I don’t know exactly what made me hop in a rental car and head off on my first exploration of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. I recall the route: a winding road through a characteristically Greek setting, illuminated by the late afternoon light of spring. The lovely smell of orange blossoms filled the air, and I could see an orange grove stretching to my left. With each gentle wind, a forest of olive trees that date back hundreds of years transformed from green to silver on the other side. I wanted to stop and soak it all in. All I could think of was how I wanted to show my colleagues at JayWay and the travelers I dealt with at this destination.
Medieval castles, turquoise-water beaches, and ancient monuments recognized by UNESCO abound throughout the Peloponnese peninsula. With abundant regional customs and traditions, it also has one of the most delectable regional cuisines in the nation. Despite sharing many similarities with Greece’s well-known islands, the Peloponnese has the advantage of fewer tourists (and fewer of the islands’ never-ending boat excursions). The peninsula’s diverse topography may make it seem like a little version of Greece, with breathtaking coastlines, dramatic mountain passes, sleepy towns, and vibrant cities all mixed together.
On that first trip, I spent many days behind the wheel. My visits varied between spa resorts in the verdant countryside that provided greater peace and sun-drenched coastal towns that defied me to do nothing but lounge on the pebbled beaches and read a book while listening to the sound of the waves.
Some days, I traveled along the same trails my ancient Spartan ancestors had walked for millennia, forgetting about my rental car and occasionally pausing at half-hidden coves for a cool swim in the pristine waters. On some, I spent hours researching the history of the area. As we toured places like the ancient remains of Olympia and Messini, the towering medieval town of Mystras, and Nafplio, the first capital of Greece, I got to meet informed guides who soon became like friends. Nothing was more enjoyable than conversing with the locals, often over glasses of locally produced wine or scalding hot coffee.
As an A-List travel adviser, I can’t suggest a trip to the Peloponnese peninsula highly enough. This varied area, which frequently has an island vibe, displays the finest of mainland Greece. I’ll never come across another location that can arouse such strong feelings in me on every visit or bring back so many beautiful memories just by calling it by name.