One of the best ways to see Greece is to do a road trip around the country. Most of the time, Athens is the homebase for travelers, but plenty of other places are worthy of a summer vacation.
And while Athens is best seen by foot, venturing out of the city calls for a car. Travelers can reserve a ride from car rental companies. There are age limits and other requirements, so renters need to check the fine print of the rental agreement. When everything is all-clear, it is time to jump into the car and start the journey through the Greek countryside.
This road trip route starts in Athens and goes west to Loutraki and the Peloponnese region. Loutraki is about an hour west of Athens. The small coastal town is best known for its expansive beachfront and natural thermal spas. It is the ideal spot to choose as a homebase since it is right at the beginning of the Peloponnese region and its picturesque cities.
A road trip through this part of Greece should last a few nights. A four-day weekend would be enough to enjoy the beach and see the sites. Numerous hotels and condominiums line the beachfront, and there is also a huge casino and hotel that can be a home away from home.
The small town is the perfect setting for an easy day lounging at the beach, walking around the plaza, and eating at various restaurants. The surrounding mountains have great hiking trails and a taste of some of the best hiking in Europe. A hidden gem is Sterna Beach, which has a coastal hiking trail with the ocean on one side and a mountainside full of pine trees, thyme, and mint.
Sanctuary of Hera
There are many incredible beaches in the seaside town; a unique one to visit is the Sanctuary of the Goddess Hera. It is a 30-minute drive from Loutraki, and parking is right by the Melagkavi Lighthouse, which is a great spot to take photos of the Gulf of Corinth or for that Instagram-worthy sunset photo. A quick walk downhill opens up to the archaeological site that is well-preserved and easy to explore.
Aside from being a temple to Hera, in Greek mythology, it is believed that Medusa buried her children at the site. Today, the calm waters of the cove are excellent for a swim after walking through the ruins. It is pretty rocky, so a pair of water shoes are good to bring along.
In between the temple and Loutraki is Vouliagmeni Lake. The turquoise water just begs to be swimmed in, and trattorias line the lakeside. This is the place to have fresh seafood and a cold beer after an afternoon of swimming. The top choices to order are grilled octopus, fried zucchini, french fries, greek salad, and tzatziki for a light Greek meal.
Another point of interest is the Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland. The man-made canal has a narrow passageway which makes for an interesting scene to behold; large ships have to be guided by tugboats down the rocky walled corridor. There aren’t any locks to navigate, but there is a submersible bridge that boats float over.
In ancient Greece, a cobblestone pathway was constructed to move boats across the land. The Diolkos runs parallel to the canal, and parts of it are still around. It is on the Corinth side of the canal and had the same purpose as the canal, to allow ships to cut across and travel between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. A visit to the modern Corinth Canal and the Diolkos is a must-do for boat lovers.
Another day trip is to venture out into the Peloponnese area and visit Nafplio, the one-time capital city of Greece. Along the way is Ancient Epidaurus, known for its acoustically perfect outdoor theater and the sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing. Aside from walking through the ruins and archaeological museum of the ancient site, a highlight is to visit the ancient theater.
It was built in the 4th century BC, and the couple of thousand-year-old amphitheater is well-preserved and still used as a concert venue today. Microphones are unnecessary as audiences can hear performers even in the last seats. Visitors prove this daily on a smaller scale. Tourists are often seen standing in the stage area talking back to their group standing in the seats.
Swimming at the beach is part of a daily itinerary in Greece. And a swim in the Argolic Gulf can be squeezed in before getting to Nafplio, and many public beaches are open. Nafplio has its own Arvanitia Beach, a beautiful sandy beach located just a short distance from the center of Nafplio and its Old Town. It is a great place to relax and soak up the sun. Everything is pretty much within walking distance from there.
Nafplio is one the most picturesque cities in Greece. Within the winding cobblestone streets are the Archaeological Museum and War Museum, where visitors can view artifacts from the region and learn about Greece’s War of Independence to World War II. Going to both museums costs a couple of euros and is a good way to spend an hour or two, especially on those hot summer days.
The day can also be spent walking around and taking pictures of the picturesque town. It is a great place to wander, explore, and enjoy the local atmosphere. The seaside city has its own Syntagma Square lined with estiatorios and shops. There is also a taverna every couple of stalls for more affordable eats. Any restaurant is going to be good.
Best Food to Try
There is so much more to try for those looking to go beyond a Greek salad, moussaka, and souvlaki. Why not try rabbit stew or stifado, a tomato-based dish with onions? Dishes with rabbit are more common in the Mediterranean, and the game is something to try while in Greece.
For a taste of something less unusual, there is the feta bouyiourdi. Feta bouyiourdi is a spicy baked feta dish with tomatoes, bell pepper, and onions that is excellent with some crusty bread.
Greece has its own wine and a unique one is retsina. This wine is infused with pine resin. People are split on whether they like the distinct pine flavor, but those who appreciate it order it whenever it is on a menu.
The go-to dessert is baklava, but the gelato shops are a yummy treat to cap off the day.
Road Trip Shopping
Part of the fun of a trip is shopping for souvenirs and keepsakes to take home and remember the journey in Greece. Among the staples to buy are natural sea sponges, olive oil soap, or a magnet. But local products are more special like orange marmalade, kalamata or damaskinoelies olives, and goges pasta. There are also Greek worry beads or komboli, pottery, and hand-woven textiles to bring home.
Conclusion | A Roadtrip through Loutraki and Nafplio
The excellent food and wine, its historical significance, and its laid-back beauty are some of the reasons why to explore Greece. And a roadtrip through Loutraki and Nafplio is a surefire way to get a taste of why Greece is a popular destination and undoubtedly worth visiting.