Take two weeks to cross the stories of the Peloponnesian peninsula with this 14-day itinerary.  Start with the classics on the Acropolis, then make your way down through to the site of the kingdom of Mycenae, ancient vines of Nemea, and stadium at Olympia. Top it off with four days of shipwrecks and sea turtles on the island of Zakynthos before you return to Athens and thank Poseidon for your journey.

Highlights

  • Get hands-on with the Iliad at Mycenae
  • Sample the wines of Nemea
  • Visit the castles of Monemvasia
  • Follow in the footsteps of ancient athletes in Olympia
  • Sail to the shipwreck beach on Zakynthos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner Athens
Day 2 Acropolis and Ancient Greek Mythology Tour Athens
Day 3 Travel to Nafplio, Guided Walk Nafplio
Day 4 Mycenae and Epidaurus Day Trip Nafplio
Day 5 Nemea Winery Exploration Nafplio
Day 6 Travel to Monemvasia Monemvasia
Day 7 Pylos & Palace of Nestor Pylos
Day 8 Olympia Archaeological Site to Nafpaktos Nafpaktos
Day 9 Ferry to Zakynthos Zakynthos
Day 10 Zakynthos Boat Cruise Zakynthos
Day 11 Explore Zakynthos Villages Zakynthos
Day 12 Zakynthos Wine Tasting Zakynthos
Day 13 Museums and Cape Sounion Sunset Tour Athens
Day 14 Depart Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

In the evening, you'll sit down to enjoy either a welcome dinner with views of the Acropolis or wine tasting in a bar in downtown Athens.

Day 2: Acropolis and Ancient Greek Mythology Tour

Ruins of Ancient Greece
Ruins of Ancient Greece

Experience the ancient stories surrounding you with today's guided mythology tour. You'll meet your guide and storyteller at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, then head to landmarks around the city including the Acropolis, ancient cemetery at Kerameikos, and the Agora. The myths that founded the city and are featured in its retellings for generations will accompany as you go, with stories of Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Dionysus, and more. Hear both the stories themselves and the historic facts behind them, adding resonance to the archaeological ruins you will visit during this four-hour tour.

Make your way over to explore the Acropolis Museum on your own after your tour (or join a guide if you'd prefer). Named one of the ten best museums in the world by National Geographic, this modern museum houses a multitude of artifacts removed from the hill of the Acropolis for safekeeping to provide insight into ancient religious practices and daily life. Linger for lunch in the museum's cafe, with views of the artifacts' former hilltop home.

As night falls, you may be able to visit the Athens Observatory to learn about the constellations overhead and take a look through the telescope. Its hours vary seasonally and by day of the week.

Day 3: Travel to Nafplio, Guided Walk

Navarchon Square, Nafplio
Navarchon Square, Nafplio

Today brings you to Nafplio, one of the prettiest seaport towns in the Peloponnese peninsula. Once believed to have been founded by the son of Poseidon, the town was the first capital of the new Greek state after the war of independence in the 1800s. 

After you've settled in to your accommodations, you'll meet your guide for a stroll through the old town. You'll pass statues honoring significant figures from Nafplio's history alongside Ottoman fountains, and Venetian architecture along the winding streets, topped off by the Bourtzi Castle in the middle of the harbor. Accessible only by boat, the castle was built in the 1470s to defend the city from pirates, and it still keeps watch at the entrance to Nafplio Bay.  Learn about the diverse cultural influences on the city's history along with its architectural features at spots like the Vouleftikon building and Town Hall before you climb up 1,000 steps to see the view from the Palamidi Castle.

Once you've finished your tour, wander the Vasileos Konstandinou pedestrian street to take you across the old town, ending in Syntagma Square, also known as Constitution Square, where you can choose between a variety of tavernas for dinner.

Day 4: Mycenae and Epidaurus Day Trip

The Lion Gate at Mycenae
The Lion Gate at Mycenae

Travel back in time to the well-preserved archaeological sites of Epidaurus and Mycenae, both deserving of their UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

You may recognize Mycenae from its role in Homer's Iliad: It was home to the famous Helen, whose Mycenean husband Agamemnon led his people to war when she left him for Paris of Troy. See its Cyclopean walls, whose construction method is still a mystery. They got their name due in part to the belief that only the mythical Cyclops would have been strong enough to lift their boulders. You'll pass through the Lion Gate to enter the ruins of the city, wandering past the tombs of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra and the Treasury of Atreus. Don't skip the onsite museum, full of artifacts of everyday life in the city.

Next, you'll visit the small ancient city of Epidaurus, which was one of the most visited healing centers in the world during its peak. The sick would travel to the Sanctuary of Asklepios, the god of medicine and healing. They would spend the night in the temple's sleeping hall in hopes that the deity would appear in the dreams with a diagnosis and cure for their condition, whatever it may have been. 

You'll also see the city's third-century theater, one of the best remaining examples of its type due to the excellent acoustics and aesthetic arrangement. It was originally designed for musical and singing competitions, and is the largest stone resonator in the world. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides all had plays performed here.

Depending on the timing of your trip, you may be able to catch a performance on the ancient stage.

Day 5: Nemea Winery Exploration

Fruit of the vines
Fruit of the vines

Spend your day among the wineries of Nemea, one of the country's most important wine-producing areas. They're especially known for their Agiorgitiko wine, believed to have been first grown from a vine brought by the god Dionysus. These grapes, which are similar to Merlot, are considered to be one of the finest Greek red varietals and have grown in the region for thousands of years—possibly since the 4th century BC. The ancient red wine called Fliasion was also believed to be produced in this area.

You'll visit three wineries to observe the wine-making process and stroll through the vineyards. And, of course, sample the varietals along the way, along with a lunch of local cuisine with wine pairings at one of the stops.

If you find yourself fondly remembering any particular bottles later that you wish you'd purchased, the local cooperative also operates an outlet where many of the wines are available.

Day 6: Travel to Monemvasia

Monemvasia
Monemvasia

After breakfast, you'll continue onward to Monemvasia on the coast. Once only reachable by boat, this medieval town was carved out of the rock on which it stands, rising up from the sea. Saunter through the cobblestone streets and see the dramatic sea views and architecture that will take you back to another era.

Explore the cobblestone streets with a walk up to the Upper Old Town and you'll be rewarded by bird's-eye views of the town and southeastern Peloponnese, plus a visit to the superbly preserved twelfth-century church of Aghia Sophia. Or pay a visit to the lighthouse and see cannons once used to defend the town from pirates.

Dine on a terrace overlooking the Upper Old Town and Byzantine castle of Aghia Paraskevi, complementing the views with local Malvasia wine. Linger into the evening for after-dinner cocktails in the town's stylish, yet cozy, bars.

Day 7: Pylos & Palace of Nestor

Palace walls
Palace walls

Head to the Palace of Nestor in "sandy Pylos," as it was known in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.  The palace is one of the best-preserved Mycenean sites of its time, including the primary structure of the palaces as well as a larger Late Helladic settlement, with remnants of the fortified walls.

You'll stay in the seaside town of Pylos on the southwest Peloponnesian coast. The town rises up amphitheatrically around the Navarino bay (named for the Italian name for the town). Visit the ruins of the Old Castle nearby or the archaeological site at the New Castle, which has been restored to include museums and Byzantine churches.

If you'd rather spend your day reclining, visit Voidokoilia beach, whose smooth sands and turquoise waters make it a popular spot.

Day 8: Olympia Archaeological Site to Nafpaktos

Fields of Olympia
Fields of Olympia

Explore the site of the first Olympic Games at the archaeological site of Olympia. There's plenty to cover—it's one of the largest sites in the country, surrounded by wild olives and plane trees. Your comprehensive guided tour will take you under the grand temple columns, past the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus and through the onsite Archaeological Museum. 

There will also be free time after the tour to explore the site on your own. Scope out the treasuries, sacrificial altars, and stadium once used by the ancient world's best athletes. The natural landscape surrounding the site is also full of opportunities for a day hike if you'd like to put your muscles to use.

Once you've completed your explorations, head north over the Rio-Antirrio Bridge across the Gulf of Corinth—one of the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges. You'll spend the night in Nafpaktos overlooking the waters of the gulf and the town's castle. Spend your evening exploring the town's charming streets.

Day 9: Ferry to Zakynthos

Zakynthos town and harbor
Zakynthos town and harbor

Head to Kyllini port in the morning to hop a ferry to Zakynthos. Also known as Zante to the Italians or "Flower of the East" to the Venetians, the third-largest Ionian island awaits. 

The southern coast of the island is lined with resorts and sandy coves and beaches, while on the western side forested cliffs sweep down into the sea. It's also home to the first Greek national marine park due to its regular egg-laying visits from loggerhead sea turtles. 

The main Zakynthos town is also home to plenty of on-land attractions. Start at the church of Agios Dionysos, the island's patron saint, then walk the restaurant-lined Strata Marina along the water down to Solomos Square. Stop in the Post-Byzantine Museum or just linger in the square taking in its characteristic island architecture.

Day 10: Zakynthos Boat Cruise

Navagio Beach
Navagio Beach

See the island from an aquatic perspective with this full-day boat ride. Cruise around to Zakynthos's many secluded coves and clear waters for six to seven hours.

Start off with an overland drive of just under an hour to the Skinari Cape. Once there, hop on a small speedboat to sail past beaches and resorts to the distinctive geographic formations of the Blue Caves, where you'll stop for photos and a swim. Then continue on to drop anchor at Smuggler's Cove, also known as Shipwreck or Navagio beach, where you'll swim and take in the views of this popular spot, home to the wreck of the Panayiotis on its white sands. 

Boat back to the Skinari Cape, then board a bus up into the hills for a bird's eye view of the shipwreck. You'll have the options to stop for lunch at a taverna and a winery tour and tasting as you make your way back to town.

In the evening, head to Aghios Markos square, once the meeting place of Greek revolutionaries in 1797. Follow Alexandros Romas street out of the square and through town, taking in the arcades of the main commercial center of the city.

Day 11: Explore Zakynthos Villages

Coastal cliffs from Kampi
Coastal cliffs from Kampi

Head inland on today's expedition to the hidden corners of Zakynthos as you travel over the scenic roads to traditional villages. You're in charge, so pick whatever destination points pique your interest.

Capture the views from the island's highest point in the Vrachionas mountains, stop for lunch or a sunset view at clifftop Kampi, or swim in the deep turquoise waters of Makris Gialos beach.

If you're more a village visitor, see the market and monastery of Anafonitria, the old homes in Exo Hora (some of the few to escape the 1953 earthquake), or the highest village on the island at Gyri. The villages of Keri and Maries are known for their rural island life, or you can explore the island's agriculture in northern Volimes or resort scene at Argassi.

Day 12: Zakynthos Wine Tasting

Goumas Estate
Goumas Estate

Head out to Maries village to visit a tranquil local vineyard for today's wine tour. You'll be surrounded by all the trappings of provincial life amid olive, pear, and peach trees. The vineyards were originally planted in 1900 and revitalized in 1987, and the winery has kept growing and expanding its operations since as they work with other vineyards to build up the reputation of Zakynthos wines.

Learn about Ionian varietals such as augoustiatis and robola and the characteristics and history of wine on the island before you try four different wines under the guidance of a dedicated sommelier. The tastings will be accompanied by an assortment of snacks over the course of two hours.

Make your way up to the Bochali village over the main Zakynthos town in the late afternoon or evening to take in the views of the sunset or city lights over the harbor. Visit what remains of the Venetian castle in the pine forest or Byzantine icons in the church of Zoodos Pigi, or linger over a meal in a restaurant with panoramic views of the island.

Day 13: Museums and Cape Sounion Sunset Tour

Quite the dramatic setting for the temple!
Quite the dramatic setting for the temple!

Take a leisurely morning with breakfast and the opportunity to explore the city on your own time, revisiting any favorite shops or undiscovered archaeological sites. Or use the time to scope out some of the museums you may have missed earlier in your trip. The city has a whole slew to be explored, depending on what specialty speaks to you.

For more history and mythology:

  • Acropolis Museum
  • National Archaeological Museum
  • Museum of the Ancient Agora
  • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos

Find some fine arts at:

  • Benaki Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • National Gallery

Go off the beaten path at:

  • Museum of Cycladic Art, where you can also buy some truly unique souvenirs
  • The digital interactive museum at the Platonic Academy, next to the site where the actual Academy stood
  • Museum of Ancient Greek Technology in the center of Athens, featuring a working model of the Antikythera mechanism

In the afternoon, you'll head down to the Athenian Riviera, full of both history and stunning island views. Your adventure will take you along the coast to visit the Temple of Poseidon, providing you with historical background on the way. The views overlook the Saronic Gulf, with one of the best sunset perspectives Greece has to offer. Sip a complimentary beverage and take in the sunset while you listen to music and immortalize the moment with a Polaroid-style photo.

You'll be transferred back to your lodging in the evening just in time for a late (Greek-style) dinner. Or, if you're not ready to call it a night, you can request a drop-off at some of the most popular beach bars to dance until the sun comes up.

Day 14: Depart Athens

Wave to the city
Wave to the city

Time to say farewell to Greece. Enjoy your final Athenian breakfast and sneak in some last-minute exploring before your transfer to the airport.

Map

Map of Historic Peloponnese and Zakynthos - 14 Days
Map of Historic Peloponnese and Zakynthos - 14 Days