Nafplio, Greece—and visits to Ancient Nemea, Mycenae, and Epidavros

Continuing on from my post about our short stay in Athens, we picked up a rental car and began our drive around the Peloponnese region of Greece. We had a few places we were staying around the area before returning to Rafina port (45 minutes from Athens) and then island-hopping. But our first stop was the town of Nafplio. It was only a few hours from Athens, but we planned to stop at a few sites along the way.

Nick was a little nervous about driving out of Athens on the road, knowing that traffic could be bad, and drivers in Greece don’t mind taking risks and driving fast. But we stayed “safely” behind a bus for a little bit, and just followed the cars… it all went fine, and once we were on the highway, there wasn’t much to worry about.

Corinth Canal

The Corinth Canal was our first stop, and it wasn’t too far away from Athens. It is an old, man-made canal, dug at sea level, connecting the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It physically separates the Peloponnese region from the Greek mainland. Modern-day ships can’t fit through the canal because it is so narrow. It’s now a spot where you can bungee jump, but otherwise, people stop to have a look and take photos.

A view down a narrow channel of water with high rock walls on the sides
Beautiful coloured water down the Corinth Canal

Ancient Nemea

The next archaeological site we visited was Ancient Nemea, which had some the remains of some ancient buildings pretty similar to what we had seen in Athens, but in better condition. It had a stadium too, but it was very old and didn’t have stone steps. We pictured that people might just sit on the grassy hills. It was a rather rudimentary stadium.

A path leading up to a site of ancient ruins, where some pillars and large rocks on the ground from buildings remain. The sky is a clear blue.
Ancient Nemea
A view of the pillars from the previous photo, seen close up. There is a person standing next to one of the pillars and is approximately a fourth of its height.
In much better condition than the Temple of Zeus in Athens. Of course, the fate of these ruins cannot always be helped.

Winery visit – Domaine Bairaktaris

Then we visited a winery in the area called Domaine Bairaktaris and enjoyed – to quote Nick – the best wine he has ever had, a semi-sweet Greek wine called 3/.13. It’s not possible to get Greek wine outside of Greece, making the experience a lot more unique. We debated against buying a bottle because we would not be able to take it back home unless we checked in our luggage and declared it – it would have to last our whole trip, and we were avoiding the checked-in luggage. We thought about bringing it with us on our road trip, considering the price was really quite affordable… but we still decided against it, with all the driving Nick was going to do. We can, however, order direct with them… and pay probably a shit-tonne of duties, taxes, and shipping. 😂 At least the option is there!

A table set with some informational sheets and two glasses of red wine. A tasting platter is on the table in the background.
Best wine Nick has ever had, apparently 🍷

I should add – and I’ve probably mentioned this a handful of times before in travel posts – when we hire a car in another country, Nick is the one who drives! He has a preference for driving and is a confident driver, and tends to feel unwell in the passenger seat, but that does work out for me because I’m not such a confident driver. 🙈

Archaeological site of Mycenae

A path leading up to a big stone arch with stone lions at the top of the arch. The arch is part of a stone wall built with giant stone bricks.
Lion Gate, the famous gate into Mycenae

After grabbing lunch, we stopped at the Archaeological site of Mycenae. Yep, all of these archaeological sites were starting to meld into one… but Mycenae is a rather unique site with some excavated tombs. The Tomb of Clytemnestra was the most interesting one – a giant, tall tomb that was excavated in the 1960s, but at the time it was found to have been looted, and the burial chamber empty. The story goes that Clytemnestra’s daughter, Ifgenia, was sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, in the Trojan War, so she killed her father. Then their son, Orestes, sought revenge for his father’s death, and killed Clytemnestra. Whether this is really her tomb is still uncertain. But it’s a tragic tale that has inspired many works of fiction. We got a little surprise when we looked inside what we thought was the empty tomb, because there was actually a dog resting from the heat and lying alongside a bowl of water. We didn’t initially spot it because it was a little dark inside!

A tall stone passageway into an old tomb with an open top.
Tomb with an open roof
A tall entrance into a tomb that appears dark. The top of the tomb has a triangular hole.
Tomb of Clytemnestra

It was getting super, super hot at Mycenae, but we pushed through the heat and explored the whole area. There were steps going below ground, and it looked impressive, but there was a gate preventing you from going much further. It still made for a nice photo looking outwards (and a brief moment for some shade).

Old stone steps in a cave, going upwards, with an entrance with a pointed top of the archway, leading out to daylight and a blue sky.
A view outside from the steps leading downwards
The cave from the previous photo, seen from the outside. It is a little dark inside. The pointed shape of the entrance is clear.
You can go in somewhat far, but not all the way in.

If you visit Mycenae, you’ll get a lot of exercise in, due to all the stairs. The most majestic thing is that there is a beautiful view of the Peloponnese region from the site.

A landscape of valleys and small hills, in a slightly arid landscape with scattered trees. There are mountains in the background and the sky is blur with some clouds in it.
The beautiful Peloponnese region as seen from Mycenae

A museum accompanied the site, which had a few archaeological finds. I can’t quite remember, but I believe at least some of them were replicas and not the original.

Arriving in and exploring Nafplio

We spent two nights in Nafplio. We were welcomed into our cosy Airbnb by our host, who made us feel very welcome. The apartment was nice and cool – unlike our apartment in Athens, which tended to get hot during the day. We took some time to settle in and then explore the old town of Nafplio for the rest of the evening.

Me, Georgie, an Asian woman with short dark hair, standing in a pedestrianised street in Greece. I am wearing a black and white checkered top and pink-purple shorts that match the flowers’ leaves growing across the tops of shops in the street. My arms are stretched out slightly away from my sides and I am smiling.
The bougainvillea matches my shorts!
A stray grey and white cat sitting under the foundations of a building, leaning and looking out from behind part of the wall.
I just really liked how this cat had a peek out from here.

We did a lot of walking – it was a bit unintentional! I have a thing for climbing and reaching great heights and seeing what there is to offer, and there were some rather enticing steps (I know…) in the old town. The main attraction in Nafplio is the Palamidi Fortress, which locals say have 999 steps to the top. It’s actually a little more than a thousand to get to the fortress itself, but if you are fit you can do this easily in less than half an hour. Of course, it’s a little painful on the calves as you go downhill – at least for me!

A view of the brown rooftops of houses in a town by the sea, seen from a higher viewpoint.
A view of the town from a spot we climbed to

We could see the fortress from where we were at the top of the old town. There is a bell tower and a hotel at the top, since the area is accessible by road, but other than the views, not much else. The views were incredible though, and I spotted this arch that looked like something out of a fairytale, and you could see the sea through it. I don’t know why, but these old buildings and ancient ruins having unexpected arches/windows always made me want to go up to and look through them and see what was on the other side.

A multi-storey building with street art, in front of a tall mountain with a fortress atop it. The sun is setting and casting shadows in the foreground.
There is a curious building with graffiti (which I believe is supposed to be a hotel), but in the background is the Palamidi Fortress on the hill
A small boat on very still, deep blue coloured sea. There are some small mountains in the distance, and the sky is blue and clear.
The sea was so still. In fact, the Aegean sea is often still, since it is mostly surrounded by land
An archway in a stone building, looking out to sea. A thin wired fence in a curved design goes across the bottom of the archway. On the sea is a small boat.
The lovely archway I captured the previous photo from. It felt magical.
Me, Georgie, wearing the same outfit as a previous photo, looking out to the view from the previous photo.
Me enjoying and taking photos of the view
Another view of the town from a previous photo, seen from a different angle. The sea is in the background and there is a small fortress on the water.
Climbing up near a bell tower to take this photo

We could see one of Nafplio’s beaches from where we stood. We also walked all the way back down and around the seafront, and almost walked all the way to the beach we’d seen earlier from the top of town.

Dinner was a somewhat disappointing Italian spot, haha, but that didn’t matter too much because we reserved the next day for a meal at a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host.

A waterfront leading off into the distance with some palm trees planted down the waterfront, and a couple of boats on the water.
Walking down the promenade

Early morning walk up to the Palamidi Fortress

The next day we headed off early to walk the supposed 999 steps to Palamidi Fortress. We went at about 8–8:30, since the Fortress opened at 8:00am. It was a good idea since we didn’t want to head out too late and be stuck in the heat. We didn’t count the steps, haha… but I believe that there is almost a thousand of them.

A set of stone stairs leading to a landing, into some trees. A sign with some printed information is to the right of the stairs.
Some information about the fortress opening times
Recognise this view? This time seeing Nafplio from our walk up to the fortress
A peninsula looking out to sea, with some bushy trees on the left and some old stone buildings in the centre, with a town of brown-roofed buildings to the right
Spot the building covered in graffiti – you can get an idea of where we have been!
An view over a ledge down to some zig-zag stone stairs. The surroundings are covered in trees. The sea is in the distance and there are a couple of boats on the water.
Just some of the stairs that we climbed (and how high they were)
Me, Georgie, wearing a black and white checkered crop top, and white shorts with black check, and brown hiking shoes, leaning against a stone ledge with my hands on my hips. I have sunglasses on and I have a slight smile
I’m not that tired, promise 🫠
Nick, a white man with short dark hair, facing the left of frame, reading a plaque installed on a raised slab. He is standing on a large stone step of a building, with a wall of the building behind him. The sun is obscured by the wall, and the photo is a little dark from the shade.
Nick reading a plaque partway up to the fortress
Part of an old stone fortress, with a dark archway ahead, and one to the right that has sunlight illuminating it.
When we entered the fortress there weren’t many visitors yet
The ruins of an old fortress with slightly uneven, wide steps leading upwards, where a tree is planted. To the left is an archway and a wall continuing into the distance.
The fortress was huge
Nick standing among the fortress ruins with his hands behind his back; he is in a raised part of the fortress that is accessed by large steps. There is a landing area at the bottom of the steps.
I took a photo of Nick standing to create some perspective

Visiting Epidavros and one of the world’s best preserved ancient theatres

There is a lot to see at the fortress and many different areas. Again you’ll get a lot of exercise and steps from exploring it. Afterwards, we had a small bite to eat, and again, we needed a short break at our Airbnb to recharge. Then we headed to Epidavros, about 20 minutes drive away, where we visited yet another archaeological site.

Nick standing in the middle of the stage of an ancient stone theatre, with the audience seating in the background. A couple of people are sitting on the steps.
A sight worth seeing in Epidavros

The very special thing about this one was the ancient theatre – Epidaurus – which is one of the best preserved ancient theatres in the world. Concerts are still held here and the acoustics are great. You can sit in the stands and hear someone quite clearly if they are in the centre of the stage and speak at a reasonable volume. Again, there are a couple of other parts of the site to explore, but they may feel a little repetitive depending on what other historic/ancient sites you are planning to see.

The theatre in the previous photo but seen from the back, slightly to the left. Visitors are standing around near the stage area and a couple are sitting on the steps. In the background is the lush green landscape of the Peloponnese region in Greece.
Very impressive with beautiful views in the background.
An old stadium, in an open area slightly dug into the ground. Stones are lined up on the sides as audience seating. Some small pillars mark the edges.
An old sporting stadium

Since we weren’t too far from the sea, we drove to the area by the water, where we could see Athens in the distance. We had some gelato before heading back to the town of Nafplio.

Another photo similar to an earlier one, of a pedestrianised street in Greece with pink-purple leaves of flowers scattered on the ground but growing above the shopfronts of the street. A small dog is in the middle of the street
This dog passed through the street just by chance as I took this photo

For dinner we decided to share a whole red snapper, at the restaurant that our Airbnb host had recommended. It had been some time since Nick and I had had fish! They de-boned it for us as well, and we enjoyed some wine. The restaurant got really popular over the course of the night, so a good thing we popped in a little early (6:00pm or so – that’s early for many of the locals in Greece!) and managed to get a table before that happened.

A cooked fish, de-boned, and served on a plate with salad.
A whole red snapper for dinner 🐟

The next morning we picked up quick breakfast at a cafe nearby before continuing our road trip around the Peloponnese. Our next stop was Monemvasia, which I’ll write about in another post. 🫶🏻

Other posts about this trip:

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