Planning your time in Greece – Part 2/2

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If you’re reading this post as a follow-up to Part 1 of the itinerary, I commend your decision to take another week in Greece. There is so much more to Greece than Athens and it’s islands, spectacular as they are.

If you just happened upon this article first though, definitely read Planning your time in Greece – Part 1 to get the complete picture.

Greece – Detailed Itinerary (Part 2)

Day 9

There are three major stops in Olympia. Start at the Museum of History of Olympic games, which is included in your ticket and gives you an excellent introduction to the Olympic games of Antiquity. After this, visit the archaeological site, which is largely in ruins.

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The Ruins at Ancient Olympia

But, with a little imagination, you can see naked athletes practising in the gymnasium, hoping to win the olive wreath for their town. You will be astounded by the colossal 40 foot chryselephantine statue of Zeus by Pheidias, shimmering in golden glory and hear the crowds chanting your name as you prepare to sprint roughly 192 m in the Olympic stadium. After this, visit the Archaeological museum, which houses art, sculpture and artifacts found at this ancient site. When you finish your visits, leave for Kardamyli in the evening. Stay in Kardamyli.

Day 10

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Speechless!

This day vied with Meteora to be the best experience of our trip and won with a small margin. You will do a driving tour today along the Mani Peninsula, going from Kardamyli to Cape Matapan and back. Our experience on this day merits an article of its own, but suffice it to say that azure skies, cerulean waters, a landscape dotted with wildflowers and stark cliffs that drop unexpectedly into the sea will define the Mani peninsula. I have been back for two weeks, and already, that day almost feels like a dream, too perfect to be true. But it was! Oh, how it was!

Day 11

Explore the little seaside town of Kardamyli today. End to end, Kardamyli will only take ten minutes to see, but it’s so much fun to linger and discover the back alleys and quirks of local life. You can do a town walk and then continue to Old Kardamyli. Once you have explored old Kardamyli, if you are in the mood for it, you can hike upto Hagia Sophia, onto the village of Petrovouni and back to Kardamyli.

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Every house in Kardamyli boasts of a riot of colors & flowers

About a 100 m into the pathway leading to Hagia Sophia, you will come across the graves of Castor and Pollux, the mythical Gemini twins. Don’t miss this! Obviously, these are not the real graves of the Gemini twins, but hey, it’s Greece! Here, a sunflower was once a woman whose love for Apollo (the sun god) was unrequited. So she was blessed/cursed to be the sunflower, forever following his chariot across the sky. What wonderful imaginations our ancestors had! Late in the day, around 4PM, drive to Monemvasia.

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Seriously considering buying a yacht & sailing around the world – At Kardamyli Coast

Day 12

Spend the day exploring the walled fortress town of Monemvasia (whose name means “Single entry”). This town was strategically important to the Ottomans and they protected it every way they knew – with a fortress wall around the town on a cliff and gates that were guarded like nobody’s business. Explore the town square, walk up to the sea, take a swim if it’s the right weather for it, taste some honey wine and stock up on high quality olive oil. When you have explored the new town to your heart’s content, hike up to the old town and spend some time exploring this archaeological site.

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Having changed hands between the Venetians and Ottomans multiple times, the architecture of the town reflects this cultural history. Once atop the hill that overlooked the sea, you will see why this little town was considered so important by the Ottomans. In the evening, walk Monemvasia’s cobblestone paths to find a café/bar that suits your taste and watch the town come to life with music and laughter as you sip your ouzo and nibble on saganaki.

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View of Monemvasia New Town overlooking the Aegean Sea

Day 13

Get an early start and leave from Monemvasia, heading towards Nafplio. Once you reach Nafplio, check into your hotel/AirBnb and then leave to explore one of the best preserved theatres in Greece, the theatre of Epidavros. With mind-boggling symmetry and acoustics that you need to experience to believe, the theatre of Epidavros is truly a must-see on a visit to Greece.  The officials in-charge often do a sound test in the theatre, sighing deeply, ruffling paper, tossing a coin etc., in the orchestra (the semi-circular area in Greek theatres). Sit in the top-most row, and prepare to be astounded when you hear the clink of the coin on the orchestra floor. If there is a thespian in you, do not hesitate to go and do some lines. 🙂 After all, how often do you get to perform in a 2400 year old theatre?

In contrast, the nearby sanctuary of Asklepios is largely in ruins and not really worth your while. So, you can and should skip it. Head back to Nafplio and do a Nafplio city walk, starting at the Square of the Friends of the Greeks, exploring the promenade and slowly heading towards the old town. On the way, definitely sample the Gelato at Antica Gelataria. The Greeks might have some incredible food, but no one can beat the Italians at Gelato.

Day 14

In the morning, head to Mycenae, about 30 minutes from Nafplio. This small tourist town is home to the 3400 year old archaeological site of Mycenae, with its famous Lion’s Gate and Grave circle A, where the mask of Agamemnon was unearthed. Visiting Mycenae is exciting for multiple reasons, one of them being that the Mycenaeans are the Greeks that fought the legendary battle of Troy. That Troy existed, and that the Greeks waged war against the Trojans some time in the early second millennium is now fact. However, was there an Odysseus or an Achilles? Was Agamemnon, the mythical king of Mycenae, also the real king of the Mycenaean kingdom? Probably not!

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Historical ruins or legendary remains, you decide – Mycenae (dated 1400-1200 BC)

But hey, that doesn’t have to subtract from the mythical feeling of the place. The interesting thing about most old civilizations is that legend bleeds into history until the two are almost indistinguishable. There is a charm in that! Visit the site, then the little museum and the Treasury of Atreus. In the afternoon, visit the Archaeological museum and Palmidi fortress in Nafplio. Have dinner in one of the alfresco restaurants on the promenade. It is definitely an experience.

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The sun sets on Nafplio

Day 15

Get an early start and drive back to Athens, drop your car off at the airport and catch your flight back! Bidding Antio Sas to Greece will be very hard, so make a mental promise to be back. I sure did!

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