This dynamic road trip takes you through some of mainland Greece's best kept secrets, starting with a mythology tour of the Acropolis in Athens and a visit to the wineries in Nemea. Then head into the picturesque Peloponnese Region where you'll discover the ancient ruins in Sparta, the medicinal tales of Ascelpius, and the charms of historic Mani villages. Visit the birthplace of the Olympics in Olympia, hike to an alpine lake for a swim, and visit a family-operated olive farm to learn all about the production process and to taste different varieties.

Highlights

  • Explore Athens with a story-infused mythology tour of the Acropolis
  • Visit the beautiful wineries of Nemea and taste different grape varieties
  • Sleep in the preserved walled town of Monemvasia with its incredible castle and views
  • Discover ancient ruins in Epidaurus, Sparta, and Olympia
  • Swim in a waterfall, an alpine lake, and the Aegean Sea

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens - Explore the city Athens
Day 2 Discover Ancient Athens with a mythology tour Athens
Day 3 Enjoy the renowned wineries of Nemea Athens
Day 4 Visit the ancient sites of Epidaurus and the Sanctuary of Ascelpius Athens
Day 5 Transfer to Mystras and explore Ancient Sparta Mystras
Day 6 Step back in time in the preserved village of Monemvasia Monembasia
Day 7 Drive to Areopoli and explore the villages of Mani Areopoli
Day 8 Head to the seaside town of Pylos and discover the Palace of Nestor Pylos
Day 9 Discover the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia Olympia
Day 10 Walk to a waterfall and an alpine lake in Peloponnese Xylokastro
Day 11 Tour an olive farm to taste olive oil and learn about its production Xylokastro
Day 12 Depart Greece via Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens - Explore the city

Monastiraki Square and Sunset over Plaka
Monastiraki Square and Sunset over Plaka

Welcome to  Greece!

Upon arriving in Athens, you'll settle into your accommodation and enjoy the city famous for its mythology. You'll discover its towering temples, classical deities, the iconic Acropolis, and the ruins of ancient market places, all in contrast to the vibrant nightlife, bustling flea markets, and contemporary cuisine.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Parthenon temple, which sits proudly atop the Acropolis rock. This temple has enchanted visitors and locals alike since its construction centuries ago in 438 BCE. Although it's visible from many parts of the city, it's worth visiting these ancient ruins up close.

  • Discover one of the world's first meteorological sites, the Tower of the Winds. Afterward, you can stroll down the neighboring Aeolou Street, which is home to an array of charming local shops and cafés. Try to keep some extra space in your suitcase in case you decide to buy something at one of the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market.

  • Take a stroll along the cobblestone streets of Plaka—one of Athen's oldest neighborhoods—where you'll find iconic two-story Athenian houses and charming antique shops. The district is tucked under the Acropolis Hill and has a lovely, vibrant atmosphere.

In the evening, your hosts will recommend the best places to enjoy original Greek food. The country's cuisine has evolved over the centuries through a rare blend of Eastern and Western influences, all prepared while using local and seasonal ingredients.

Day 2: Discover Ancient Athens with a mythology tour

A View of the Parthenon atop Acropolis Hill
A View of the Parthenon atop Acropolis Hill

Today's mythology tour of Athens starts at the majestic Olympian Zeus Temple and continues through the world-famous Acropolis and the Ancient Agora.

These are the places where ancient myths come to life, allowing you to learn stories about gods and heroes, such as the almighty Zeus, Poseidon, and Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and protector of Athens. Discover the truths behind these myths and why the Ancient Greeks created them.

Get to the heart of the ancient world and uncover fascinating stories. These marbles and stones will have a whole new meaning once you learn the myths around them!

In the afternoon, visit the Acropolis Museum, one of the ten best museums in the world according to National Geographic. Admire the Parthenon Gallery, which hosts objects and artifacts of every-day life in ancient Athens. Note that the museum cafe is an ideal lunch spot with a great view of the Acropolis.

After dinner, you can visit the Athens Observatory to see a presentation about constellations, observing them through a telescope.

Day 3: Enjoy the renowned wineries of Nemea

Enjoy Tasting the Amazing Wine in Greece
Enjoy Tasting the Amazing Wine in Greece

Today's adventure includes a glimpse into the heart of modern Greek wine, a perfect excursion for any wine lover. The focus will be on the region of Nemea, famous for its indigenous grape variety Agiorgitiko. It's only a short, one-hour trek from Athens.

In all, the tour will take about 5-6 hours, bringing you to three selected boutique wineries all known for their high-quality wines. You'll meet with wine makers and oenologists who will show you their passion for their work and invite you to taste wines from the most important Greek and international grape varieties. You'll learn all about the interesting facts of Greek wine production and the long history of wine making in Greece.

Lunch will be provided along with your wine tastings, so enjoy a relaxing day in the beautiful vineyards of Greece.

You'll return back to Athens in the early evening, with plenty of time to rest before heading out for another amazing dinner in the city.

Day 4: Visit the ancient sites of Epidaurus and the Sanctuary of Ascelpius

Among the Columns of Epidaurus
Among the Columns of Epidaurus

After breakfast, you'll collect your rental car and head southwest of Athens towards the Peloponnese Region for a special day trip. Your first stop will be a quick one, admiring the impressive Corinth Canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. Afterward, you'll head straight to the ruins of Epidaurus, which was once a small city in ancient Greece. Here you'll find a beautifully-preserved amphitheater. 

You'll also visit the Sanctuary of Asklepios, which is known worldwide as the starting point of medicine. The history runs deep, as medicinal practice in ancient Greece was seen as a power given to humans as knowledge from God. This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes temples and hospital facilities dedicated to the healing gods, a significant testimony to the healing cults of ancient Greeks and the Romans.

In the surrounding area of the Sanctuary of Asclepius, you will admire the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, which is one of the most well-preserved theaters of ancient Greece. Its original purpose was to host musical and singing contests, as well as drama performances dedicated to Asclepius’ worship. Aesthetically, the theater was impressive, but it also provided perfect acoustics and structure. Today, it's considered the biggest stone resonator in the world. As you explore the grounds, you can still feel the works of the great tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, who all performed on this stage.

If you're traveling in the summer months, the theater hosts a play every Friday and Saturday evening in partnership with the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which was established in 1955. The plays are performed in Greek but with English subtitles.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to Athens in time to enjoy dinner in the historic Plaka neighborhood, or in one of the city's other districts. There's always something to do and see in lively Monastiraki, or check out artsy Psyrri for some live music.

Day 5: Transfer to Mystras and explore Ancient Sparta

The Palace in Mystras
The Palace in Mystras

Perhaps you're already familiar with the legacy of ancient Sparta, which finds its home today in the modern city of Sparti. In the morning, you'll visit the famous site of the Spartans, known for their strict military training and everyday self-restraint. Although not much remains from the ancient city of Sparta, the archaeological site features ruins from various historical periods and is one of the most beautiful in the region.

After visiting the ruins you can enjoy the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil. This museum focuses on the history, culture, and technology of olive oil production, from prehistoric times to the early 20th century. You'll see the very first testimonies about the presence of the olive tree and olive oil in Greece, including rare, fossilized olive leaves that range from 50,000-60,000 years old. These were found on the island of Santorini. You'll also discover replicas of ancient tablets from the 14th century BCE, with the first written testimonies about the olive. 

Your next stop is Mystras, home of an impressive fortified town and castle that was a Byzantine capital in the 14th and 15th centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is very atmospheric and photogenic, an incredible archaeological area spread across a steep mountainside with breathtaking views.

Take your time to visit the three distinct zones of the fortress, which also represent different eras in its history. This includes the Upper City (Ano Chora) with the Despot's Palaces, the Lower City (Kato Chora) with the Metropolis, and the Outer City (Exo Chora). You'll have about three hours to explore.

In the late afternoon, you'll settle into your new accommodation in the town of Mystras where you'll sleep close to the ruins. Your host can help you find a delicious tavern for dinner, exploring the unique tastes of the region.

Day 6: Step back in time in the preserved village of Monemvasia

Aerial Views of Monemvasia
Aerial Views of Monemvasia

Today you'll visit Monemvasia Castle, which can make you feel like you're time traveling. The old walled town sits on the edge of a cliffside jutting into the sea, suspended in time. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the castle with your provided rental car. But bear in mind that you can only enter the castle on foot, leaving the car outside the walls. A shuttle bus is available every half hour in case you can't find a parking space near the entrance.

As you enter Monemvasia, you can head straight to the top of the rock to visit the upper town, known for its preserved and restored church of Agia Sophia. The church is a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture and is well worth the steep climb up the stairs, as are the views at the top.

As you walk back down the cobblestone streets, admire the stone-built houses, churches, and squares. Continue to the lighthouse to discover the canons that were once used to scare away pirate ships. You'll find that the fortress and the old city are beautiful and rich in history, one of the most fascinating places in mainland Greece.

You'll stay here in the old walled town so you can experience its historical beauty from day to night. There are plenty of great restaurants within its walls, as well as cafes, bars, and shops. In the evening, continue to explore the small corridors and passageways that give away the town's secrets and charms.

Day 7: Drive to Areopoli and explore the villages of Mani

The Picturesque Fishing Village of Limeni
The Picturesque Fishing Village of Limeni

This morning, head out to the hillside town of Areopoli in your rental car. Areopoli is related to Ares, the ancient Greek god of war. Upon arrival, head to the large square in the center of the town where the statue of Petrobay’s Mavromichalis stands. Around the square, you can explore the numerous stone alleys, many with preserved tower houses, churches, shops, taverns, and bars.

After settling into your accommodation, drive past Areopoli's beautifully restored old town to visit the villages within the region of Mani, located in Southern Peloponnese. It's an area of great history and beauty, offering its visitors a variety of activities. Mani is full of stone-built tower houses, rocky landscapes jutting into the sea, impressive cliffs and beaches, and beautiful off-the-beaten path villages. Don't miss the charming towns of Oitylo and Limeni.

Limeni, in particular, is an excellent stop for dinner. A picturesque fishing village on the sea, it has an array of excellent fish taverns with gorgeous sunset views. Here you can admire the tower house of the Mavromichalis family, which played a significant role in the Greek War of Independence.

Day 8: Head to the seaside town of Pylos and discover the Palace of Nestor

Hillside Views of the Castle in Pylos
Hillside Views of the Castle in Pylos

Today you'll make your way to the coastal town of Pylos and the historical Palace of Nestor. The Palace of Nestor was an important center in Mycenaean times, described in the famous works of Homer's Odyssey and Iliad.

The site is one of the most well-preserved Mycenaean Greek palaces, set within a larger settlement from the late Helladic Era. You'll enjoy a privately-guided tour of the palace and learn all about its historical significance. 

Afterward, make your way to the town of Pylos, where you'll settle into your accommodation. Pylos is set on the southwest coast of Peloponnese, in a large bay known as Navarino. The town is built upon a hillside, with each street slightly higher than the other in the style of an amphitheater.

Near the town, you can visit the ruins of the Old Castle (Paliokastro) and the archaeological site of the New Castle (Niokastro). A private guide will lead you through Niokastro, as it features very interesting museums and Byzantine churches. 

After a day of touring the area, catch some Greek sun on Voidokoilia Beach, a popular venue with pristine sand and clear turquoise waters. Swim or relax, then grab dinner at one of the hillside eateries that offer gorgeous views over the water.

Day 9: Discover the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia

The Impressive Archaeological Site of Olympia
The Impressive Archaeological Site of Olympia

A visit to the Archaeological Site of Olympia is a memory you'll never forget. Home to the ancient Olympic Games that took place every four years, your day in Olympia will be dedicated to the exploration of one of the most celebrated sanctuaries of ancient Greece.

A private guide will walk you through the impressive ruins as you marvel at the numerous attractions of the site. Explore the massive Temple of Zeus, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, the Temple of Hera, and, of course, the ancient stadium where athletes used to train and compete over 3000 years ago.

The area around Olympia has amazing natural landscapes with plenty of opportunities for an easy or medium hike. After settling into your accommodation, enjoy a walk through the town's treelined streets and settle into a tavern for dinner.

Day 10: Walk to a waterfall and an alpine lake in Peloponnese

Forest Stream in Greece
Forest Stream in Greece

Enjoy an early breakfast before starting your journey to the seaside city of Xylokastro. Along the way, you'll make several stops to enjoy a unique experience in Greece, where you'll swim in three types of water. You'll start at a waterfall in the northern part of Peloponnese at Mt. Helmos. Here you'll swim under the powerful spray of the cascade, then walk upstream to find the hidden gem of Lake Tsivlou. The alpine lake has a stunning turquoise hue, the perfect place for a dip and lunch, which will be a traditional Lucullian meal.

After lunch, you'll head to Pefkias Beach for a dip in the Gulf of Corinth and a fresh, post-swim smoothie. You can either drive or, if you're feeling up for a little adventure, cycle down from the waterfall and catch a transfer to the beach. 

In the late afternoon, you'll arrive at your accommodation for the night, a cozy boutique hotel within walking distance from both the pine forest and the beach.

Day 11: Tour an olive farm to taste olive oil and learn about its production

Olive Trees at Sunset
Olive Trees at Sunset

For many centuries, the olive tree played an important role as a symbol of the Goddess Athena. According to Greek tradition, she was the one who first planted the olive tree in Greece, in the city of Athens. Today you'll visit an olive farm to learn about the cultural importance of this tree and its fruit, enjoying tastes of different oil varieties along the way. 

Greeks were the first to plant and cultivate the olive tree in the Mediterranean area. Nowadays, Greece is one of the top three countries that produce olive oil for a worldwide market. While visiting the olive farm, you'll learn how the fruit is collected and how oil is then processed.

There are many family businesses that offer this experience. You'll visit one of the best, not only for its size and modern technology but also for the quality of olive oil produced. You'll get a chance to speak directly with the owners as they proudly share their creations with you.

After learning about the different tastes and extraction methods, make sure to take a few bottles home with you. You'll return to your quiet accommodation in Xylokastro in time for one final Greek dinner.

Day 12: Depart Greece via Athens

Athens by Night
Athens by Night

It's sadly time to say goodbye to beautiful Greece. After your last breakfast in Greece, head back to Athens with your rental car. If you have some time before your flight, make a quick stop at the ruins of the Temple of Artemida in Vravron, a hidden gem just ten minutes away from Athens International Airport.