When the Peloponnese went to war with Athens in 431 BC, they built a complex network of roads – this network route, travels all the way around the Argolis Region of the Eastern Peloponnese. This ancient route, is still in existence and the best way to discover it and all the hidden treasurers is by embarking on an off the beaten track. Our clockwise circuit (300km) let the scenery slowly build, from the gentler hills of the east coast to the commanding peaks and deeply indented sea bays on the west side. It’s a manageably adventurous drive for motorhomes –a hundred miles or more from the nearest motorway, sometimes on single-track roads with the odd dirt roads thrown in for good measure. And, of course, a road trip needs an appropriate soundtrack: Adagio for Strings to kick things off quite nicely as we soak in the culture of the land.
Just off the road, 60km from Ancient Corinth, is the start of this weeks trip and the start of a time machine. You don’t need to be Dr Who to step into it. All it takes is a turn off the road into the village of Epidauros and you step back in time into life when Ancient Greeks were busy building wonderful theatres and worshiping the healing god Asklepios. Ironically, it is here our energy levels slumped and we sunk in to our armchair to admire (unfortunately) the sites through our windscreen, as we commenced the nursing of our full blown dribbling colds.
Our sleepy spot: On the beach with great views of the bay and the surrounding archaeological sites.
Wild Camping GPS position Epidauros N037.641243, E023.159099
When we were ready to leave Epidauros, we made our way down the coastline, stopping at tiny fishing villages along the way. Most felt abandoned as the village folk head in to the hills to help out with the olive season. Just the odd one or two staying behind to optimise their catch. We sat watching the fishermen for a glimpse of local life. Repairing nets, sorting out the catch and indulging in morning gossip while scaling fish. Like all fishing villages, the harbour is the place were men flock to tinker, talk and put the world to rights. The locals have a tradition of whistling for the cats when the fish bits are ready and are quite amused when you join in the whistling.
Further down the coast the village of Troizína offered splendid views across the harbour and over to the island of Poros. As we sat hugging a cup of hot chocolate I looked over the water to Poros town, with it’s terracotta coloured buildings that sprawl up a hill topped with a clock tower. Then all of a sudden the memories from mid 80’s came flooding back. Oh my! It is here were Lisa and I tried our first octopus salad. I chuckled away to myself, as I remembered our reaction to a plate of tentacles and suckers. We were horrified. Surely to god they made a mistake. And in true teenage fashion we slowly but surely trimmed each tentacle until it was sucker free. Leaving a slither of octopus for tasting. Giggling away as we sipped our Retsina. Oh to be young and innocent, again.
After hot chocolate and a reminisce, we strolled down the high street of Troizina in the hope of some basic groceries. The promise of a Lidl land is soon shattered when we spot a windowlene smeared Lidl front and an empty store. Despite pushing our noses up to the glass in the hope the store would take pity on us, magically fill with goodies and a shop assistant would kindly open up the Lidl just for us but it was a wish too far. Clutching our Asda bags for life, we ventured in and out of the small supermarkets only to be greeted with bubble gum chewing assistants, a selection of deflating beach balls and aisles of fizzy pop. We exited Troizina with a bag of dog biscuits and a new squeaky toy.
We bumbled along the coast, it’s almost impossible to imagine a road that cuts through wetlands, huge bodies of water and the odd farm houses just about 15 minutes from Troizina, but that’s what the quaint villages of Pergari and Biskaiika facing the island of Ydra offer. The locals seems oblivious to the tranquil scenery, turquoise waters and lush pine green countryside but we lap up the beauty.
Our sleepy spot: Small headland with small church looking over to the island of Ydra.
Wild Camping GPS position Pergari N037.413646, E023.454267
Everything is coming up pomegranates in Ermioni. Located just east of Ermionida, this charming village is one of the most beautiful in Argolis. Roses and other flowers, crowd the hedges and border the pebbled paths. Grape vines drape the houses and the pine scent perfume the air. The cobbled streets are made for wandering along to spot that distinctive hanging sign, this gorgeous door, those ornamental and usual flower pots.
On the other side of the harbour the streets are buzzing. The local band sit elevated on the end of the pier and play a toe tapping tune as families wander up and down the harbour. Stalls are plenty as today people celebrate the Pomegranate and the end of the grazing season, when sheep are brought down from the hills. Everything is free and samples are snaffled from juice to jelly and pips to pints. It feels bazaar to celebrate the pomegranate on Halloween, the day of the pumpkin.
Tosh jumps a mile and Mac barks loudly as the hot air balloon fires up. A new experience, a different sound and for once, a balloon they can’t pop. The balloon ride is taking kids for a 5 meter high ride and a glimpse of the harbour and village. An as they reach the pinnacle, screams fill the air. But I can’t help but feel sad for the village toy train, dumped in the corner. Mr chu chu is a popular form of transport with the kids but today, it sits in the shadow of the balloon. The crowd seems oblivious to the train, will it chug next week we wonder, or is that it for the season?
Our sniffles take us back to Vin and we opt for an afternoon in the slow lane. Reading a magazine, or two whilst gazing out the window to watch dolphins leap through the air and dive bomb each other as they play in the surf. To breathe in the smells of Olbasoil as the vapours burn our ‘tho shall commence growth’ nasal hairs. Soon the dew drops will begin and the cold will enter a new phase. The sky darkens and night falls and we wheeze to sleep.
Our sleepy spot: On the quiet side of Ermioni headland located on fishing boat pier.
Wild Camping GPS position Ermioni N037.382925 E023.248295
After a cup of frothy morning coffee, we follow our blocked noses and head along the bumpy coastal road all around the headland. This part of the peninsula really feels like dropping back in time. With farmers tending the land by hand and outside toilet blocks to the rear of the garden. Shacks are plenty, new born lambs are finding their feet and chickens roam free. This is a simpler life, less-connected to the world and more connected to nature.
For lunch we head to Porto Cheri, a harbour filled with small to medium boats and the odd ferry. The weather continues to be miserable just like our colds but forecast for the coming days looks good, so after a walk about the town we head down to a secluded part of the coast. It is beautiful and a great place to cough and sneeze in private.
Our sleepy spot: An almost abandoned pebbled beach on the rear headland of Porto Cheli.
Wild Camping GPS position Porto Cheli N037.336536 E023.125524
As the sun shine blasts through the blinds and we jump out of bed. It feels good to wake up to sunshine and the nearing end of our colds. With fine weather comes drying power and time to some washing. Its been a while since we did any, so we head over to Kailada bay for a morning of washing and cleaning. Oh the joys of cleaning up dust and dog hairs. Its also an ideal time to dig out the low tog duvet as the nights are getting a little chilly. Given it is November, its not cold but in the middle of the night it drops to around 15 degrees and you start to feel cold.
Surrounded by pebbly beaches, lush orange groves, with never-ending views of the petrol blue waters and idyllic landscapes of the Greek coastline, Koilada bay has a certain feel about it. The views are amazing and whilst the village is nothing special, it has a certain feel about it. It somehow feels rather special and with franchthia cave complex located on the other side of bay and a small island to the west, it feels unique. The massive cave entrance leads to a warren of narrow tunnels that extend through the cave but the rain has left huge muddy puddles and inaccessible routes, so we admire from afar.
We’re transfixed watching the the sea ripples glint while the surrounding mountains blends into dusk. As night falls, we spend the evening star gazing and wondering if there is really life on another planet. Craig sips his wine and I sip my lemonade besides an unbeatable spot overlooking the faintly lit cave. It feels rather nice and not at all like the beginning of November!
Our sleepy spot: On Koilada bay port looking out to the caves and mountains.
Wild Camping GPS position Koilada N037.3417354 E023.127027
We set off just after first light and make our way over the single track mountain road. This is the ancient road, the road that is invisible on the Tom Tom and rarely used with modern alternatives. We follow our gut reaction and head off the beaten track. The mountain pass is undulating and dramatic, rising and falling as we cross the valleys of dried rivers beds that run down from the mountains into the bays and inlets below. Reminders of worship are never far away, from simply painted roadside shrines daubed in white and blue, to tiny chapels perched on every little hill or hump. It is peaceful and beautiful with no traffic and just the odd mountain goat scurrying along the roadside.
We arrive in Tolo but within minutes I am hiding under the covers and fighting off a migraine. Last night, I spent most of the night being violently sick and so lack of sleep on top of an empty stomach and a cold is firing off a migraine attack. I hide in darkness for a few hours until the drugs take effect whilst Craig goes for a scoot on the bike.
One of the stand out beaches and vista bays of this peninsula can be found in the west side, near the old fishing port of Tolo. The dark golden sand fringing the bay between the next peninsula of the Peloponnese and a small of offshore island. The island is crowned by a small church and watchtower, with a simple but eye catching cross especially pretty in the early evening. We walk up and down the beach taking things gently.
The parking space on the beach has a clear ‘no camping’ sign, so we plan to move down to the harbour by the evening. As we start to pack up a young girl looks at the motorhome and says “you English?”. Feels like forever since we had an English conversation, so we end up chatting to Lara for several hours. Half Greek and half English Lara lived here as a child but then her mum moved back to England and now, Lara wants to moved back to Greece, I sure can understand why! As the the day winds to an end, we navigate the street of Tolo, drop Lara off at her apartment before we head to the harbour to take in the sunset. We stroll along the pier and watch the fishermen commence squid hunts just before sun clocks out for the day.
Our sleepy spot: Tolo harbour with the fishermen.
Wild Camping GPS position Tolo N037.514740 E022.856806
We move from the harbour to a small secluded pebbly beach bay and troop down through the pine trees to shake out our tootsies on the beach. Mac n Tosh are set free and run wild in their own little cove. The cove is just around the corner from Tolo’s main beach and it stands between two rocky hills, stretching over a narrow shore in a gentle curve. It’s just one of the many beaches and coves found along this coast. From here, the land rears up into high cliffs and descends again, retreating and jutting out into the Argolic Gulf creating unique coves and beaches with each crenelation. The rock behind stands the archaeological site of the Gate of Ancient Asine.
The coast offers high drama as well as blissful snoozing, however. beaches in this neck of the woods tend to be more wild. A bit of sand, a lot of pebbles, a few weeds and the mandatory litter but most of all the crystal clear waters. At low tide, a rocky network of little islands pop out the waters and great for ‘crabbing’ as Craig says.
Today the weather is calm, with barely enough wind to stir the grass on the clifftops, but when storms hit this coast, particularly in cooler months, wild winds whip the ocean into a frothy white foam. This week, we’ve had a right old mixture of weather starting with wind and rain then to a few overcast days and now, glorious sunshine.
This week, we’ve also seen a large increase in followers to our website, which has certainly puckered up our spirits whilst nursing our colds. So thanks for joining us on our journey and we hope you enjoy the ride! For any of the new followers who would like to take a look at our first newsletter back in 2014, click here! At the bottom of each post you should see a forward arrow for the next chronological blog. Also wanna say hi to Chris from buggeritweareoff in New Zealand who is getting ready to tour the UK next year and Russ & Marie who are currently somewhere in Albania.
Our sleepy spot: Tolo
Wild Camping GPS position Tolo N037.514740 E022.856806
The Argolis peninsula and surrounding area feels very different from other part of the mainland Greece. It feels much more traditional, back to a time where working the land and living in and with the community means everything. This is a place, a life not for everyone. Living amongst the people, even for just a day or two, is a privilege, but one that less evolved travellers may not recognise. It is, after all a life without wifi, without constant supply of electricity, television, and even mobile reception. But beyond that, for the seeker of solitude, it is also a life that transports you to a world where olive trees reign, where you rise and rest by the cycles of the sun, where the night sky is so bright with stars and where life magically slows down to allow you to enjoy life the Greek way.
Tomorrow we head to the Argolis jewel in the crown, the fortified town of Nafphio. Here we plan to kick back, soak up the vibes and dine out in the old quarter.