Visiting the Peloponnese? Here are the most beautiful ancient sites

From Olympia to Epidaurus via Mycenae, the Peloponnese, this vast peninsula separated from mainland Greece by the Corinth Canal, is dotted with archaeological sites. However, it is difficult to visit them all in one stay: we will help you choose which ones to include in your program.

Nemea, Corinth, Tiryns or Mycenae… So many mythical names! And so many ancient sites to explore on a trip to the Peloponnese, that vast region south of Athens, separated from mainland Greece by the Saronic Gulf to the west and the Corinthian Canal to the east. The cultural wealth sometimes makes you dizzy. As you finalize your itinerary, one question remains: are these archaeological sites, explored by travelers from around the world, worth the detour?

With summer temperatures soaring and sometimes intense crowds, it’s better not to make a mistake. Historical interest, visiting conditions, accessibility or natural environment are also factors that can influence. We will help you choose.

Map: the most beautiful ancient sites of the Peloponnese, Greece

Corinth, make the first move

In ancient Greece, Corinth was one of the most powerful city-states.
gurgenb / stock.adobe.com

What has made Corinth famous today is its famous canal. But beware, it was only broken through in 1882! In ancient Greece, Corinth was one of the most powerful city-states, taking full advantage of its privileged position on the isthmus that took its name. His trade flourished so much that he went so far as to invade Athens during the Peloponnesian Wars.

The ancient site of Corinth, located a few kilometers south of the new city – otherwise of no interest – is worth a visit for its amazing Glauké fountain, its seven-columned temple of Apollo (one of the oldest in Greece) and also its archaeological museum. It looks back at the incredible fate of the city and presents pieces found on the web: kouros with perfect proportions, ex-votos in terracotta or Corinthian pottery…

Board of Visitors: the archaeological site is difficult to read, feel free to start with the museum, which is very informative.

Nemea, visit a little known place

In Nemea, the Temple of Zeus looks great.
Mariana Yanovska – stock.adobe.com

Is the Nemean lion telling you something? According to legend, Heracles came here to fight this mythical cat to get its skin, during the first of his twelve trials. Set in a beautiful landscape of vines, olive trees and cypresses, the remains of Nemea are a little less spectacular than other sites in the Peloponnese.

However, the visit is not without interest. The Temple of Zeus, with its ten elegant columns, has style. But the most interesting element to discover remains the ancient stadium, which could accommodate up to 40,000 spectators. The Great Panhellenic Games, like those at Olympia, were held there. Please note that tests are still ongoing there today: next release in June 2024.

Board of Visitors: Come a little before closing time to take advantage of the evening light and milder temperatures.

Mycenae, to follow in the footsteps of the Atreides

Gate of Lions, Mycenae Archaeological Site, Greece.
Bernard 63 / stock.adobe.com

Nestled between two hills above the plain of Argos, the ancient site of Mycenae is remarkable for its antiquity, dating back to the Bronze Age. Founded in the 17E century BC, the city predates the Parthenon by at least eight centuries! The Mycenaeans controlled much of Greece and the Mediterranean for a long time. In mythology, Mycenae is connected with the Atreides family and King Agamemnon. On the spot, we discover Atreus’ treasure, an extensive royal tomb with a dome from the 14th century.E with dia. BC as well as the tombs of Clytemnestra and Aigisthus.

The Lion Gate is protected by an imposing Cyclopean wall and is topped by statues of cats. In addition to other tombs and the palace of Atrides (in ruins), you must explore the fascinating archaeological museum, which contains beautiful frescoes, jewelry and a copy of the golden mask of Agamemnon, discovered by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.

Board of Visitors: arrive at the opening before the tour buses invade the site…

Tiryns to discover another Cyclopean city

Citadel in Tiryns.
Pierre Violet / stock.adobe.com

Located on a hill near Nafplio, 20 km south of Mycenae, this site has many similarities with the previous one, as evidenced by its impressive walls. According to mythology, Tiryns was founded by a prince from Argos and built by… Cyclops! We happily walk along its 750 m high walls, 13 m high and 8 m thick, which perfectly surround the citadel.

The size of the stone blocks is almost unbelievable. The gate, ramp, and palace—or what’s left of them, with the remnants of the courtyard and rooms—can be explored fairly quickly. Tiryns was also “discovered” by Heinrich Schliemann. In fact, the city was a kind of outpost at sea for Mycenae, which is why UNESCO decided to combine them when it included them on its prestigious World Heritage List.

Board of Visitors: to do at the end of the day, after an afternoon by the sea near Nafplio.

Epidaurus, marvel at its ancient theater

Theater of Epidaurus in the Sanctuary of Asclepius in Greece.
stock.adobe.com

Epidaurus is located in Argolis in the southeastern Peloponnese and is considered the cradle of modern medicine. Built from VIE century BC and dedicated to Asclepius – the god of healing – the sick and pilgrims paraded in his sanctuary throughout antiquity.

In addition to various temples (still visible) in the IVE century BC AD: it is also intended to honor the god of medicine. It opens onto a grandiose landscape and is today the most famous ancient theater in Greece, but also the most visited. Its clever shell-shaped design ensures good vision for all spectators as well as perfect acoustics. In the summer, theater performances are held here, highlighting the ancient repertoire.

Board of Visitors: avoid the hottest hours as the theater has no shade.

Olympia, return to the roots of Olympism

Olympic stadion.
stockbksts / stock.adobe.com

In the northwest of the Peloponnese, Olympia is the birthplace of the most important sporting event of the ancient world: the Olympic Games. Those dedicated to Zeus (as evidenced by the temple dedicated to the king of the gods) were held every 4 years from 776 to 393 BC. J.-C. Sporting exploit was not the only challenge of the events; the unity of the Greek world was also exalted. Back then, there was no medal for the winner, but an olive wreath.

Around the huge ancient stadium, where you can still enjoy running, the remains of other sports buildings are still visible: a hippodrome, thermal baths, a palaestra, a gymnasium… The Archaeological Museum contains numerous decorative elements from the site, e.g. Hermes by the sculptor Praxiteles or The Victory by the artist Paionios.

Board of Visitors: a virtual reality headset gives you a glimpse of a place in ancient times.

Bassae, to gain height

Temple of Apollo Epikourios in Bassae
Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

This ancient site with a magnificent temple, lost on the borders of Arcadia, is located at an altitude of about 1130 m. The Temple of Apollo Epikourios of Bassae, discovered in 1765 by the French architect Joachim Bocher, is considered a masterpiece of classical art.

8 km from the ancient city of Phigalia, it was built between 420 and 400 BC. BC by the famous architect Ictinos, who then created the Parthenon in Athens. It is the first temple in antiquity to combine the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. It protects the unattractive canvas for several years. If its outer colonnade (peristyle) does not lack charm, its famous Ionic frieze is unfortunately not visible: it has been in the British Museum in London since 1815.

Board of Visitors: with the altitude and northern exposure of the location, it is often colder than elsewhere in the Peloponnese.

Messène to save the masterpiece from oblivion

The vast agora still has an impressive colonnade almost 200 m long.
Pavel Kirichenko / stock.adobe.com

In the area of ​​Messinia, north of Kalamata and among olive trees, this little-known ancient site is one of the most interesting in the Peloponnese. Ancient Messene actually preserved remarkable remains, starting with its Arcadian Gate, which gave access to the interior of the city walls, which are still visible today.

Today, the theater, decorated with Roman mosaics, is flanked by the Arsinoé fountain. The nearby vast agora still has an impressive colonnade, almost 200 m long. But above all, it is a large stadium that impresses with its stands and a well-designed track. Finally, a quick trip to the archaeological museum is essential. Here we admire some sculptures by Damophon, the famous ancient sculptor from Messene.

Board of Visitors: take your time to explore this green place set in a beautiful landscape.

Leave a Comment