful. This road trip through mainland Greece will make you fall in love – and you’ll only be on day one of your Peloponnese road trip itinerary. Let me explain…
Your Peloponnese Itinerary Map
Grab a copy of this mainland Greece road trip from Google Maps. It’s based on the 10 day Peloponnese itinerary detailed here but you can change the pace of your adventure to make it fit either a 7 day or 14 day trip with no ease.
Why visit the Peloponnese?
Long before Athens built its Acropolis, the people of the Peloponnese set set stony labyrinths on teetering outcrops. They made history through the Corinthians, Olympians and Spartans and all the while those blue seas glittered, pink flowers tumbled down cafes and mountainsides and the people who tended the land knew how to make olive oil, feta cheese and seasoned meat taste the very best.
A trip to the Peloponnese allows you to relish the basics that Greece does so well: great weather, landscape, and shockingly good food away from the crowds, while gliding between names that have stood the test of time.
And this Peloponnese itinerary will help you plan an amazing mainland Greece road trip.
Seatbelts buckled? Let’s go!
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Where can you find the Peloponnese?
The Peloponnese stretches away from Athens like a three fingered gloved hand, the thumb being glitzy Porto Heli near the island of Spetses, and each of the fingers representing a separate stretch and character of land.
Inland, the main roads are sleek, well tarmac-ed and easy to follow, the central arteries passing through Tripoli, Kalamata and Sparta.
Away from those roads, well, dry and dusty is often the way. The mountains are steep and the roads winding. Along the coast, expect twists and turns and sudden drops into the ocean as well. Well, routes that look like sudden drops. The roads are quiet and clear but certainly not for the faint-hearted. I would say it’s similar to driving in Spain, but not as challenging as driving in Morocco.
Where should you start your road trip through mainland Greece: Athens or Kalamata?
Kalamata sits in the heart of the Peloponnese, reducing your travel time to places like Costa Navarino or east to Monemvasia. However, the flight schedules are often seasonal and so your options can be limited (and much more expensive.)
It’s only a two or so hour drive to reach Villa Vager from Athens and you have many more car rental and flight options this way. Plus, Athens is hardly a shabby stop off point. If you’ve never been before, it’s worth spending a couple of nights in the city to relax, explore and put the rest of the trip into context.
Even though I’d visited Athens several times before, I opted to fly into Athens again this time. We travelled in October, just at the end of the season, which was the perfect time in terms of crowds, walking temperatures and picking up a bit of Vitamin D before the winter kicked in.
At other times, though, I’ve had a great time in Kalamata. Its Old Town is beautiful, it’s quieter than Athens and you can easily head south into the Mani.
Your 10 day Peloponnese Itinerary Day by Day
Get ready for your mainland Greece road trip with this list of road trip essentials. Perfect for any and all road trips.
The best view in Athens – a brief pit stop before driving the Peloponnese
Days 1 & 2: Arrive in Athens
Explore like mad or just kick back in the sun. Here are a few ideas for you before you pick up your hire car (don’t bother getting it before you’re ready to leave Athens. The city is not one for motorists…)
- How to be Happy – Exploring Ancient Philosophy in Athens
- The best hidden gems in Athens that only locals know
- The Best of Greek Food in Athens – Cooking Lessons, Museum and Recipes
- 21 reasons why Athens is worth visiting
Day 3 – Drive from Athens via Mycenae to Levidi in the Mountains
Brace yourself for the frenetic trip from the car hire pickup to the city outskirts but once you’ve left Athens, driving couldn’t be easier.
Drive from Athens past the Corinth Canal and onto the Peloponnese.
You can stop off at Mycenae or save that for your return trip, depending on how keen you are to relax rather than stride around the sights. (To the uninitiated, Mycenae is an archaeological site that reflects the city that thrived here between 1600 – 1000 BC. Although mostly rubble now, it has an impressive view, unique and intriguing stone gate and a visitor’s centre with enough curious artefacts to keep you busy for a couple of hours. It’s also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.)
Petrol stations and roadside cafes are plentiful for the first part of the journey but tail off as you head into the mountains. Make a note of the directions to Levidi before leaving Athens as Sat Nav will struggle with the final part of the journey.
And get ready to take photos along the road. It’s simply beautiful.
About Villa Vager
Villa Vager is a gorgeous little bolthole high in the village of Levidi with heart-aching views across the pine-soaked foothills that surround Mt Mainalon in the central Peloponnese.
It is a restored Greek farmhouse run by a passionate couple, Nikolaos and Marina. The stone walls are honeyed and weather worn. The views sweep left and right across olive groves and rocky peaks dotted with fir.
This is Greece away from the crowds: a short walk into the village of Levidi shows not a tourist in sight but instead reveals a couple of local tavernas and pharmacies to cater to your needs.
Although it’s not on the coast, that’s something of a blessing as it sits straight in the heart of the mainland, making a good base for day trips across the Peloponnese.
This itinerary stays for just two nights so you can reach the south without feeling rushed, but I could easily have spent a week here, taking day trips out and back again.
We stayed in the Elatos Suite on the ground floor, a mix of period furniture with designs in relief and modern touches like a fully functioning shower and angular glass lights. Small touches like under floor heating made the stay particularly luxurious, while the desk and wifi meant I was also able to get some work done.
The eight other rooms and suites have similar white and stone walls with lace and patterned fabric touches but some have fireplaces for a real sense of rustic charm.
Homemade stone-baked pizza available on site, otherwise it’s a short walk into the village for a range of authentic Greek dishes. Think plenty of souvlaki, feta and wonderfully fresh Mediterranean salads.
Very much so in the original sense of the phrase: people are very friendly towards children. The steps and layout of the lounge may make it a challenge for mobile toddlers. We had our first bad experience with travel with a baby here as Rosa fell ill with a rash and cried all night long. Awful for her and probably awful for the other guests and owners. The staff were still wonderful and welcoming, though, and an early morning stroll into town saved our sanity while the rhythm of the dawn walk seemed to soothe her.
Day 4 – Day trip from Villa Vager to Nafplio
Sometimes it seems as though Greece just isn’t Greece without a glimpse of the sea.
The seaside town of Nafplio is a firm tourist staple with its narrow cobbled streets and seaside promenade that glistens in a gorgeous shade of Greek blue.
Even at the end of the shoulder season in October, restaurants overlook the water and souvenir stalls stock trinkets from shells to spirits and sugary treats.
If you’re organised, there’s another chance to head into Mycenae on your way back to Villa Vager.
Or, you could just slow down the pace, take your time and chill at the beach before you go “home.”
Day 5 – Drive to Eumelia Agroturismo in Laconia via Mystras
It’s another short drive today so there’s time to make the very worthwhile detour to Mystras to stretch your legs and stop for a bite of lunch.
And stretched your legs will be on the rocky outcrop-hugging Mystras.
This stunning archaeological site stands in better shape than Mycenae while also offering expansive views across the central Peloponnese.
From there, it’s it’s just 45 minutes on to Eumelia, an eco-farm set in the blood-and-rust-red earth of Laconia that offers an unusual combination of rural life, quality food, design and communal living.
It’s another spot that requires a combination of careful SatNav calculations and written directions before you set off, though.
With a stop off at Mystras, you should arrive just as the sun sets and get to see a resplendent deep-red sun.
Day 6 Day in Eumelia & Rural Life in the Peloponnese
Forget the car for the day and recharge by getting back to basics on the farm.
Luxury basics, of course, since someone else does all the hard work for you but you do get the chance to roll up your sleeves and join in the fun through a number of different farm-related experiences.
Soap making, local cooking techniques and olive oil tasting are all on the menu. You’re just following in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks.
Day 7 – Day Trip from Eumelia into the Mani
Leave the farm for a day trip into the Mani peninsula, heading towards the working port town of Gythio and the impossibly picturesque town of Areopoli with steep cobbled streets, cute cafes and quiet lanes made for cats to prowl around.
Like so many parts of the Peloponnese, there is more to see in the Mani than these stop-off points but this plan should give you a taste of the region without spending all of the time in the car or packing and unpacking every single night.
If you do want to know more about the Mani, check out these options as things you can do from Kalamata.
In the meantime, back on this Peloponnese itinerary, stop off at Valtaki beach on the way back to the farm to find the curious Dimitrios shipwreck. And learn more about its story here:
Day 8 – Drive to Costa Navarino
It’s a longer drive today (around 4- 5 hours) so make sure to stop off for a leisurely Greek lunch in any one of the towns en route. It’s a friendly, unthreatening area and many restaurants have pictures or can help with translations so don’t worry if you feel you’ll get stuck!
You’ll have a good chance to decompress once you reach the grandiose resort at Costa Navarino.
Day 9 Day in Costa Navarino
The Westin Resort at Costa Navarino is closer to the more typical Greek holiday than the other accommodation spots mentioned so far.
Instead of the feeling of staying with a family, this is a slick, well-run production with teams of people available around the clock.
Like every self-respecting resort, it features outdoor swimming pools, a beach, tennis courts, several different restaurants and a spa but it also features an unusually rich and diverse cultural programme.
Philosophy walks, Messinian cooking lessons, Karagiozis shadow theatre and olive harvesting are just some of the activities on the menu that can help you feel more closely involved with the land on which you sunbathe.
Plus, the regular art tours explore more about the identity of the region.
Plus, you can also take day trips into the surrounding area, heading south to Methoni castle, for example, or north to the Neda waterfalls.
Day 10 Drive back to Athens
From Costa Navarino, it’s another 4-5 hour drive back to Athens (although another option, of course, is to leave the car at the airport in Kalamata and fly from there instead.)
Depending on the time of your flight, you may have time to visit Mycenae en route if you haven’t walked beneath that Lion’s Gate yet on your trip!
Sounds great but can’t someone else organise it all for me?
Of course they can. Trips to the Peloponnese can be organised by creative travel company Original Travel*, for example, who include many of the hotels mentioned here and who can work with you to create your perfect trip.
Optional Adjustments for the Peloponnese Itinerary
- Stop off at Villa Vager or Spetses or Porto Heli en route back to Athens to break up the drive and extend your trip.
- Fly back from Kalamata to avoid the return drive.
- From Eumelia, travel to the eastern “finger” of the Peloponnese and consider a stay at the Kinsterna in Monemvasia.
- Spend longer at Villa Vager and factor in a day trip to ancient Olympia (home of the first Olympic games) and Epidaurus (a small city in ancient Greece with a huge amphitheatre and an interesting archaeological museum.) Or, try some quad-biking in the local mountains.
- Explore more of the Mani and see the rock formations at the Diros caves.
Did you enjoy this mainland Greece road trip itinerary? Bookmark this Peloponnese itinerary and plan your next trip to Greece.
Agroturismo in the Peloponnese
Deep beneath the scorched sun of the Peloponnese, the Eumelia luxury eco-farm comes from a couple jaded by politics who, quite literally, decided they wanted to get back down to earth.
The earth in question is red and dry and crunches underfoot. Rippling boardwalks surf across the dust to connect the five cabins to the main building where boutique chic mixes with an informal, folksy homestay.
Greece’s financial troubles and the EU brouhaha around them have few silver linings – but the birth of Eumelia Agroturismo is one. Or perhaps “gold” lining would be more appropriate since that’s the nickname of the olive oil that flows so freely here.
Striking Design, Authentic Activities at Eumelia
The rooms themselves are striking, blending raw cement starkness with soft linens and an unsurprising urge to recycle as you cook.
But it’s the landscape and the activities that make a stay, in fact, a journey here worthwhile.
For it’s here that you get the chance to experience what I’d otherwise only been able to guess at as I’d watched olive grove after olive grove roll by the window.
Exploring more of those olive groves. Cooking with local ingredients. Hearing local stories. Making friends with children. And stirring into a fever to make my own, ever so softly scented soap.
Olive oil tasting with an olive oil sommelier
You’ve heard of a wine sommelier, but have you heard about an olive oil sommelier?
Olive oil is big, big business in the Mediterranean with tastings, contests and a clash between cultural history and modern farming practice that shows no sign of fading out any time soon.
Family friendly? Absolutely! We felt so welcome with Rosa, she could join in the classes and wander around the main room, playing with toys. She even made friends with the owners’ little one.
Unusual fact: a lot of philosophy went into the design of the complex, including the prompt to take stock and remember to look up at the sky.
Who is it for? People who want to get off the beaten track and explore farming practices in Greece with a chic twist.
Who is not for? People looking for busy nightlife or the trappings of a large hotel resort.
More on Travel in Greece
And don’t forget Athens (as if you could!) Find unusual things to do in Athens, retrace the steps of Plato with a philosophy tour and indulge with our Athens Food Guide. And here are 22 more reasons to visit Athens.
*Disclosure – I travelled through the Peloponnese as a guest of many of the hotels mentioned here, with some activities provided for free for review purposes. I received flight support from Original Travel. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point in this world?!