This summer we stumbled upon a beautiful discovery, the lesser-known, yet incredibly special, Peloponnese region of Greece. I was asked to share about our experience and provide some tips from our family journey, one that I treasure, consisting of many slow days by the sea and exploring the ancient land.
My name is Melissa and I was born and raised in a small town in British Columbia. As a child, we traveled a lot as a family – living in Europe for a couple of years as well as Mexico and Guatemala. My father was a teacher which meant summers were spent exploring, both near and far. Photography runs in the family.
My grandfather was a passionate hobbyist photographer and he passed it onto my father, so I spent a lot of time in a darkroom growing up. I moved to Vancouver and completed a degree in Marine Biology, then picked up the camera again, and soon I was working full time as a photographer.
Eventually, I met my husband who was also a photographer and had recently moved to LA. So I expanded my business there and eventually made that my home. We traveled extensively together for my business, SURŌ (@suro_living), and even after we had our two boys, continued exploring the world with them. To me, travel was one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me, and I wanted to do the same for our boys.
Last year, we moved to Mallorca, wanting a new start after my husband passed away from cancer. It was a challenging year, healing from the loss, and starting over in a new country that was different from our life in LA. Mallorca is very busy in the summer, and I wanted to find somewhere we could slow down and reconnect as a family.
I started asking around, and a friend mentioned a beautiful area in Greece that she spent the summers with her family. I was dreaming of a quiet place where we could spend our days in the water and walk to tavernas for lunch and dinner. I wanted slow mornings and days with no plan. And this is exactly what we found in the Peloponnese!
We went for 3 1/2 weeks, most of which was spent on the Mani Peninsula. We stayed in a mix of boutique hotels, airbnb’s, and B&Bs, each for 3-5 nights at a time. I didn’t want to spend our days in a car, so most of our time was spent in the area of Limeni and southwards. I imagine 1 week would be enough to explore this area, but we enjoyed the 2 1/2 weeks of really taking it slow.
Why the Peloponnese is So Incredible
I found the Peloponnese to be incredibly beautiful – the desolate landscape of craggy rock and golden grass was dotted with abandoned villages and crumbling watch towers, with the juxtaposition of the turquoise sea. The crystal clear waters were warm, most beaches we came across were nearly deserted and the sea breeze kept our days comfortable. The food was simple but delicious, our daily intake of seafood and Greek salad was high.
The history and archaeology of the area is mind-blowing, something we didn’t dive into much as the boys are still young. For us, the pace was slow, the traveling was easy and the locals friendly. These are all elements that I love, but I can see how some might find it too slow. The area doesn’t have the infrastructure to support a lot of tourism, so once things are booked that’s it, except for day trippers coming in from inland towns.
Highlight of the Peloponnese: Tainaron Blue
Each place in the Peloponnese was amazing for different reasons, but I’d have to say that our stay at Tainaron Blue was the highlight. Tainaron Blue is a boutique hotel that has been on my list for a long time. My husband first came across it and we dreamed of visiting years ago on a previous trip to Greece, but our work took us elsewhere.
The property itself is beyond special. The watchtower sits high on the cliff overlooking the bay, with views that take your breath away. It was originally bought and restored as a holiday home, then the owners decided to turn it into a boutique hotel. The attention to detail and service was incredible. It was by far our most special stay – partly because we felt we were also living out my husband’s wishes and his presence there was so strong.
Must-See Places in the Peloponnese
- Limeni: This seaside village is so picturesque with lovely restaurants and places to swim.
- Caves of Diros: It happened to be closed the day we tried to go, but I heard from my brother who just went that it was a highlight for their family.
- Gerolimenas: Another beautiful coastal village with tavernas and beaches.
- Vathia: A small abandoned village consisting of traditional tower houses of the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Porto Kagio: This is a lovely cove with restaurants lining the shore – great for a day trip and leisurely lunch.
- Cape Tainaron: The southernmost tip of mainland Greece. This area has quite a few features to see including scattered remains of a temple to Hades with its legendary gates of hell, the mosaic spirals of roman baths, rock-hewn roads, sheltered swimming coves and a lighthouse.
Special Stays Along the Way
Each place we stayed was special in its own way – the first hotel was Petra & Fos. There were 12 rooms on the hillside here with a large pool and restaurant with incredible views of the bay. So when we weren’t exploring the area, it was a great base to relax. We stayed at a very simple family run guesthouse in the small bay of Porto Kagio called Porto Kale, and each day the owners would take us in their boat to a deserted beach.
We took picnics and built forts out of driftwood. The boys made spears and tried to catch fish. At this point we were getting used to the slower pace, coming from a hectic month we left behind in Mallorca. Sometimes it takes a while to be able to sit with yourself, be in nature and observe, to find interest in the rocks and the sounds around you. It can take time to slow your mind and the speed at which you are used to things happening.
In the late afternoons, the owner would pick us up and we’d sit at one of the restaurants in the bay – some tables having their legs partly submerged in the water – and eat chicken souvlaki and tzatziki, watching the kids jump off the dock. On the opposite side of the peninsula is Tainaron Blue, our highlight of the trip, which I mentioned earlier.
Next up was a house on the water in Limeni (@limeni_villa). This was also a special stay because of our direct access to the water. Our days were spent in and out of the sea, swimming with sea turtles and lounging on the patio. We didn’t have to get in the car at all, with a handful of restaurants to choose from just steps away. It was also nice having our own kitchen for snacks and simple meals.
Then we headed back south to the small village of Gerolimenas and stayed at Kyrimai, a historical boutique hotel. Once again it was nice to be right on the water, and just 5 minutes walk from some seaside tavernas and shops. There were also lots of local beaches within a 5-10 minutes drive, so we would split up our days swimming at the hotel beach and then enjoy an afternoon adventure at a nearby beach.
The longest drive of the trip was 3 1/2 hours northwest to the seaside town of Kourouta. This area had a much different feel, with tall lush reeds lining the roads and much more people in general. Our last stay was at Dexamenes Seaside Hotel, a design hotel that was a wine factory in the 1920’s. The hotel is stunning, each room converted from a wine tank.
Although our section of the beach was quiet, the beach itself felt really busy almost with a touristy, club vibe. The winds would pick up in the afternoon and the glassy waters would become big waves that the boys loved playing in. It was a nice change, but we definitely missed the tranquil feel of the Mani Peninsula.
Lastly, we took the ferry to Zakynthos, which I don’t think is technically part of the Peloponnese (it’s an island in the Ionian Sea), but it’s worth a mention. We stayed in an airbnb (White Rock Cave Villa) in a remote part of the island on the west coast. The area was absolutely stunning, and we had a private pathway to a swimming platform.
The vastness and simplicity was special in that the only distraction was the beauty in the surroundings. We enjoyed the warm winds, ever changing sky, color of the sea, rocks and plants, and sunrises and sunsets. I felt like we were constantly pointing out the beauty of the elements that often get lost in our everyday life.
It felt good for us to remember that. I think our entire Peloponnese trip was about slowing down and re-awakening that appreciation. Our last two stays were at Cielo Villas, luxury design villas owned and managed by a really special family, and Uparati Villa, a beautiful villa located on top of a hill overlooking the bay.
A Quick Note on Peloponnese Cuisine
We loved the food in the Peloponnese, sticking to simple favorites like grilled fish, chicken souvlaki, Greek salad and small local pies (our favorite was fresh goat’s cheese and mint). The regional cheeses were delicious, as well as the local white wines. The cuisine here is considered to be some of the best in Greece and there are some great vineyards to check out too.
How Long Do You Need for the Peloponnese?
I think the ideal time frame in the Peloponnese all depends on what you are looking for. My boys are 7 and 4, and being on my own, I wanted to keep our days simple and easy. This area checked all those boxes. There were plenty of beaches within a 10 minute drive, no line-ups at restaurants and parking was in abundance.
But the area also has a lot to offer, so if you are interested in visiting historical and archaeological sites, there is a plethora to choose from. I would spend a bit of time researching the areas/sites that interest you depending on what you want to see, and choose a few villages to be based out of, doing day trips at your heart’s content.
Need to Know Before You Go
There aren’t a ton of accommodation options in the Peloponnese, so do research and book early. Unlike the islands, this isn’t the place for bars and clubs. I’m sure there are some bigger towns that offer more of a nightlife scene. But for the most part, I would make sure you have some good books to settle into for those days by the sea and some walking shoes for hikes when you get the itch to explore the historical sites.