Friday 15 November 2013

Camping in Peloponnese

Camping in Peloponnese 

part 1: The west coast

Peloponnese, the most southern part of mainland Greece, is rich in beauty, rich in history and very friendly to people like you and me who like to roam freely.
A ferry across the Adriatic sea will take you from Italy to Patras. Ferries go from Venice, Ancona, Brindisi or Bari.

If you haven't been to Venice before, why don't you combine a visit to Venice with your journey to the Peloponnese.

Venice and Ancona are in the northern part of Italy while Bari and Brindisi are in the south. Cost- wise is pretty much the same since although ferries from Venice and Ancona are more expensive you do save on fuel and tolls as Bari and Brindisi are another 500 Km south of Ancona.
We normally book our ferry tickers from this website:

 So let's say you catch the ferry to Patras. From Patras (which is the 3rd largest Greek city) you could drive south to see Olympia, where the first Olympic games were staged.
We parked our camper just outside the ancient site and had our lunch in the van. Later we drove to the village parked and slept.

On our way to Pylos as we drive down the west coast of Peloponnese but the reward of taking it easy is discovering amazing beaches like this one in Marathopoli.
Just park your van by the beach and stay as long as you like...

On to Pylos, a sleepy little town that had a significant role to play in the independence of modern  Greece.

From there to Methoni with its Venetian castle...

and peaceful beach

Then on to the most southern part of that west coast, we found the most peaceful, quite beach near the Vasilitsi village, where we put up camp for the night.

The night sky was just stunning...tried to take pictures but they just couldn't do it justice.

Camping in Peloponnese part two: Mani 

We are heading for Mani now but we can't pass Koroni without stopping. It's a beautiful little town with a very large Castle area...

...... and beautiful narrow streets.

Kalamata with its port and long beach is the largest town in that part of Peloponnese. It's a good place to stock up on supplies before we head for Mani.

Here we are now in Mani with its beautiful villages hanging on the cliff-tops....

Its stone-built houses...

....and churches...

and look at this one, it's more like boulder-built rather than stone-built. Look also how tiny it is!
It is one of the very few church buildings in the world that Anna has to bend in order to get through the door.

The frescoes on these old churches were gorgeous and they had this peculiar simplicity about them.

It was as if you didn't have to be a Michelangelo to paint a fresco. Any willing heart is accepted.

The towers of Mani stand as a testament of bygone days, reminding us that Mani was one of the only two small areas in Greece that never became subject to Ottoman rule.
The pride of this freedom is reflected in its people and their very straight-forward and friendly ways.

I imagine that Sea-Breeze was very proudly posing for this picture at this picturesque little port with its fishing boats. We stopped for lunch here and then a swim and a shower. Remember that this is mid-October but the weather is still holding up nicely.

Where did I have my shower? Just here.

Can you actually do that? That's what it's for...

A shower-head on a beach is often all you need to have a shower.
Let's say you've missed having a hot shower so what do you do then?
- You drive out in the bush, you take a large green tab, you boil a kettle over your gas burner and mix it with some cold water in the tab. Then you enjoy a hot shower or bath...
Is that simple or what?

And where do you stay for the night?
I was intrigued to find a large number of campervans
parked underneath the "no-camping" sign.
- Are you spending the night here? What about the sign?
- O don't worry. It's fine to sleep here. The local restaurants and shops are keen to have us.

A visit to Mani will not be complete without visiting the Diros caves. They are stunning and they will leave you breathless. We took a guided tour on a gondola-style boat with a guide taking you around the cave with its stunning stalactites. 

The Gerolimenas village, a must-visit little fishing village, is the very last community before you head for the END. At the end of Mani you stand at the most southern part of Continental Europe. You cannot drive your campervan any more south than this. Here it is... We made it.

It's about 1 Km to walk to the lighthouse of Cape Tenaron. Standing there you can tell that the rest of Europe is now in the north. Yes there are some of Europe's islands that are in the south but we are standing here at the most southern part of Continental Europe. Our little Sea Breeze made it.

And since we are here why not enjoy the freedom of swimming all alone in, dare I say it? -- Well, total freedom!

Camping in Peloponnese (part 3) : To Sparta

Having reached the most southern part of Mani,  it was time to say goodbye. We did so with heavy hearts as we were absolutely captivated by the wild beauty of Mani.

Mani is a part of Greece that remains unspoiled.

 Having reached the most southern part of Europe now there was only one way to go and that was to the north. We set course to Sparta.

On our journey north we spent our first night sleeping in our camper parked right on the jetty of Kotronas. We had a fantastic night sleeping, almost surrounded by water.
It was not long before another campervan pulled up near us. Birds of a feather flock together.

Is there anything more peaceful than this?
Can any organised camp provide you with this kind of  tranquility?

Can any money buy moments like this?

Next stop: Gytheio. A very picturesque town set on the hill overlooking the sea.

 From Gytheio to this!   Monemvasia.
One of the largest Byzantine cities built on that natural fortress.

The city is still alive today and it affords some stunning views.

The lowest part of the city is still buzzing with tourists strolling the streets, buying their souvenirs, visiting the museum or sitting at the taverna.

But if you are brave enough to make the climb to the top where there are just ruins and a lonely church at the top of the hill, you'll be rewarded.


Monemvasia is certainly worth the visit.

Came back to our van, and after a swim we decided to have dinner and watch the night throw its shawl on the Rock of Monemvasia.

Again we were not alone. Another van pulled right besides us and spent the night there with us.

After Monemvasia we headed for Elafonisi. Elafonisi means Deer Island.

It is only a very short ferry ride from the main land...

...and it is well worth it.

We didn't get around the island much, we just visited its little port town, but it was so pretty.

There were fish restaurants to your heart's content. 

There was another ferry that now we had in mind to take. We went from Elafonisos to Neapoli hoping to catch the ferry to Kithira.
When we got there we found that the ferry had left for Kithira that same morning and the next one was the same time next week!!
We just couldn't believe it... One ferry a week. We remembered an old Greek song that says:

"Ta Kithira pote den tha ta doume
to hasame to ploio tis gramis..."

"We will never see Kithira
we have missed the ferry..."

How sad and how true. So we said goodbye to Neapolis and this most southern part of the third leg of Peloponnese and we are now heading for Sparta.

We were there by the evening. We parked and slept in one of its quiet streets.

The city of Leonidas and his 300 hundred.

A city tucked up in the mountain region of Peloponnese.

 Another Byzantine city a stone's throw from Sparta is Mystras.
A city that speaks of glory days, of a civilization that has offered so much and yet is so much forgotten.
Of emperors and bishops, of monasteries and priests.

A stop at a natural spring to fill up with water and....

...back to Sparta city for the night.

Here is the Sparta town hall.

 We are now setting our minds to visit Nafplion. The first capital of independent Greece.

Camping in Peloponnese (part 4) : From Nafplion to Corinth

So here we are: Nafplion, the first capital of modern Greece.
We arrived here late in the day, so we went for a stroll around the city.

It is a small city, abundant in neo-classical buildings and the whole place is teaming with history.

The churches have their story to tell...

...and look at this modern day message:

You are truly happy when you are happy with the happiness of others.

This is where we parked during our stay: right by the water front... and of course we were not the only ones.
The weather is turning cold now and we've come back early for a hot soup and an early night.

We had a wonderful view of this...

The Bourgi.  
A small island just off the coast.

Besides its neoclassical buildings Nafplion had an older history to offer. From anywhere in the city you couldn't miss the big Venetian castle on the top of the hill,

The Venetians who sailed the waters of the Aegean left a legacy of a number of castles scattered all over the Aegean.
The Nafplion castle was worth visiting both for its history, its architecture and....

... the views that it offers of the city.

Next place to visit: Epidavros an ancient city in the Saronic Gulf.

Perhaps the most well known of its landmarks is its amphitheatre.

Its symmetry, which delighted Pausanias, and its acoustics are unparalleled.
15,000 people can sit in the amphitheatre and they can clearly hear a whisper that takes place in the skini (stage).

 After a good walk about we got back in our van and headed for Spetses.

We passed by Porto Heli, one of those early holiday places for the well-to-do Greeks.

 We thought that we had come to the end of the mosquito season, but that night as we parked at the little port village from where we were going to take the ferry the next morning to Spetses, we were given to believe otherwise.
We had no mosquito repellents at all so after being viciously bitten during the night I had to get up, turn on the lights and kill the offender. However this process was repeated until dawn. Lesson learned: Always carry some mosquito repellent spray.

Next morning after our short ferry ride we are greeted by the Spetses' own flag.

Now, Spetses which fought its own battle for independence from Ottoman rule had in the 20th century become a holiday destination not just for the rich but for the aristocracy. Kings and presidents from all over the world holidayed there for years.

If you are a lover of wooden boats, you'll find hundreds in Spetses in all sizes and shapes both sail and motor.

Many of its houses have an air of aristocracy about them.

Back on the mainland and we drove past Hermioni.
Another one of those early holiday destinations for Greeks of the 20th century.
We didn't stay much because the place we really wanted to get to...

... was this: Metohi.

All there was in Metohi was a restaurant with a tiny little grocery store included and a jetty from where you could get...

... this little boat to take you to Hydra.

If there is one island off the Peloponnese coast that one must visit, this certainly is Hydra.

A short ferry ride, takes you to this island on which all wheels are banned.
No cars, no bikes, no trains not anything like this.
The only way to get around the island is either walking or riding on horses and donkeys.

If you dream of a holiday where the pollution of cars does not exist, then you must visit Hydra.

Cobbled stone alleys where only the sound of other humans can be heard

We just wandered about the town for hours.

A beautiful island!

And again it's time to say goodbye and head north.

We arrived in Galatas late in the day. We parked just here and had our lunch with the view of another island: Poros.

 You are about to fall asleep for the night and your eyes feast on this view. How good is this?

Next morning just a short ferry ride on ferry Anna
and we are in Poros.

For most Greeks, Poros is normally accessed by ferry from Pereaus. Driving there from Athens is a very long way around but any Athenian can do it on the ferry.
Poros and its tranquil waters make it a haven for hundreds of flotilla yachts that go about the Saronic.

Again it's goodbye to Poros in search now for some real ancient history.

 We are about to walk through the gates of  the ancient city of Mycenae. The Lion Gate stands at the entrance to the city whose civilization dominated the Greece of the 2nd millennium BC.

As you walk through the citadel you can't but wonder how on earth did they built those walls at a time when none of the modern lifting equipment existed.

The tomb of Agamemnon is another wonder of that ancient civilization.
Look at the size of it....

and look at its roof...
How on earth did they do that 4,000 years ago?

And something for Petros - my civil engineer son:
When the civil engineers of Mycenae built bridges they built them to last!
Still standing about 3,500 years later

 We have now come to our final destination in Peloponnese:
The ancient city of Corinth.
The Roman city which lies in ruins at the top of the hill above the modern city of Corinth is our final place to visit in our Peloponnese itinary.

As we walk through the ruins and...

....ancient roads we reflect on what has passed and on what is yet to come.

It's been an amazing trip, travelling around the Peloponnese in our Sea Breeze. Thank God.


1 comment:

  1. Nice tale of the Peloponnese! I can recommend the 8 € solar shower from Decathlon to hang nicely under a tree or on the door of your van. Also their inexpensive mosquito nets so you don't have to spray yourself with poison during the night. I have installed my nets on the doors of my van, so I can be naked inside around the clock. They also provide some privacy and stop other critters from entering.