Peloponnese See And Do
Tel: 27530 22009/22666
Drama geeks take note. Dating to the fourth century B.C., this is the world's best-preserved Greek theaterand is now used for summer historical performances. The acoustics are so perfect that every word can be heard even from the outermost of the 55 tiers. As if possessed by the spirits of the ancient actors, visitors are often compelled to stand center stage and recite poetry, or whatever literary scraps they know by heart. The ruins of the Sanctuary of Asklepios nearby feel jejune by comparison. Open daily. NovMar: 85, AprOct: 7:45 a.m.6:45 p.m.; 6 Euros.
One of the least visited areas in Greece (although that is changing with improved roads), Mani is a region of barren mountains dotted with dwarf olive trees and prickly-pear cactuses. Blissfully free of major tourist sights, Mani is best enjoyed through a leisurely drive. You'll see tiny medieval churches nestled in cypress groves, and the remains of tower housesuntil the early 20th century, the Peloponnesians fought with one other constantly and liked to see their enemies coming. Pretty beaches are near Githio and Kardamili.
Tel: 27510 76585
Now a maze of paths and crumbling walls, this ancient citadel was once (1,4001,100 B.C.) the center of an empire that embraced the Plain of Argos and much of mainland Greece and Crete. It was also home to that unlucky family, the House of Atreus, one of whom, Agamemnon, killed his mother, Clytemnestra, as she bathed. (You can see her tub in the palace.) As you head down from Mycenae, stop at the Treasury of Atreus, a cavernous beehive tomb from 1,300 B.C. Open daily. MayOct: 87, NovApr: 85; 3 Euros.
Tel: 27310 83377
After Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1453, Mystras was the last capital of the great empire, filled with palaces, churches, and monasteries. Now it's a ghost town. Only a tiny community of nuns lives here, housed in the Pantanassa monastery (you can buy their embroidery). Spend a haunting afternoon poking about the ruins hereit's likely you'll see only a handful of other people. All Mystras sites open daily. NovApr: 8:303, MayOct: 87; 5 Euros.
Nafplio is a pretty seaside town that makes a great home base for visits to the ancient sites (although it can get crowded on weekends). After the establishment of the modern Greek nation, Nafplio was the capital for a brief period (18211828), hence its impressive neoclassical civic buildings and the statues of revolutionary figures. The town also contains two hilltop Venetian fortresses, a 13th-century castle on the small island of Bourtzi, and a lovely promenade that runs midway along the cliff on the south side of the peninsula.
Tel: 26240 22517 or 26260 22529
Starting in 776 B.C., the Olympic Games were held every four years over a five-day period, during which the entire Greek world observed a sacred truce. Events included a foot race, boxing, and chariot- and horse-racing. The Roman emperor, Theodosius I, a Christian, banned the games as pagan rites in 393 A.D. As well as the stadium and other buildings, you'll see the impressive ruins of the Temples of Zeus and Hera. The modern village of Olympia is a 15-minute walk away. Open daily. May–Oct: 8–7:30, Nov–Apr, 8:30–5; 6 Euros.