We booked a week-long private tour to see archaeological sites in the Peloponnese, home of Sparta and Mycenae, the “sandy Pylos” of Homer, and other wonderful spots.
One of the reasons we tried a private tour is that we are such terrible tour participants. We’ve each led more tours than gone as participants, and we don’t seem to play well with others. I don’t like to get on a bus at 7:30 am, see four or five places in a day, eat a very tame meal and do it all again the next day, yet that seems to be how tour companies deliver value. Our tour was very expensive, but our tour manager, George, is quite good, and I would recommend you consider contacting him if you have something special you’d like to see in Greece. Contact information is at the end of the post.
We negotiated over the stops on the tour and came up with an itinerary that took us vaguely clockwise around the Peloponnese. We stayed on the coast whenever possible so that I could squeeze in some beachcombing at the end of the day. Our departure time in the morning was 9 am, with the promise that we would finish each day by about 5 pm. Breakfast and lunch were included, and we decided to get dinner on our own to have greater variety in restaurants and dishes. With some restaurant suggestions from George, it worked out well. We ended up being able to include a stop in Delphi toward the end of the trip, and we were all for it, hoping for our own personal prophecies.
The first big success was our guide, a wonderfully interesting archaeologist and Star Wars/Star Trek fan. Aristotle has an encyclopedic knowledge of Greek history from the beginning of time to the present, but particularly ancient Greece. I was bowled over by his explanations, and every time either of us had a question about a site, or a specific feature, Aristotle had looked into it and knew all the details.
At times, we renegotiated the conversation, because Aristotle is also a fan of military history and as a reenactor, willing to rhapsodize about great battles of the ancient past in detail. He is also rather charming. He wore a succession of archaeology themed tshirts that were highly entertaining. The last day he wore the piece de resistance of his own design, a trowel made into a Millennium Falcon, archaeologizing across the universe. We admired his skill as a tour guide, knowledge, and good humor. We heard lots of good stories.
We were collected from our Airbnb in Athens and headed to Corinth. We stopped to look at the Corinth Canal, a surprisingly deep and narrow channel cutting through the Isthmus of Corinth. Because of the canal, the Peloponnese is technically an island. Cutting a canal in this area was a dream of many, from the ruling Tyrant in the 7th century BC, to Nero, to the 19th century, when it was actually created as a way to shorten the sea route from Sicily, southern Italy, and Venice to Athens. Ironically, it never really worked because it is deep, narrow, and subject to landslides. It would be a treat to make the trip in a trawler or other pleasure craft, almost the only boats that make the transit today.
The Corinth canal, straight as an arrow for 4 miles.
Preserved section of diolkos, stone road built in the 7th c. BC to tow boats across the Isthmus of Corinth, with ruts from the vehicles.
Much as I enjoyed the story of the canal, our day was just beginnning. We spent the rest of the morning at Isthmia, known for the Isthmian Games, held from 582 BC through the first century AD. There are well-preserved mosaics showing sea creatures.
Tritons carrying Nereids (both are creatures of the sea).
We stopped at Kechries, the ancient port of Corinth. Now partially submerged, it looks like a wonderful snorkeling site.
Kechries, ancient port of Corinth on the Aegean (Saronic Gulf)
After a stop for lunch in Loutraki, we headed to the Temple of Hera, or Heraion, on a promontory that extends into the Gulf of Corinth. A gorgeous seaside spot, the temple was used for almost 1,000 years, and may have had an oracle during part of that time. Aristotle had reconstruction sketches of what the structures looked like in their heyday. The spot was so beautiful in the afternoon sun that we stayed for a while just to enjoy the day.
Temple of Hera
Aristotle shows a reconstruction of the temple
As promised, our tour day wrapped up around 5 pm. Our hotel was on the water in Loutraki, a beach town just east of Corinth. We were able to spend an hour or so beachcombing our way along the shore and have dinner at the restaurant recommended by George. The food was good and the view was excellent, across the Bay of Corinth at sunset.
Did you notice, that we did, in fact, make five stops? Three were very short (canal, diolkos, port of Kechries), but I do have to laugh at myself for criticizing tours with numerous stops.
Lunch: Paladar, Loutraki
Dinner: Maistrali, Loutraki
Overnight: Club Casino Hotel, Loutraki
Tour Organizer: George, Pictours of Greece, +30 697 202 6519
2 thoughts on “A Week of Ruins in the Peloponnese (1)”
The entire area is apparently subsiding, so it’s not rising sea level that covers the port, at least not yet. The site is only slightly submerged, and it great for snorkeling but it is quite shallow, from sticking out of the water to 3+ feet under. It is not deeply sunken, and the various archaeological reports have it above water well into the Christian area. (I spelled it incorrectly, I believe it’s Kenchreai).
How long has Kechries been submerged? How many feet under the sea? Did the land subside? Could this all be due to rising sea levels?
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