Three weeks into our tour of Greece with our travelling companions “The Motoroamers” (http://motoroaming.com) and we are utterly in love with the place. Why do we feel this way about a country that we are yet to fully explore, maybe it’s the simple beauty of the place, an abundance of beach side spots along breath-taking coastline with lush green mountain backdrops and furthermore no-one sharing it (at this time of year). This coupled with the natural hospitality and friendliness of the Greek people we can’t fail to feel “at home”. I’d even go as far as saying that it’s my favourite destination so far. Our journey has taken us to the Eastern side of the Peloponnese in the search of warmer weather and less bracing winds, and sunshine and blue skies have now been delivered in abundance.
We couldn’t miss the landmark sight of the Corinth canal on route. Connecting the Gulf of Corrinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, it cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese with the Greek mainland arguably making the peninsular an island. There is ample parking at Isthmia, at the bottom end of the canal for motorhomes (GPS 37.916801 23.008153), and from here if you’re lucky (like we were) you can experience the unique submersible bridge. Our timing was perfect as we found ourselves somewhat stranded on the other side of the bridge when it started to submerge into the water. Whilst we observed and photographed the unique event of five boats passing over the bridge into the Corinth canal, we were to once again experience Greek hospitality when the “man in charge” invited us into his control room to view first-hand how it all worked!
We journeyed onwards to “The Thumb” of the Peloponnese and after a few false starts settled at Palaia Epidavros , a small fishing village between orange and olive groves at the foot of the mountains with two large shimmering bays. Both bays offer the possibility of wild camping spots, but we opted for the southern end of the village as the access was somewhat easier (GPS 37.63695 23.16193). When wild camping we always try and give back to the local community by spending money either dining out or shopping locally and with the village just a 10 minute stroll away we had all the amenities we needed to stay for a few days, well stocked local supermarkets, fishmongers, bakers, butchers and an amazing deli which produces natural products on their own farm in the hills above.
Our days were easily filled with outdoor activities, making the most of the now sunny and warm weather. As well as our usual morning run (for me & Karen) and workout for Paul, we enjoyed breath-taking cliff top walks past aqua blue bays where evidence of past volcanic activity can be clearly seen in the rock formations. Being beckoned by a sunken city about 50 metres off Kalymnios beach we even braved the cold sea for our first snorkelling outing of this trip, you can snorkel directly over the submerged remains a fascinating (and bracing) experience. Evidence of past life is everywhere and a small ancient theatre can also be found just a short stroll from the village.
The “big attraction” that pulls the tourists to this area though is the ancient theatre of Epidavros located just 18 kilometres from the coastal village. In 400 B.C. Epidavros’ sprawling complex of hospitals and sick wards was the most famous healing centre in the Greek world. It was a place of miraculous cures, where the sick came to be treated by doctor-priests doing the work of Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine. The highlight of Epidavros is its theatre, which provided entertainment for those who made the pilgrimage here. Given its size (it seated up to 15,000) and obvious lack of modern amplification, the acoustics needed to be perfect. Sitting in the most distant seat as your travelling companion stands in the centre of the stage, you can still experience the amazing sounds first-hand. Although the main attraction here is the theatre, the overall site has a feeling of being unloved, weeds have been allowed to thrive and this once spectacular site is now in need of some “tlc”, with the entrance fee set at 12€ per person, it could definitely benefit from some reinvestment.
After 4 days wild camping we headed for a campsite and discovered a real gem, Nicolas II an ACSI site with access directly to the beach (GPS 37.616111 23.15861 Cost 17€ per night ). Originally we only intended to stay for one night to give us an opportunity to catch up on laundry and use the services; however with such a perfect location and super-fast wifi, we couldn’t pull ourselves away the next day. The inviting calm waters were ideal for kayaking so “Kev” was inflated and an afternoon of messing around on the water commenced.
Further along the coast is the volcanic peninsula of Methana our next stop. The peninsula boasts approximately 32 volcanoes which are still classed as active, but last erupted in 273BC. The town of Methana is centred around a natural thermal spa (closed when we were there) renowned for its healing properties, although the strong smell of sulphur was the first thing to hit us upon entering. We were able to park in between the beach and the harbour (GPS 37.577763 23.389651).
Climbing to the largest crater is a truly challenging experience. You can start the walk from from Kameni Hora (GPS37.618466 23.336043) and follow the path on a 500 metre climb to the lip of the volcano. Although testing in the 29° heat the now solid red lava flows of past eruptions makes a rugged landscape and views are of a different world of savage black, red and green crags and sharp abysses.
A 22 kms drive south took us to our next destination of Galatas, a small coastal town more famous as the gateway to Poros island than for its own merits. Although in a car park (GPS 37.49245 23.455026) our resting place for the night offered impressive views across the bay to the island. The town of Poros is built in the shape of an amphitheatre over two hills. In the past Poros consisted in fact of two islands, Sphería and Kalávria, but the last explosion of the Méthana volcano radically changed the morphology of the area. Sphería was cut off from Méthana, and in this way Póros took its present-day form. Lush pine trees vegetation, crystal clear beaches, a lively waterfront adorned with shops, cosy cafes and restaurants, a picturesque place to pass the time in the maze of cobbled streets. Just 200 metres across the bay the island is easily reached by water taxi (1€ pp). With an array of restaurants along the water front it was difficult to choose, opting for traditional Greek cuisine, our selection was perfect and we can highly recommend Apagio Taverna at the far end of the harbour. Their varied menu offers a combination of traditional Greek cuisine and homemade culinary delights, presented together with a warm Greek welcome from the family run establishment. Back at our resting spot the lively island vista entertained us well into the night as we watched the boats cross crossing the harbour and the island coming to life.
The sea was calling us though and so we took to the road again in search of the calm waters of a bay where we could make use of our kayaks. After a few false starts where the spots proved unsuitable due to narrow access or steep inclines we found ourselves at Agni Anargyri a large grassed parking area in front of the beach (GPS 37.35428 23.24754). Out of season we were the only two motorhomes here making it feel like an exclusive spot. We were able to once again make use of the kayaks, although the afternoon winds made for a challenging row back.
A drive further round the coast led us to our next destination just outside Porto Heli and our new favourite place so far (GPS 37.349562 23.11246). Set between two bays, perfect for snorkelling we were able to spend an easy few days making the most of nature’s natural facilities, swimming, snorkelling, running, cycling and practising yoga, now you can perhaps understand why Greece is so easy to love.