The glorious history and compelling antiquity of the Greece had piqued our interest and we craved for more. And to satiate the history buff in us we booked a full day Argolis tour in Peloponnese region of Greece exploring the Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth City, Mycenae, Nafplio, and Epidaurus which turned out to be one of the best day trips from Athens.
Where is Peloponnese?
The Peloponnese is a peninsula south of Greece and is separated from the mainland of Greece by the Corinth canal. The region of Peloponnese is the land of legends, picturesque landscapes and home to some of the ancient civilizations which topped Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe list. On our trip, we were exploring the ancient civilizations of Argolis (Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Nafplio) and the Corinthia region of Peloponnese.
Covering all of these in a single day may seem like a Herculean task we recommend you book a guided tour. Our driver cum guide had adequate knowledge of the places we were visiting which made our trip comfortable and stress-free.
While Corinthia region included the region around the Corinth canal and the ancient Corinth city, Argolis region comprises of the archaeological sites of Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Nafplio covering a 350 km tour circuit. Our guide picked us up from Syntagma Square in Athens. On the way, he stopped by bakeries where we grabbed some quick snacks and patisseries to eat on the way.
Day Trip from Athens – Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth and the Argolis
Our first stop was the spectacular Corinth Canal. The 6.4 km waterway cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth which connected the Peloponnese peninsula with the mainland of Greece. The canal links the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf connecting the Ionian and the Aegean seas. The 70 ft wide canal is just right for the passage of most of the modern ships. We were awestruck by the azure waters channeled through the high rocky cliffs of this man-made wonder.
Ancient Corinth was the most important city of ancient Greece and a major trade center owing to its strategic geographical position connecting Peloponnese with the rest of Greece. The ancient city of Corinth also hosted the Isthmian Games and the era was the birth of the most complex Corinthian order of Greek architecture.
The 6th-century B.C Apollo Temple in Ancient Corinth is a peripteral temple with Doric columns built on the ruins of an earlier temple. Today only 7 out of original 38 columns can be seen in place intact after being toppled by the frequent earthquakes.
The city had a majestic marketplace with numerous shops. A well-paved path connected the market place to the Lechaion port for the export of goods especially the pottery and import of goods which were sold in the shops of the market.
Remains of shops in ancient city of Corinth
The fountain of Peirene which was the major source of water for the city of ancient Corinth.
Today the site remains the ruins of foundations and pillars of the temples, shops, and pathways and the magnificence of the city aren’t apparent easily, for that one should visit the archeological museum located on the same site. The archeological museum has an impressive collection displaying the fine mosaics, busts of Roman rulers and comprehensive collection of Greek pottery and other artifacts which provides an insight into the bygone era of this imperial city of classic Greek era.
The museum exhibit has a beautiful floor mosaic showing the head of Dionysus and exemplary black-figure pottery paintings which is one of the renowned art from Greek antiquity.
The museum also had numerous statues with a missing head. It is said that these marble sculptures were produced and the head of a leader or ruler was added later. So when the leader or ruler changed they just had to replace the heads.
An acropolis in Greek means ‘upper city’ in general a citadel or a settlement on a hill, in literal meaning acro means highest or topmost and polis means city. Though acropolis is more popularly understood as synonymous to Acropolis of Athens every city in Greek had an acropolis built for the defense purpose of the city.
Acrocorinth serves as a natural acropolis for the ancient city of Corinth. The climb up the hill is not considered as an easy ascend luckily for us we had a car and could drive right up to the summit. Worth exploring in the fortress are three impressive gates, imposing ramparts and remains of chapels, mosques and the temple of Aphrodite.
The fortress perched on the hill overlooks the Corinth city and offers spectacular views over Peloponnese.
Mycenae is considered as the most prosperous city of its times in ancient Greece. The unearthed excavation from grave circles (royal burials) is mostly gold, precious stones and silver. Though nothing much remains of the city today still the citadel, the grave circles and the colossal Tholos tombs in the archaeological sites are worth a visit.
The entrance to the citadel or the acropolis of Mycenae is through the famous Lion Gate which comprises of massive stone reliefs of two lions with heads missing. The path leads up to the remains of palace with a view over the grave circles and offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding.
Lion Tholos Tomb
On the way to the pretty town of Nafplio, the road winded through acres and acres of orange farms. The farmers sold fresh farm oranges on the roadside. On the recommendation of our guide, we bought some oranges and have to say that they were some of the sweetest and juiciest oranges we ever had. The pretty Greek town Nafplio was our lunch stop. We drove to Akronafplia fortress which rewarded us with the spectacular views over the city and the Bourtzi castle rising amidst the calm blue Nafplio Harbor.
The old town of Nafplio is worth exploring for its remarkable neoclassical buildings and traditional buildings exuding a Venetian charm with flower adorned colorful balconies reminiscence of the gorgeous city of Venice. Also worth visiting is the baroque fortress Palamidi built by the Venetians which can be reached by 1000 steps, the fort offers great views of the city and the Argolic Gulf.
We could not spend much time in Nafplio for we had to rush to the Epidaurus theatre before its closing time.
The theater of Epidavros is the best preserved ancient theaters and is still used for frequent plays and concerts. The astounding acoustics of the theater is such that, regardless of seating, one can hear the slightest sound clearly. The theatre seating can accommodate around 12000 spectators.
There is a small archaeological museum at Epidaurus which exhibits a collection of inscriptions and sculptures from archaeological findings and the reconstructions of temples including the entablature and Doric columns of the Temple of Asklepios. Most of the original unearthed findings are displayed at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
The archaeological museum at Epidaurus was our last stop and we were there right before the closing time lucky enough to have covered everything on the list for the day. We drove back to Athens through the south coast of the Saronic Gulf enjoying the views of the stunning blue sea.
Though the Greek islands and the Acropolis of Athens are top places to visit in Greece there is so much more to explore in Greece beyond the touristy sites. Have you explored this part of Greece?
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